Beginner’s Guide to Fishkeeping

Whether you’re new to taking care of fish at home or you’ve owned fish for a while, you are required to take care of them in certain ways to ensure that they are all healthy, comfortable, and happy. Having a fish tank full of happy fish can add a beautiful, natural aspect to practically any house.

But when I first started taking care of my fish at home, I ran into some problems. I didn’t know how often to feed them, what accessories I should purchase for their tank, and I was unaware of the specific needs of the fish that I had. Because of that, I knew I had to change my treatment towards them and learn how to properly care for them.

I am comfortable with my process of caring for my fish today, but it definitely did not happen over night. Because of that, I’m going to share some of the best tips that I’ve gained overtime for taking care of fish, and hopefully they are able to benefit you as much as they have benefitted me. From that, here is a complete beginner’s guide to fishkeeping that I’ve created from my own personal experiences.

What You’ll Need For Fishkeeping as a Beginner

In oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds, the water is filtered naturally and already measures a certain temperature that’s able to effectively sustain the fish located in that body of water. Not only that, but there’s also a sufficient amount of food for each of the fish to consume and hunt for.

Comparatively, fish that reside in fish tanks or aquariums require similar treatment, but it doesn’t occur naturally. Instead, you are required to provide the correct amount and type of food, the proper filtration as well as water at the correct temperature. This may sound like a heavy amount of chores just to care for creatures smaller than the palm of our hand, but the appearance and experience you’ll gain from successfully maintaining your fish aquarium will make the effort worth it.

Overall, fishkeeping requires various different types of equipment as well as treatment. More specifically, in order to successfully take care of your fish, you’ll need to have the correct type of tank, tank equipment, accessories, and maintenance features. Not only that, but you’ll have to make sure that you’re physically caring for the specific fish that you have in the correct manner. For instance, make sure you have the correct type of tank for them, and ensure that you’re feeding them properly and have fish that are compatible with each other. This guide can help you properly choose each of the correct factors every step of the way.

Fish Tank or Aquarium

If you’re new to the fishkeeping community, then you may not know how important it is to have a fish tank that’s suitable for the certain fish that you have. Each fish species requires a specific environment to successfully live in, and you’re required to provide the correct living environment for them. There are various different types of fish tanks and aquariums, so you should keep each type in mind when searching for them. More precisely, there are fish tanks that are specific to either fresh water or salt water, and there are also tanks specific to fish that are more passive, aggressive, or tanks that are specifically for plants.

Freshwater tanks

Passive Community Tanks

Passive community tanks are recommended for fish that are non-territorial and non-schooling fish. They are capable of holding dozens of different species, and they can support fish that come in a wide range of colors and patterns.

Planted Aquariums

These types of aquariums are able to support a combination of passive fish as well as aggressive fish. Not only that, but they’re also able to house various different types of plants as well.

Semi-aggressive Community Tanks

These tanks contain fish species that are capable of causing more ruckus than other tanks. For instance, these tanks have fish that are capable of being aggressive when placed under the right conditions. These fish can be docile, aggressive, or they can eat the fish around them. You’re recommended to purchase fish species that are similar in their sizes (1).

Saltwater tanks

Fish-only tanks

These tanks are the most basic types, since they don’t require that you install any decorations or accessories. They’re the least expensive and require the least amount of time to maintain.

Fish-only with live rock tanks

You also have the option to purchase tanks that have fish in addition to rock formations that house algae and other living organisms. These rocks are able to offer excellent biological filtration that’s capable of keeping your tank cleaner for longer periods of time.

Reef tanks

Reef tanks require the most maintenance out of each type, since they require that you monitor the water parameters on a daily basis. These tanks contain corals, anemones, and other saltwater organisms. Given that, they also require excellent water quality, filtration, and lighting. Additionally, these tanks are also more expensive than other types of tanks, since the tanks and its inhabitants are more expensive.

Nano tank

Nano tanks are classified as tanks that are smaller, since they contain less than 20 or 30 gallons of water. They can either contain saltwater inhabitants or act as miniature reef environments. Not only that, but they’re more difficult to maintain, since they require certain types of equipment and are more difficult to maintain the water’s chemistry. You should consider purchasing these tanks if you have fish measuring less than three inches and slow-growing plants (2).

Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Fish Tank


You should consider how large your fish tank should be, depending on the types of fish and how many fish you have. Not only that, but you should purchase a tank larger than 10 gallons if you’re a beginner, since smaller tanks are more difficult to maintain.


It’s also important for you to consider where you’re planning on putting the fish tank, since this can largely affect how the fish’s living experience is. More specifically, you should consider whether the fish tank will have exposure to the sunlight, heating or cooling vent, or even how loud the room is, since fish tend to get stressed out in locations that have loud noises.


You’re also recommended to consider how much the fish tank weighs, since you’ll need to place it in a location that is able to support the tank in its entire weight. If you have a tank that holds 15 gallons of water, then that tank will typically weigh at least 200 pounds when it’s filled.


In order to properly care for your fish, they require a tank that’s able to remain healthy and clean. And a healthy fish tank requires a proper filtering system that includes mechanical, biological, and chemical filtering processes. For instance, mechanical filtering is responsible for removing any solid debris from the water, like fish waste and food. On the other hand, biological filtering is responsible for promoting good bacteria in the water, which can then grow naturally on the surfaces of decorations in the tank, eliminating the toxic bacteria from the water.

Lastly, chemical filtering is responsible for using media in order to absorb the pollutants in water in order to prevent water discoloration and odor. More specifically, it also uses a poly fiber pad that’s able to trap debris. Each successful filter also contains a cartridge for chemical filtering, and it’s packed with activated carbon (3).

Types of Aquarium Filters

Air-driven internal filters

Filters that operate by air tend to be the most inexpensive types on the market, and they are small and compact. They can be installed using suction cups, so they’re able to offer a sturdy construction.

Undergravel filters

Filters that are located under the gravel of your fish tank are able to move water through the gravel, which offers biological filtration for the water. Some undergravel filters also only come with the ability to biologically filter the water, since they don’t offer mechanical filtering of any kind. Sometimes undergravel filters come with cartridges for chemical filtering, but you’d have to search for those.

Power filters

Power filters are the easiest ones to set up, and they offer great biological, mechanical, and chemical filtering. They hang on the back of your fish tank and they only require a small amount of maintenance.

Canister filters

Canister filters are most commonly used for larger aquariums, since they are able to hold more filter media. These filters are able to offer the best mechanical, biological, and chemical filtering processes. These types of filters require more maintenance, but they are able to deliver more power (4).

Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Filter

Tank size

You’ll need a filter that’s able to clean the whole volume of the water included in the tank. Consequently, make sure you purchase a filter that’s able to filter all of the water in the tank in a timely manner.

Water-flow rate

You should consider the amount of gallons per hour that each filter is able to clean. Typically, you’ll want one that’s able to filter faster rather than slower. If you have a larger fish tank, then you’ll want a filter that has the highest water-flow rate possible.


You may also find it helpful to consider how each tank is able to be setup with their filter. You don’t want one that’s too difficult to set up, and you want one that can easily filter your water successfully.


There are various different types of lighting options that you have to choose from for your fish tank. They all give your fish the ability to see during the night, and there are also lighting options for helping certain plants grow in your tank.

Types of Bulbs

Actinic white bulbs

Equipped with a blend of white and blue light, these bulbs are able to recreate marine light conditions for various different types of tanks.

Color-enhancing bulbs

These bulbs are able to offer a richer tone, which displays the colors of the fish more effectively. They’re recommended for fish-only tanks.

betta fish

Daylight bulbs

You can also choose bulbs that are able to display light that represents daylight conditions, since they give off a blend of all colors in the spectrum.

Plant bulbs

If you have a tank that contains live plants, you’ll need lighting that contains photosynthetic activity. These bulbs are responsible for emitting both red and blue lights.

High-intensity bulbs

There are also bulbs that emit light at high temperatures, which is able to heat up the conditions of the fish tank for saltwater tanks specifically.

Types of Lighting Fixtures

Other than different bulb types, you also have the option to choose between different lighting fixtures to hang your lights. For instance, you can choose between normal output fluorescent lighting, compact fluorescent lighting, high-intensity metal halide lighting, and LED lighting systems (5).


In addition to having the right kind of lighting, tank, and filter, you also need to make sure that you have the correct heater for your fish. The heater needs to be able to replicate the natural environment for each specific fish species. This prevents them from experiencing any stress.

Types of Heaters

Hanging heater

These heaters hang over the top of the tank and the heating element rests inside of the tank water. They’re the most basic and inexpensive type, so they’re recommended for beginners.

Submersible heater

These heaters rest in the water and usually include a coiled element encased in a glass tube for maximized heating.

In-line heaters

These types of heaters fit in between the filter and are able to heat up the water from the back portion of the tank. They’re produced with a heatproof plastic and they’re great for tanks that have larger fish in them (6).

Decorations and Accessories

Other than having the proper fish tank and equipment, you’re also required to install the right accessories and decorations to keep your fish happy and healthy.


Gravel is placed at the bottom of your tank and give your fish the ability to live in a more natural environment. There should typically be at least two inches of gravel in the fish tank, and there should also be at least an inch of a nutrient layer beneath the gravel.


Live plants are able to offer a more natural look for the fish tank, and they also convert carbon dioxide to oxygen for your fish to breathe. Because of that, you should consider putting live plants in your tank rather than artificial ones.

Tips for Changing the Water in Your Fish Tank

  • Only make partial water changes on a regular basis
  • Freshwater tanks: change 15-20% of the tank’s water per month
  • Saltwater tanks: change 20-25% of the tank’s water per month
  • Only change the tank’s water little-by-little because it keeps the tank’s environment more stable

Caring for Your Fish

Freshwater fish

  • Goldfish
  • Discus
  • Angelfish


  • Require more space than saltwater organisms
  • Need more filtering systems

Saltwater fish

  • Watchman
  • Goby
  • Clownfish
  • Pufferfish


  • Offer a wider range of fish to choose from
  • More expensive to maintain
  • Requires more maintenance

After you have all of the right equipment that your fish need, you’ll need to provide your fish with the proper care and treatment that’s required for their safety. For instance, make sure that your fish are fed at least three times per day and that the temperature of their water is within a healthy range for them. Ensure that the tank is kept clean and that all of the equipment is cleaned. Cleaning everything in the tank includes the filter, heater, plants, houses, and the gravel. You should also make sure that all of the fish in your tank are interacting with each other in positive ways.


Overall, taking care of your fish seems difficult at first glance, but it’s worth it once you get the hang of it. Make sure that you have the proper equipment as well as the knowledge to care for fish before you purchase any. And most of all, keep them happy and they’ll make you happy in return.

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