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There are guidelines about how many fish you can keep in an aquarium, but few experts would claim they are scientifically exact. The two main rules of thumb on stocking an aquarium are based respectively on the surface area of the tank (which influences oxygen levels) and the tank volume (this takes pollution as well as oxygen into account). Many other things can alter how many fish an aquarium can healthily support, including:
The shape of the aquarium The filtration system employed Surface agitation Water temperature Tank maintenance regime The kinds of fish being kept
Note: You can’t stock to the maximum capacity on first setting up! If your tank can hold, say, 20 small tropical fish, you should build up to that over a period of 3-6 months, to give the tank a chance to mature without a dangerous spike in pollutants. With those caveats in place, let’s consider the common guidelines. Fish cm per liter / fish inches per gallon This was the rule I was taught when I first started keeping fish, and it’s still the most common stocking guide today. 1. Calculate the volume of your aquarium in liters or gallons 2. Work out the length of your chosen fish from nose to base of the tail 3. Consult the table below Kind of fish Inches / gallon cm / liter Coldwater 1" / gallon 2.5cm / 4.55 liters Tropical 1" / 0.5 gallon 2.5cm / 2.25 liters Marine (reef) 1" / 4 gallon 2.5cm / 18 liters Marine (Fish-only) 1" / 2 gallons 5cm / 9 liters For example, a 30-gallon aquarium could hold 30″ of coldwater fish, 60″ of tropical fish, or 15″ of marine fish. Important: I am using Imperial (UK) gallons here. To work out US gallons, multiply UK gallons by 0.83 (or just stick to liters!) The advantages of the fish inches per gallon rule are that it is easy to understand, since most people know their tank’s volume, and it takes into account the total volume of the tank. “The solution to pollution is dilution” is an old fishkeeping phrase. Bigger volumes of water can obviously carry more fish waste such as nitrate before there’s a problem.
5cm / 190 sq cm 2. Other issues with stocking levels This article could run forever. so I’ll just add a few more caveats and pointers you should take into account. But it’s harder to keep in mind when you’re in the aquarium store wondering if you can add a few more fish. Water displacement because of decoration means your tank won’t hold as much as its theoretical volume. longer tank. The ‘per gallon’ rule also does (that’s why coldwater fish need more gallons than tropicals) but not so directly. 36″ of tropical fish or 9″ of marine fish. For instance. These measures have nothing to do with theoretical volume. But in reality the shallow tank will offer a much bigger surface area for gas exchange. Different fish need a different amounts of space. I’d only keep one pair of dwarf cichlids in a two-foot freshwater aquarium.The disadvantage of the rule is it does not take into account the tank shape. lots of bogwood and so on. Consult the table below Kind of fish Inches / sq inches Coldwater 1" / 30 sq inches Tropical 1" / 12 sq inches Marine 1" / 48 sq inches cm / sq cm 2. take off 15%. Fish length per unit of surface area This rule puts aquarium surface area to the fore: 1. Many fish require a certain-sized territory. Calculate the surface area of the tank in square inches or centimeters 2. With a very heavily furnished tank. and they’re messier eaters. rocks. .5cm / 75 sq cm 2. Big fish need more room than the equivalent number of little fish. according to this rule. The advantage of using the surface area guideline is that it takes oxygen exchange directly into account. Active fish like tangs or danios require more swimming room then relatively static fish like clownfish or neon tetras. In filter-less tanks particularly. Take off at least 10% to account for gravel. Work out the length of your chosen fish from nose to base of the tail 3. thin tank of 40gallons will. Two six-inch long catfish will require a much bigger tank than 12 one-inch tetras.5cm / 300 sq cm A 36-inch long by 12-inch wide tank will therefore hold 14″ of coldwater fish. it makes a big difference. A tall. have the same carrying capacity as a shallower. It’s easy to work out: just multiply the width of the tank by the length. Their biological load is greater. The disadvantage of the rule is that people aren’t so aware of their tank’s surface area.
Avoid fish with missing scales Same as torn fins. On the other hand. 4. really. Active fish should be active. A few missing scales aren’t fatal. as they have a small biological load and often contribute to the tank’s carrying capacity (such as plants which oxygenate by day or critters that clean up detritus). snails. Look for complete fins and tail Damaged fins might be a sign of disease. Remember. or they could be a symptom of in-fighting between the fish in the same tank. so a bit of scrapping and minor damage is always going to occur. Don’t buy any fish from that tank (or any other tanks it’s connected to – ask somebody at the store). Two caveats: In large numbers they will make a difference (such as a snail infestation in a tropical tank). Strong water circulation. Basically. fast-moving or active fish such as barbs. Fish with huge bite marks should be avoided completely! Fish behaviour and tank checks 5. and an under-stocked tank is far easier to keep in good condition than even a slightly overstocked one. these are just rules of thumb. airstones and so on can increase the stocking level of your aquarium. Erring on the side of caution is always the best policy with aquariums. Look out for pinsized white spots raised away from the body of the fish. Check its body for lumps or white spots White spot disease is one of the easiest diseases to see on tropical freshwater fish. docile fish docile This is hard for newcomers. a Corydorus catfish will often sit motionless on the substrate. 2. but it’s better to avoid damaged fish to be sure you’re not buying a fish with built-in problems. and platies should be busily moving about the tank – a Zebra danio lurking around the surface of the water is almost certainly sick. clear eyes and an active look about them. You may think this is a ridiculous thing to say about a fish. big filters. Better to have healthy fish with enough room to roam unmolested than to cram in another fish or two and risk disease and infighting. and marine inverts can be more sensitive to poorer water quality (hence the lower stocking suggestion per gallon above). plants and inverts when making your calculations. but with time you’ll agree. Fish are often packed in large numbers into shop tanks. who don’t know fish behaviour yet. 3. or worse looking at a disease. Look at the fish’s eyes Healthy fish have bright. avoid fish with cloudy eyes. especially as you might be looking at fin rot and not realise it. Physical checks for a new fish 1. Until you get . But as a newbie its safer to avoid any damaged fish. danios. but I wouldn’t recommend it.You can generally ignore shrimps. while dwarf cichlids typically move with a start-stop motion. In particular.
it’s safer to avoid tanks withany suspect inhabitants in it altogether. Do not carry out a task that is beyond your capability and do not over estimate your capabilities. Ask to see it feeding Very few freshwater tropical fish that are suitable for beginner’s will respond when a few flakes or a chunk of frozen food is placed in the aquarium. gloves and dust mask when working with potentially hazardous materials such as glass or spray paint. even non-shoaling species should usually look like they’re aware of the tank and its inhabitants. Wear protective clothing including safety goggles. Plenty more fish in the sea! BANGLADESH AQUARISTS (BA) SAFETY TIPS FOR DIY PROJECT: 1. or hide in the weeds – but when it comes to more common fish it’s a good rule-of-thumb. and the store assistant could catch any one of them. before agreeing to buy them. Behavioural warning signs are harder to judge. Bonus tip! Always ask to inspect your fish in the bag A difficulty with some of these tips is that you may be choosing fish from a tank of 40 or 50 other nearidentical fish.g. Do ask to see the selection of fish that have been caught. This is only a general principle – there are many common tropical fish that will lurk under a piece of wood all day. so ask to see your fish being fed whatever it’s been eating since arriving at the store. however. 3. taking an interest in the tank. Look out for loners On a similar note. sawing wood. Look out for the physical warning signs above. Do not use tools until you know how to operate them safely. 7.more experience. As I wrote a couple of times above. Avoid fish that don’t eat. so in such instances you’ll have to accept you won’t be able to handpick each fish. 2. most freshwater community fish should be out and about. 6. . If you buy a new tool read the instructions fully and practice in a safe area first. since all fish are traumatised by being caught and popped in a bag. It’s unrealistic to ask the assistant to capture a particular Neon tetra in a tank full of them for you. Any fish lurking on its own should be viewed with suspicion. the best bet is to compare your potential purchase’s behaviour with other similar fish in nearby tanks. It is also advisable to wear a mask when working in a dusty environment e. Not eating is definitely a bad sign.
When using a power drill. Never smoke while painting or standing close to a freshly painted area. you may be able to save money by skipping the filter. Erect the ladder according to the manufacturer's instructions. Don't rush as you're more likely to have an accident. 9. if you’re worried about your job then this probably isn’t the time to set up a huge saltwater reef tank. When fixing or checking electrical appliances or connections. Carefully plan the job before you start work. Always use the correct tools for the job. Important: Perform DIY project at your own risk. Use a baton as a guide and run a sharp knife along the edge of it. In case of injury you can’t blame any members/admins of Bangladesh Aquarists. or using any material that generates toxic fumes or dust. please drop us a line in the comments below! 1. 6. Unplug the drill before fitting parts and remove the chuck key before switching it on. switch off the appliance at the socket and pull out the plug. always cut away from you. choose a model that has a plastic non-conducting body. It's also a good idea to ask someone if they can help you. Never lean to one side as you could lose balance. Never use water to put out a fire in an electrical appliance. 7. 11. Gas and electrical work is best left to a registered professional. 12. Store tools in a safe place. Sure. 10. If you're fixing an electrical appliance. 5. Bangladesh Aquarists cannot be held responsible for any injury/accident caused by any DIY project. Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewellery. When painting. . Always keep a chemical fire extinguisher in the house. When using knives. Always store knives securely. Know your limitations and consult a professional if you are unsure. But there are ways you can save money with more modest tropical freshwater aquariums. Five ways to save money Bad times in the economy needn’t mean you forsake your aquarium hobby. If you have any more tips to add after reading. keep the room well ventilated. It is worth investing in high quality equipment as this will be safer and will probably do the job quicker. Keep them in a box or a rack. Wear rubber-soled shoes when working on electrics.4. out of the way of children and pets. Ladders are one of the main causes of DIY accidents. always switch off the power and remove the fuse or circuit breaker. Use plants instead of a filter Setting up a new tank to grow plants? If you’re already spending money on decent lighting and a good quality substrate to help ensure your plants thrive. 8. which could get caught in the drill.
I’m interested in the interaction of different factors that make up a living system. Build your own DIY stand Most aquarium stands are absurdly expensive for what they are – four or five pieces of machine cut. and don’t overdo it. fish and invertebrates to go in my tanks. Craigslist and Gumtree are two ad services. and there are countless opportunities for you to advertise your need for particular free fish in your local geographical area. (A man’s got to make a profit. man-made wood. I suppose.) This is the age of the Internet. Rhonda Wilson explains how she uses plants to keep her tropical tanks naturally sweet: There are several reasons why I enjoy natural aquariums as opposed to those that are mechanically filtered. Here’s a few to get you started: A DIY stand plan generator to suit any tank size A guide to making joints to support the weight of a fishtank Plans for a heavy-duty stand you can scale to your needs – it looks like it could hold up a house! Here’s a 4-foot aquarium cabinet step-by-step guide 4. I know some people really like to play with all the aquarium equipment and that’s OK if you like to collect equipment. and I know others have as well. I find the equipment to often be distracting from the beauty of the tank. 3. or you could simply post your requirements in an aquarium forum.On her excellent natural aquariums website. stuck together with screws If you’re at all handy. and then bury a couple in the substrate near big specimen plants like Amazon Swords and Cryptocyrenes. or even return them to a shop who reluctantly takes them off your hands then sells them the next day. Generally you’re forced to push your homeless fish onto aquarium-owning friends. Get your fish for free Ever moved house and had to give your fish away for free? I’ve done this more than once. 2. Use rabbit or guinea pig droppings as plant fertiliser Filled your tank with plants but worried about the cost of expensive German fertilizers? Some plant enthusiasts swear by using rabbit or guinea pig droppings as targetted fertiliser tablets. there are loads of guides on the Internet on how to build your own stand. I prefer collecting different types of plants. Go slow at first. . Don’t use any other animal waste as it won’t be appropriately constituted and could pollute your tank. Here’s one of her articles explaining how to set-up a natural aquarium. however. Dry them out in the sun.
yet are kept at 26°C or higher. you may find you can bring the temperature down by a few degrees. most notably discus and some South American tetras. A few fish kept as tropicals. so be careful. which may stop the heater going on at all for most of the year in a centrallyheated house.If you’re after livebearers you will be inundated with offers. I can’t give them away fast enough! 5. If you check the lower safe range of the fish you keep. actually prefer no heater at all – an indoor unheated tank will suit them fine. and they’re still breeding. Turn down the temperature Many tropical freshwater fish are quite happy at temperatures of 21°C / 75 degrees Fahrenheit. . And coldwater fish like goldfish certainly shouldn’t be kept in heated tanks (but people do). A few do require higher temperatures. I now have about 20 platies in one of my tanks. I bought three supposedly female platies last summer. which will save you buying a filter. such as White Cloud Mountain Minnows.
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