Did you know that fish are the third most popular pets in British households? That means an awful lot of homes with aquariums of varying types and sizes.

Often fish are chosen for some very obvious reasons – they don’t need walking, for one! Of course they are also very relaxing to watch and can make a lovely colourful feature for a home. But looking after them is not as straightforward as dropping some food into the water on a regular schedule.

Fish are very sensitive creatures and in the wild they thrive in the places that naturally suit them. When we have them in our homes we are trying to artificially create an environment that makes them comfortable and healthy and that needs some attention.

There are things you can do to make keeping fish better for them and for you so that you both get the best out of keeping them.

For instance, it can be tempting to leave aquarium cleaning until it looks like it needs it, but by that point your fish will be feeling the effects of a degrading environment. It’s also quite a big job for you to do a major clean, so why not keep on top of things more often with bits of regular maintenance?

Key tasks include changing the water (maybe 10-15 per cent so as not to disturb the chemical balance too much), vacuuming the gravel, cleaning the aquarium walls, cleaning filter cartridges and testing the water for all of the vital signs. You should do all of these over the course of about two weeks. You can do them all at once, but each has an impact on the quality of the water so spreading them out brings some consistency to maintenance.

It’s really important to remember that the chlorine in tap water is harmful to fish so it must be treated with a dechlorinator before it’s added to the tank.

Filter your aquarium well

The filter is a very important feature and you should always ensure the pump is adequate for the job. They come in a range of sizes. If it seems a bit weedy for the tank or the water is getting murky more quickly than you think it should, seek some advice on whether a new external model could help.

It’s also critical that you don’t wash filter items (sponges, ceramics, etc) under the tap, as that will kill all of the live bacteria which are key to breaking down the waste.

It’s worth remembering that not all aquarium environments will suit all types of fish. If you have ones that would normally prefer to be hiding in foliage or in a dark space, they will be stressed by brightly coloured gravel or models in their tank. They will thank you for muted colours and places to go where they can feel safe. Getting this right requires some knowledge, so seek out an expert if you’re not sure. The RSPCA has some informative pages on the topic and you can always come and talk to us in store.

If you’re just starting out keeping fish, it’s important to get things right from the start, because changing plants and gravel later on can be quite time consuming and a tricky job – and of course potentially stressful for the fish.

When you have everything as it should be, it’s critical to keep testing water condition. Testing strips are available and they are a very worthwhile investment if you are going to keep your pet fish happy and healthy for the long term.

If you get the environment right you will be able to enjoy the relaxing benefits of your fish for a long time, safe in the knowledge that they are comfortable and unstressed.

Tips for successful aquarium keeping
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