Pet fish?


**I had many pets growing up but not fish (unless you count the goldfish we tried keeping in a “goldfish bowl” that kept dying because they really shouldn’t be kept in a gold fish bowl:rolleyes:)

So we would like to add a small aquarium to our family. Lily likes seeing the fish at the pet store so I think having some at home would be nice. But NOT if they are a lot of work or maintenance… THAT is not what I need with hubby going away for 8 months!

So for those of you who have pet fish, are they easy keepers? I like plain old goldfish, good choice or not? What kinds of things help keep the aquarium clean and as close to maintenance free as possible? Filters? Snails? Live plants?.. any tips and advice would be appreciated!**


Start with a small tank (they have a little 5-gallon kit at Wal*Mart for about $20) and get small colorful fish (neon tetras are cool, the “metallic” blue and red ones) and a small “catfish” (plectosomus, I believe, is the real name.)

Do NOT, under any circumstances, get tiger barbs. They look like small angel fish with black stripes. They are aggressive and will kill other fish in the tank and then turn on each other. No one told us this when we set up our aquarium. Our barbs took out every other fish we had (except the catfish) and then one big bully “wasted” his two companions. My son literally whooped with joy when that monster finally died.

If you want to start really small, a betta (Siamese fighting fish) is also a good idea. One fish, small tank, low maintenance.


Awesome! A pet fish thread. I’ve been waiting four years for someone to bring this topic up. :smiley:

Actually, for those who might wonder where my screenname came from, it is actually the name of a goldfish I took care of for three years while I was in high school.

Fish are actually fairly easy to take care of. You just got to make sure you feed them every day and change the water every few weeks or so. It would be a good idea to have a good filter and make sure not to overpopulate the tank with too many fish because disease is more likely to spread throughout.

Speaking of disease, you can get medicine from the local fish store if they contract a disease like “ick”.

Goldfish are pretty easy to take care of, but I prefer cichlids because they seem (at least to me) to last longer. Although they can be somewhat bullies to other fish in the tank sometimes.


**My parents have a small tank that they never did set up so we want to make use of it. It may be 5 or 10 gallons…I’d have to check.

But I really want the inside info on cleaning and maintenance!**


Get a good ciphon which makes it much easier to clean a tank. They should sell these at the local pet store.


OK, ignorance alert! Is a ciphon a machine or an animal?:o**
(I could tell you all about the nutritional needs of dogs or cats but throw me into the world of fish and I’m lost!)**


You may also need:

*]a set of magnets for cleaning the glass (soft pad on the outside one, scratchier pad on the one that goes inside the tank) if it does get a bit green

*]a water pH testing and tweaking kit (water in our area is wildly alkaline and always needed adjusting for fish)

*]information on what’s in your tap water - we always had to let tap water sit for a few days for the chlorine to disappear before putting it in fish tanks so we had a special home brewing plastic tank for top-up water

*] a dedicated bucket for fish tank water replacement that is never used for anything else but fish water (like, don’t just rinse out the one you use for mopping the floor)

*]a swatter to hit flies and mosquitoes with instead of using insecticide spray (in fact, no sprays of any type - perfume, spray canola oil, whatever - anywhere near the fish)

*]if you have a filter, replacement filter stones, charcoal and filter wool.The filter should only be washed out in the dedicated fish water bucket.


Plants unfortunately do need maintenance. Unless you have a tank light that promotes plant growth they won’t grow as well at home as they do in the shop, and the fish will sometimes tug them around a bit and pull them apart. Be prepared to update your plants every now and then if you want the tank to “look like a bought one”.


I once had 4 different tanks going at one time. An awesome site is . There is a great forum HERE. Now I only have 1 tank with African clawed water frogs.

The biggest thing is do not get an aquarium that is too small (no smaller than 10 gallons - 15 to 20 is best).
Let the water cycle for about 20-30 days before you add any fish (the site has great information for that). If you do not let the water cycle, you will be flushing more fishies than you want to.

Goldfish are very dirty fish (they are carp). The poo a LOT. Be ready to clean that tank at least weekly. Other fish are lower maintenance, requiring only a partial water change every few weeks or so, and vacuuming of the gravel. Research the fish.

Read about what fish are compatible and what are not.

Do not buy your fish from Walmart. They are notorious for selling diseased fish and will not live long. Buy from a reputable pet or fish store.

Do your research!

Do not overcrowd your tank. 1 fish inch per gallon of water. So of you have a 2 inch fish, you should only put 5 of those fish in a 10 gallon tank.


A siphon is the pump thingie for getting water in/out of the tank - straight pipe into a hand-squeeze part and a bendy pipe coming out of that. You put your thumb on top of a small hole in the hand-squeeze part and squeeze the grip a few times to suck water up the straight pipe out of the tank and get it to flow out of the bendy one into the disposal bucket (or vice versa) and you uncover the hole to stop the flow.

Make sure you get one with a strainer fitted over the end of the straight pipe. Fish can be injured or killed if they get sucked in to the pipe. You can remove the strainer though and use the open pipe to (carefully) suck the droppings off the tank bottom into the disposal bucket.

Like the bucket, the siphon should be used for fish water only.


**OK, until hubby is back home to help with this I will be taking Lily to visit the fish at the pet store, lol.

Too bad they haven’t come up with a self cleaning tank yet. A couple of times a year I could manage, but weekly maintenance? No thanks.


:thumbsup: We don’t have Walmart here but I keep across animal welfare issues and the number of times Walmart gets written up for selling sick fish and keeping betta fish in under-sized and therefore insufficiently oxygenated containers and otherwise poor/stressful conditions is not funny.


Small tanks are much harder to maintain than large tanks because any mistake or problem becomes magnified due to the small volume of water in the tank. If your filter dies and toxic wastes start to accumulate, 30 gallons of water will dilute more and buy you more time than 5 gallons. Same goes for temperature, 30 gallons will maintain a stable temperature much better than 5 gallons.

30 gallons is the usuall reccomended starting size. The smallest I would go is 10 gallons, but only if you are very carefull with fish selection and maintanence. Keep in mind that only about 5-10 common species of fish can be kept in a tank that small.

Snails will not keep the aquarium clean. In fact, they add to the bioload (amount of life, which takes up resources) of the tank. They can be neat additions, but only if you specifically want them and have less fish as a result. Apple snails are particularly cool, but you need hard water and at least about 30 gallons to keep them.

Plants will help keep the tank clean, but you will need a filter. I would reccomend a power filter and that you avoid undergravel and air-powered filters. Aquaclear filters by Hagen are my personal favorite.

Do not get goldfish unless you have a big tank (about 55 gallons) and are ready for a lot of maitenence. They get big and make a lot of waste. I would reccomend schooling fish like tetras (get at least 6, 12 is betters, depending on size of tank) and maybe 1 or 2 larger peaceful fish like gouramies. Small catfish like corys would also be good.

Do your research- stores still sell many totally inappropriate fish like redtail catfish (tops out at about 3-4 feet) and bala sharks (1 foot, schools, huge tank). They also sell a lot of more advanced or difficult fish like cichlids.

Aquariums are not a huge amount of work, but they still require dedication and a lot of technical knowledge of things like water chemistry, the nitrogen cycle, mechanical troubleshooting for equipment, etc. All this stuff is available in aquarium books.

A smaller-sized aquarium would take about 10 minutes of work a day and about an hour on the weekends (weekly water changes are usually considered the best). If problems like filter issues or power outages occur, more time would be needed.

Feel free to ask me any more questions you have. I have about 5 years experience under my belt and 15+ tanks.


Heehee. You should see the movie Finding Nemo (if you haven’t already). In one part of the movie, the fish in the fish tank are in awe of the self-cleaning filtering system that was installed.

I’m not sure if this unit is myth or not. But a fish enthusiast can dream right? :smiley:


Actually, the reason they haven’t is because substances added to the water (like chemicals and food) stay in the water. This necessitates water changes, to keep flushing the tank of these substances. Even filters don’t remove these substances- they only collect it so they can be removed by the aquarist. Even then only large particles are removed.

Saltwater tanks can remove some of these substances from the water by protein skimmers. This works by oxygenating the water inside of a canister, which causes protein particles to bind to the oxygen bubbles are rise out of the water into the collection tray. This only works well in saltwater, because of water chemistry.

The other way the substances can be removed from the water is through the nitrogen cycle. Wastes and food break down into ammonia, which is converted by bacteria into nitrite. This nitrite is then converted into nitrate. In nature, this nitrate is converted into a gas by bacteria, and leaves the water. While the first two steps happen in all functioning aquariums, the last step in very difficult to establish. The bacteria involved with the last step need anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions, while all the life in the tank needs aerobic conditions. This is hard to establish safely in aquariums. It can be done, but only with great difficultly and some risk to the aquarium.

If scientists and engineers figure out a way to safely and reliabilly establish the last sequence in the cycle, a tank as you describe would be possible. Water changes would be very infrequent, because most food and waste would be converted into gas and would exit the tank. Until then, we need to keep doing those weekly or bimonthly water changes. :slight_smile:


sounds like there are a lot of fish experts with good advice. here’s what we NON-experts learned:

betas aka japanese fighting fish can live in little cups. they don’t do anything but sit there. but put them in an aerated tank (even 2 gallons is big enough) and they are wonderful. they’re easy to keep, sturdy and pretty-- but only one per tank.

gold fish are filthy. they need the water changed all the time and they die really fast.

our oscar just died. he was three. when we got him he was the size of my thumb. when he died, he was bigger than my whole hand (fingers included.) he was huge. he had a few diseases through the years, but was fairly easily cured. but last month his tank cracked and flooded a room in our house. i found him gasping in a few inches of water, pale, and pretty badly shocked. he survived for a while but never really recovered. he died last week.

we were sad. my 16 y.o. son, (who owned the fish and maintained its tank etc.) brought it down to the river in a homemade wooden boat, set it on fire and pushed it out into the current.

Viking Funeral.

It was very dramatic.

I’d like to get another fish, but am feeling pretty burned by what 40 gallons of fish water can do to a room, a carpet and hundreds of dollars of homeschool books.


How about this?

Instead of making a commitment to a tank of fish, and all that water, go to the store and get:

or this?
You will not have made an extreme purchase. All you need is a net, the bowl, a very small amount of bowl decoration, some fish food, and something to dechlorinize the water? With a fish or two, that’s possibly $20. If the fish dies, no harm no foul (except for the fish).

My mother did this when we were little, some forty-odd years ago. When the fish died, she said he’d just been visiting, and it was time to go back to the ocean. The fastest way to get to the ocean for a fish was the toilet. Then another fish would come and visit us. She was also known for replacing fish before we could figure out the first fish had died (Didn’t figure this out until I was 9 or 10 and then I was the one who ran for more fish). We lived in an apartment until I was 13, so we couldn’t have a dog or a cat. It’s a nice pet alternative.

I’ve told you before my mother was a little odd. But back then, two year olds weren’t told about death, and it’s hard for a two or three year old to understand it.

Nonetheless, the fish bowl is a lot cheaper and a lot less work than the aquarium.


I know they are just fish, but those bowls look REALLY small.

I’d feel cruel trapping a fish in one of those just so that I could glance at it every now and again, and see it swim around looking bored out of its skull, with no companionship.


Smart lady. Right now, you need to SIMPLIFY your life. Adding a new pet is not the way to simplify.

Had you decided to actually do this, I was going to have to drive to Canada and talk some sense into you :slight_smile:


I second the idea of a betta- they are super, super easy to take care of and are one of the few fish who can get oxygen from the surface air (not just the water) so they can survive in relatively dirty water.

We have had bettas in small fishbowls (only one in each bowl) for years now, and they are fun to watch. You only need to feed them 2-3x per week, and though you are “supposed” to change their water weekly, I admit that we’ve easily gone a month or more and the fish seem to be fine. When you do clean, it’s easy- just dump the old water, wash the bowl (you can put it in the dishwasher if it’s by itself), then refill with fresh water and a few drops of an anti-chlorine solution (easy to find at the pet store).


A fish bowl is one of the most unhealthy environments for a fish. Yes, the are “just fish”, but they ARE living creatures all the same. A fish in a bowl will be oxygen starved and living in really filthy water all the time. It is really quite cruel. I’m not even sure why pet stores sell them, because they are not good for the fish at all. And, in reality, the are MORE work than a big tank, because instead of once a week maintenance, you will likely be doing daily maintenance just to keep the water oxygenated.

Do NOT get a small fish bowl. Too cruel. Unless you put one betta in it. But nothing else.

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