This post is a collaborative effort between Katheryn Brandy, who wrote the article, and Etva, who provided the fishy photos.
In Part 2, we discussed going through a trial period with a small tank and 1 fish to see if you are willing to do the required maintenance. If you make it through the 6 month trial, you are ready to invest money in your new hobby. See below for filling tank and introducing your one fish to the tank.
We also discussed placement of your tank, aquarium tank size and proper stand. For a beginner, I prefer a tank kit that comes complete with tank, filter and lighted cover. Reminder that when you rinse out your new tank or any of the parts, never use any cleansers or other chemicals that could leave a residue.
When choosing what color rocks to put in your new tank - remember the rocks are going to get dirty. It's like having a white carpet with kids; it never looks as good as when it's new. I prefer the small, smooth natural pebble rocks. They don't show dirt and have no sharp edges to hurt bottom feeders tender mouths. Buy 1 pd. of rock per gallon. After you have rinsed the rock, place at least a 1' layer on the bottom. I would suggest starting off with plastic plants and some type of approved for fish plastic cave type structure, both of which will provide refuge and privacy for your fish. Don't over decorate. Rarely does a person stick with the same tank decor once they are more experienced. At the beginning let's keep the variables you deal with to a minimum. You can switch to live plants in the future.
I recommend purchasing a vacuum hose that attaches to your sink faucet. It vacuums up waste and with a switch of a toggle, refills the tank with fresh water. Minimum hassle. Use your thermometer to test the temperature coming out of the faucet and adjust the temperature to 78 degrees. Fill up your tank and add dechlorinator according to the instructions on the bottle. Set up your heater and adjust the temperature to 78 degrees.
When the temperature in the tank is stable, take a sample of your water to the fish store to have the ph tested. The place you will want to give your business to is not the Giant Fish by the Gallon Store (name copyrighted by Lebowsky). You will want to patronize the small store that only sells fish,often a little specialty shop. When they give you the okay for your water, you can release your test pilot fish into the tank. Now we must wait for the nitrogen cycle to complete before adding any more fish.
When your fish produces waste, the waste is turned into ammonia. Ammonia = Poison. This starts at Day 3 in the Cycle
The Ammonia Eating Bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrites. Nitrites = Poison. This starts at Day 7 in the Cycle
The Nitrite Eating Bacteria turn the nitrites into nitrates. Nitrates = meh (unless you get too many) By replacing water on a regular basis you keep the nitrates down to a manageable level.
This whole cycle takes about 30 days. You can see why only the toughest fish can make it though the Poison Phase. This is why you want to start with just one hardy fish (like a Beta) until you are in the safe zone.
When you bring home your new arrivals, float the plastic store bag on top of the water for 10 minutes, so the temperature will equalize. Nothing like jumping into the equivalent of an icy lake to shock you. Gradually add aquarium water to the plastic bag, so when you transfer your fish, it will not be a shock to their systems.
You are in business!
Remember - the two most important factors to remember - do not overfeed your fish and change your tank's water every week. (two weeks at the outside)The filter package will say how often you need to change the filter - I do mine every month.
As you become more experienced you will find there are wonderful books and websites to explore about your new found hobby. This is just the beginning!
Handbook of Tropical Aquarium Fishes, McGraw-Hill, 718 pages, 1955 by Dr Herbert R. Axelrod.