How to Start a Tropical Fish Tank

I probably should have called this post "How NOT to Start a Tropical Fish Tank" but we all learn from our mistakes so please read on.

In January, I purchased my first tropical fish tank with heater, thermometer, gravel, water conditioner and plants. I waited a week before buying the fish. Now, I'm not new to keeping fish, I've had many a goldfish tanks over the years, but never the challenge of a tropical aquarium.

Once I arrived home with my tank, I eagerly set it up as follows:

  • Washed my hands and arms

  • Washed all the equipment of the tank in water

  • Rinsed the gravel

  • Placed gravel in tank

  • Added the thermometer and heater

  • Filled the 38 litre tank and added the water conditioner

  • Then added the plants

Yes! Now all I had to do was wait a week to buy the fish.

The week passed and I purchased some Mollies as the staff member at the pet shop told me they were good breeders, and I fancied myself as a fish breeder.

Hmmm... a few of these fish dropped off after a few days.

Back to pet shop, and this time sold some bio water conditioner to get the water right.

A few days later I replaced the fish. More dropped off and more replaced.

A week later I could smell something burning in my house. I couldn't figure out what it was but the smell guided me to the fishtank. OMG! The water heater was melting.

A quick dash back to the pet shop with damaged water heater and I approached two of the staff members. They looked at the heater and asked me if I had it inside the tank totally submerged in water, and I replied "of course not" in a fashion as if I would be that stupid.

I can't believe I'm writing this..... The two staff members looked astonished and they politely told me that the water heater goes inside the fish tank in the water not on the outside! Oops. No wonder those fish were dying, they were freezing. I then told them the thermometer was on the outside too and they both looked at me trying not to laugh and told me that it would be hard to gauge the water temperature if the thermometer wasn't in the water! Oh dear how embarrassing!

So now set with new water heater and instructions on how to put it in the thank I was ready to be a responsible tropical fish owner.

A couple of weeks later there is water all over the floor. Oh no! The bloody fish tank is leaking!

Back to pet shop and they gave me a replacement tank and instructed me to siphon the water from the old one into the new one and then gently rehouse the fish.

So at time of writing, the new fish tank has no leaks, the water heater is correctly placed in the tank and the fish are thriving.

I have 3 Mollies and 3 Guppies.

And...drum roll.... I have five baby Guppies! I woke up a couple of weeks ago and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a tiny fish in the tank, then discovered there were five of them. You can see one of them in the photo below.

Update: I've had 6 fry born in the tank and pleased to say that 6 months later I have three thriving little fish.



Sydney Chic is a Sydney Lifestyle website published by Deb Carr.


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