Proper Environment

Water Quality:

  • Water quality will be the ultimate determinant of a successful aquarium. Water quality involves factors including: pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphates, (etc...). First of all, it is important to be aware that tap water is treated with disinfectants (chlorine and chloramines) that are poisonous to fish. Using water detoxifiers, such as AmQuel, to neutralize these chemicals are imperative for making tap water safe for fish. Anytime you add tap water, even when replacing evaporated water, you must use water conditioner. Proper pH will be determined by the type of fish you plan to keep. Ideally, for freshwater fish, pH should be close to neutral (7.0). However, you may need to adjust pH to be slightly acidic (6.5) if you keep fish, such as Discus, Rams, or Cardinals. If you plan on keeping African Cichlids or saltwater fish the pH should be alkaline (8.2). It is highly advised you set your pH accordingly.
  • You should also familiarize yourself with the Nitrogen Cycle. This is very important regarding the biological system of your aquarium and will be a significant determinant in the overall health of your fish. However, when your tank has completed it's initial cycle, it is important to keep in mind that high levels of ammonia or nitrite can cause disease or even death. Nitromax is one of several products that will help keep your ammonia and nitrite levels in the safe zone. Nitrates are non-toxic to fish but are toxic to corals. Nitrates must be kept between 0-40 PPM if keeping a reef system. Nitrate is also used as a food source for algae and at elevated levels will cause undesirable algae growth. Phosphates are non-toxic to fish but, like Nitrates, will contribute to algae growth.


  • Your decorations will depend on the type of fish you keep. For example, if you want to keep African Cichlids, you generally want lots of rocks and caves, and perhaps a few calcium-carbonate corals. No live plants, they will get eaten! If you plan to have Oscars, you should keep a few big rocks but mostly empty space for swimming area.


  • Your gravel will play a role in your fish environment. If you want to keep a plant tank, it is recommended you have Fluorite for your gravel bed. If you keep African Cichlids or saltwater fish you will want crushed coral. If you plan to have community fish, any epoxy coated gravel should do.

Fish Compatibility:

  • Keep in mind the type of fish you want and try to stick with tank mates of the same aggression level, whether it's aggressive fish, a community tank, or a specialized tank (e.g.: Seahorses or Jellyfish). For saltwater fish, you will want to start out with the least aggressive (e.g.: Clowns and Butterflies) and build up to the more aggressive (e.g.: large Angels and Triggers). Also, water parameters are important to keep in mind. Certain fish require different pH levels. Salinity levels can vary as in a brackish water tank (salinity 1.010).

Starting Out:

  • To begin the Nitrogen Cycle you need to start with "starter" fish. These fish are relatively inexpensive and should be hearty enough to adjust and withstand the elevated ammonia and nitrite levels. General recommendations call for 1 fish per 10 gallons when starting. For freshwater aquariums we recommend: Mollies, Platies, Swordtails, and/or Zebra Danios. For saltwater aquariums, Damsels and/or Green Chromis will make the best choices.


  • Filtration is a main component of any successful aquarium. The filter removes suspended debris, supports the nitrifying bacteria, and oxygenates the water. There are many different types of filters to choose from: canister, under gravel, hang-on power filters, wet/dry filters, fluidized beds, (etc...). When choosing a filter, you want to make sure it contains the following types of filtration: mechanical, chemical, and biological. Mechanical filtration includes a sponge or pad that physically traps suspended debris. Chemical filtration is filter media, such as carbon which 'polishes' your water. Carbon will also filter out medications. The biological portion of your filter is the prime location to harbor your nitrifying bacteria. This prime location on the filter is usually designed where there is good water flow and good oxygen exchange, for instance: using a bio-wheel or bio-balls. Make sure the filter you choose also has a good flow rate. The filter for freshwater systems should be able to filter all of the water at least 5-6 times an hour; saltwater at least 6-7 times an hour.


  • Tropical fish aquariums require heaters in order to keep the water temperature at a specific level and to avoid temperature fluctuation. If the temperature is wrong or fails to remain constant, disease or death may occur. There are glass heaters that are hang-on-the-back or submersible. There are also submersible titanium heaters. Try to keep the water temperature between 78 and 80 degrees for tropical fish. The general rule for choosing a heater is: 5 watts per gallon (glass tanks) and 3 watts per gallon (acrylic tanks). CAUTION! If you have a glass heater and installing it for the fist time, make sure you let the heater sit in the water for approximately 10 minutes before you plug it in. Also, make sure to unplug it when you drop the water level, when doing water changes. If you fail to do so, the glass on the heater may break!

Maintenance Tips:


  • Never empty the entire aquarium at one time. It's not recommended to perform more than a 50% water change.

  • Never replace your biological filter media, unless you plan on starting over.

  • Be careful when moving decorations around, and make sure gravel doesn't get stuck in your algae pad because it will scratch your tank.

  • Make sure your hands are clean and well rinsed before putting your hands in the aquarium.