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Building a Harmonious Community Aquarium

What Kind of Aquarium Do You Want?

Before you start buying fish, you need to think about what kind of aquarium you want to have.

Do you want a fast flowing riverbed with rocks and epiphytes?

A lush planted tank with lots of greenery?

Perhaps a tank with snails, shrimp, and other critters that help keep it clean?

Your choices here will help you decide what kind of fish you can keep together.

How to Choose Compatible Fish

Once you have a set up in mind, you need to consider some important factors when choosing fish for your tank.

These four factors are:

#1 Environment

You need to make sure your fish will live in the right water conditions, such as temperature, pH, and hardness.

Livebearers like Endlers love hard, alkaline water, while Neon Tetras prefer soft, acidic water. There may be some overlap (in the case of those two), but not always. Be sure your fish can live together comfortably.

You also need to provide them with a suitable substrate such as sand or gravel, and some decorations, such as rocks, caves, wood, or plants. These will make your fish feel more at home and mimic their natural habitat. 

Keep in mind that many fish prefer a densely planted, tannin- rich tank. Others may prefer a brightly lit area, with lots of empty swimming/ schooling space.


#2 Temperament 

You need to know if your fish are peaceful or aggressive, and how they interact with other fish.

Some fish are shy and need hiding places, while others are bold and territorial.

Some fish are friendly and social, like many of the danios, while others are solitary and prefer their own space, like Bettas. They may get annoyed and stressed at all the movement and energy. I know I do!

You also want to avoid mixing fish that will fight, chase, or bully each other.

Bettas for instance, don't like competition. They may see brightly colored guppy males as a threat, and relentlessly nip their fins to shreds.


#3 Diet and Feeding

You need to consider what your fish will eat, and how often and how much they need to be fed.

Some fish are carnivores and need meaty foods, while others are herbivores and need plant-based foods. Some fish are omnivores and eat both.

Some fish are top water- column feeders, such as Gertrude's Blue Eyed Rainbowfish, and eat from the surface, while others, like Corydoras, are bottom feeders and eat from the substrate.

You'll want to make sure each of your fish get enough of the right food and don’t out-compete or steal from each other.


#4 Activity Level

You'll need to know how active your fish are, and how they swim in the tank.

As mentioned above, some fish are fast and energetic, while others are slow and relaxed. Some fish swim in the upper, middle, or lower layers of the tank, while others swim all over.

You want to match the activity levels of your fish and give them enough space to swim comfortably in order to reduce conflict and competition.

How Big Is Your Tank?

One of the most important things to consider is the size of your tank. Different fish need different amounts of space, depending on how big they grow, how they structure territories, and how much waste they produce.

It's often thought the “one inch of fish per gallon” rule can't apply because it doesn’t take into account these factors.

You also need to think about the water flow, the filtration, and the feeding schedule of your tank. A bigger tank is usually better, because it gives your fish more room, more water stability, and more room for forgiveness.

Water Parameters and Lighting

Just like we humans need the right temperature and light levels to thrive, so do our fishy friends.
Each species has its own preferred water conditions, including pH, temperature, alkalinity, salinity, and general hardness.
Snails mostly prefer mid- to- alkaline water because water that is too acidic can seriously damage their shells.
And don’t forget about lighting! Some fish and plants need lots of light, while others prefer a dimmer environment, like our Steel Blue Lyretail Killifish.
Make sure you do your homework and set up your tank to meet these needs.

Substrate and Décor: More Than Just Decoration

The type of substrate and décor in your tank can make a big difference to your fish.
Some species like Corydoras like a sandy bottom, while others prefer gravel or rocks. And when it comes to décor, it’s not just about looking pretty.
Rocks, caves, driftwood, and plants can provide important hiding places and help your fish feel safe and secure. Fish like Kuhli Loaches love dark nooks and crannies to hide in.
Try to strike a balance between what your fish needs and what looks good to you.

Fish Behavior

Fish are just like people - they have their own personalities and behaviors. Like we talked about above, some are peaceful and get along with everyone, while others are more aggressive or territorial.
Some fish like to be in a group or school, while others need to be alone.
Understanding these behaviors can help you choose fish that will get along together.
And remember, even the most peaceful fish can become aggressive if they’re stressed or don’t have enough space. Having more room than you need helps cover all your bases.

Eating Habits: A Balanced Diet for a Balanced Aquarium

Just like we get sick if we eat too much of the wrong thing, you need to make sure your fish are getting the right food for their diet.
Some fish are carnivores, some are herbivores, and some are omnivores. Be sure to provide the right food in the amounts they need.
And don’t forget about where they like to eat - some fish feed at the top of the tank, some in the middle, and some at the bottom. A good feeding plan can help ensure all your fish get their fair share.

Long-Term Planning: A Happy Tank is a Healthy Tank

Finally, here are a few last- minute tips to keep your aquarium happy and healthy in the long term:
  • Mix things up a bit by rearranging the décor before adding new fish. This can help reduce territorial behavior.
  • Turn off the lights when you introduce new fish to help them settle in without stress.
  • If you have shy or fussy eaters, add them to a new tank first and then introduce the more assertive species later.
  • Always plan for the adult size of your fish, not just their size when you buy them.
And that’s it! With a bit of planning and understanding, you can create a beautiful, harmonious community aquarium.
Happy fish keeping!


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