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Keeping a Red-Tailed Black Shark

A Red-Tailed Black Shark is a stunning fish, with a velvety- black body, a bright red tail, and a lovely streamlined shape. If you are going to keep a Black Shark in your aquarium, and I highly recommend that you do, only get one, because they get very aggressive towards others of their species. When they are younger they are relatively harmless, but as they got older and bigger they can get very cantankerous.

You need to give your Black Shark plenty of hiding places to choose from, like a flowerpot on its side, or some rocks or bogwood it can hide behind, because Black Sharks do need their own space, and get very unhappy when they can’t find a place to call their own. I have a shipwreck in my aquarium (an old ship made by my husband from a kit), that had holes made in the side so the Shark can get in and out. Whenever I take the shipwreck out to clean it the Shark gets very upset and sulks for quite a while. How do I know? He is no longer a beautiful velvety-black, his body is now grey, and he swims around chasing any other fish who dare to get in his way.

Do be careful also as your shark gets older and you buy new tropical fish for your aquarium. I had a problem a few years ago, that whenever I bought new fish, by the morning they were all dead. It took me a while to work it out, but the Black Shark would wait until I wasn’t looking, and then he would chase the new fishes around the aquarium until they died from shock/exhaustion. I didn’t know fish were that clever, but this one certainly was! I ended up giving the Black Shark to a friend who had a much larger aquarium than mine, which had a big Angelfish that was the boss of his tank. The Black Shark lived happily there for a few more years, with the Angelfish keeping him in his place.

You may know the Red-Tailed Black Shark as Red-Tailed Labeo, which it probably a better name, because the fish is in no way related to true sharks, so it is rather misleading. The scientific name is Labeo Bicolor.

Give Your Betta Fish A Better Life!

Have you ever been to your local pet shop and seen the Bettas (also known as Siamese Fighters), in a tiny little tank? When I questioned my local pet store about the size of container they were kept in, they proceeded to tell me that it is what Bettas prefer! They had obviously been asked this many times, because they handed me a photocopied piece of paper explaining how to care for a Betta, and how they like to live in tiny spaces.

Now I don’t know about you, but I personally think it is extremely cruel, and I think the fish think so as well, as they look pretty miserable. A good indication of it is that they aren’t showing off their beautiful fins, instead they are usually skulking near the bottom, fins down.

Now the pet shop’s theory is that Bettas live in small puddles of water in the rice fields of Asia, but what they don’t tell you is that they move from puddle to puddle, and then on to bigger expanses of water. They are not stuck in one small puddle all their life, never meeting up with another fish! The species would be extinct by now if that was the case.

If you own a Betta in a small tank, please consider getting it a bigger home. You cannot keep two male Bettas together, because, as the name Siamese Fighter suggests, they will fight! You could easily keep your Betta in an aquarium with other tropical fish. Whatever you do, don’t keep them with fish that like to nip fins, like Barbs, and especially not with Guppies. Male Bettas view Guppies as competition and will most probably fight and kill them.

The other alternative is to get one or two female Bettas. It is much better to have a couple of females, rather than just one, as it will give each female a break from amorous advances. When the male is ready to breed he will make a bubble nest near the surface of the water. Once the female has laid the eggs, which can be anywhere from 400 to 500 eggs, he will guard them.

Make sure that the aquarium in which they live has some vegetation they can hide in, as well as easy access to the surface of the aquarium, as they like to breathe air at the surface from time to time.

So, if you do own a male Betta in a tiny tank, please think about this, give him a better home, and watch how much happier he will be.

Choosing the Right Freshwater Tropical Fish

You have probably been to your local pet shop or aquarist dealer and seen a large variety of tropical fish to choose from. How do you go about choosing the right combination of fish for you?

You can’t just choose any fish you like and expect them to all get along well together, it doesn’t work like that – you need a plan.

Firstly, do you want a community aquarium or a species tank? A community aquarium will hold a variety of different fish that will all live in harmony with each other. A species tank, as the name suggests, will only hold one variety of fish.

Most people start with a community aquarium, and it is a very good place to start.

Before you work out exactly which fish you want, you need to work out have many inches (or centimetres) of fish you can accommodate in your new aquarium. A long, shallow tank will hold more fish than a short deep tank, because it is the amount of oxygen in the water that is more important than the actual quantity of water.

For more detailed information on calculating the number of fish you can have, see How Many Fish Will My Aquarium Hold?  Don’t forget to find out how big the fish will grow to, don’t just look at the size of them in the shop as they will almost certainly grow.

How do you go about choosing the right fish for you? Firstly look around and see if there are any fish that you definitely want, and start your plan there. You need to know what size the fish you want will grow to, and how many you should keep together. Some fish are fine singly or in pairs, others only really thrive when they have friends to shoal with.

When you have chosen the fish you want to base your aquarium on, look to see how many you need to get, and how many inches they will use up. Next, will they live in harmony with all other fishes, or are there some they don’t get along with? Also, take note of where they live in the aquarium. Some fish are bottom dwellers, some live mainly at the top, and others in the middle of the aquarium.

The best way to have a balanced aquarium is to have some fish that live in each level of the aquarium, as well as some fish that will keep the bottom clean, like corydoras. Personally, I also like to have fish that will keep the sides clean, like a pleco (suckermouth catfish).

Getting Started with Freshwater Tropical Fish

Having a beautiful aquarium filled with freshwater tropical fish can be a real feature in any home, and if set up and maintained correctly, can give countless hours of pleasure for not too much time or effort.

The key is all in the planning – firstly, where will the aquarium live in your home? Once it is filled with water it’s not moving anywhere, so choosing the right place the first time is critical. It should be placed out of direct sunlight, and not in any draughts, which will disturb the water. Don’t forget also to have an electric supply handy nearby, so you can plug in the light, filter and heater that you will almost certainly need.

Secondly, what size aquarium should you buy? I would always recommend buying as large an aquarium as you can afford, both financially and space-wise. Keeping freshwater tropical fish is addictive, and you will never wish you had bought a smaller aquarium. Also, the larger the aquarium the easier it is to maintain optimum water quality, so it will save on maintenance as well. I would also recommend buying an aquarium, which is wider than it is tall, as the size of the water surface is also important for your tropical fish, so a tall, thin aquarium is far from ideal.

If you are planning on placing your new aquarium on a piece of furniture, do check it is strong enough to hold the weight of the aquarium and all the water, the last thing you want is your beautiful aquarium crashing to the floor with your precious tropical fish inside.

Once you have purchased your aquarium and found a good home for it, now is the time to put the filter, light and heater in place, and fill it with water and gravel in preparation for your freshwater tropical fish. Do not be in a hurry here, as tempting as it is to rush and get a huge assortment of fish as soon as possible. Plan the fish you would like to have in your aquarium before you start.

Would you like a species tank, where you have only one type of fish? This is usually because the fish you have chosen does not live happily with other breeds of fish. I would suggest that if this is your first aquarium you look at getting a community tank, where you get a variety of different fish, which live happily together. There are many types of community fish which are relatively easy to keep, and will look stunning together in an aquarium.

Some freshwater tropical fish like to spend most of their time near the surface of the water, some prefer the middle of the aquarium, and others are happiest down at the bottom, so it is advisable to get a mixture so you get a balanced aquarium.  You must also ensure you do not over-fill your aquarium, putting too many fish in is a very easy thing to do, but is a sure way to lose some of your fish. When calculating how many freshwater tropical fish your aquarium can hold, remember that when you buy them from the pet store they are young, and could well have a lot of growing to do.

Get this right, and you will get many years of pleasure from your freshwater tropical fish.

Purchasing Freshwater Tropical Fish

So you’re at the pet shop choosing your new freshwater tropical fish, you’ve found the ones you’d like, and are ready to purchase. Before buying, check that the shop you are planning to buy from look after their fish properly. Tropical fish get very stressed when they are moved around, and this makes them susceptible to disease, so any reputable shop will quarantine new fish for a couple of weeks after they receive delivery. I personally always like to check that the dealer has quarantine tanks set aside for this purpose, and if they don’t, do ask what their policy is regarding new fish.

Secondly, check the conditions inside the fish tanks. If they look dirty and uncared for, or you see a few dead fish around the place, I would recommend not buying from this shop, the chances are that the fish you buy from them will not live long.

If you are happy with the shop you are at, watch carefully the fish that are caught for you. You want to have healthy specimens, and this you can usually see at a glance. The top fin should be standing tall, and the fish should have a good shape, i.e. nicely rounded underneath, not concave. Check also that it swims straight and streamlined. If you are looking to breed your fish, check that you know what sex the fish is, if possible. In livebearers, which are the easiest to breed, it is usually obvious by the dorsal fin, but egg-layers are not often easy, and sometimes, depending on the species, they can be impossible to tell apart.

At this point the shop with almost certainly put the freshwater tropical fish in plastic bags that they will tie up tight with as much air as possible left inside the bag. To ensure you give your fish as little stress as possible, it is advisable to put the plastic bag inside a thick paper bag, to keep the tropical fish in the dark as much as possible.

Now, get the fish home as gently and as quickly as you can, and float the plastic bags on top of the aquarium for twenty minutes or so. This will allow the fish to calm down, and the water temperature in the bag to match the temperature in the aquarium. After the twenty minutes is up, cut open the bag and release the fish, with as little of the dirt from the water as possible. If you have a brand new aquarium you can release your fish straight in to it, otherwise I would recommend using a small quarantine tank for a few days just so you can protect the rest of your tropical fish.

Care of Freshwater Tropical Fish

Do you want to know what you need to do to maintain a beautiful aquarium of freshwater tropical fish? It’s not difficult, but you must do these few basic tasks to ensure optimum pleasure from your aquarium.

Looking after your freshwater tropical fish is not difficult or time-consuming, but there are a few things that need to be attended to on a regular basis to ensure optimum health for your tropical fish, which will mean optimum pleasure for you.

Firstly, always be careful when introducing new tropical fish in to your aquarium. New fish will be stressed by the ordeal of getting to your house, and will be susceptible to disease. It is advisable to always keep new fish in a quarantine tank for a few days, just to make sure they are fit and healthy.

On a daily basis, feed your tropical fish, either once or twice a day is fine. Do find out the best food to give your fish, and give them variety, because fish can get bored with the same diet day after day. When you feed them, always ensure you don’t give them too much food, because fish do not over-eat, so any unwanted food will remain in the aquarium and will go off very quickly. Be very careful who you entrust to look after your fish when you go on vacation. Many well-meaning people who have never had their own fish cannot believe how small a quantity of food fish really need, and before you know it the water is black, and the fish are gasping to breath, if not dead.

When you feed them, take a few moments to have a count, and make sure all your fish are present and correct. If you cannot see one, you need to locate it, it may just be hiding, or it may be sick or dead somewhere. Leaving a dead fish in your aquarium will soon pollute the water.   Also check the filter is working correctly, the water is at the right temperature, and put back any stray bits of plant which may have come loose.

On a monthly basis, you need to do a partial water change. This involves removing 20-25% of the water, and replacing it with clean, de-chlorinated water, which is at the right temperature. Before you remove the water it is advisable to switch of the filter, and heater. At the same time have a tidy up of the aquarium by cleaning the glass, checking the airstones are not clogged up, (if you have any), and you may need to clean the filter, depending on the type you have. I personally use a ‘gravel cleaner’ which sucks the gravel up, and cleans it whilst removing the dirty water.

Once a year, take the time to give your aquarium a thorough clean, by emptying it, replacing all the water, and thoroughly cleaning everything. Do ensure that on chemicals are used while doing this, as these are not good for your freshwater tropical fish.

Before You Buy Your Freshwater Tropical Fish

So you’ve decided on which aquarium to buy, been and purchased it, and set it up in a prominent location in your home – what next? Before you rush out and buy your freshwater tropical fish, you need to make sure you have all the equipment necessary. At the very least you need a lid for the aquarium, lighting, heating and a filtration system. It is very important you buy the correct size for your aquarium.

For instance, the lighting needs to be sufficient to light the entire aquarium, likewise the filter must be able to cope with the amount of water you will have, or it will not work to optimum efficiency. Buying a heater which will have to work hard to keep your aquarium at the correct temperature may be cheaper, but will end up a false economy, as it will soon break. If you are in any doubt as to what to buy to go with your aquarium, check with a reputable aquatic dealer.

You will now need to decorate your aquarium. For this you need gravel, and by this I mean special gravel you buy from an aquatic dealer, the quality is important. You also need a lot of it, because you need to cover the base of the aquarium by at least 2-3 inches (5-7.5cm). This will allow the plants to root properly, and if you have an under-gravel filtration system you will need this much to cover the filter.

To complete the decoration you will need some plants, either real or artificial, and you may want to consider some bogwood, which looks attractive in an aquarium, and as it has been treated it is suitable. Do not add shells or coral, as these can hurt your fish, and can also change the balance of the water, as well as be sharp and may hurt the fish. Aquatic dealers also sell other artificial decorations that you may want to purchase. Ensure that whatever you do you give your fish some hiding places.

Next, purchase a net, a bucket, a gravel cleaner and a glass cleaner – these are essential tools of the trade, and will be used often. I would also recommend buying de-chlorinator – tap water may be great for people, but it was not made for tropical fish. All the chemicals which are put in the water are not good for freshwater tropical fish, so the water will either need to be left standing for a couple of days, and be subjected to strong aeration, or have a de-chlorinator added to it.

Finally, purchase some fish food, so that when you bring your new freshwater tropical fish home you have something to feed them.

How Many Fish Will My Aquarium Hold?

Have you got yourself a new aquarium? If so, you need to have a plan on how you are going to fill it with those beautiful fish.

Before you work out exactly which fish you want, you need to work out have many inches (or centimetres) of fish you can accommodate in your new aquarium.

The fish will obviously have more room to swim and set up their territories in a larger aquarium, but more important than the size of the aquarium is the shape and proportions of the tank. A long, shallow tank will hold more fish than a short deep tank, even if they have exactly the same amount of water in each.

The reason for this is that the oxygen content of the water depends on how easily it can be supplied. The only place this can happen is where the air meets the water, which is at the surface of the tank, so the larger the surface, the more oxygen available. Similarly, the carbon dioxide that the fish exhale has to be expelled from the water, and this also happens at the surface.

So, to work out the capacity of an aquarium, you need to multiply the length of the aquarium by the depth to get the water surface. For instance, if your aquarium is 24in (60cm) long by 12in (30cm) deep, the answer is 288in2 (1800cm2).

The next thing you need to know is how many inches (or centimetres) of fish you can accommodate, and this will depend on the type of fish.

Freshwater Tropical Fish –        12in2 per inch body length

(75cm2 per cm body length)

Freshwater Cold Water Fish –   30in2 per inch body length

(187.5cm2 per cm of body length)

Marine Tropical Fish –               48in2 per inch body length

(300cm2 per cm body length)

So in our example tank above you could fit:

24 inches (60cm) of Freshwater Tropical Fish

10 inches (25cm) of Freshwater Cold Water Fish

6 inches (15cm) of Marine Tropical Fish

To calculate the number of inches (or centimetres) of your fish, measure from the mouth to the start of the tail, and don’t forget that the fish you see in the shops are normally juveniles and are not fully grown, you need to allow for the size they will become!

Get this right, and you’re well on the way to having a successful aquarium.