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How to establish aquarium with fishes?

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An Aquarium is an investment requiring finance and time. If everything goes fine, you can make your own beautiful garden with a lot of fish, which you enjoy a lot. If you underestimate something from the beginning, your whole underwater world can change into something you really do not want to have at home (e.g. terrible drain).
“To have an aquarium is very easy, it is enough to feed the fish on time” I can hear this sometimes from “experts” for everything. It does not have to be a lie. But, it is all about your conceptions of beautiful aquariums and an initial time investment. If a small portion of water, bubble diver, ceramic pirate ship, plastic castle, and a lot of shells from the sea is enough between these unhappy fish, which cannot talk and tell you what is wrong and “only” die so that you buy new ones, do not read this article please. It is useless. I recommend adding to this “beauty” plastic plants and PLASTIC FISH!!!!! Or do not have in aquarium at all and buy wooden fish.
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But, those who really are interested in a corner with live nature at home and would like to be taken every evening after work to tropical lakes and rivers and relax with their aquarium should pay attention now and read more.
 
What cubic capacity to choose? 
It depends on what fish you would like to have. But the overall rule is: bigger is better. Better in holding the stable environment, so when overfeeding the fish a little, there does not need to be any bigger a problem as rot water. Due to the fact that I never had very big spaces for aquariums, I chose smaller cubic capacity, around 50l. It is very small. It brings too many troubles, it is easy to bring too many fish to it (mainly livebearers) and it can also lead to poisoning with nitrate salts.  
I would recommend the optimal cubic capacity be between 100l and 450l. For those who cannot imagine, 450l is quite a big cubic capacity, mainly when it crashes (but I do not want to make you afraid, it is mainly when you do the exercise with dumbbells next to the aquarium). 
If you have a lot of space and do not have any financial limitations (not many), I would advise an even bigger aquarium, even for beginners. I have seen in YouTube an aquarium which had 10 thousand liters in a German living room. Flocks of fish in hundreds of species were swimming around. It was perfect, but I would not want to clean it :D The owner was diving into it :D  Quite interesting, but hard. 

How to begin? 
It is good to put the aquarium in a place where the sun would not touch it, far away from heating and the away from the door is best, due to the shakes the door can cause. For easy cleaning, put the aquarium in a place where you can reach it easily. I also do not recommend placing it on the floor, as the cleaning and any changes you would like to make would be harder. 
It is also very important to choose what you put the aquarium on. It is necessary to understand, that when you have an aquarium, which has a capacity of 120l with water, sand, its own weight, stones etc., it can weigh 150kg. It is not lightweight. An aquarium with capacity 450l can weight 500kg. Here it is necessary to think not only for the table or cabinet, but when there is a larger capacity, it is necessary to consult with an architect or foreman. Roofs normally have load capacities of 400kg per square meter. So to put the aquarium which has the cubic capacity of more than 1000kg next to the library, with heavy books, and in front of the area your wife/husband will exercise, might cause the neighbor under you to have his/her dream aquarium with fish, but leave you with only a hole in the floor. 
Each aquarium needs to lie on a flat, clean place. It is also important (necessary) to put a pad under it. If you have the aquarium in the wall (included), and sticker the background, it is best to use a black one for freshwater aquarium to better see plants and fish: how to stick a self-adhesive foil.
Clean the aquarium of dust; never use chemicals (Jar, etc.) for cleaning the aquarium. It is toxic and can harm fish when used there. 


What sand to choose? 
The best is fluvial silicate sand with faction 2-4mm. Bigger is not better, as plants would not grow well and food may rot due to settling to the bottom. When using sand with lower faction, the circulation of water (in the sand) is lower and the roots of plants can rot. It cannot have sharp edges. White, coloured or black-and-white bits or shards are not convenient. 
This sand (when needed) can and should be cleaned (rinsed and filtered through clean water until clean) and then put back in the aquarium. Color of the sand may be natural, black, brown etc. Something neutral.. Coloured (red, yellow, blue) sands are not suitable (unless you’re placing it in a whorehouse – it’s just a bad word in the stats, we would use maybe, club or gentlemen’s club? ). I personally like lighter sand, for example light brown, something natural like sandstone. Before you put the sand in the aquarium, do a small test (good also for other stones you are putting to the aquarium); Put a little bit of vinegar on the sand (outside) or stone and if it bubbles, do not use it there (it means it contains limestone and it is not good for freshwater aquariums, unless your aquarium is a Malawi. It can dissolve and can influence the quality of water, see: videoinstructions for limestone test.
It depends on the plants you would like to have there (depending on the roots). Depending on the plants and their roots, a general rule is to maintain at least 10 cm of sand in the back, and 5cm in the front.
 
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What water to use? 
As water from a well is almost too hard and a lot of plants and fish like water more acidic (pH under 7), I use water from a public water supply (it is not optimal too, but it is still better). I guide it directly from faucets and into the aquarium, poured through a plate, as not to destroy the ground. When putting the water in the aquarium, you can use normal water from the faucet and then hold the plate near the aquarium and let water drop on the plate and then it goes to aquarium (it is as “sprinkler”). It is for not destroying what we have made with ground (not to create holes). 

Aquarium Decorations
Stones (not limestone) and pieces of wood from aquarist (akvaristicky in czech) shops are the optimal decorations in an aquarium. All others, such as plastic plants, ceramic ships, castles or flower pots can be there as well, but may take away from the natural feel of your underwater habitat. – wanted to say that it is not nice in tank when there are ships, plastic things etc.  And what about seashells? It is a great idea, BUT for sea aquariums, not freshwater ones.  It is also not good decoration because it contains a lot of lime and when it dissolves, it changes the quality of water in a negative way for plants and fish.        
 
Light for aquarium
The amount of light needed is directly proportional to the size of the tank.  It was put in watts,  every aquarium should have 0,5 to 0,74W for one liter of water in it. It could be used (and can be used) in case of fluorescent tubes T8. If you use LED diods, it is a little more complicated. Trial is needed to determine what will be enough for your plants. Special led lights for plants are only to beguile the customer, but the plants can grow under the tubes 4x cheaper. Also, it is good to have a timer for the light. The cheapest (manual) can be bought from 100Kc per piece.  Digital with memory (so that you do not have to setup everything again when there is a blackout) can cost about 200Kc per piece. Optimal time to light is about 10 or 12 hours a day. The following article can help you choose the light.  You can find what lights people have under their plant aquariums. 
Filtration and heating of the water
The days of aerating stones bubbling are far behind us. Today’s filtration of water does not aerate the water directly, because it is the matter of the plants. If you deny the water heavily, water looses the carbon dioxide, which is not very good for planting of plants. Therefore the water is being filtered through several porous components (foam, ceramic circles – all can be bought specially for aquarium. ), where there is thanks to the nitrification process to change from dangerous nitrate salts to NO3, which is being used by plants for their growth. The offer of the filtration is very varied, from ground ones, internal or external ones. The ground ones I would not recommend,  to smaller aquarium then 100l I would have internal filtration and above the 100l is better external filtration system, also not to lost the space in inner space of aquarium (bigger internal filtration need bigger place in the aquarium and have more filtration medias). I was satisfied with external filtration.
Heating of the water is with help of heaters with thermostatic regulation, where you can setup the requested temperature and the heater takes care of automatic heating of water by itself. The most usual temperature of water is 22 – 26 Celsius, fish as discussed need more warm water. 

What plants? 
Do not use plastic, only live plants. It may not look at its best in the beginning, but do not give up. There are some uncomplicated plants like anubiases (anubias barteri), some kinds of echinodoruses, vallisneria, limnophilla sessiliflora and some cryptocoryne. Each plant needs something different, such as chemical needs, light, and water composition. Therefore, it is not good to give up after the first failure, which might come. 
Why not plastic plants? Live plants help to make the water clean.  During the day it consumes the CO2 and makes oxygen which is needed for fish since they breathe oxygen, it is like a circle. Therefore, it is needed to have live plants in common aquariums.
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Fertilizing of plants and adding CO2
Aquarium plants, such as flowers, bushes and trees, need some nutrients in their lives. If they do not have it, they will not grow, losing leaves, rotting and by time, completely dead. Therefore, aquarium plants need some fertilizing. Never use fertilizer for gardens or home-made ones. Only those which are for aquarium plants. Fertilizers for terrestrial plants contains a lot of nitrogen and it is not good for fish. The aquarium might turn into  “moon scenery”, as everything would die there (mainly fish). 
Offer of aquarium fertilizers is really wide. If you would like to “play” with plants (in good sense), you can try PMDD. For uncomplicated plants, commercial fertilizer is fine (as Profito from Easy Life).  If you use it according to instructions, it might be fine. 
What is popular today is adding CO2 to the aquarium, as in carbon dioxide to the aquarium. For plants to grow, it needs carbon dioxide during the day, which they absorb and makes oxygen, which is needed for fish. Fish breath out the carbon dioxide. You can find out if adding CO2 is good for your aquarium in this article: (CO2 in aquaristics). yeah, Jiri need to work on it still)
But, if you have a small number of fish and a lot of plants, CO2 from their excrements may not be enough and additional CO2 should be added.. There are more variants on how to add it, the cheapest is with help of yeast, sugar and water in PET bottle next to the aquarium and the hose to the aquarium linked to the linden wood in aquarium.  It will be giving bubbles of CO2. It seems fine, but you need to be very careful, so that you do not deliver too much of CO2, you can poison the fish.  If the yeast gets to the aquarium, you poison fish etc. At night, plants also create CO2 like fish and consume oxygen. There could be too much CO2 in the aquarium at night, so there is a chance to poison the fish. 
You can also buy CO2 set with pressure bottles, electromagnetic valves and a timer switch. It is automatically set up for the day (not night) and can be regulated as needed. This is more for experienced people which like to have more complicated plants. When you choose uncomplicated plants, you will be able to skip adding CO2.  When I make any conclusion, I can say that for beginners it is better to choose uncomplicated plants without need to add CO2 and only some fertilizing for aquarium plants. 

What kind of fish to buy? 
It is very important to choose such species which will not fight with each other, so that the volume of the aquarium is suitable for such species (some fish can be REALLY BIG).  Make sure the fishes can live in the conditions we make in our aquariums (do not put fishes from Malawi in plant aquariums and vice versa). Before choosing any fish, you can go to “Aquaristics group” in Facebook, where you can find answers to your questions or somebody who can advise you what to be careful of and how to make the decision.
Please do not pay attention too much to the advice in ZOO shops, they normally want to sell and do not care if your aquarium is suitable (or does not know and just wants to sell). 
For small fish, for example neon tetra, you need to count 4l for one fish. If you have an aquarium which is 120l, you need to count the real volume of the water. It means: if you have a lot of decorations, there can be only 80l of water. Then you can put to the aquarium only 20 tetra neons or fish similar in growth. 
If fish are flock fishes, it is necessary to have more pieces, not only in pairs. It means 8-10 pieces is minimum. Fishes then feel better and safer. 
If there are bigger fishes, as Trichopodus or Preropsyllum scalare, you need to count with volume of aquarium which is minimum 200l for pair of such fish. Betta splendes should be in volume min. 20 – 25l, pair from 60l. Lower volume is absolutely not inappropriate. 
 
How long to wait before releasing fish to the tank?
I would put snails first in a tank aquarium, Planorbarius corneus or Physa acuta, which takes care of the “starting of nitrification process”. After 2 weeks from launching the tank I would put in 2 fish (only min. count, it depends on the volume of the aquarium), from the same reason as the snails. Other fishes can go to the tank after one month from launching, so that you avoid poisoning the fish by nitrogen substances.

Regular change of the water and maintenance
Maintenance of tank takes about 1-3 hrs per week, in dependency of kind of tank. Every 1 – 2 weeks, 1/3 of the water should be changed.  If you do not have any fish or animals sensible for chlorine, the water can be put there directly from the public water supply. Otherwise, you need to let the water stand for a while to lose the chlorine. 
Also it is needed to remove the rotten leaves and plants or to shorten the plants or space it out. When you blow away the dirt from an aquarium with a bell on a pipe, it is reasonable and good for the tank. I personally do this when changing the water (every time), but only from the surface, so that I do not disturb the detritus from the ground into the water. Deep cleaning is not recommended. Here are the deeper instructions: how to maintain a tank.


How it is from the financial point of view?
First I have chosen the aquarium in complete, Juwel 240l, including light, filtration, heating and shelf under the tank. You can buy it for about 13 thousand CZK. Finally, I have used the niche in wall and bought the aquarium of volume 120l custom built.
Aquarium including top cover glass I have ordered in Sklorex for 2.200 CZK including the underlay under tank. Quite good filtration can be bought for 400 CZK, heating with thermostat for 300 CZK. I have bought sand for about 30l for about 300 CZK, stump for aquarium for 500 CZK. I have bought lighting in Hornbach – 3x light patch T5 and IP65 for 1500 CZK, timer switch for 150 CZK also in Ikea. Black background for tank for 150 CZK. Fishes 800 CZK, plants I partly had, the rest costs 500 CZK. Automatic feeder Juwel 700 CZK. Cover the aquarium from above with fiberboard 100 CZK, from the tank side packed to tinfoil for better light in aquarium and so that fiberboard does not sick in humidity. Fiberboard can be removed, it holds by help of magnets (100 CZK) and Mamut glue (name of the glue). 
So, if I count it, all cost me 7.700 CZK. You can save money if you do not buy the automatic feeder. 
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Collage from better pics of tank after 21 months.
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My aquarium after 3 years.
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Video tutorials and video atlas of aquarium plants can also be found on my youtube. Please add a subscription: Subscribe to youtube surpanblog.
You can find the original article in the Czech language at: jak založit akvárium.
Author: Surpan
Translator: Ema Grešlová-Zeisová
11.04.2018 17:20:00
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