I love animals and have had many pets throughout my lifetime. I’ve had cats and dogs, mice and rats, hamsters and gerbils, snakes and lizards and even a rabbit. But not until around 8 years ago did I attempt my hand at keeping tropical fish. I always considered fish keeping more of a hobby and thought that fish were really useless as pets because you couldn’t pick them up and hold them. I now know differently.
I started out with a 10 gallon tank that came complete with a filter, hood, light, gravel and 2 plastic plants. I bought a Whiptail Catfish and a few Mollies. The Mollies got sick with ich and died. To replace them I bought Guppies who reproduced at an alarming rate. They also got ich and died. After 2 years, and many problems I upgraded to 29 gallon tank and decided to concentrate on fish that were larger and weren’t live bearers. The problem with live bearers (Mollies, Guppies and Platies–to name a few) is that they are constantly pregnant and bear live babies. When the babies are born, the larger, adult fish in the tank swoop down and eat them. If you want to keep the babies alive, you need to: A) have a device in the tank (called a breeding trap) to keep them separate from the rest of the population or: B) have another tank that you devote strictly to raising the young. This is a lot of work and soon you have hundreds of fish and a very over crowded tank.
Over the last 6 years I’ve had a lot of luck with my larger tank and would tell anyone who’s thinking about fish keeping to just start with a tank that’s at least 25 gallons. Larger tanks hold more water and are less likely to have the temperature variations of smaller tanks (which can kill fish and/or cause fish diseases).
I’ve tried to maintain a well balanced community tank and had luck with several fish species. Tetras and Barbs are peaceful, colorful fish that do well in community tanks. You need to buy at least 2 because they like to be in groups. Danios are nice community fish. They like to be kept in groups and are fast swimming fish that like to dart around. Plecos are a type of of catfish that will eat all the algae off the glass and keep your tank sparkling clean. They can get big, so don’t get one unless you have at least a 25 gallon tank.
I have 2 Kuhli Loaches that were the first fish put into my 29 gallon tank. They look like weird fish-snakes and hide most of the time during the day in caves, but come out at night to eat and swim. I’ve had an Opaline Gourami and a Gold Gourami. These are peaceful community fish as long as you keep only one or have a different sex pair. I had 2 that were the same sex and were fine until they matured. Then they started fighting—or I should say, the dominant one started biting and attacking the other one. I gave the weaker one to a friend who had a tank because I was afraid it was going to get killed.
This brings me to the fish that made me realize that fish can be pets. 2 years ago I bought a Silver (wild type) Angelfish to replace the Gold Gourami that died. I always liked Angelfish but heard that they could be difficult to keep. I was also worried because they are in a group of fish called Cichlids which are very territorial and do not make good community fish.
This Angelfish, who I have named: “Stripe-ED” hangs out on the side of the tank that faces the kitchen. When he sees me or my husband approach, his dorsal fin goes up and he wiggles his tail. As I was trying to take his picture for this article, he kept posing–face first–into the camera. I kept taking shots and I finally distracted him with my other hand to get a picture of him swimming. He eats out of my fingers. I’ve never had another fish that would come to the top and take food from my hand.
If you are thinking of starting a freshwater aquarium, I recommend a book titled: The Concise Encyclopedia of Popular Freshwater Tropical Fish by John Dawes. Buy the book before you even get started. It has all the information you need to know about setting up a tank (heating, aeration, lighting, filtration, water chemistry, plants and decorations), feeding, fish health and the many, many fish species (including pictures, how big they get, what they eat and how they breed).