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Robyn's Fish Care Page

Last Updated: 2/19/14

Animated Bubbles

Water Changes
Water Additives
Why Bowls are Bad
Animated Bubbles Filter Comparisons

Note 12/28/98: Information on algae cleaning, lighting, algae growth, fish sleeping, ornament and plant cleaning, live plants, driftwood, breeding, fry care, tearing down setups, health and quarantining, vacationing, and the secrets of pantyhose were moved to their own pages. Go to the main fish page to link to their new locations.


Types of foods:

The types of food available are live (animals or plants), frozen, freeze-dried, pellet, wafer, and flake in order from most "natural" to most "man-made." Live animal foods include brine shrimp (newborn and adults, see my shrimp page), daphnia (water fleas), earthworms, tubifex, blackworms, microworms, and many more animals. Freeze-dried foods include tubifex, daphnia, krill, brine shrimp, and blood worms (see my aquatic fly page under true midges). Real live plants include lettuces and other leafy greens, cucumber, squash, peas (cooked and peeled), broccoli, anacharis, and more for plant-eating fish. Pellets exist for larger fish like goldfish and cichlids. Wafers are for bottom feeders like many catfish. Most of the other foods contain complete nutrition for the fish that they were intended to feed (it should be marked on the product). To be sure that the fish get proper nutrition, provide a number of different types and kinds of food. Flake foods are usually a mix of various plants (spirulina algae, etc.) and animals (fish, etc.).

Brine shrimp links:
Brine Shrimp FAQ (this site may no longer work.)
Brine Shrimp Direct (this site may no longer work.)

Feeding my fish:

I feed my fish two times a day, year round. They get many kinds of flakes and freeze dried foods. Sometimes, I feed newborn live brine shrimp, adult brine shrimp, and frozen foods. I rotate about six kinds of foods for the goldfish including various goldfish flakes and pellets. The other fish are rotated on tropical fish flakes of a few kinds; freeze dried blood worms, daphnia, and tubifex; micropellets; and spirulina flakes. When I have fry around or feel like giving them a treat, I hatch baby brine shrimp for all the fish except the goldfish and plecostomus who will not eat them. Information on feeding fry is on my fish breeding and fry care page. Recently, I have begun feeding frozen fish foods for community fish as well as bloodworms and mosquito larvae (for the mosquito fish of course). I drop the frozen cube in a cup of warm water, mix it up, and give a little to each of the tanks and ponds with fish that eat that type of food. The fish seem to like frozen foods but they are a bit messier than dry foods. Look under specific fish to see what they prefer.

Water Changes

The key to a clean tank with healthy plants and fish is water changes. These water changes should always include vacuuming of the substrate (or at least stirring it up) unless the tank is heavily planted or contains delicate marine life. Avoid vacuuming extensively in planted tanks. The percent water you change depends on the tank size, number and types of fish and plants, filter strength, and condition of your tap water. First, the larger the tank, the less percentage of water that you need change. The more fish that you have, the more water you should change. The more plants that you have, the less water that needs to be changed. If you have a large, strong filter, the less water you need change. Lastly, the closer your tap water chemistry is to the tank water, the more water you can change. If your tap water is very high in chlorine, chloramine, phosphates, nitrates, metals, etc., then you should change less to reduce fish shock (and be sure to add whatever needed to adjust the conditions to meet those of your tank). Also, the pH or hardness may be off. If you have salt water tanks, obviously you will want to change less water since it is a pain (and costly) to make up salt water. Besides adding salt, you may add other trace minerals, etc.

All this said, water changes should range from 10-50% and from once a week (for most freshwater tanks) to two weeks (for large freshwater tanks or one with lots of plants) to three or four weeks (for saltwater tanks). I personally change 40 to 50% of all my tanks once a week. Changing your water more often (you can change a smaller percent) leads to less of a shock since the water is usually not as dirty yet. I use a Python hose to vacuum my tank as I change water. They run best if fed by gravity. Without such a vacuum hose, hauling the 55 gallons of water I change weekly in buckets instead would tempt me not to change as much.

Miller Morgan summarized water changes with the following quote from the article The One Year Test in the March 2000 issue of The Aquarium Fish Magazine on Page 64. I agree whole heartedly!

"There is no filter and no product of any kind, regardless of advertising claims, that eliminate the need for partial water changes....The water quality will be better in terms of consistency if you change 10 percent (or more) each and every week. You could change 20 percent every other week, but the quality will not be as good during the off week. It's really up to you, but for the fish it's definitely better with weekly changes. Water changes are to fish what fresh air is to you. They show how much of a difference it makes in their appearance, activity, and overall health when you do water changes, which have rightly be called the 'secret' to success in fishkeeping...."

Water Additives

If you have tap water, you MUST add a dechlorinator. Some contain aloe vera like Stress-Coat which is good for injured fish and to replace the slime coat. You can add live bacteria in a powder or liquid form. I add Stress-Zyme with every water change. Salt can be added as a general tonic at about one Tablespoon per five gallons. Salt should be added in higher doses to saltwater tanks (duh!), brackish water tanks, and tanks with livebearers (mollies, swordtails, guppies, platies, halfbeaks, etc.). Tanks with soft water or that contain goldfish should usually have about one Tablespoon per five gallons of salt present. Be sure the salt is free of iodine and sold specifically for aquarium use. Certain catfish and loaches may not be able to handle too much salt. Another weekly additive is liquid plant food if you have live plants. Follow the doses on the bottle as it varies. Finally, if you have fish from hard water areas like African cichlids or marine fish, there are many additives you can or should add. As I have not kept such tanks, I will not say anything further. Consult someone familiar with your type of setup.

Why Bowls are Bad

Here are some reasons that small (under 3 gallons) bowls or containers may not be good options for most aquatic animals. Not everything in the list pertains to each situation of course.

1. They do not allow fish much room to move around and exercise.

2. It is hard to keep a constant temperature as small volumes of water change temperature faster. If the room temperature goes up or down, so will the water. In a window with direct sunlight, bowls may overheat.

3. A heater cannot normally be used (not a factor for cold water fish).

4. There is no filtration.

5. The water quality will be very poor. Normally, the nitrogen cycle cannot be completed so that ammonia and/or nitrite are always present requiring daily or almost daily 50% water changes to keep the water within safe ranges.

6. Cleaning is usually difficult as most bowls have narrow necks. Gravel vacuuming has to be done with air line tubing or not done at all. Cleanings often require removing the animals which is very stressful.

7. Oxygen levels will be low without water movement and with overcrowding. While labyrinth fish like bettas and paradise fish can utilize atmospheric oxygen if they must, they still would prefer to have oxygen in the water as well.

8. Most bowls do not have lids, and fish often jump out.

9. Fish may become bored with nothing to explore.

10. Small containers are easy to knock over.

11. Bowls are more apt to be neglected.

For more information on fish bowls as they pertain to goldfish, see this page.

I was asked to include a link to "No Trash Pets" as the webmaster is looking for contributing articles regarding cheaply sold and normally abused fish and other animals. The hope is that people will learn how to properly care for the animals that are normally impulse bought by an uneducated buyer.


Types of filtration: biological, mechanical, chemical

Types of filters: undergravel filter (UGF), corner (submerged box) filter, hang-on-tank (HOT) filter, canister filter, wet-dry filter. See below for comparison.

All small tanks should have a filter that turns over the tank at least a few times an hour. There are three types of filtration: biological, mechanical, and chemical. The first is necessary unless you change water every day. The second two are good to have too but some people do not use them. Chemical filtration, especially, is often not used. Carbon for example, can actually be a detriment in a planted tank. Undergravel filters are often sold as filters but I am not one of their fans. I prefer corner or hang-on-the-tank filters. There are also canister filters which are hard to change and could leak but have larger capacities. Whatever kind of filter you have, it is most important to clean it regularly. Any media should be rinsed regularly and replaced (except for biological media). Carbon should be changed every two to four weeks depending on how much you use. For an interesting site on activated carbon, see this site.

Look under pond filtering for more information on the three types of filtration (mechanical, chemical, and biological). Go to my aquarium descriptions page for my opinion of the comparison of the traits of Penguin Mini, Penguin 160, Emperor 400, and Magnum 350 filters.

Filter Comparisons

Attribute Undergravel Filter Box Filter Hang-On-Tank Filter Canister Filter
Types of Filtration High biological, no chemical, low mechanical Low to moderate biological, chemical, and mechanical Moderate biological, chemical, and mechanical (depends on make and model) High chemical and mechanical, biological depends on media and/or biowheels involved
Initial and Maintenance Costs Low Low Moderate High
Ease of setup Easy Easy Moderate Hard
Time to setup Low Low Moderate A long time
Ease of maintenance Easy (except total cleaning) Easy Moderate Hard
Time to completely clean Time that it takes to tear down the entire tank About 5 minutes About 10 minutes 20 to 30 minutes
Filtration Strength Low mechanical, no chemical, high biological Varies with size of box and tank High if correct size for the tank High
Filtration Options Low Moderate High High
Noise Low Low Moderate to High Moderate
Likelihood of Problems Low (may clog) Low (may break) Moderate High
Likelihood of Leaks Impossible Impossible Low High
Worst Traits Clogging of the gravel May clog or slow, air driven models have low gph A pain to remove completely for cleaning May include: painful to disconnect and open for cleaning, long time to clean, frequent leaks and bad seals, tubing very hard to manipulate and clean
Best Traits Good biological filter, cheap Good filter for small tanks or fry tanks Easy to care for, good filtration Large filtration capacity

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