There are a huge number of tropical fish available to purchase in specialist stores or from other enthusiasts. It can be easy to rush in and buy all the prettiest or most colourful fish but you need to research the types of fish available and think carefully about how to achieve a harmonious and easy to maintain aquarium. You will find that by getting the right fish and not just what looks best will mean a better aquarium in the long run.

Think about the following:

Size – Most fish are not fully grown when they are sold. You need to find out how big they will grow so that you can make sure you have the correct amount in your aquarium. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to have too many fish in of your aquarium. If you end up with too many, the aquarium cannot support them all and their health will likely suffer.

Remember a tank in a store selling fish may have a lot more fish in it than will be suitable for a home aquarium.

Compatibility with other fish – There are lots of types of fish available and they all come from different environments in the wild and so may not live happily alongside each other.

  • If a fish is large and is in a tank with small fish it may chase and eat the smaller fish causing them to hide and be stressed.
  • If you end up with a territorial fish that needs a certain amount of space to itself, it might not be able to get this space if you haven’t planned for it.
  • Some fish are inclined to nip at the fins of other fish – barbs and angelfish are two of the most common perpetrators.

Staff at a good specialist store should be able to guide you through which fish they sell will be most suitable to keep together in one tank.

Compatibility with your aquarium – Fish all need different types of aquatic environment. Many will be quite happy in the same environment but some need fast flowing water, or a certain water PH and temperature. You can either decide which fish you most like the look of and work your aquarium purchase around that or, if you have the tank already, you will have to buy fish which will be comfortable in what you have.

Shoaling Fish – Many fish live in large shoals in the wild as a way of protecting themselves from predators. These fish will need to be kept in a small group as single fish of such species are prone to becoming nervous and timid due to the feeling of vulnerability.

Types of fish – Once you have looked at the type of fish that are compatible you can start to look at how they will look and interact in your aquarium. By selecting fish that will swim at different levels in the tank you will achieve a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Fish that will swim nearer the top such as guppies have a mouth that faces upwards slightly for feeding from the surface. They will occupy the top part of the tank most of the time.

Fish that spend more of their time in the middle of the tank will have forward facing mouths as they tend to feed from food as it falls through the water. Although all of these fish will spend time in most parts of the tank they will spread out more and make the aquarium look balances rather than all swimming in the same area.

You should also get some bottom dwelling fish like catfish. As well as adding some much needed interest to the the bottom of the tank, they are great for maintaining the aquarium floor by eating the fallen food and algae.

If you research these points before you purchase your fish you should be able to maintain a happy and natural aquarium. Don’t be too put off by worrying about putting fish together. The majority of fish you can buy are hardy community fish that will be happy living together in a normal aquarium environment.

A good store will label their fish with what type of community aquarium they are suitable for and be able to advise you further.

Where should you buy your fish?

Most fish will be brought from either specialist stores of from other fish enthusiasts or breeders. There are many stores around so have a look for the best quality of fish you can buy at the best prices, and look for the best service and advice being given, not just stores trying to sell as many as they can. Visit a few local stores and look for things like the cleanliness of the store, and how well maintained the selling tanks are. Poorly maintained selling tanks will mean poor quality fish which are more likely to be diseased or stressed.

Listen to how knowledgeable the staff are and how good their advice is while checking what labelling system they have and how clearly these are shown. Look at how professional the staff are in catching and bagging up the fish as the better they are the less stressed the fish will be. Do they give an overview of how compatible the fish are and is the breed clearly indicated?

With the number of specialist stores about they should be working hard to provide the best service they can to attract customers back.

Selecting the fish to buy

When you have decided on which store you would like to buy your fish from you should select the breeds of fish you want, either by researching them or asking the store staff.

Be sure to watch the staff selecting the fish from the tank. You do not want any poorly looking fish; instead you should ask for the best specimens they have so that they will thrive in their new environment and not spread any unwanted disease in your tank. A well trained member of staff should be selecting the best fish for you anyway, as a happy customer is a regular customer. Once they have been bagged up, take a look at their condition and don’t be afraid to say no if you are not happy with them.

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