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Freshwater Aquariums for Dummies

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2019-10-08
  • Publisher: For Dummies
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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


Give your underwater pets the best aquatic life ever!

Aquarium fish are one of the most popular pets in America, with close to 150 million fish owned in nearly 13 million households. They seem like easy pets to care for, but there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to keeping your freshwater friends healthy and happy!

Inside, you’ll find basic information to start your own freshwater aquarium, purchase and maintain healthy fish and plants, and find tips and tricks on how to introduce new fish and systems into your aquatic family.

  • Understand the best aquarium set-up practices
  • Build the luxury tanks of your dreams
  • Maintain a thriving aquatic environment  
  • Discover many different ways to expand your hobby

Perfect for beginner hobbyists and longtime aquarium enthusiasts alike, Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies makes it easier than ever to set up and take care of a freshwater aquarium—and the fish within it.

Author Biography

Madelaine Francis Heleine has been involved with aquariums and fish-keeping for more than 40 years. She has been a contributing writer and columnist for various magazines dealing with the aquatic world and has written several books about aquarium fish. Madelaine even enjoys exploring the underwater world firsthand as a scuba diver.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Foolish Assumptions 2

Icons Used in This Book 3

Where to Go from Here 4

Part 1: Getting Started with Freshwater Aquarium Basics 5

Chapter 1: Taking the Plunge: Just the Essentials 7

Focusing on the Tank, Stand, Accessories, and Equipment 8

Knowing where to put your tank 8

Looking at the tank and stand options 9

Figuring out what (besides fish) to put in your aquarium 9

Considering aquarium equipment 9

Determining what you really need 10

Caring for Your New Aquatic Pets 10

Eyeing differences in species 10

Assessing which types of fish are best for you 10

Buying fish — what you need to know 11

Feeding your fish — what types of food to buy 11

Taking care of sick fish 12

Understanding Water, Chemicals, and Live Plants 12

Grasping everything water 12

Using chemicals to improve your aquarium conditions 12

Testing your water 13

Getting a system going 13

Adding live plants 13

Fixing common problems 13

Expanding Your Aquarium Hobby 13

Breeding your fish: Yes or no? 13

Keeping track of your progress 14

Broadening your hobby 14

Contemplating other types of aquarium structures 14

Chapter 2: The Practice of Aquarium Keeping 15

Recognizing the Amazing Benefits of Owning an Aquarium 16

Identifying Aquarium Water Systems 18

Freshwater systems 19

Saltwater systems 21

Brackish systems 22

Organization Is the Key to Success 23

Chapter 3: Finding a Good Location 25

Making Sure Your Floor Is Sound 26

Taking Room Temperature and Its Effects into Consideration 26

Wicked windows 27

Deadly doors 28

High Traffic Areas, Children, and Pets (Spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R) 28

Contemplating Your Water Source When Placing Your Aquarium 30

Thinking about Other Household Items 30

Furniture and space 30

Electrical outlets and TVs 31

Overhead lighting 32

Cleaning considerations 32

Chapter 4: The Tank and Stand 33

Buying a Tank: What You Need to Know 33

Water is heavy 34

Watching the tendency to overspend 35

Checking out starter kits 35

Size matters — gauging space requirements 36

Taking people into consideration 37

Deciding where to buy 38

Examining the Different Types of Aquariums Available 39

Glass aquariums 40

Acrylic aquariums 41

Plastic aquariums (bowls and small tanks) 42

Rimless tanks 42

Considering Different and Unusual Aquarium Styles 43

Wall-mounted aquariums 43

In-wall tanks 43

Furniture aquariums 44

Tower aquariums 44

Indoor pond barrels 45

All-in-one tanks 45

Betta tanks and water gardens 45

Special tanks from the pros 45

Choosing the Right Tank 46

Tank size 46

Tank shape 47

Carrying capacity 47

Picking the Right Stand 47

Wooden cabinet stands 48

Angle and wrought iron stands 48

Aluminum stands 49

Do-it-yourself stands 49

Material-based stands 49

Bow-front stands 49

Moving an Aquarium 50

Chapter 5: Aquascaping Your Aquarium: What to Add and Not Add in Your Tank 51

Taking Clues from Your Fish’s Natural Environment 52

Getting the Lowdown on Substrates 53

Starting with the basics: Gravel, aqua soil, and fluorite 54

Thinking about pH with your substrates 54

Knowing which substrates to avoid 55

Being aware of gravel size and the perils of sand 56

Adding new substrate to your system 56

Using established substrate 57

Considering Rocks, Wood, and Artificial Plants 57

Rocks for freshwater tanks 58

Wood for a freshwater tank 58

Plastic plants 60

Contemplating Other Aquarium Decorations 62

Keeping safety first 62

Eyeing plastic divers and other oddities 62

Aquascaping Tips and Tricks 63

Chapter 6: Selecting the Equipment and Other Stuff Your Aquarium Needs 67

Taking the Mystery out of Filters 68

Mechanical filtration 69

Biological filtration 69

Chemical filtration 70

Sifting through Filtration Systems 70

Undergravel filters 71

Sponge filters 71

Corner filters 72

Power filters 72

Canister filters 73

Fluidized bed filters 74

Diatom filters 74

Wet/dry filters 75

Natural filtration with plants 75

An underground filter’s best friend — powerheads 76

Gauging Heaters and Thermometers 77

Submersible heaters 77

Nonsubmersible heaters 77

Digital heaters 77

Heating your aquarium: Thermometers 78

Making Bubbles with Airstones and Pumps 79

Air pumps 79

Airstones and other bubble makers 80

Connecting Tubing, Valves, and Tees 81

Air-line tubing 81

Gang valves and tees 82

Creating the Best Lighting 83

Looking at bulb types 84

Making a hood choice 85

Part 2: Taking a Closer Look at Fish and How to Care for Them 87

Chapter 7: Fish Anatomy 101 89

Understanding What Makes a Fish Go 90

The dorsal fin 90

The caudal fin 91

The anal fin 91

The pectoral fins 92

The pelvic fins 92

The adipose fin 92

Swimming movement 92

Breathing In and Out — Respiration 93

The gill method 93

The labyrinth organ method 94

Getting Acquainted with the Senses 95

Sight 95

Hearing 97

Smelling 97

Tasting 97

Feeling 98

Comprehending Osmosis and the Salt-to-Water Ratio 98

Fish that don’t drink water 99

Fish that need to drink water 99

Recognizing Traits to Identify Fish 99

Body shape 100

Taxonomy 100

The swim bladder 102

Color and its purpose 102

Chapter 8: Figuring Out What Kind of Fish to Buy 105

Looking Closer at Freshwater Fish 106

Anabantids 106

Cyprinodonts and livebearers 108

Catfish (plecos, cories, and one special Cypriniforme) 112

Characins 114

Unusual characins 117

Loaches 119

African cichlids 120

American cichlids 121

Cyprinids 125

Freshwater tropical invertebrates 127

Contemplating Coldwater Fish and Invertebrates 129

Koi (Cyprinus carpio) 129

Goldfish (Carassius auratus) 129

White cloud mountain minnows (Tanichthys albonubes) 132

Coldwater invertebrates 132

Thinking about Captive-Bred Species 134

Buying Fish Online 135

Chapter 9: Working with a Fish Dealer to Purchase Your Fish 137

Choosing a Quality Fish Dealer 138

Searching for a fish store 138

The importance of great service 140

The store’s appearance 140

Dealer Practices: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 142

Do Bee dealers 143

Don’t Bee dealers 143

Wanna Bee dealers 144

Developing a Good Relationship with Your Fish Dealer 145

Selecting Healthy Fish 145

Start simply and do your homework 145

Look for signs of good health 146

Know your fish’s behavior 146

Understand how big the fish will grow 147

Avoid the first fish off the boat 148

Don’t be Doctor Doolittle 148

Getting the Right Fish without Going Overboard 149

Chapter 10: Feeding Your Wet Pets — Diet and Nutrition 151

Understanding Basic Nutrition 151

Recognizing what your fish need 152

Being aware of overfeeding 153

Underfeeding is just as bad 153

Feeding just what your fish need 153

Knowing What Type of Eater You Have 155

Taking action when they stop eating 155

Meeting your carnivores’ desires 156

Going leafy and feeding vegetarians 156

Feeding fish that eat anything that falls into the tank 157

Identifying the Different Types of Food 157

Prepackaged foods 157

Frozen foods 158

Freeze-dried foods 158

Spirulina 159

Live food — the stuff they really love and want 159

Brine shrimp 160

Infusoria 161

Rotifers 161

Tubifex, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and earthworms (yuck!) 161

Feeding Fry 162

Microworms 162

Liquid, powdered, and growth foods 162

Chapter 11: Recognizing Diseases and Treatments 163

An Ounce of Prevention 163

Your daily review 164

Your weekly to-do list 165

Monthly checklist 168

Identifying Common Ailments and Cures 168

Common bacterial infection 169

Constipation 169

Dropsy 169

Fin rot 169

Fish louse 170

Freshwater velvet 170

Freshwater ich 170

Fungus 171

Gill parasites 171

Hole in the head 171

Intestinal parasites 172

Large skin parasites 172

Mouth fungus 172

Pop-eye 172

Septicemia 173

Skin flukes 173

Slimy skin disease 173

Swim bladder disease 174

Tuberculosis (TB) 174

Keeping an Eye Open for Frequent Causes of Disease 174

Carbon dioxide poisoning 175

Poor water quality 175

Metal poisoning 175

Chemical poisoning 175

Improper diet 176

Overfeeding 176

Frightened fish 176

Relying on a Tried-and-True Home Remedy: Giving a Salt Bath 177

Playing Detective: The Sherlock Holmes Method 177

Using Quarantine Tanks 178

Grasping the purpose and advantages of quarantining 178

Knowing how much time to quarantine 179

Keeping good records: Writing it all down 179

Focusing on the tank 179

Setting Up a Hospital Tank 180

Understanding Medications 180

Part 3: The Background Players: Water, Chemicals, and Plants 183

Chapter 12: All Water Isn’t Created Equal 185

Comparing Different Water Types 186

Tap water 186

Rainwater 188

The advantages of bottled water (not Perrier) 189

Well water (don’t count on it) 189

Collecting Water from Bodies of Water (Why You Want to Forget This Bad Idea) 190

Adding Water to Your Aquarium 190

Using a garden hose 190

Using a Python 191

Moving water the old-fashioned way 191

Chapter 13: Considering Those Crazy Chemicals 193

Understanding Chemical Use 194

Knowing when to use (and not use) chemicals 194

Following instructions to the letter 194

Knowing Which Chemicals You Need to Start Your Aquarium 195

Glass cleaner 195

Dechlorinator 195

Water conditioner 196

Cycling chemicals 196

Bacteria in a bottle 197

Bacteria on a medium 197

Maintaining Your Aquarium: Chemicals to Use 197

Using the Right Chemicals for Your Plants 198

Create your own rainforest 198

Plant growth 199

Root tabs 199

Algae control 199

Naming Chemicals Your Fish Need for Medication 200

Chapter 14: The Nitrogen Cycle and Water Testing 201

Eliminating Fish Waste 201

Conditioning Your Tank 202

Starting the Nitrogen Cycle 203

Encouraging nitrosamonas (good bacteria number one) 203

Promoting nitrobacter (good bacteria number two) 205

Monitoring through the conditioning period 205

Speeding things up a bit 206

Preventing new tank syndrome 207

Testing Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, and pH 207

Changing the water regularly 207

Maintaining proper pH levels 208

Testing Hardness (dH) 210

Chapter 15: Putting It All Together 211

Setting Up Your Tropical Freshwater System 212

Setting Up a Small Plant Tank 214

Setting Up Your Coldwater System 215

Setting Up Your Simple Indoor Goldfish Pond 216

Chapter 16: What You Need to Know: Live Plants for Aquariums 217

Understanding What Live Plants Do for Your Aquarium 218

Identifying Different Plant Types 220

Ferns and mosses 221

Floating plants 221

Stem plants 221

Rooted plants 221

Cuttings 222

Maintaining Plant-Friendly Aquarium Conditions 222

Temperature requirements 222

Substrate for rooting 223

Filtration 223

Feeding 223

Lighting 224

Other supplements 224

Purchasing and Transporting Your Plants 224

Taking from the wild 224

Buying from a dealer 225

Buying online 225

Getting plants home in one piece 226

Achieving acclimation 226

Noticing Potential Plant Problems 227

Recognizing signs of poor plant health and what to do about them 227

Algae 228

Medications 228

Planting Techniques and Aquascaping 229

Chapter 17: Choosing Plant Species for Your Tank 231

Considering Foreground Plants 232

Baby tears (Micranthemum umbrosum) 232

Brazilian micro sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis) 233

Cryptocoryne (Cryptocoryne wendetti) 233

Dwarf anubias (Anubias nana) 234

Dwarf four-leaf clover (Marsilia hirsute) 234

Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri) 235

Madagascar lace (Aponogeton fenestralis) 235

Pearl grass (Hemianthus micranthemoides) 236

Looking at Midwater Plants 237

Aquatic banana plant (Nymphoides aquatica) 237

Coffeefolia (Anusbis barteri) 237

Dwarf sagittaria (Sagittaria subulata) 237

Water wisteria (Hygrophila difformis) 238

Contemplating Background Plants 238

Amazon sword (Echinodorus amazonicus) 238

Carolina fanwort (Cambomba caroliniana) 239

Corkscrew val (Vallisneria spiralis) 239

Elodea (Egeria densa) 240

Giant anubias (Anubias barteri) 241

Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) 241

Oriental sword (Echinodorus oriental) 242

Red ludwigia (Ludwigia mullertii) 243

Red-stem milfoil (Myriophyllum matogrossensis) 244

Stargrass (Heteranthera zosterifolia) 244

Going with Floating Plants 244

Amazon frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) 245

Duckweed (Lemna minor) 245

Envisioning Pond Plants 245

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) 246

Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) 246

Starting with Some Easy Plants 247

Part 4: Breeding and Other Fun Stuff 249

Chapter 18: Being Prepared When Trouble Strikes 251

Tackling Physical Fish Problems 252

Separating fighting fish 252

Solving the aggression problem 252

Looking at the injured 253

Dealing with a stuck fish 253

Correcting Feeding Problems 253

Getting your fish to eat 253

Addressing a food hog 253

Dislodging items eaten by your fish 254

Cleaning up the aftermath 254

Addressing Equipment Problems 254

Handling uneven stands and tanks 254

Fixing a clogged filter 254

Analyzing heater problems 254

Lighting falling into the tank 255

Exploding light bulbs 255

Flickering lighting 255

Facing Tank and Decoration Problems 256

Checking for leaks 256

Getting your fish to safety 256

Repairing a small crack 256

When an entire side of your aquarium breaks 257

Uprooted plants and decorations 257

What to do when you lose power 257

Confronting Water Problems 257

Solving green algae problems 258

Controlling chemical problems 258

Cooling a tank that’s too hot 258

Warming a tank that’s too cold 259

Chapter 19: Setting Up the Breeding Tank 261

Deciding to Breed Your Aquarium Fish 262

Breaking new barriers 262

Gaining new knowledge and enjoyment 263

Conserving the environment 263

Choosing Your Equipment for Breeding 263

The aquarium 264

Putting a lid on the whole thing 264

Decorations 264

Substrate 265

Spawning grates 265

Turning up the heat 266

Filtration 266

Plants for safety, spawning, and inspiration 267

Getting the Water Right 269

pH and dH control 269

Water temperature 269

Cleanliness 269

Chapter 20: Ready, Set, Spawn 271

Introducing the Bride and Groom 272

Dealing with aggressive males 274

Setting up the second date 274

Yay, my fish really like each other! 274

Darn, my fish hate each other! 274

Understanding Breeding Types 277

Livebearers 277

The egglayers 277

Saving Everyone from Everyone Else 279

Saving Mom and Dad from Mom and Dad 279

Saving the kids from Mom and Dad 280

Saving the kids from each other 281

Raising the Fry 281

Stepping up to brine shrimp 282

Giving them a real home 282

Picking new stock 282

Understanding Genetics 282

Choosing the best 283

Obtaining variation the good way 283

Obtaining variation through mutation 283

Creating strains through inbreeding 283

Choosing the Right Species for You 284

Breeding livebearers 284

Other fun fish to breed 285

Chapter 21: Recording Data and Photographing Fish 289

Keeping a Logbook 289

Making Your Fish the Stars They Were Meant to Be 290

Knowing Where to Take Pictures 291

Photographing Your Fish with Digital Photography 292

Recording fish 293

Printing your work 293

Sharing your work online 294

Photographing Your Fish the Old-Fashioned Way 294

Film cameras 294

The film 295

Lenses 296

Considering Lighting 297

Relying on lighting 297

Making your fish shine 299

Focusing Your Camera 300

Understanding Composition Techniques 300

Using the rule of thirds 301

Panning the scene 301

Setting up for close-ups 302

Shooting the Tank 302

Building your own photography tank 303

Using different backgrounds 304

Chapter 22: Expanding Your Hobby in Fun Ways 305

Entering a Fish Show 305

Getting to Know the Types of Shows 307

Participating in exhibitions 307

Understanding competition classes 307

Preparing Your Fish for the Show 308

The holding tank 308

Water conditions 309

Tank considerations 309

Knowing what the judges are looking for 310

Transporting Fish to and from a Show 312

Remembering to Have Fun 313

Joining an Aquarium Club 314

Volunteering at an Aquarium or Zoo 314

Writing an Article 315

Setting Up a Tank for a Worthy Cause 316

Sharing Your Love of Aquariums and Science with Others 317

Chapter 23: Advancing Your Hobby: Other Types of Aquarium Systems 319

Trying a Brackish Aquarium Setup 319

Considering a Marine Aquarium System 320

Identifying the types of marine systems 321

Setting up a simple marine aquarium 322

Setting up a coldwater fish-only marine system 323

Comparing Freshwater and Saltwater Systems 324

Adaptability 324

Availability 325

Cost 325

Beauty and friendliness 325

Equipment 326

Part 5: The Part of Tens 327

Chapter 24: Ten Cool Aquarium Gadgets 329

Aquarium Claws (Those Handy Picker-Upper Doodads) to Move Decor 329

Algae Cleaners to Keep Dry 330

Extendable Fish Nets, the Long and Short of It 331

A Tool Box for Storing Stuff 331

Light Timers for the Win 332

Aquarium Sealer (Flood Insurance) 332

Aquascaping Tools to Make You a Star 332

Digital Water Testing Makes It Easy 333

Automatic Gravel Cleaners Do the Job 333

Aquarium Smart Controllers (Spy on Your Fish) 334

Chapter 25: Ten Ways to Kill Your Fish without Even Trying 335

Go Away on Vacation and Forget Them 335

Play Doctor without a License 336

Give Your Cat a Sushi Bar 336

Stuff Your Fish with Seven-Course Meals 337

Mix Apples and Oranges 337

Add Too Many Fish (the Shoehorn Syndrome) 338

Don’t Do Your Homework 338

Let the Neighbor’s Unruly Kid Play with Your Fish 338

Become a Hypochondriac Hobbyist 339

Buy Used or Cheap Equipment 339

Chapter 26: Ten Scientific Fish Laws 341

The Fish Law of Thermodynamics 341

The Fish Law of Metamorphosis 342

The Fish Law of Motion 342

The Fish Law of Anti-Matter 343

The Fish Law of Nutrition 343

The Fish Law of Company 344

The Fish Law of Potential Energy 344

The Fish Law of Psychic Felines 344

The Fish Law of Aggression 345

The Fish Law of Time 345

Chapter 27: Ten Aquatic New Year’s Resolutions 347

Feed the Fish the Good Stuff 347

Clean the Tank Frequently 348

Reduce Celibacy 348

Remove Algae 348

Monitor Filter Mediums 348

Turn on the Lights 349

Use My Test Kits 349

Pay Attention to My Fish 349

Redecorate the Tank 349

Share with Others 350

Index 351

Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?

The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

The Used, Rental and eBook copies of this book are not guaranteed to include any supplemental materials. Typically, only the book itself is included. This is true even if the title states it includes any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

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