Top 5 Things Not To Do When Setting Up A Fish Tank


1. Not Buying A Big Enough Tank
alotoffishtanks.jpgRaise your hand if you wish you had a bigger tank than the one you started out with? This is what happens. You want a fish tank and you decide on a certain size tank (29 gallon for me) and think that'll be big enough for everything you want to put in there. You set it up and get more into it and realize that the tank is too small. So you get a bigger tank. You realize again that it's not big enough. Repeat. This is why many of us have MTS (Multiple Tank Syndrome). You can avoid this by looking around your place and finding out where you can put the largest tank possible before you even start. For the rest of us that already have multiple tanks? There is no cure for it. Sorry. But welcome to MyFishTank.Net online community where you can join the rest of us MTS'ers.

2. Rushing Into It
stydy.jpgYou watch Finding Nemo and you want your own Dory and Nemo. So you go out and buy a tank and unfortunately things don't usually go well if you go that route. Let's try that again. You want a fish tank. So you go out and buy the combo package that the fish store is offering. You start to add fish that you see at the store that look cool. But unless your LFS helps you, you usually end up with fish of different compatibility or worse yet, a saltwater fish in a freshwater tank (!).

Take the time to do your research. Not only will you save money but you'll provide a healthy environment for your fishes. Plus you'll also avoid the MTS I talked about above.'s all a chain reaction. The best thing to do is to READ and READ. and then once you're done reading...READ some more. Ofcourse remember to ask any questions you have in our online fish forum.

3. Doing What Other People Think Is Cool
peerpresure.gifYou want to belong with the cool fish people on the forums. But doing what they that going to be what you like? Remember that your fish tank is for YOUR enjoyment and then to share with others. Ofcourse if you want Tank of the Month or something, then it's a different story.

As an example, when I first started keeping a saltwater tank...all I kept on reading about were the expert saltwater keepers that kept the ultra-hard to keep SPS corals. I wanted to be cool too! So I strived to keep SPS corals in my tank. Soon I realized that I enjoyed keeping soft corals like anemones more than SPS corals. So that's why I decided to get rid of my SPS collection and started collecting anemones.

4. Being Cheap On Equipment
equipment.jpgFish keeping is not a cheap hobby. It's expensive. Even more expensive if you keep a saltwater tank. But everyone knows that one thing you shouldn't try to save money on is the equipment. Why? Because 10 out of 10 times you'll want to get the better equipment after buying the cheaper one. You also always want to get an equipment that is rated for a tank that is larger than yours. My garage full of equipment that were replaced can attest to that.

5. Buying The Wrong Fish
equipment.jpgBuying the wrong fish is a big no-no. First, you just wasted your money but most importantly you put the fish's life on the line. Buying the wrong fish and putting it into the wrong environment puts alot of stress on the fish. You have to remember that ultimately we're responsible for our fishes and have to do our research first. It'd be like buying a great dane dog for an apartment. Not going to work.

So do you research. See what fishes are compatible with your tank environment and if they get along with the fishes in your tank also. I've read stories of people who bought a $200 dollar fish and have it bullied around by their $5 dollar fish that was already in there. That's not doing the right research ahead of time. Plus fishes are so hard to catch once they are in the tank.

So what other tips do you guys have that you want to share? Let me hear it!

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Daman May 2, 2007 at 1:45 am

You can keep great danes in an apartment setting, they’re great dogs for smaller spaces, since they aren’t very active.

Johnny May 2, 2007 at 1:50 am

okay okay..maybe i meant GREYHOUND! how about that!

Saltwater Fish May 2, 2007 at 11:02 am

Yup…you can keep a wolf in the city too…ok what’s this have to do with anything again?

Saltwater Fish May 2, 2007 at 11:03 am

And of course the biggest tip you will hear from EVERYONE (especially when it comes to saltwater) is RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH! Just thought I’d through it in there.

Daman May 3, 2007 at 1:11 am

Its in his article, the great dane thing. No offense just making a correction wolf boy. :)

mtendo June 1, 2007 at 1:30 pm

My big one is: Don’t stock the tank to “capacity”.

Life is so much easier if you have a smaller population. If the rule of thumb says you can keep 30″ of fish in your tank, stop at about half that.

Of course, this is a really hard one to follow :)

MTS is a problem a lot of people encounter – I did too. But after about ten years or so, I found that a 30-gallon tank in my living room was “just right” – big enough to be a centerpiece, not so big that it becomes real work doing a water change.

Paula December 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Cheap On Equipment!!!
I’ve learned my lesson the first time.

jeron May 19, 2010 at 7:01 am

can you help me i just wanna ask is 2 arwanas and 2 catfish are already good to put in 75 galons aquarium or i will be needing a bigger tank for this fishes im just a newbies . thanks

Joseph May 29, 2010 at 10:32 pm

My top 5 –

1.) The most overly common mistake people make is not cycling their tank. You buy a tank, add gravel, add decor, fill it with water and add your fish.. NO NO NO! Read all about cycling at before you even consider getting fish..

2.) The next most common mistake is adding too many fish to your tank at once. Choose which fish you want to go in your tank before you set up your aquarium. Add a few each week or so after your tank has cycled. Putting too many fish in your tank at once will cause the ammonia level to shoot up which will kill most, or even all of your fish. Adding 1 or 2 each week will allow your tank’s bio cycle to get used to the amount of ammonia being produces from the fish.

3.) Over feeding your fish is another common mistake people keep doing unnoticed. The excessive amount of food that settles at the bottom of your tank also produces quite a bit of ammonia, especially combined with your fishes poop! Only add an amount of food that your fish can consume in 2-4 minutes. If you come back 10 minutes later and there are still fresh flakes floating in or at the top of your fishes tank, then you have a problem.

4.) A lot of new fish owners make this mistake > Putting the wrong fish together. Do research on all the fish you want, and see if they get along with each other. For and example > freshwater tank > adding a puffer with a dwarf gourami.. They are both really cool fish, but they don’t get along with each other. You don’t want to put a black guy and a mexican together right? NO! they will kill each other!

caroline March 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Great tips for us beginners in fish keeping.

gareth July 12, 2011 at 9:36 am

sorry joseph but i have never cycled any of my tropical fish tanks and i have never lost a fish to bad water but everytime a friend of mine cycle his tank he lost at least half his fish and they were goldies

ThatCowOverTheir October 23, 2011 at 10:54 pm

I Have Two Dalmatian Lrye Tailed Mollies (gotten Because 1. one of then looks like a cow and one of them has white spots on it’s back and 2. my dogs name is molly) and my mom started me out with a small fishbowl and said if they lived more then a month she would get me a tank for then and it’s been a month but i don’t know want sized tank to get them can some one help me?

Stuart May 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Oops! Greyhounds generally very docile and inactive – generally only like a walk a couple of times a day and company the rest of the time 😉

Nice article, thanks. Stu

Chris September 18, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Ok, I am relatively new to fish keeping.I started out with a goldfish I won at the fair. It lasted 6 months(pretty good right)? However, the only reason it died was because I got a 5 gallon tank and didn’t cycle it. So I ended up putting him in there and he died…. It was a sad day indeed. After cycling and such, I went to the store and got some new fish. A Red wag Platy And two guppies. All was well. Then one guppy died mysteriously and then the same happened to the other. The platy was fine though. (this place had a return policy so I didn’t waste that much money). I got my water sample checked and everything was above average. So I got a silver molly. He lived for a week so i got a another fish, a variutus platy. They have lived happily ever since i got the tank working out. Recently I went to the nearby creek and caught me a sail fin molly and a craw fish. (very small). The molly died within hours but the craw fish lived. I know right now your probably screaming at me because i have stuffed my tank but here me out. The craw fish molted the next day and got bigger. Still didn’t think it was a problem. So since the molly died I went to my friends(veteran fish tanker) favorite place to fish shop. I looked and looked then i saw what i was looking for… I didn’t know much about it but I wanted it. It was a swordtail. I took him home and got him settled in. he was great for a few days then I woke and saw a horror. The swordtails “sword” had been ripped off! I was pissed… I knew it was the craw fish too. So I took him and threw out my front door in anger. As of right now my tank is happy even though I’m pushing the limit of fish.

So now that I’ve told you my background, I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a 30 gallon aquarium for Christmas. My parents said yes.
1. Will my Swordtails “sword” grow back?
2. I’ve been researching a lot and was curious, will my fish adjust to the larger aquarium?
3.Should I get another swordtail?
4. What is a good selection of fish including my fish for the tank? (no tetras please, I don’t like really aggressive fish) or catfish.
5. What should I do with the 5 gallon tank?
appreciate the help :)

Courtney December 6, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I’ve never cycled any of my tanks. Ever. So why should I start now? I read so many forums and it scares me because I just bought a 30 gallon and didn’t cycle it. I put 9 fish in that day. I do this every time and if I happen to get a bacteria bloom I just do water changes often. (Once or twice a day). Haven’t had to do that in a while though. Just don’t freak out if you don’t cycle your tank.

Waki June 10, 2013 at 3:02 am

If you don’t cycle your tank then you’re pretty much torturing your fish and they haven’t decided to give up on living yet.

Read up on the nitrogen cycle.

Your fish poops and breathes which produces ammonia and Co2,Ammonia is toxic to your fish (and humans)

When your tank is cycling beneficial bacteria start growing in your tanks filter,First comes bacteria that eats the ammonia and turns it into slightly less toxic No2,then there is bacteria which eats on No2 and turns it into far less toxic No3.

If you have any plants in your tank (you needs lots) then they will take in the No3 and Co2 and produce oxygen fr your fish.

I think you mean algae bloom,most likely your tank is already cycled and you don’t do water changes often enough so the algae feeds on the No3.algae bloom is a sign that the tank is trying to balance itself (nature taking it’s course) since there are no plants in the tank the algae will grow and feed on the Co2 and No3 and create oxygen in the process.

pat allan August 9, 2013 at 7:31 pm

wow! thanks. I bought a fantail goldfish, I had a fishbowl and some gravel. I was changing the water two times a day! i felt sooo bad for the fish “Micky Finn”. He would be at the top of the bowl gulping.
Today, i went out and bought a 10 gal. tank just for him. He is loving it!!! Got all the equipment, etc.
As you can see, it does not take long to develop an obsession.

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Rob July 11, 2015 at 3:54 pm

I must say what a well written list you have here. All of the tips are very helpful and something every person who is into fish keeping should know.

I especially agree with tip #4! It is so important that you do NOT go cheap when you enter into the world of fishkeeping. While most of us have the tendency to think about what would save us money, you cannot think this way when it comes to fish tanks.

You want to do whats best and provide the best possible home for the fish you are going to keep and that is why this tip is SO VERY important.

Thanks for sharing!

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