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Some tips. Or what I've done wrong (and right) so far...

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AstroMelly:
Here's a list which might prove helpful for anyone starting out - it's just some assumptions I made that proved to be incorrect or things I've done which didn't work out/had an easier way.

I expect to add to this list as I persist in making silly mistakes and making mental notes not to do the same thing again next time.  I know I will have missed some things out but I hope it is useful to someone!

1. Don't spend too much money.  There's always a cheaper version of something or a cheaper way to get the product that you just saw at the LFS.  Fleabay for API Master Test Kit is one I got right - 21 pounds delivered compared to 35 pounds at at least two local LFS.  If you can wait, google it and find it cheaper, or even secondhand if you're prepared for that.

2. Don't assume your fish have a brain, they do but in some cases it seems to be incredibly limited in the way it works.  They will happily throw themselves into what appears to us to be dangerous situations completely blindly.  Also, remember they cannot see what we can.  My poor plec swam up the filter outlet and got jammed and died.  I can vow never to allow something like this to happen again, but I am prepared to accept that it will.  Always assume the worst will happen and take appropriate action to prevent it while you can.

3. Don't make too many changes at once.  I may have got this right so far (only 3 weeks stocked and counting), but I am sure one day soon I will make a mistake that upsets the balance in my tank.  A for instance is yesterday I changed some water and cleaned the filter (first time ever). I also placed some nitrate absorbing compound in my filter.  Now I'm not sure if I've caused a problem but the next few days will tell!  Sometimes, this will be unavoidable.

4. Ask.  There are no stupid questions.  Only the ones you are too afraid to ask.

5. Be patient.  We all want to dash down the shop to get that molly or platy or whatever, but waiting for things to settle (from what I've read) is in the long term probably a more rewarding path to take.  Fishless cycling is a good way to test your patience!  Also, I think researching the fish you were just about to buy is always a good idea.

6.  Get a second opinion.  A good example is you're in the LFS, see something you want (assuming you went out to buy some fish) and ask the guy if it will be alright with what you've got.  Chances are, unless it's a puffer you're asking about, they'll say 'Yeah, should eb alright'.  I quickly learnt that even the best fish shop has the 'Yeah, should eb alright' drone somewhere on the premises so make sure you convince yourself he's right before you actually part with cash.

7. Get a big tank.  I know sometimes you just can't, but I think I've done myself a favour by convincing the missus to go for a 160 litre and not smaller.  If it was my way we would have got a Roma 240 but we had to get a corner tank and the Trigon 190 was just a bit too big.  She's already looking at 5ft tanks with oak stands and going 'oooh!', so you never know!  Big tanks make things easier keeping the effects of changes on water quality to a minimum.

8. Find someone local to you who already keeps fish.  you won't believe how useful it is to have someone to ring up and ask questions.  Also, you'll find yourself swapping, sharing, giving and receiving which can help to save money and broaden your knowledge.

9. Don't wash your filter media in tap water.  Haven't done this yet and don't intend to.  Also, check the tank every time you take any water out.  As far as possible, make sure everyone's there, or at least check the water you took out for escapee fish.  Almost gave myself a coronary looking for my dwarf gourami last night after taking 15 litres out, washing the filter and then chucking the water onto the grass out back.  We couldnt find the little guy in the tank and the wife convinced me I'd chucked him outside.  Should have seen us on the lawn with torches looking for him.  I laugh now but we were really worried and upset.  Found him swimming right at the top in a dark corner, could'nt see him at all!

10. Enjoy your aquarium.  Might sound stupid, but sometimes we actually turn the TV off these days after the kids have gone to bed and sit and watch the fish instead.  It's generally more rewarding.

11.  Don't clean your filter too soon.  Should leave it 3-6 months.  This is one mistake I have made, cleaning it much too soon.  Hope everything will be ok.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find it useful.
Iain

DEE:
What a smashing thread Iain, thank you for that :)

BalloonMolly:
 *applause* *applause* *applause*

AstroMelly:
Hehe.  Thanks sunny d.  Bored at work again :D

rdstars:
With that friendly person local who keeps fish ask them for a slice, squiese of there filter along with 1/3 of there used water from there tank as they do a water change. Just to get your tank running very quick.

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