Buying New Aquarium Fish
One of the greatest feelings that many hobbyists experience is when they get new fish. There’s something exciting about being handed that bag of fish at the local fish store for you to take home. Carefully you handle it as you make your way to the register to pay for your new specimens. We have a few tips to help you savor that feeling and avoid the dreadful dead fish episode from buying new freshwater or saltwater fish.
Look At the Tank Health of the Store
The overall appearance and tank health of a local fish store can say a lot about their upkeep. Tanks with livestock should be clean and in a good presentable order. One can look at a tank and generally get a good idea of whether the tanks are maintained and cleaned. There are plenty of signs to tell you to wait and shop elsewhere.
Are There Dead Fish?
One of the biggest tell tale signs is that of dead fish in the tank. Unfortunately fish do die in the local fish stores. They are farmed sometimes halfway around the world, bagged, and shipped to your LFS for you to purchase. The occasionally rare dead fish is not necessarily a bad omen. What is bad is when there are fish in multiple states of decay, especially when they show signs of disease.
Eating Fish are Healthy Fish
Healthy fish most often times go about their business meandering back and forth or whatever fanciful explorations they might have. It is a stressful ordeal to be bagged and shipped for days in the dark so it is understandable if they sulk and hide behind driftwood. However a fish should eat, and an easy sign that they are hungry is to simply place your hand above the tank in such a manner that they follow your hand waiting for a meal. This may not always be the case, especially with larger specimens, but if they show any interest they most likely have a normal appetite. This is good.
Are the Fish Healthy?
What isn’t normal though is clamped fins held tight to the body. Look also for signs of Ich, which resembles grains of salt on their fins and body. Fungus may also grow on the fins and body, which you should look for as well. Scales should be laid flat and smooth and the eyes should be clear and not bulged or malformed. The form of the fish should also be straight to avoid abnormal, bent, or misfigured stock.
If the fish did not seem to pass the ‘feeding simulator test’ performed moments ago look at their midsections. Are their stomachs sunken in or look like they haven’t been eating? On the other hand they shouldn’t be so extended that they look bloated or have scales standing out so that they look rough.
Select Your Fish and Have it Bagged Properly
Fish to be taken home must have a sufficient amount of water, and air in the bag. Air is absorbed through the surface of the water where it becomes available to the fish for respiration under water. Fish can readily die when they cannot obtain available oxygen. This is the purpose of the layer of air included in the plastic bag your fish are sent away with you in. Make sure that there is more air than water but there should be enough water so that your fish is comfortable.
If you are buying multiple fish split them into more than one bag if you are putting more than a few fish into one bag. Long distances will require that more air is included in the top of the bag but fish can last several hours easily with atmosphere quality air. Oxygen from a compressed tank will suit the fish for much longer extended periods.
Be sure to cover your fish in a paper bag or some suitable manner to protect them from bright light and outside movement which may stress the fish. Maintain a secure and stable condition for them to be taken home in by not letting them roll about on the floorboard of the car. Keep them in the shade from excessive heat or cold until you get home.
Acclimating Your New Fish
New fish should be floated to get them acclimated to the water temperature of your aquarium. To do this simply place the closed bag into your aquarium and let them sit for about 15 minutes. You want to allow the water in the bag to reach the same temperature as your aquarium to prevent a deadly shock to their systems.
Once they are of the same temperature the bag can be carefully opened for a second stage of acclimation. Carefully add about one fourth to half of the amount of the water in the bag from your aquarium into the new bag of fish. This lets the fish slowly become accustomed to PH and other water parameters. After about 10 minutes do so again until you have doubled the amount of water in the new bag.
Introducing Your New Fish
New fish should really be quarantined in an empty tank that is already cycled but it isn’t practical for everyone. Never, ever, under and circumstances should you simply dump the contents of the new bag into your aquarium. A host of problems can come from this, mostly disease related.
Go to the sink (close the drain while you do this) or use a bucket and pour the water and fish from the bag into a net. The fish being temporarily in the wet net will cause no problems so long as you don’t let them jump out of the net onto the floor. Turn off the lights on the tank and add the new fish. After 15 or 20 minutes you can turn the lighting back on and feed your other fish to help avoid chasing and other behaviour problems that can occur from adding new fish.
Buying New Fish Shouldn’t be a Gamble
Buying new fish shouldn’t be a gamble and with a few informed precautions can largely be avoided. From time to time it can be expected to have a fish perform poorly but it need not be the norm. Buy healthy stock and carry them home properly and you are well on your way to a head start inthe aquarium hobby.