Stocking the fish tank

Our local aquatic supplier, Maidenhead Aquatics [a branch far from home] seems to have an extremely well run operation with very knowledgeable staff. I have latched onto the seemingly young-at-heart and enthusiastic 61-year old Ian who has been keeping and breeding fish since he was 12. Whilst still a young teenager, he was breeding fish by the thousands for the wholesale markets. "Didn’t take a holiday for 8 years." (When we found him today he was outside enjoying some sun and a quick cigarette – he told me the youngsters call him "coffin dodger".)

He was very keen to support newcomers who were serious about getting into the hobby.

He gave lots of advice about getting the tank ready, the pros and cons of various techniques, the maturity of plants to stock and how long some needed to settle in. In particular, he helped us choose the fish to start with. He chose fish that are pretty hard and able to stand the tank’s chemistry varying to a significant degree over the first few weeks.

As a fish-keeper, you are completely responsible for the environment the fish live in and have to ensure that there is a good cycle in place to turn ammonia (waste from the fish) into nitrites and then into nitrates. This requires a good bacteria colony to be established as well as frequent water changes (around 25% a week). Nitrates are taken up by plants. There are several ways of getting the cycle going including slowly building up in a fish-free tank a bacteria colony to feed on artificially introduced household ammonia and once the cycle has reached the correct level introducing fish slowly. An alternative is to purchase and introduce a readily grown colony. Many experienced fish-keepers are opposed to the latter method and counsel patience but there is now lots of evidence that the latest commercial offerings are very effective and my friendly local advisor, Ian, said that he was now completely satisfied that these worked very well. I do not think he was just pushing product. We shall see.

We decided to go with tropical fish, heated up the tank yesterday (did not need much given the warm weather at the moment), purchased and planted some semi-mature aquatic plants (they will take a while to root properly but the fish we have introduced should not bother them too much not least because the fish are very small at the moment).

So what did we buy?

  • 6 off Black Neon Tetra (3 pairs) – Latin: Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi
  • 6 off Glolight Tetra (sex unknown)  – Latin: Hemigrammus erythrozonus
  • 3 off Platy (one male – bright red, two female) – Latin: Xiphophorus maculatus

We added them to the tank using a filtering tray which slowly mixes the water the fish come in with the water in the tank to give the fish time to acclimatize to the new water chemistry. (This does mean we put some of the water from the aquarium into out tank which again many experienced fish-keepers advised against.)

We also added a couple of bottles of bacteria to the filtering system. This will hopefully mean that the system can cope easily with the ammonia from the fish from the start. We will keep a close eye on the chemistry on a daily basis for some weeks.

The fish seem to be happily swimming about. We will not turn the lights back on in the tank and feed them until tomorrow. Sadly I shall be away at work for the week as usual so other than a brief look in the morning, will not get to see them until the weekend when I do the first water change.

Fingers crossed.

2 thoughts on “Stocking the fish tank

  1. Well, according to this article in the Times dated October 16, 2007 by Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter, they do.

    Fish enjoy a good night’s sleep and a lie-in, even if their eyes are open.

    The long-standing puzzle of whether fish can sleep has been solved by a study that has shown that they like a lie-in after a disturbed night.

    Like most other species of fish, zebrafish, Danio rerio, do not have eyelids and it has been difficult to establish if they are asleep when inactive or merely resting.

    Researchers have now been able to show not only that the fish sleep, but that they can suffer from sleep deprivation and insomnia.

    By repeatedly disturbing the fish using mild electric shocks, researchers were able to keep the popular aquarium species awake at night. Those fish that had suffered a disturbed night were found to catch up on their sleep as soon as the opportunity arose.

    Some of the fish used in the study had a genetic mutation to the neural receptors for hypocretins, a substance that helps to promote wakefulness. A lack of hypocretins in human beings has been linked to narcolepsy.

    Zebrafish with the mutation suffered from insomnia and it was found that the time they were able to sleep was cut by 30 per cent compared with fish without the mutation. “Fish lacking this receptor demonstrate short and fragmented sleep in the dark,” the research team reported in PLoS Biology, an online journal.

    The study has given researchers insights into the function of molecules that regulate sleep and they hope further research into zebrafish, which were selected because they have a similar central nervous system to mammals, will help them to understand sleep disorders in human beings.

    “Sleep disorders are common and poorly understood. Further, how and why the brain generates sleep is the object of intense speculations. In this study, we demonstrate that a bony fish used for genetic studies sleeps,” the researchers said.

    Fish monitored by the research team from the United States and France were observed to have a drooping tail fin and stayed at the surface or bottom of the tank when asleep.

    Emmanuel Mignot, of Stanford University in the United States, who was involved in the study, said: “This will likely give us important clues on how and maybe why sleep has been selected by natural evolution and is so universal.”

  2. I was pleased to see that the fish were still alive this morning. There was a moment of doubt last night when I had a quick look before heading to bed and one of them seemed to be floating at the top. Do fish sleep I wonder? Must read up more about their behaviour.

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