20 tips to make fishkeeping easier


Not every piece of fishkeeping advice is costly or difficult to implement. Don’t believe us? Read on. There may be a few surprises for you along the way!

Here at PFK we don’t just write, we listen. We talk to keepers, retailers, wholesalers, importers and many more. Each such person is a font of wisdom, happy to impart some nugget of information — and we’re happy to pass that along the line.

We’ve stumbled across great tips, so decided to knock up this list of some of the best.

1. Swipe the cards
Don’t throw out old credit or bank cards. Their plastic edging make them ideal at removing algae from aquaria, especially the stubborn hair algae and algae that gets into cracks.

2. Halve the tests
Test kits are expensive, yes? If you need to stretch the amount of tests from one kit and don’t need to be uber-accurate then try halving the amount of water you test — and halving the amount of chemical indicator you add. The results won’t be completely spot-on, but will still indicate a problem if you have one.

3. Get bending
Having trouble catching fish using a standard net? Do they keep getting in corners, or diving out just as you’re raising the net? If you have a wire net try bending it to a better shape. Many retailers have custom-bent ones for specific jobs.

4. End the rattle
Air pumps are noisy when reverberating against something. Some people like to put air pumps on polystyrene bases, but for sure-fire quietness try hanging your pump from a length of string so that it can’t touch anything.

5. Feed the tulips
The water syphoned from aquaria is packed with nitrogen-based nutrients. Rather than pouring it down the drain, try it on houseplants instead of using plain tapwater. You’ll be surprised at how well they’ll do on it.

6. Make friends
Never underestimate the power of being nice to your local retailer. Even something as simple as a Christmas card can make the difference between the shop staying open or not one evening when you desperately need that impeller for your external canister.

7. Buried treasure
When frozen food has been defrosted, suck some up into a pipette and inject it under the surface of the sand for any Corydoras catfish. They’ll find it soon enough and seem to love rooting around for it, as they would in the wild.

8. Picture this
Retailers struggle with phrases like: "It’s sort of a greenish lump on the bit on the side…" when we try to explain anomalies in our tanks. So why not take a picture first? It will make life so much easier for the person trying to help if they can see exactly what you’re trying to describe to them.

9. Double up
You often hear people extolling the virtues of having two heaters, but how about two thermometers? Some designs can be less than accurate and it always pays to have a second opinion.

Opt for two different varieties, maybe one glass and one electric — and you might be surprised at the difference between them.

10. Make it dedicated
It won’t cost much, so dedicate a specific bucket, brushes and cleaning equipment to your aquarium. You don’t want a well-meaning spouse picking up the one household bucket to wash the car – then leaving a residue of deadly soap suds in it.

11. Learn a new skill
One of the most valued skills is the ability to tie a fish bag. Ask your retailer to give you a couple of extras and practise with them using an elastic band. You’ll be surprised at what an effect it can have on a retailer seeing a well-tied bag when you bring some fry in to the shop.

12. Pump it up!
If like most fishkeepers you are suffering from a bad back and getting fed up with the weekly work out that is the water change, spend a few quid on a pond pump and some hosing.

To pump water out of your tank, connect the pump to several metres of hose. Put the hose into outside drain, put the pump into your tank, switch on, and watch your water level drop at a rate of knots.

To pump water back in get an old fish tank or water butt, fill with cold tapwater, dechlorinate, heat, then drop the the pond pump and hose into there and pump water back in.

Pumps delivering 3500 lph or more are best, connected to several metres of ribbed 25mm pond hose.

Investment: about £50. Effort saved: infinite.

13. Sucker for punishment
Sick and tired of filter or heater suckers that don’t suck anymore? Struggling for replacements?

Try whipping them out first and immersing them in vinegar. This will get rid of pesky limescale that can cause them to lose their grip. Hot water sometimes does the job, too.

14. Get dosed up
If you have an empty tank, then once you’ve decorated and aquascaped it measure exactly how much water it takes to fill.

For maximum accuracy use a jug. It may seem like a chore for now, but you’ll be incredibly grateful for the information if you need to add a treatment or medicate the tank with a liquid medicine.

15. Shelling out
Found some interesting shells on the beach and want to put them into the fish tank? Best not. These are made up of calcium that will dissolve in freshwater and play havoc with water chemistry. The same applies to old bits of coral too.

16. Listen up
Retailers aren’t being mean when they advise you not to buy something. They will often know their stock inside and out, and have seen many problems you’ve never come across. If they’re telling you not to buy that cute-looking catfish hidden in the corner then there’s probably a very good reason.

17. Create cheap breeding holes

If using a tube of aquarium silicone and have some left, don’t leave it to go hard and useless. Get lengths of suitable piping and smear them with the remaining silicone.

Once smothered, roll them in some aquarium sand or gravel and let them dry. Hey presto; some camouflaged breeding tubes ready to use, or maybe even for eBay.

18. Grow a forest
Save a small fortune on decorative planted wood by making up your own. Get suitable plants — Anubias and Java fern are great — and brown cotton thread. Tie the plants onto the wood and within a few months the roots will be embedded, ready for the cotton to be removed. Do this well and you can sell these planted logs on.

19. Pipe off
When installing an external filter, try to get a T-piece, tap and length of extra hose to fit, then simply put the T-piece into the return pipe, about halfway along the length.

Onto this connect the tap and hose, and then, if you need to do a quick water change, simply open up the valve and drain some water into a bucket.

This is also a handy technique straight after cleaning a filter, so any muck that tries to blast back into the tank ends up in the bucket.

20. Scrap it
Pages can be torn from magazines! When you find words and pictures relevant to your tank that you think may be needed at short notice, cut them out and stick in an aquarium scrapbook. That way, when those fish start breeding, you won’t be scrabbling through piles of old editions trying to find that article from months back!

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