General Fish Care
A warm welcome
To avoid increased stress to your new fish, be sure to take them directly home from the store. If you have more errands, consider picking fish up last. Your aquarium should be completely set up and ready before their arrival. Float the bag of new fish in your aquarium for 15 minutes to equalize the temperature. Then net the fish out of the bag and place them into the tank. Do not pour water from the bag into the aquarium. Be sure to wash your hands before and after handling your fish or leaning their habitats.
Five fish communities
The fish at PetSmart are divided into communities based on their compatibility. The five community groups are goldfish, African cichlids, South American cichlids, tropical semi-aggressive and tropical community. We recommend keeping only fish of the same community type together in your aquarium.
Your aquarium should be suitably sized for the amount and size of fish you will have in your tank. It should be placed near a power source, out of direct sunlight, and away from drafts. Two to three inches of aquarium gravel should lie on the bottom of the tank. Decorate with processed driftwood, rockwork and ornaments, but leave a large open space in the center of the tank for swimming. Live or plastic plants also create a pleasing display. The tank should be filled with dechlorinated water with temperatures ranging between 74-82° F (23-28° C) for tropical fish and 68-72° F (20-22° C) for goldfish. Test the water's pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. If levels are elevated, perform a partial water change.
Since improper support could cause the aquarium to leak or break, you will need an appropriate stand to support your aquarium. It should also have a filtration system, such as a canister, under gravel or power filter that removes wastes and provides aeration. A thermometer and heater are necessary to maintain proper water temperatures. To keep fish from jumping out and to avoid excessive water evaporation, the aquarium should be covered with a hood.
For new tanks, 10% water changes are recommended each week. For established aquariums, you should change 25% of the water each month. Always use a dechlorinator or other water conditioner when adding water to the aquarium. You will need an algae scrubber pad to remove excess algae from the sides of the tank and an aquarium vacuum to prevent the accumulation of debris in the gravel.
Test the water conditions on a regular basis to be sure that pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, hardness, alkalinity and chlorine levels are normal. Water test kits are available for measuring these conditions and PetSmart also provides free water testing for our customers.
Common signs of sick fish:
- White film or spots on skin or fins
- Red lines in fins
- White tufts on and around mouth
- Ulcers on skin; exposed muscular tissue
- Golden specks on skin or fins
- Parasites attached to the surface of fish
- Irregular gill movements
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy or lying on bottom of aquarium (for species other than bottom swimmers)
- Poor growth or weight loss
- Inflamed gills, skin or fins
- Fins clamped to sides
- Scraping body on rocks
If you notice any of the signs described above, check your aquarium water quality and consult a PetSmart Aquatics Specialist. We also offer a free Fish Diagnostic Guide in all of our stores.
Most fish should be fed twice daily. Juvenile fish must be fed more frequently. Feed only as much food as they will consume within 3-5 minutes to prevent poor water quality. Overfeeding is the most common cause of fish loss.
Fish will eat a wide variety of flake and freeze-dried fish foods. Supplement carnivorous (meat-eating) fish diets with treats like frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms. For herbivorous (plant-eating) species, use spirulina pellets or fresh veggies like sliced zucchini or romaine lettuce.