How to Increase Your Fish Keeping Fun
Do you really get the fullest amount of enjoyment out of your
fish?, or is it hampered by little worries and anxieties?
Do you sometimes worry that you may be spending too much time
with your fish? I often hear people remark that although they
enjoy their hobby, the routine maintenance tasks involved detract
from the fun.
In this month's feature we will explore how we can increase
our fun by maybe taking a different approach to those mundane
activities that are so essential if we are to keep our fish in
tip top condition.
Create a plan
When you get some time to spend with your hobby do you go
through a sort of mental conflict wondering what to do?... and
when you finally do decide, half of your time has gone
WELL...you are not on your own, most aquarists share the same
dilemma. BUT... it is possible to overcome this problem, to even
double your fish keeping enjoyment. HOW? Well, certainly not by
adding more tanks or even devoting more time to your hobby... the
answer lies in a change of mental outlook, a change of
Have you ever noticed that some people always seem to be on
top of their work?, how their fish rooms and tanks are always
tidy? how they always seem to have lots of time to enjoy their
hobby? Yet others never get a minute to live, they always seem to
have lots to do and yet nothing seems to get done. The most
important ingredient in our formula for increased fish keeping fun
Most of us lead busy lives, holding down a full-time job, and
taking care of family commitments etc. Without a plan it is all
too easy to put off our fish maintenance tasks until another day
when life is a little less hectic. Unfortunately, more often than
not life doesn't get less hectic and our maintenance jobs build
up until our tank's become dirty and our fish begin to
That's when the pressure starts to build.
Include the family
This can be particularly difficult when your partner doesn't
share your love and enthusiasm for the hobby. It is only natural
that they will have different priorities for your time than you
and if harmony is to be maintained then some sort of agreement
must be reached. Having a plan that includes both the family
needs and your hobby needs goes a long way to ensuring that
everyone's needs are satisfied. The biggest obstacle to overcome
in any hobby is distraction. It is very tempting when we have the
time to spend with our fish to waste that time on trivial matters
or even just admiring our fish.
Now don't get me wrong... I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't
take time to admire our fish, after all that is the reason we
started keeping fish in the first place. What I am suggesting is
that there are probably more suitable times to sit and admire our
fish. We can fit in time for that when we are relaxing with the
family, for instance.
What I am saying is that during those precious occasions when
we can devote some dedicated time to maintenance, we should
concentrate just on maintenance activities. The most important
ingredient to making the best of our valuable time is one of
mental outlook and organization. Clear thinking about your fish
is the key to getting maximum pleasure. No matter what your hobby
or interest is, there can be no pleasure in it if it causes
anxiety and frustration. Your hobby will only be pleasurable if
it brings you satisfaction and relaxation.
Ask yourself ... is your thinking absolutely clear about your
fish keeping? Perhaps when you get some time one evening get a
pencil and paper and make a few notes along these lines. Have you
ever considered how much time and money you can afford to spend
on the hobby? Give it some thought and write it down. You might
think, for example, ......I can afford to work 2 evenings a week,
3 hours each evening and 5 hours every other Saturday. ......I
can afford to spend £10 a month or £20 a month. Be as
specific as possible even though any one week may have to be
changed. The main thing is to have a clear idea of time and money
commitment. These will be different for every aquarist, of
course. The important thing is that they are commitments that you
are comfortable with.
One of the common traps that many of us fall into is letting
our hobby get out of hand. We become involved with fish keeping,
either through a visit to a garden centre, pet shop or through a
friend and set up a tank in our lounge. Before long the bug has
taken hold and we introduce another tank, then another and before
we know it we find we can't cope with the water changing and
cleaning the glass etc. that we have to do just to be able to see
One of the interim steps that we might have to consider is
shutting down one or more of our tanks, maybe just as a temporary
measure until we get better organized.
The next step is to set a specific objective for yourself and
your fish keeping. This is not necessarily one to be achieved
immediately but it must be specific.
"To keep and breed every species of fish" is possibly a dream
of many breeders but hardly a specific objective. When setting
your specific objective, keep within your time and money
commitment. The great thing about fish keeping is the wide range
of possible goals you could pursue. If you are a fish breeder for
instance, you could specialize in one fish and set a goal for a
breeding program. If you are not a breeder but enjoy collecting
you could possibly try to collect every species within a genus.
Whatever your interest make sure you narrow it down to a specific
objective, one that is practical within your time and money
objective. It could be "Collect as many species of Dwarf Cichlids
as possible", "Develop a strain of albino Discus" or set up a
tank housing only the species from a particular geographical area
- a Madagascar tank for instance.
Having decided... think about your first step towards
achieving this goal. This is your short term goal, something to
be achieved in the near future. "Find a good source of dwarf
cichlids and buy one pair" or "Keep adult discus alive for x
Give some thought to it but having decided write it down and
remember your previous decisions all the time.
OK, Next Step...
With your new goal in mind, go and look at your set up. Ask
yourself - "does everything in my current set up contribute
towards my short term goal?" The answer will almost certainly be
NO. There will probably be odds and ends of fish and equipment
that have nothing to do with your goal. NOW comes the hardest
bit....Everything that does not contribute to your goal should be
sold or traded in and the proceeds put towards your objective.
When you have achieved this you could well find that you have
doubled your tank space without buying a single tank!!....
Create a list of priorities
Most aquarists have regular jobs that they do over and over
again. Daily jobs. Yet we regularly waste a lot of time deciding
what to do, often every day. I'm sure many of you can relate to
You get home from work, take care of the immediate priorities,
sit down to dinner, finishing at 7.00 pm. Perhaps you now have 2
hours to spend with your fish. So you now go through the decision
making sequence of what to do tonight. We can lose 15 valuable
minutes each time we stop to decide what to do next.
How can we overcome this? As we have identified above most
aquarists have routine jobs plus a few special ones. Keeping in
mind our short term goals, write down each job on a separate
piece of card.
For example a fish breeder might list the following 7
Cull young fish and move into a larger tank
Set out new pairs to spawn
Check for disease; treat any observed
Check water; change if necessary
This is not a complete list, of course, you will probably end
up with one much longer but 7 items will do for our example of
how to set priorities.
Now look at the list and re-arrange the items something like
this: Any disease can spread quickly and if left untreated could
wipe out your entire tank - it only takes a minute.
Make a visual check for unusual behavior...hanging in
corners...clamped fins...scratching etc
So No1 on our list is:-1. Check for disease
Look at the remaining list. What should you do next? Feed the
fish? Well...maybe...but would you put food in a cloudy
No, so it is best to check the water and if cloudy, change
So No2 on our list is:-2. Check water - change if
You may ask, would you change water before cleaning/changing
the filters? Yes, I would. It is important to remove dissolved
solids and waste (bacteria) in suspension which can create
harmful nitrite before changing the filter media where wastes are
being partly broken down anyway. It is important to change the
filter media as time permits but not before water changes in my
We mentioned feeding the fish above and this is very important
and only items 1 and 2 above should come before it.
So our No3 is:-3. Feed the fish
Followed by:-4. Clean the filters
Now the last three.
-Set out new pairs
Having completed this exercise we now have a priority list to
Having set that up, whenever we get a few minutes to spend
with our fish we start at the top of the list and work our way
Check for disease; treat any necessary
Check water; change if necessary
Cull young fish and move into a larger tank
Set out new pairs to spawn
Expand set up
We have removed the delays caused by having to decide what to
do each time. In the 15 minutes that we may have wasted trying to
decide what to do we could be halfway down our list. The priority
list will be different for every aquarist but the principle will
be the same.
Finally....make a habit of keeping a diary of all your
fish keeping activities. This will provide valuable information on
frequency of activities and when things like water changes are
due. Time has a habit of going so quickly that several weeks can
pass since our last water change but without having notes to
refer to it may, and often does, seem like last week.
Create your plan, work to it and replace the anxiety with
Happy Fish keeping!
Trevor Greenfield has been keeping and breeding tropical fish
for over 30 years. He has held committee posts for several
fishkeeping clubs and associations and was a founder member and
is the current secretary of the British Cichlid Association.
He is author of numerous articles on keeping and breeding
tropical fish and editor and regular contributor to Pet Fish
World. ©Pet Fish World 2005
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