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How to own a tropical fish tank
How I did it: I initially became interested in tropical fish after visiting a few garden centres that had aquatic departments. During one particular visit, whilst looking at the fish, I declared that I was going to take a leap of faith into the hobby and get myself a small tank. I started out with an aquastart 320 cube tank, a heater, a thermometer, and a few plants. I later moved on to a large clearseal tank and an external tetratec ex700 filter.
Lessons & tips: Don't start out with a small tank. It seems like a great idea at first but they are actually really difficult to keep. By small I mean 10 gallons or less. My first tank had so many water problems simply because it wasn't big enough to support fish much larger than neons.
Put a timer on your lights and make sure that you keep the tank away from natural sunlight.
Invest in anti-algae products and filter boosters.
Invest in a liquid testing kit.
Do a fishless nitrogen cycle before stocking your tank.
Avoid internet fishkeeping forums. They tend to just descend into bickering and armchair expert contests.
The inch to the gallon rule is a load of rubbish. It depends entirely on the fish, the tank, and the filter. So long as your fish are happy and your water is not toxic you're okay.
Look carefully at the fish in the aquariums when you go to buy fish. If they don't look how you think they should, don't buy them. Make sure that the colours are bright, markings clear and defined, and that they possess all the correct physical characteristics.
Do not be afraid to insist on having specific fish. Don't let anyone attempt to give you a fish you think is unwell, or too small, or has an injury or some other defect. Go for the most colourful, healthy, and largest fish.
Don't underestimate the cost. Don't overestimate either. The hobby is cheap to maintain and expensive to set up. Investing in better equipment is not essential but makes life easier later on. It doesn't necessarily have to be an expensive hobby though.
Resources: I've found that clearseal aquariums, and tetratec external filters have been an absolute godsend. They're both awesome quality and worth every penny.
NiteOut is a great bacteria booster. Ammo lock is handy to have for toxic emergencies such as filter failure or accidental overstocking.
Stay away from aquaone products. Leaky, defective overpriced crap.