25 common fishkeeping mistakes that creates fish tank problems

25 common fishkeeping mistakes should be avoided

Starting a new thing is quite thrilling and, at the same time, a bit challenging. If you plan to begin fishkeeping, I’ll advise you to get prepared with the necessary knowledge. People indeed learn a great deal from their mistakes in the practical field. But if you upskill yourself with proper theoretical knowledge before the start, it will keep down blunders.

I have been in this fishkeeping arena for long 15 years and quite familiar with the beginner’s mistakes from my own experience. But they are avoidable if you follow a few simple tips. I compiled 25 common errors that cause fish tank problems for newbies. In this article, I will share those learnings with my newcomer friends who are going to be new members of our community.

Starting without a proper plan:

A jumpstart out of excitement but without proper planning is a great mistake that many would-be fishkeepers make.

Planning is the key to success. Make a thorough plan before you start. You should know your aim, what type of aquarium you want to have, and the types of aquatic pets you prefer.

You should contemplate your budget and think about how much time you can spend on the hobby. Your planning will be the basis of all your next step decisions.

Buying a small tank:

A common misconception that exists about fishkeeping is, a smaller aquarium is easier to maintain. But it’s not right for all cases. If you are planning to have a community tank, you should start with a 30-gallon tank, at least.

Larger aquariums are more manageable to keep stable, and you’ll get sufficient time to take corrective actions if things start going wrong.

Buying the aquarium and fish the same day:

Starting the new thing is so thrilling that you can’t hold the temptation to get everything ready quickly. And so people make this common mistake.

You completed setting the aquarium and filled it with water doesn’t mean the aquarium is okay to add fish just after the installation work.

I strongly recommend not to buy the aquarium and fish on the same day. 

Not cycling the tank properly:

Establishing a nitrogen cycle in an aquarium is crucial. This cycle is a biochemical process consisting of several steps. Aquarium wastes produce ammonia, which is extremely toxic and deadly for fish.

Luckily, the nitrogen cycle is a process that converts ammonia to nitrate through a multistage reaction. Nitrate is not as acutely harmful as ammonia for fish.

So, you have to cycle the tank properly before adding fish to it.

Not quarantining new fish:

It is advisable to start a brand new fish tank with a few starter fish. After complete cycling, you can bring more fish. Adding new fish directly to the main tank is another common but crucial mistake.

Fish in the pet store share tank with other fish and can carry diseases. Besides, newly bought fish are in the stress of transportation and condition change. That’s why they need a quarantine period in a separate tank so that they settle themselves, and you can closely monitor them.

Quarantining fish is essential not only for new tanks but also anytime you bring new members to your existing aquarium.

Wrong fish selection:

The fish selection is the area where most newbies become misguided. The proper fish selection is vital for the good outcome of an aquarium journey. The compatibility is the primary concern if you wish to make a community tank.

Not all fish are compatible with each other. Some are aggressive and territorial, while some are weak and peaceful creatures. Some fish are predatory carnivores, and some are perfect to be their prey. You cannot keep a lion and a ship in the same cage.

Besides, a beginner should select fish that are hardy, low-maintenance, and easy to keep.

Overstocking:

Overstocking is the most common mistake by beginners, I’ll say. Overstocking is very harmful to fish’s health. A general rule of thumb is that the tank gallon number should be the total length of all fish in it.

For instance, in a 10-gallon tank, you can keep two fish who are 5 inches in length each. Like all other experts, I advise the beginners to keep less fish than this thumb rule. Your opening will be very smooth if you don’t overstock.

Careless about water pH:

pH level is the primary indication of the aquarium water’s healthiness. Many factors can affect the water condition, and water pH reflects ‘something is wrong’ regardless of the cause. Testing water pH with kits is very easy and takes hardly two minutes.

People skip this step as they think it’s extra work when everything is going fine. But at the initial stage, I’ll advise you to test the water parameter, especially monitor pH frequently.

Not maintaining an ideal water temperature:

The ideal temperature for most aquarium fish lies between 75 to 80 °F. At a lower temperature, fish are more susceptible to fungal and bacterial infection.

Especially for newly bought fish, maintaining the right temperature is vital, as they are going through the tremendous stress of tank change and transportation. The disease can easily catch up in stressed fish.

Inadequate cleaning:

Cleaning is the most laborious job required in aquarium keeping. But cleaning is crucial, especially during the initial stages of the aquarium journey. Many factors exist in a new tank to contaminate the water.

Dust comes out from the substrate to make the water cloudy, and dyes from decor can discolor it. Most importantly, a new tank may not be fully cycled, which results in toxicity buildup.

Frequent water changes are essential for the newly build aquarium tank. I’ll suggest you replace one-third of the water twice in the first week. The frequency will be less gradually. Still, 10 to 20 % of water change every week is a good practice.

It is advisable to replace the filter media weekly for new aquariums. Once everything is stabilized, you can set the filter changing frequency as bi-weekly.

Overcleaning:

You already know about tank cycling. Some beneficial bacteria promote the nitrogen cycle while they build colonies in the substrate or the filter media. Vigorous cleaning and sweeping water changes may purge all the helpful bacteria that keep the aquarium clean and healthy.

The right balance is vital. You may observe cloudy water more often at the initial stage of a new aquarium. But never replace all of the water, desiring complete cleanliness. Especially in a new aquarium with a partially-developed nitrogen cycle, beneficial bacteria are invaluable.

Lack of adequate filtration:

Sometimes people are happy with having a high-tech mechanical filter in their aquariums. But a mechanical filter eliminates only undissolved solid particles and nothing else. Impurities in water exist in many forms.

A complete filtration unit should include three stages consisting of a mechanical, chemical, and biological filter. Especially having no biological filter in the aquarium is a great mistake. A biological filter helps growing must needed beneficial bacteria.

Too frequent rearranging:

Not being satisfied with the starting arrangement is another common newbie syndrome. They want to get everything perfect following their aesthetic preference. Bought a few decors? After sometimes you feel it’s not that beautiful and you want it in another way.

It’s a prevalent human instinct, but you should avoid frequent rearranging the aquarium items. New fish are struggling to cope, and this frequent change can impose more stress on them.

Overfeeding:

Overfeeding does no good to your beloved pets, rather harm them in many ways. You should provide as much food as fish can finish in 2-5 minutes. Food leftovers sink and accumulated in the substrate.

Overfeeding does not provide extra nutrients, but fish produce more poops by excess eating.

Accumulated food leftovers and wastes produce toxic gas by decomposition. So, overfeeding can adversely affect the cleanliness and healthiness of the aquarium.

Overdosing medicine:

Overmedication can be deadly for fish. So, it is advisable not to dose medicine without having proper knowledge of it. Even, you are sure about the pet’s sickness or have taken a prescription from a vet, you should take sick fish to a separate tank and then only treat them.

Similarly, while dosing any water care chemical, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter.

aquarium beginners mistake

The wrong substrate:

The substrate is an essential item to establish a healthy aquarium. But a beginner should choose a substrate carefully. In my opinion, crushed gravels with medium size are the best substrate for beginners.

Large pebbles create more gaps inside the bottom bed, hence very difficult to clean. Aquarium wastes get trapped inside the substrate and result in water pollution. It would help if you avoided dyed gravels/pebbles because the artificial dye may dissolve in the water.

The second best option is to use good-quality aquarium sand for the substrate bed. Cleaning the aquarium sand can be a little tricky, and a beginner with no hands-on experience may find it difficult.

Unsafe Decors:

Decors are ornaments for the aquarium. An aquarium is not only the habitat of your aquatic pets; it’s a showpiece to beautify your place. So every aquarium owner wants to have gorgeous decors so that his aquarium looks pretty.

But beginners often make mistakes to focus only on the visual appeal of decors. Decors may be unsafe for fish. Harmful dyes or chemicals of the decor can contaminate the water. Or if you don’t choose a finely polished item carefully, sharp edges may exist to injure fish.

No live plants:

Live plants can establish a natural healthy biological cycle in an aquarium. Plants consume toxic products as ammonia, nitrates, and carbon dioxide, and on the other hand, add oxygen to the water. Thus live plants keep the aquarium condition clean in a natural way.

I’ll not suggest newbies for a start with fish and plants at the same time. Having live aquatic plants is an excellent idea, but it requires some expertise. But it would help if you had live plants in the aquarium when you are no more a novice.

Over lighting:

Lighting is essential if you have live plants in the aquarium. But in the beginning, most newcomers introduce a lighting system to enhance the aquarium’s visual beauty.

Sometimes people keep the aquarium light on for 24 hours, but overlighting promotes algae growth. Excess algae in the tank cause oxygen deficiency and cloudy water, which upsets fish’s health.

Improper regular maintenance:

Even for seasoned aquarists, a proper schedule for maintenance is mandatory for smooth aquarium keeping. Having no fixed plan for regular maintenance is a mistake.

It would be best if you had a proper schedule for filter media replacement and water changes. In normal conditions, you should do these tasks every other week. Additionally, it is better to have a plan for water care chemical dosing, vitamin supplementation, etc.

Not having a power outage plan:

Power outage or any other failure can cause accidental poisoning. We don’t have control over an accident, but we can minimize the consequence with a proper mitigation plan.

Due to a power outage, the filter and the air pump can stop working. For a prolonged shutdown, the outcome may be fatal. Fish die if oxygen level drops. Filter media can be poisonous if kept turned off for a long time.

So it would help if you had a backup plan of power supply or any alternative method to add oxygen. It is advisable to replace filter elements in a long time service outage to prevent poisoning.

Compromising quality for money:

Budget matters! But you should not compromise the quality, especially for fishkeeping products. Often beginners suffer from buying low-quality products. As they have only a little idea about the new field, first-timers are misguided easily.

Many products in the market are cost-effective, at the same time, reliable. I’ll suggest to take an expert’s advice or go through dependable review posts and buying guides before purchase.

Taking advice from a layperson:

Knowledge is power if it is authentic. Wrong guidance can mislead you to the darkness. The same thing may happen in the fishkeeping arena. It would help if you were wise while gathering information. Don’t trust anyone blindly; always crosscheck and verify.

People can misguide you to fulfill their commercial interests. Sometimes pet shop owner’s advice is only for their business and not for your well-being.

So, I am advising not to take advice from anyone. Always seek help from an expert or a trusted friend before taking any crucial steps regarding the hobby.

Obsessed over the hobby:

Obsessing over fishkeeping is harmful to the hobby indirectly. If you are obsessed with it, there is a chance to make mistakes. Obsession increases the possibility of an impulse decision that may turn wrong at the end.

An aquarium needs some alone time for stabilizing as an ideal fish habitat.

Obsessed people get dishearted and demotivated easily, and their initial excitement may end up a heartbreaking experience.

Lack of patience:

All good things take time to flourish, and this fact is very much applicable to aquarium keeping. Nothing changes overnight here. Initially, it takes 4 to 6 weeks to get a stable aquarium condition.

The owners habituate fish in a regular diet schedule, and this practice also takes time. Fish won’t learn manners within hours, and your fish won’t grow up within days.
So keep patience, and your patience pays off at the end of the day.

fish tank problems

Final Words

Fishkeeping is a fantastic hobby to give satisfaction and relaxation that a few other hobbies can. You can have great fun and pleasure time with pretty colored fish. They can bring more color to your life.

Besides, fishkeeping is one of the low-hassle hobbies, but many people don’t know it. You have to know the tricks only, and then it’s just straightforward.

People have some misconceptions about this hobby. When you decided to be an aquarist, you have to know the fundamental things of fishkeeping.

I tried to shed light on a few essential tips to avoid fish tank problems after starting a new hobby. Don’t hesitate to share your experience and put a comment in the below comment box.

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Sujit Modak Aquarium Tales Owner
Sujit Modak

Hello, everyone! Welcome to my aquarium blog. Fishkeeping is my passion, and I started this fascinating hobby back in 2006. Besides my engineering profession, I deeply studied many fishkeeping topics since I started building my home aquarium. I researched effective aquarium filtration and lighting of planted aquariums. I am keeping 20+ species of freshwater and saltwater fish as my aquatic pet collection. I successfully experimented with a complex ecosystem inside the aquarium, biotope aquariums, aquaponics, etc. I would love to share some learnings from my hands-on experience of the last 14 years. Hopefully, my sharing will be somewhat helpful to make your aquarium journey awesome! 

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