Which fish should I get?
It is easy to make mistakes when setting up your first saltwater tank. Both for the sake of the fish and your wallet. Start with only a few hardy inexpensive fish. Most marine fish are collected in the
wild rather than captive raised, so your mistakes impact the world's oceans!
Selecting a Saltwater Fish
Since saltwater fish are usually more expensive than freshwater fish, you have a great stake in getting them home alive and keeping them alive for the long term. You must realize that most fish you see in stores were
swimming around the vast ocean a mere week ago. As such, the stress of capture and transportation can
wreak havoc with the biological processes of the animal.
The most important thing when buying a fish is to not be overcome by the buying impulse. Before buying any animal, you should ask `Can I keep it
happy'. Merely keeping the fish or invertebrate alive doesn't mean it is happy. Fifty goldfish may
live in a 10 gallon tank, but they certainly won't be happy or healthy. Buying a fish you know nothing about and then asking if you can keep this fish happy is a very bad practice. Also, as hard as it is to say this,
don't feel like you are doing a sick fish any favors by taking it home. If you have the room and time to nurture the sick fish, then I suggest you help out the environment and care for the sick fish rather than letting it die. However, if you are just going to place the fish into your main tank because you don't have
the time or inclination to set a up a quarantine tank, then don't bother. It will only result in the death of the fish and the lightening of your wallet.
Once you decide on a particular fish, don't be afraid to ask the store to hold it for you. A good store will always hold a fish for you (don't patronize stores that won't!). Also, ask to see the fish eat. If the fish is healthy and eating, then it most likely is a good specimen. Finally, check the fish closely for spots, irregular patches, missing scales, and wounds. Torn fins will usually heal and are not much of a problem.
Bringing the Fish Home
get the fish home you should set the bag in the destination tank, thus allowing the temperature to equalize. After about a half hour or so, add a 1/4 cup of tank water to the bag. Repeat this process once every 15
minutes for an hour, removing any water if the bag gets too full. Any water you remove from the bag
should be disposed of. It will most likely contain parasites and other bad things. After you have the fish acclimated to your tank's water chemistry, there are a couple of things you can do.
You can place the fish directly into the main tank and hope for the best, you can give the fish a freshwater dip and then place it into the tank, or you could place the fish into a quarantine tank. The best scenario is to give the fish a freshwater dip and place it into a quarantine tank. Keep the fish in the quarantine tank for 2 weeks and watch for signs of disease. If the fish gets sick, you can medicate the quarantine tank without affecting the chemistry of the main tank. If you are going to quarantine the fish, you should acclimate the fish to the quarantine tank's chemistry, not the main tank. If you don't use a quarantine tank, then it is a very good idea to give the fish a freshwater bath before placing it into your main tank. The freshwater bath will cause any parasites attached onto the fish to let go and remain in the freshwater (to die a lonely death). Otherwise, parasites left to their own will reproduce very rapidly in captivity and usually infect all the fish in the tank.
To give a marine fish a freshwater dip, prepare a container of dechlorinated freshwater with
a similar chemistry of the destination tank. That is, make sure the pH and temperature are as close as possible to the destination tank (this is critical!) . Remove the fish from the bag and place the fish into the container for 3 to 5 minutes. Watch the fish closely for signs of stress. If the fish stops moving or begins to float, remove it immediately and place it in the destination tank (either the main or quarantine tank). In
placing the fish into the freshwater bath, never pour the fish into the container. Use a tupperware container or a net to capture the fish and place it into the dip. The store water should never be introduced to the freshwater bath, or any of your tanks. This water usually contains all sorts of nasty diseases and organisms. If you put the fish into the main tank and it comes down with an illness, it should be removed to a quarantine tank immediately. Do not risk spreading the illness to the other fish in the tank (although it may already be too late).
Angels and Butterflies
Both of these fish are delicate and can be difficult to keep. Many butterflies have specialized
diets which make them hard to maintain in captivity. Batfish are also other fish that should be avoided.
The information in this guide is based on aquarium literature, personal experience and customer feedback. Exceptions are always possible, but these guidelines should give a basic understanding of the normal behavior of aquarium specimens. Many factors, including tank size, water quality, available hiding places, and even the order in which specimens are added, can affect compatibility.