There’s a lot to learn when setting up a fish tank. Here’s a list of some of the more frequently asked questions – hopefully these answers will help you get started on the right foot.

When should I run my tank’s lights?

A lot of new owners leave their tank lighting switched on 24/7, or otherwise don’t pay much attention to when they are turned on. Constant or inconsistent lighting can be detrimental to the health of your fish. Around 10 hours per day of light followed by 14 hours of darkness is preferable.

Since it can be difficult to remember to turn your lights on or off at the appropriate time (or you may simply not be home to do so), a timer is highly recommended. They run on a 24-hour schedule, so you can set them to turn on and off at specific intervals. For more detail on using lighting with a marine/reef aquarium take a look at our Planted Tank lighting here.

Are plants just for aesthetics?

Although the addition of plant life to your tank can provide something extra to look at and give your fish a more interesting environment, they also serve an additional purpose. Just like plant life helps supply oxygen to us, humans, it also helps regulate the aquatic environment of your fish.

These plants reduce the amount of free waste floating around with your fish. Remember, their toilet is their tank, so it helps to have something to process this waste matter. As a bonus, they produce oxygen within the water, helping to balance out any problems in this area.

By providing these benefits, the presence of plants actually helps correct any errors you might have with the chemistry of the water. They can help drastically improve the odds of fish survival.

What’s the deal with adding fish gradually?

For a new tank, it’s important to introduce no more than three fish at once. That means that when the tank is initially set up, the chlorine has been removed, and the ideal temperature has been reached, only a few fish should be added.

This will prompt the nitrogen cycle to begin, and it can take several weeks for this cycle to conclude. Adding too many fish at once can stop this cycle from properly taking place. After a few fish have had time to seed the nitrogen regulation process, you can begin to add more fish gradually.

Does an algae eater clean my tank for me?

Absolutely not, although this is a very common misconception. They will help clean your tank by consuming algae, but they produce waste of their own that they can’t remove. Adding an algae eater means your total fish population has increased, and you should clean the tank more often – not less often.

With that in mind, an algae eater can be fun to watch, and they do help keep the algae population under control – they just don’t technically clean the tank.

Does the maximum size of my fish depend on my tank?

Not at all. A fish will reach its maximum size based only on its type. A fish in a smaller tank will not reach a smaller size as a result. Based on that, it’s important to carefully select your fish based on the size of your aquarium, or you risk having to upgrade to a larger tank as they grow. Fish need plenty of room to move around to be happy, and you shouldn’t risk overpopulating your water with the wrong type of fish for your aquarium size.

What temperature is best for my water?

You should always look up your specific type of fish to determine what temperatures they are best suited for, but a general rule of thumb is around 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Most fish will be comfortable within a few degrees in either direction of this range.