How to Keep Fish Alive in an Aquarium...

Fish produce waste which releases toxic ammonia in their water!
When present in an aquarium, Ammonia rapidly escalates into a serious situation for your fish, within hours.

So, how do fish survive in an aquarium?

There are two primary aquarium maintenance tasks needed to keep fish alive long-term: 

1.    Cycling 
2.   Water Changes

Lets dive in!

What is Cycling an Aquarium and How do I do it?

Cycling is the process of getting a colony of beneficial bacteria established in your aquarium. These natural strains of bacteria break down ammonia into other chemicals (Nitrite and then into Nitrate) which are not as immediately harmful to fish. When your aquarium is fully cycled, a water test should indicate that you have no ammonia or nitrite. However, Nitrate will be present. You can cycle an aquarium either by purchasing beneficial bacteria from your local fish store or by transferring it from an existing established aquarium. There are many online resources explaining this process in detail. If you want to learn more, we recommend that you research the “Ammonia Cycle.”

Beneficial bacteria live on surfaces throughout the aquarium and filter. Most aquarium filters are designed with biological media intended to provide adequate surface areas for bacteria to thrive. Additionally, using a filter assists with removing detritus and maintaining clear water.

Oxygenation - Most fish need a high level of dissolved oxygen in their water to breathe. Without adequate oxygen in their water, fish can suffocate.  Also, as fish produce waste, detritus can build up in the aquarium. If your aquarium filter does not produce enough water motion to provide adequate oxygen for your fish, an aquarium air pump with airline tubing and an airstone can be used to deliver additional oxygen to your fish.

What are Water Changes and How do I do them?

Even Nitrate, at high levels, becomes toxic to fish. To keep fish healthy, this nitrate needs to be removed from the water. Because a little nitrate (20 parts per million [ppm] or less) is not going to be overly harmful to fish, you can remove about 25% of the water from your aquarium per week and replace it with conditioned freshwater (water conditioners neutralize chloramines, chlorine, heavy metals, and other fish toxins).

Excess food - In addition to fish waste producing Ammonia, uneaten food can also lead to Ammonia spikes. Be sure to only feed what your fish can consume in about 2 minutes and remove excess from the aquarium to avoid polluting the water.