By BURTON PATRICK
TOTAL PET STORES
Aquatics is one of the most instructional and educational hobbies on the planet. It teaches us about environmental issues through a basic understanding of water chemistry. There are thousands of animals that we can keep successfully in an aquarium and they all have different behaviors to observe and understand. We learn about disease and control environmental issues that affect all cold blooded animals. We learn about trophic levels that separate the predator and the prey.
To begin the process, a parent should engage their child with an aquarium project. It can’t be about the child wanting to get a fish on a whim. The parental response all too often, “Only if you take care of it.” Teaching responsibility is great, but we need to work with our children directly so that they can learn. We certainly can’t leave the entire job to our schools. All it takes is five to ten minutes per day.
As parents we have to be involved. We must set an example to show care and responsibility toward animals. Too often we shove our children in front of a TV. We need to offer them sensitivities toward this planet’s creatures and to learn from these animals by having them as guests in our homes. It doesn’t have to be a big project. A little time is all that is necessary to understand what is going on in that little microcosm called an aquarium.
The first aquarium needs to be a simple project. Don’t buy kits – they’re a waste of money and rarely provide even the bare minimum amount of equipment to properly care for a fish. Talk to your experienced, professional pet store merchants about what makes up a first aquarium. As an example, a Betta is a great first fish, but retail stores have turned that poor fish into a disposable pet because they just want to sell stuff. These big box stores will tell you it’s okay to shove the poor fish in a little bowl and call it a day. There is a right way and a wrong way to care for a Betta. It was my first fish in 1953 when I started this hobby and to this day I still relish the success I had with that first pair of Bettas. I watched the male build a bubble nest to ready the environment for hatching eggs and then accept the female into his 5 gallon tank (his whole world). I saw them embrace and lay eggs. What a treat it was to witness this happen right before my eyes. The male picked the eggs off the bottom and returned them into his nest. When they hatched I could just barely see the little tails sticking out of the nest. I even grew infusoria (food to feed the babies) from pond water I’d collected and put in my back yard in a plastic drum. I learned how to grow organisms for them to eat. I set up another container outside to grow mosquito larvae to feed the adults and baby Bettas as they grew. I sold the young to a local fish store for 10 cents. He helped both of my parents keep me on the right path to be successful. As time went on I found other older aquarists that helped me expand my knowledge. Knowledge carries forward like that. Some knowledge begets the thirst for more knowledge. The process is contagious.
The local aquarium shop was the meeting place for hobbyists both old and young. It was a neighborhood store. The older aquarists would talk shop and give me tips and some of their old equipment as well. That could never happen in a national pet store that only cares about selling stuff. A local pet store with experienced people can be a huge resource of knowledge.
What do we need to take care of a Betta properly?
- A 2 ½ gallon aquarium
- A 10 watt heater. They are a tropical fish.
- Small Sponge Filter
- Optional: a small light attached to a timer.
Putting a Betta in a small bowl with no water turnover is not very hospitable.
In summary: To start an aquarium, be patient and only get one fish. Feed the fish sparingly to allow the bacteria to colonize the aquarium and process the waste products so they do not become toxic to the fish (ammonia). Change water and keep track of the chemistry. That is easy with the test strips available today. If you have questions call me at my office (412) 367-0962 or talk to one of our people with aquarium experience. You can also ask for information by emailing us at [email protected].
I hope this little article gives people an idea about beginning aquatics.