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Is Fish Keeping Easy? What You Need to Know Before Starting




Man feeding fishes in the aquarium

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Fishkeeping is a generally pleasurable hobby. To most aspiring fish keepers, it looks much easier than other pet-keeping hobbies.

Well, like any other hobby it has ups and downs so you’re likely to face a couple of challenges along the way.

However, the best way to overcome or even prevent most of the challenges with fishkeeping is to carry out sufficient research.

The ease of the hobby depends on various factors. So, what do you need to know before starting fishkeeping as a hobby?

Types of Fish

Not all fish are created equal. Excited newbies want to collect any fish because of how pretty they look but it doesn’t work like that.

Fish Species

You need to pick fish that are beginner-friendly – readily available, resilient, nice to look at, and easy to care for. 

Some great low-maintenance fish to start with are common goldfish, tetras, harlequin rasboras, platties, bettas, corydoras, cichlids, and molly fish.

Some fish can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Yes, even millions. A koi Carp once sold for over $1.5 million dollars.

Fish Compatibility

The last thing you want to experience is aggression among different species. A happy tank is a healthy tank. 

Some species are happy on their own while others will gladly live with other peaceful species.

For example, mollies and platties do well with other peaceful community fish while cichlids can be aggressive and territorial.

planted aquarium background with schooling of tropical fish

Fish Vs Water Type

Also, you want to make sure that you keep the type of fish that will survive in the type of water you already have flowing from your faucet. 

If you have hard water, get hard water species like mollies, platties, and some cichlids.

If you have soft water, get soft water species like rasboras, tetras, barbs, and corydoras. 

Keep in mind that some originally soft water fish can successfully survive in hard water tanks.

Although you can soften hard water using reverse osmosis, it’s expensive. 

Collecting rainwater is tedious and unpredictable, while water softened with domestic water softeners is not suitable for fish tanks.

The Tank

Before you buy a tank, consider a couple of factors that will guide you in making the right choice.

Size and Location of Your Space

Where are you placing the tank? On a piece of furniture or in free space? How big is your space? 

If your tank is smaller than 20 gallons, it will fit well on a sturdy desk or shelf. A tank bigger than 20 gallons will need a dedicated fish tank stand. 

Make sure the floor on which you are placing the tank is leveled. 

boy feeding fish in the aquarium

Keep the tank away from windows and doors. Weather and temperature changes will affect the tank.

During winter, the cold air will make it difficult to maintain proper water temperature.

When it’s hot, if there’s direct sunlight to the tank, it will be difficult to manage algae issues in the tank.

Type of Fish

Research the fish before you buy the tank. Your fish will determine the size of the tank you buy. Some fish remain fairly small while others grow big. 

For example goldfish on average grow up to 2 inches in small tanks and don’t grow bigger than 6 inches, while mollies grow up to 6 inches. 

Cichlids can grow up to 14 inches long. The bigger your fish grow, the larger size of a tank you’ll need, depending on how many of those fish you intend to keep.

Recommended Size and Emergency Tank

For a beginner, a 10-gallon tank is the recommended size as it’s easier to maintain the water parameters and keep them stable than a smaller size tank. 

You’ll also be able to keep adding a couple of fish with time as you grow in the hobby. 

Make sure to get a ‘hospital’ tank for emergencies. When one of your fish falls sick, you’ll want to treat it separately as the medication will affect the other healthy fish. 

If the sick fish are the majority in the pond, simply put the healthy fish in the emergency pond until the others are back to good health.

How Much Time Do You Have?

If you thought that fishkeeping was a matter of buying a couple of fish and a tank then watching them swim whenever you can, you got it wrong. 

You’ll need to invest time in these activities to ensure the wellbeing of your fish:

Cleaning the Tank

Its important to create time for cleaning your fish tank thoroughly.

This includes rinsing the substrate then adding it to the tank, adding water and a de-chlorinator, installing tank equipment like heaters (if applicable), air pumps, filters, and lights, then adding live plants and decoration.

Man cleaning aquarium using magnetic fish tank cleaner.

Cycling the Tank

This crucial process establishes a colony of bacteria which converts ammonia (from the fish’s excretion) into nitrite (toxic) and then nitrate (non-toxic). 

It can take up to seven weeks before introducing the fish to the water.


This involves cleaning the tank by vacuuming the debris, scraping algae off the inside glass, cleaning the filter, cleaning the stones and decorations, changing up to 50% of the water in the tank, and cleaning the outside glass. 

Small size tanks of up to 5 gallons only require 15 to 30 minutes while bigger tanks will take about an hour.


You’ve probably heard that some fish species can go for several days without eating. That doesn’t mean you should starve them, they’ll get sick. 

You must put in the effort to feed most fish in small quantities at least twice a day.

This activity takes only a few minutes, then you have to remove the leftover food too.

woman feeding food to the carp

Watching the Fish

What’s the point in having fish if you never watch them? Watching your fish swim around and explore the tank is a way to interact with them without having physical contact with them. 

You’ll learn and observe their behavior as well be able to tell if they are unwell.

It’s a soothing and calming activity with several health benefits. 

You can do this for a couple of minutes to as many hours as you can.

Be honest with yourself. Are you dedicated enough to commit the time to these activities?

If you can, fish keeping will be easy for you.

Join a Fish Keeping Community

Having a group of people with similar interests that you can share ideas with will make fish keeping a lot easier. 

Whether you meet physically or virtually, you’ll keep learning and growing.

If possible, visit community members to get direct experience and advice. 

Lots of sources will have something to say, but nothing beats first-hand information.

Final Word

Many fish keepers will quit a few months down the line especially because they did not research. Fishkeeping will be as easy as you are prepared. 

Now that you have all this information and hopefully a large dose of patience, you’re set up for success.

This doesn’t mean you won’t face any challenge, but it will definitely make it so much easier. 

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