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Taking Care of Pet Fish 101

This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com on behalf of Mars Fish Care and the API brand

Fishkeeping is our most recent hobby, and we are sharing with you everything we recently learned about caring for pet fish in an indoor aquarium, specifically tropical community fish in a freshwater tank. The boys have always wanted a pet, but neither my husband or I wanted to walk a dog daily, or worry about what to do with a pet while we travel, or any of the other responsibilities that come along with caring for most types of pets. Having an aquarium with colorful fish is not only beautiful decor for the home, it allows family members to have fun learning to take care of fish. Children learn to feed fish, clean up tanks, how to create an atmosphere to make life for the fish enjoyable, and even about the different types of fish and how to choose your pets and care for them.

Pet fish seem like the right way to go for us, and it’s already a lot of fun. The best part is that the boys were part of every step, and now we are fish parents, and have a beautiful fish tank with a gorgeous, tropical blue Veiltail Male betta fish (and plan to add more soon). It was important that we first learned how to properly set up a fish tank to house our pet fish, so we participated in a Zoom class with Gary Jones, Manager of Industry Relations and resident (self-proclaimed) fish nerd at Mars Fishcare, who taught us how to set up and properly care for our own freshwater tropical community tank. We are sharing everything we learned and what we did in detail below. Mars Fishcare supports happy fish families, and sent us a “Welcome the the Hobby” gift of API brand items we needed to start us off and to make sure our fish have a happy and safe home.

Taking Care of Pet Fish 101

1. Buy the equipment To start our community of Tropical Fish, we bought a 10 gallon fish tank, as well as 15 pounds of gravel, and along with the package from Mars Fishcare, we were ready to set things up! We set up the aquarium on a level, flat surface away from lots of foot traffic, to keep the aquarium safe. We installed the water filter, LED light, and water heater. Gravel should be small pebble-sized, as smaller may be too dusty and doesn’t allow water to filter through as well. Gravel should be rinsed in a colander until the water runs clear before adding to the tank, and inside the tank it should reach a level of between 1-2 inches high at the bottom of the tank. We chose pretty naval colors for our gravel, a combination of aquamarine blue, navy blue, and white stones.

2. Set up the aquarium We filled up the tank until tap water level was a few inches high, then added in our decor and plants. Then we finished filling up the tank with water and waited until the water heater indicated a temperature of at least 76º F. The ideal temperature for a freshwater community of tropical fish in an aquarium is between 76º and 78º F. It should never fall to 74º F or lower because these are tropical fish that originated in the equator and thrive in warmer water. If you are getting goldfish or other non-tropical fish, they don’t require a heated aquarium, so you can skip buying the water heater.

3. Reduce tap water stress We added API Stress Coat to the water because it instantly makes tap water safe for fish by removing chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals. Add about 5ml (one teaspoon) API Stress Coat to a 10 gallon aquarium fish tank; there is a dosing cup in the cap to make this easy. API Stress Coat enhances the slime coat on the fish, which is protective and heals damaged tissue (sometimes fish get little nicks while transferred between containers), and it reduces electrolyte loss in fish.

Once the API Stress Coat has been added in, fish can be added. A ten gallon tank could house between 10-15 small tetra fish, or 2-4 angel fish (which can grow larger), as well as about two scavengers, which are fish that live closer to the bottom of the fish tank and scavenge for fallen food. Scavengers are great and clean up the aquarium, but are usually less colorful than tropical fish that swim around higher up. The water should be cleaned about monthly to help keep it clean, and each time API Stress Coat should be used again. In addition to helping reduce stress on fish and healing damaged tissue, API Stress Coat reduces fish susceptibility to disease and infection.

4. Start nitrate cycle and add enzymes Next we added API Quick Start to start the nitrate cycle, and API Aquarium Salt to add enzymes to the fish environment. API Quick Start is a nitrifying bacteria that allows for the instant addition of fish, and immediately starts the natural aquarium cycle with beneficial bacteria that converts toxic ammonia into nitrite, then into harmless nitrate to help prevent fish loss in your tank. It may be used in both fresh and saltwater aquariums.

API Aquarium Salt is made from evaporated sea salt and improves gill function, making it easier for fish to breathe and provides essential electrolytes that fish need to reach peak coloration and vitality. We added one tablespoon of Aquarium Salt per 5 gallons (so two tablespoons for our 10 gallon tank) and will add again with each partial water change. It should be used both when starting a freshwater aquarium fish tank and when replenishing the water.


5. Test water levels API 5 in 1 Dip Strips check the nitrate and nitrite levels of the water to ensure that a proper nitrate cycle has started. The API 5 in 1 Dip Strips check nitrate levels, nitrite levels, the pH, GH, and kH. It may take a few weeks for the aquarium to reach balance, and these test strips can help pet fish owners correct unsafe water conditions with the information provided by these easy to use test strips. Dip a test strip directly into the aquarium and compare the colors on the strip to the color card to understand the water conditions of the aquarium. Ideally the ammonia and nitrites should be zero. API Ammo Lock can be used to detoxify the ammonia when it is detected.

Once a week, use API Stress Zyme to supply the water with five strains of Bacillus bacteria that help to clean up the aquarium. Bacillus bacteria is the “cleansing bacteria” in the tropical community’s aquarium home. API Stress Zyme contains over 300 million live bacteria per teaspoonful to consume sludge and reduce aquarium maintenance, keeping your aquarium clean and improving the natural aquarium cycle- basically an active biological filter to keep the aquarium cleaner and the fish healthier fish. This product may be used in both fresh and saltwater aquariums about once weekly.

6. Feed pet fish API Tropical Flakes are a great choice for fish food, and supply tropical freshwater fish with everything they need: fats, amino acids, proteins, etc. API Tropical Flakes are designed specifically for tropical community fish such as Angelfish, Tetras, and Barbs, and help fish to function properly and stay strong. The unique formula results in fish releasing up to 30% less ammonia than the leading competitor.

Overfeeding can dirty the water and overfeed the fish (who will keep eating), so if you have small children helping to feed the fish, teach them to add a pinch of fish food to the cap, and to sprinkle the fish food from the cap into the water. If they sprinkle from the main Tropical Flakes bottle, they may spill in too much. Fish should ideally be fed a pinch of food twice daily. Larger fish may prefer API Tropical Pellets to flakes because of their density, but our fish is happy with the flakes.

7. Keep the tank clean To clean the tank, drain about 25% of the water from the tank every one to two weeks, and refill with tap water. Don’t forget to add in API Stress Coat and API Aquarium Salt again (just enough for the 25% of added water, not a full supply since 75% of the water is still treated and the API Aquarium Salt does not evaporate). We keep a small fish net nearby to clean the top of the water if we notice anything building up, but overall maintaining the cleanliness of the water in our tropical aquarium has been easy with our API products and biweekly water changes. When you first set up the tank, you may notice air bubbles on the inside surface of the glass for the first day or two, but this goes away once the water reaches the proper temperature and everything normalizes.

Some fish don’t play nicely with others, and our local pet shop had bettas ready, which are rather territorial. If you’d like to add a lot of fish right away, avoid betta fish. The Veiltail Male we purchased is also known as a Siamese Fighting fish, and he happily owns the tank by himself. We plan to replenish our fish tank with friendly community fish once they are available (and separate them from our fighting betta), because we are very excited about a full tank of colorful community fish, and maybe a snail or two on the bottom ♥︎ Our goal is to have a tank with some guppies, swordtails, angel fish, and tetras.

The Joy of Fishkeeping: Tropical Community Fish

Our indoor community aquarium with current resident Tropical Blue (my younger son named him) is a beautiful focal point in our home, and watching the fish swim around is incredibly relaxing. We originally wanted pet fish to teach the boys some responsibility while giving in to their (very normal) desire to have pets, and it’s grown to all of us loving this aquatic creature in our midst. There are so many fish to choose from, and so many styles and sizes of aquariums. If your children want pet fish, they can help choose the type of fish, the aquarium decor, the gravel color, and more, feeling connected to the atmosphere of the water world they are building. They can learn about fish (pick up some books from the library so they can learn more if they are interested), how to clean aquariums and how to choose fish that are suitable for aquarium life. They can learn which fish are friendly and which are territorial, which help clean the tank and which are mostly decorative, and how to safely feed fish.


The API brand is passionate about fishkeeping, pioneering in the aquatics industry for almost sixty years, and developing and manufacturing hundreds of quality products to help people create and enjoy their underwater worlds. Products include top of the line water conditioners, testing kits, medications, and food for ornamental aquarium and pond fish. Find out more about fishkeeping, including how to set up a freshwater tank aquarium and start caring for your pet fish and fish tank here: visit apifishcare.com. Mars Fishcare and API look forward to helping you set up your own aquatic world!




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