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Watch Your Language!

by Mark Lehr

In reality, you have probably already run into this problem without knowing it. Most newcomers to the hobby are quick to learn the word hardy . They are told to buy only hardy fish when first setting up the tank, and to save the more difficult fish for when the tank is well established. It is this single word, difficult , which I have problems with and I believe causes more confusion that necessary. Hopefully I can help a few of you to better understand what it means for a fish to be difficult to keep.

The first problem is that few fish are truly difficult to keep. That is, difficult if you define the word to mean unforgiving, or likely to drop dead if you look at it to long. Unfortunately, when an advanced hobbyist says a fish is difficult, this is often the perception of the word difficult that the beginner experiences. In reality, what the advanced hobbyist is trying to communicate is entirely different.

In the aquarium hobby, the word difficult means that the fish has specific, or special requirements, and therefore doesn't live very long if these requirements aren't met. Using this definition, I must say that almost all fish are difficult to keep. Even the everyday goldfish has very specific requirements if they are to live a long life. They need a cool temperature, a diet high in vegetable matter and fat, and frequent partial water changes to account for the large amounts of waste they produce. These requirements are very specific. But if these requirements are met, goldfish will be extremely long lived and very hardy .

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Another factor which may make a fish difficult to keep is feeding. What does it eat? Some fish are extremely shy eaters and need food which slowly sinks, so that they dont have to stray to far from home. Other fish simply need different types of food. By that I mean that flake food is not always best. Dwarf Gouramies definitely do best when feed a variety of foods. These may be bloodworms, brine shrimp, and tubifex worms, along with the everyday flake food. This is an example of when a difficult fish can be kept in you aquarium. All you have to do is change your feeding habits slightly to accommodate the new fish.

Perhaps the most difficult problem to overcome is a fish which likes water chemistry different from what you are maintaining, or different water chemistry than the fish which you already have. In this case, sometimes there is nothing you can do. You can't keep Discus, which like soft water , a low pH, and a temperature of 84 degrees F., with Swordtails, which like hard water with a high pH and a temperature of around 76 degrees F. But most of the time the difference in preferred water chemistry is not that drastic. For most fish a pH of around 6.8 to 7.4 is adequate. Most fish also will do fine at a temperature of around 74 - 78 degrees F. Often all you will need to do is adjust the pH of the water slightly to suit the new fish you wish to add to the tank. Even those difficult to keep Sailfin Mollies should not have a problem if you keep the pH and temperature in the upper range of acceptability, around 7.4 and 78 degrees F respectively.

hardy ones.

Till next time, keep up with the partial water changes, enjoy your tank, and buy that difficult fish you just can't resist.

Mark Lehr


Created by liquid
Last modified 2006-11-18 18:31