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Buying Healthy Fish

Honey Gourami, it’s time.

Time for probably the funnest part about owning your own aquarium – bringing home your new fish family.

Now, before you dive in and buy your aquarium fish, you’ll want to make sure your tank is set up, and that you’ve had it running for at least a couple of days. This will make sure all systems are a ‘go’ for your Silver Angelfish, among others. And particularly if you’re planning on a brood of tropical fish, an early startup of your aquarium will make sure the temperature is juuuust right.

Aquarium, tick.

Once you’re ready to buy your new fish, it’s best to visit a reputable pet or aquatic store, to make sure things go swimmingly. But before you go in, it’s always smart to have decided which species of fish you’d like, and how many you want. Especially being pet-lovers, this will help you avoid temptation or pressure to purchase a fish you weren’t planning on – one that could turn your whole aquarium experience overboard.

Now, you don’t want to buy your entire school at once – you may be baiting chaos, there. Start with just a few of the strongest species. Then, as the weeks go on, slowly increase the number of finny friends in your fish tank. But of course, only if you want to – and if you’ve allowed for more residents in your Hotel Califishy.

Fishies decided, tick.

You’ve made it through the fake coral and plastic castles, and now it’s time for the real deal – picking out your fish. But before you grab that little net, here’s what to look for:

Activity. The fish you want should be swimming easily around the aquarium, with the others. If you spot one swimming upside down, he’s probably not practicing his backstroke, but rather, heading for that plastic castle in the sky. So, you’ll probably want to leave him on his way. That goes for any fish at the top of the tank, or sitting along the bottom (unless he’s a bottom feeder, of course).

Eyes. The eyes of the fish should be bright and clear – which will probably make up about 99 percent of them. Although some fish will have strange-looking eyes, and not just because he’s unsure of your outfit. He’s actually probably healthy, but to be sure, it’s probably a good idea to really know the characteristics of the fish you’re looking to buy.

Fins. While focusing on fins, make sure the dorsal fin isn’t folded down. Sadly, this is the sign of an unhealthy fish. He also shouldn’t have a split fin – yeouch! – but do check with the fish-heads, er sales staff, anyway, since torn fins can heal quickly. You’ll also want to make sure there aren’t any signs of fungus, or white spots on the fin.

Scales. Scales should be shiny, and free of white spots and excessive mucus. (Best not to swim around those.)

Aquarium. The aquarium should be clean and the water, clear. Dirty water and tanks are signs that the poor little fish aren’t being properly cared for. Check out all the other aquariums in the store, as this will let you know just how good – or not – the store’s maintenance and upkeep of fish, really is.

To be fair, fishies, pet stores aren’t very likely to sell diseased or unhealthy fish, since they do have a reputation to uphold – much like the Gold Angelfish –  and want you to come back, for Guppy’s sake. Sometimes you may notice sick Siamese Fighting Fish among others, and if you do, let the store know. They might not even be aware of it. Usually, the shop will check out the tiny swimmers, and if they are sick, they’ll stop selling them until they’re better. Whew.

Getting your new fish home safe, from top to tail.

It’s always a good idea to tell the pet store how long your new finny friends will be in the bag, before you’re able to release them into their new home. In the meantime, here’s our petspert advice:

Bag at store Time before release Comments
Store added oxygen 36 hours Fish will be fine in the bag for up to 36 hours, very dependent on temperature.
Store added air 2 hours More air than water is needed to keep the right oxygen exchange. This way, fish can stay in the bag for up to two hours, dependent on how many fish are in the bag.

Getting fish into the aquarium, without tanking.

The best way to get your fish family safely into the tank is to do it in a couple of stages:

Stage What to do Why Time
Stage 1 Float the bag of fish in your aquarium. Allow time to adjust to the tank water temperature. 10 minutes
Stage 2 Add water from your aquarium to the bag of fish. Give the fish time to acclimatise to the water. 10 minutes
Important During this process, be careful to never add water from the fish store to the water in your aquarium.

Raising a healthy fish family.

Swim on over to our health care section for info on how to keep your aquarium fish healthy; a list of common fish diseases; and how to care for sickie fishies.