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Choosing Fish & Plants For Your Saltwater Aquarium
If you're getting into the hobby of running an aquarium, particularly of the salt-water variety, understand that there's more to it than simply putting a bunch of water and fish into a fishbowl. Talk to your ADMA certified pet store about handling requirements for specific kinds of fish, how to maintain the pH (percent Hydroxide, or acidy) of the water, and what levels of salinity are needed to keep everything working nicely.
Fish for saltwater aquariums are rated by their difficulty to handle, and how quickly they adapt to new circumstances. The five categories for handling are Beginner, Intermediate Skill Required, Reef Only, Advanced Skill Required, and Requirements Unknown. Make sure that your selected fish meet the skill requirements you'll need to thrive and survive in your aquarium, by talking to the store owner.
When looking at fish in the store, take the time to observe them for a while before buying. Far better to find out that the fish is sick or injured before you buy it than after you've taken it home. Comparison shop between multiple stores.
There are some easy to check items that will help you get the most pleasure out of setting up your aquarium, and help make sure that the fish you get is healthy; all of them boil down to checking the behavior and appearance of the fish before you buy.
In particular, look at the eyes – the eyes should be bright, and active, rather than recessed or seeming small, or "filmed over" – the eye of a fish is the most common place for infections to show symptoms, and it's worth checking over the course of a week or so at the store to make sure the fish is healthy. The soft tissues around the mouth are another place where fungal or bacterial infections can show, and it's better to find out about them at the store. Mouth injuries can also affect the fish's willingness to feed itself.
For overall body characteristics, make sure that the fish is moving fluidly – that it's passing water through its gills regularly, rather than spasmodically. Check for tears and raggedness on the fins; this can be a sign that it's fought with other tank mates, or that it's suffering from ammonia burns from improper filtration. Check the abdominal region and the scales; if the abdomen is "fat", the fish is eating well, and can probably adjust to the shocks of moving to a new tank. If the abdomen is sunken in, the fish isn't eating well and may not be viable. Likewise the coloration and status of the scales should be smooth and even; missing scales and discolored blotches are signs of infection, particularly when matched with spasmodic gill action.
Finally, don't neglect plants for your aquarium, but do make sure that they aren't ones that will cause problems with your new fish! Again, talk to the fish store owner to make sure that the plants and fish are compatible!
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