Top 10 Mistakes



1.  Trying At The Start To Set Up Everything At Once, Including The Addition Of The Fishes

Early on, if you have not done so already, consider joining the local aquarium or pond society to learn more about fish keeping, best sources for fish and equipment, and local water conditions.  Nearby aquarium, pond, and pet stores should be of help as well, being able to tell you what societies there are locally and how to reach them. 

 If using tap water supplied by a local public water utility, contact them to get their updated reports on water quality, so that you know what planning you need to do about the water you will be using.  The local aquarium or pond society may be receiving these reports that they are providing to their members.  If not, they should be encouraged to do so.   For most localities, water sources are changing in quality over time, sometimes on a daily basis.  Knowing what those are can make "water keeping" in aquariums and ponds a lot easier. 

 What is needed at the beginning of aquarium and pond keeping is that the aquarium or pond is first set up without fishes or other aquatic life, first of all being sure that everything is working right.

 For the aquarium -- determine that the heater/thermostat is working at the right temperature.  Determine that the aeration and filtration of the water are working right.  Often not everything is working completely correctly during the first days (or weeks) and needs adjustments.  The aquarium should be given a number of days or weeks to come into balance without the addition of fishes.

 For the pond -- it is worthwhile at this time to consider what is needed to keep away predatory animals that will prey on the fishes.  One or more artificial herons around the pond may act as bird scarers, although this may attract herons rather than repel them.  Determine whether raccoons are going to be a problem, requiring protective screening around the pond.  This is best done before sacrificing the lives of too many fishes.  A good way to avoid raccoons is to construct the pond in such a way that they are not able to get at the water's edge or otherwise be able to get at the fish.  Then no barrier screening is needed. 

 In the constructing of a pond the walls should be vertical towards the water's surface and the edges of the pond should be well above the water level to keep out raccoons and other predators.  At least part of the pond should be deeper so that the fish can be protected from wading birds and other predators.  The cement lime or chemicals in the plastic liner in the pond may need to be detoxified.  This can be done by sufficient curing time before water is put in the pond, by several water changes, and by the use of Kordon's Pond Prep. 

 For a pond after its construction, the filter and water circulation need to be working well.  When all is right, which may take weeks to accomplish, then consider adding the fishes and other aquatic life.   


2.  Not Being Aware Of What Needs To Be Done When Using Water

 Water is what allows there to be life for the aquarium and pond inhabitants.  Whether the water is from a public water utility, private well, or natural water way, there are toxins in the water that need to be eliminated for fish keeping.  Common to all of these sources is that they are reaching the aquarist or pond keeper through pipes, practically always metallic with heavy metals.  Even if they are plastic, there will be metallic fittings with heavy metals in those pipes.  These pipes rust, leaching out the heavy metals into the water, which are toxic to fishes in the parts per billion.  (You read correctly, it is really parts per billion). Heavy metals at 10 parts per billion (and in some cases less -- such as for copper) are toxic to fishes.

 Tap water from public water utilities in the U.S. has to meet EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) regulations, which require up to 4 ppm toxic chlorines in the water.  These are harmful to fishes and aquatic invertebrates.  Water utilities also add ammonia to the chlorines in the water to form chloramines, which are even more harmful to fishes and aquatic invertebrates than just the chlorines alone.  Every week sees additional public water utilities adding or expanding their use of chloramines to their water supply.  Kordon AmOuel+ will solve this problem and should be added to water that comes from public water utilities.

A serious mistake that pond keepers make is not having a timer that can be put on the water hose, so that when they are refilling their pond, it will automatically go off without wasting water.  One can easily forget that the water is running.  Hoses that are left on too long can bring in excess chlorines and chloramines from the local water supplier.  These build up in the pond and are lethal to the fishes.  If the water is left on too long, immediately use overdoses of Kordon's AmQuel+ in the pond to detoxify the chloramines and their chorine and ammonia ingredients, as well as use Kordon's NovAqua+ to get rid of the heavy metals in the water. 

 Bottled water may be natural water that has all the right elements, or it may be specially prepared, lacking elements that are needed by the fishes and other aquatic life.  Bottled water can be safe as drinking water while not being safe as aquarium or pond water.  If elements in the water are in insufficient amounts, it can impede the respiration, growth, reproduction,.and other physiology of fishes and other aquatic life.  Kordon's NovAqua+ has electrolytes that will provide the necessary elements that may be missing in bottled or other water.  Together with Kordon's AmQuel+, they are appropriate for all kinds of water being used for aquarium and pond keeping.

Marine aquarists usually overlook that when they are using a sea salt mix, the water source that they are using is extremely important.  Some mixes have part of the major, minor, and trace elements needed, depending upon the tap water to have the remainder of the elements required.  However, tap water varies in its contents. 

 Other mixes are purported to have all the elements needed, so that when they are put in tap water, the result is going to be an excess of elements in the water beyond what is in sea water.  Most sea-salt mixes do not tell which they are, or how these  factors should be handled.


3 - 4

3.  Not Choosing The Right Fishes For A New Aquarium Or Pond, and Putting Incompatible Fishes Together

 Making choices of the right fishes and sizes that are suitable for the size of aquarium or pond and are compatible with each other is important.  Whether confined in an aquarium or pond, it is a living space far smaller than their natural habitat.  This means that they have to accept and adapt to the confinement and to each other.  Sometimes their decisions as to whether they will do so are in showdowns between fishes at night, not being clear to the keeper as to who is doing what.  Your choices of inmates may not be their choice as to whom they are going to accommodate. 

 For the beginning aquarist an important consideration is to start with the more adaptable species.  Seek advice as to what kind of fishes to choose from the choices locally available.  For the pond keeper, for which the choices are usually goldfish and koi, both of which get along together, the choices are clearer.  It is best to start with young fish that more easily adapt to new conditions and to each other.

While this is really part of "choosing the right fishes," it needs to be emphasized that after making presumably all the right choices, some may not turn out to be right.  Individual fishes of so-called compatible species may not be that way.  Therefore, close observation has to continue to be sure that the fishes are getting along together. 

 Another important point is whenever possible not putting in all the fish at once.  It is far better to put in one or a few fishes at the start to be sure that everything is right, before adding more fishes.  Doing the additions over weeks and months after starting saves a lot of grief. 

4.  Not Using A Quarantine Tank To Isolate Newcomers

 If all the fishes are put in together at the same time in the community aquarium or pond, then this beginning with every fish together at the start means that the quarantining and treatments needed is starting out in the community enclosure.  However, if fish are added later, isolation of the newcomers is needed in a separate enclosure for one month or more in what may be called a "quarantine tank."  For pond keeping this may be a plastic child's swimming pool.  For aquarists this may be a small aquarium of suitable size. 

A very important part of choosing the right fishes is in being as sure as one can be that they are not diseased.  But this is not easy to determine, because many fish diseases can be cryptic, not revealed until they are far advanced.  Even experts often cannot determine whether the fish are disease-free when being acquired. 

 For example, "white spot disease" (also called Ich after one of its scientific names Ichthyophthirius) consists of very tiny white spots that in their first hours of development are often transparent and easily overlooked.  Also, most species of Ich prefer at the start to infect in the mouth, gills, and nostrils of the fish, where the infection is hard to see, before spreading to the surface of the head, body, and fins of the fish.  By the time the hidden infection is discovered on the outside of the fish, it may be too late to save them. 

 The greatest grief in aquarium and pond keeping is when fish are added to community aquariums or ponds with other fishes, without the newcomers being quarantined for at least a month or more before their addition with the others.  The quarantine period is needed to be sure that the fish are not infected.  No matter what the source, often there is not sufficient time devoted to isolating the fish so that one can be sure that the fishes do not carry any infections.  That is why at least a month or more of isolation is needed before putting them with other fishes in a community aquarium or pond. 

 It is recommended that there be close observation and preventive treatment while the fish are in quarantine, such as by using one of the organic naphthoquinone treatments (Kordon's Prevent Ich, Ich Attack, or Rid Fungus), all of which are effective.  These treatments do not require water changes between treatments and are easy to use.


5 - 6

5.  Not Understanding "New Tank (or Pond) Syndrome" And What Needs To Be Done About It

"New Tank (or Pond) Syndrome" refers to the need for the water conditions to go through the "Nitrogen Cycle," which takes a month or more in every new aquarium, and longer in new colder water outdoor ponds.  Each step of the cycle -- from fish excreting toxic ammonia in the water, and nitrifying bacteria successively converting it into toxic nitrites and then to nitrates -- is prone to disrupt the organic life in the water and kill fishes.  The process can easily be made nontoxic without disturbing the bacteria involved by using Kordon AmQuel+ during the time that the fish are exposed to the "Nitrogen Cycle" (also called "New Tank (or Pond) Syndrome"). 

 A misunderstanding that many aquarists and pondkeepers have is where the bacteria come from that are important in "New Tank (or Pond) Syndrome" and the "Nitrogen Cycle."  These bacteria come in on the fishes and other aquatic animals.  Often these bacteria are naturally wild forms of the bacteria species and are not adapted to being in home aquariums and ponds.  Therefore, their reproductive rate and survivability in aquariums and ponds can be greatly  impaired. 

It is far better to add the right cultured bacteria that have been reproduced for many thousands of generations over decades in confined conditions.  These hardy bacteria are well adapted to aquarium and pond conditions.  They will quickly replace the nitrifying bacteria that came in on the fishes and improve the speed and efficiency of removing toxic ammonia and nitrites in the water.  One of the longest cultured strains of nitrifying bacteria with the right species for aquarium and pond keeping are in Kordon's Freshwater ZymBac and Saltwater ZymBac .

 As sludge builds up in the aquarium or pond, it is important to add the right live sludge bacteria that will consume and detoxify the sludge.  These are different species than in the "Nitrogen Cycle."  While they can come into the aquarium and pond through the air and otherwise, cultured sludge bacteria that have been grown many generations for aquarium and pond conditions are more stable and effective.  Kordon's cultured sludge removing bacteria for freshwater and saltwater Tidy Tank and freshwater Tidy Tank are recommended. 

6.  Overfeeding The Fishes

 Most aquarium and pond keepers start out by over feeding their fishes, because they do not consider that the fishes are cold blooded and that their metabolism is far lower than in warm-blooded pet animals.  At most - for maximum growth rate - fishes need 3% of their body weight in food per day.  In fact for regular aquarium and pond keeping in confined living quarters for the fishes, it can be as little as one third or less of that.  Also, they do not just eat the food provided.  Their habitat over time becomes a source of food growing billions of microscopic-sized edible organisms that they regularly feed upon. 

 When the fishes are picking over the bottom and surfaces, they are after this food, which is mostly beneficial bacteria and algae, supplying to the fishes an important food source.  In outdoor ponds with insects and other organisms available naturally, fishes have more live food available than is normally realized -- meaning that less feeding should be done by the pond keeper. 

Fishes should be fed no more than they can consume in about one minute or so at any one feeding, and the feedings should be kept to once or a few times per day, depending upon the needs of the fishes.   There are fishes that will beg for food even when they do not really need a feeding.  This happens mostly when feeding times are erratic, so that the fishes keep trying to get more food, not knowing when the next feeding will be.  Regular feeding times will usually lessen this behavior.  Also keep in mind that fishes in cold-water conditions need far less food than do warm and tropical water fishes.

 The result of overfeeding fishes is that the food not eaten may rot out of sight in the bottom cover, and in the nooks and crannies of the aquarium or pond, causing the water to become polluted and toxic.  The aquarium or pond keeper should be regularly using a cleaner that sucks up debris from the bottom to keep the water clean.  This is helped in aquarium and pond keeping by adding sludge removing bacteria to the water.

 The usual sign of excess food, or dead organisms being in the water, is from cloudy white water.  This is caused by gram positive bacteria that come in through the air after the food.  The best thing to do is find the bacteria's food source in the water and remove it.  If it is from over feeding, use the white cloudiness as a sign that the amount of food provided needs to be reduced. 


7 - 8

7.  Overcrowding Fishes With Insufficient Aeration In The Water

 Outdoor ponds exposed to the weather usually fare better in this regard, because outdoor air movement circulates the surface of the water and provides oxygen.  But in enclosed aquariums dependent upon the electrical equipment to do all the water circulation and oxygenation of the water,  this is of greater concern.  In crowded aquariums the availability of oxygen in the water can be marginal.  Anything that goes wrong can cause lack of oxygen and suffocation of the fishes.  Ponds that are well stocked with fishes can have an oxygen deficit as well.  If they are dependent  upon electrical equipment for all the water circulation, making certain that it is all working properly is of primary concern.

A common mistake in aquarium and pond keeping is to think that the water filtering equipment will be adequate for all the water circulation needed, particularly when waterfall type filters are used that spill water onto the aquarium's or pond's surface.  Water circulation in the aquarium and pond needs to be from the bottom to the surface, lifting out the build up of carbon dioxide from the breathing of the organisms in the water, so that oxygen can get into the water from the air above. 

 Waterfall type filters that empty the water onto the surface are inadequate in crowded aquariums and ponds. Airstones lifting the water up from the bottom by its air bubbles are of real help.  A water pump can be of big help, particularly for marine aquariums that are at a tropical temperature with marginal capacity for oxygen in the water, as well as for ponds that are crowded or have large fish.

 For another example, when Kordon AmQuel+ is used to condition the water, its reaction uses per dose 0.3-0.4 ppm (parts per million) of oxygen in the process.  Under most circumstances in aquarium and pond keeping this is no problem.  But when a single waterfall filter is used for water circulation in a crowded aquarium or pond,  there can be a lack of enough oxygen in the water.  Extra aeration of the water is needed -- either by a water pump or by air pump with airstones.


8.  Not Having Adequate Shelter For the Fishes

Fishes confined in an aquarium or pond need places to which they can retreat for protection.  Without this they are constantly vulnerable to the more aggressive fishes.  This retreat can be in plants -- real or plastic -- rocks, ceramic objects, uneven bottoms, etc. 

 Be sure that the rocks or other objects are nontoxic free of heavy metals, such as can be in toxic quartz rock.  Just knowing that a retreat is available when needed can be reassuring to the fishes' well being.  Even a lone fish can be in a better mood from having a retreat available.  For many fishes a natural bottom cover, such as gravel, in which they can forage for food as they would naturally do, can be assuring to them.

9 - 10

9.  Misusing Water Test Kits While Trying To Find Needed Answers About Water Quality

The basic water tests that the aquarist and pond keeper mainly learn about for their "water keeping" are for pH (how acid or basic the water is), and extent of the toxic organic nitrogen compounds in the water in the form of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.  The test kits most used are colorimetric, using colored test strips, or liquid reagents, or dry powder reagents.  The more advanced testers which are usually more accurate are electronic, providing digital readings.

 The main mistakes in water testing are in using cheap inaccurate test kits without realizing that most do not work properly, as well as by the tester not clearly understanding what the readings should be for the fish and aquatic invertebrates.  The other mistake is in using out of date reagents in the colorimetric tests.  If the reagents are out of date, or if the test kits do not date their reagents, they should not be used, because they are likely to be inaccurate. 

10.  Misunderstanding One's Ability To Diagnose Fish Diseases And Prescribe Treatments

Many aquarists and pond keepers are slow to recognize when their fish are sick, and over estimate their ability to diagnose what is actually wrong with them.  It is important continually to monitor the fishes' health, because water transmits diseases very rapidly.  When there is an infection, immediate action needs to be taken to diagnose and treat the fishes properly.  Often it can be multiple infections when the fishes' immune resistance goes down due to the first infection lowering their ability to resist diseases. 

 When the aquarist or pond keeper recognizes that their fish are sick, action needs to be taken immediately to provide the right treatment procedures.  For the nonexpert this means that help is needed.  It is advisable to prepare ahead of time as to where that help is going to come from.  It should be emphasized that joining a local aquarium or pond society, from which advice and help can be obtained when needed, can be a life saver for your fish when most needed.  See Kordon Articles "What To Do When Your Aquarium Or Pond Fish Are Sick" , and "Useful Sources Aquatic Animal Health".

 A common treatment used for fishes in fresh water, particularly in pond keeping, is the addition of salt to the water.  It is important to know that for many primary freshwater fishes, whose ancestry for millions of years is entirely fresh water -- such as koi carp and goldfish -- salt is harmful to them long term in the water.  When the treatment is completed, the salt should be removed from the water by sufficient water changes.