Aquarium Questions And Answers – Ask The Fish experts 2022!

Ask The Fish experts!

Art Bell and Scott Henderson are not businessmen. They are aquatic (and reptile) hobbyists like you. They have a combined experience of over 30 years as hobbyists and 15 years working in various pet stores in the area. Send any aquatic questions to Art and Scott.

Q: Dear Peter,

I would like to keep and breed Angelfish. Can you tell me how to purchase a male and a female?

Fish Lover     

A: Dear Fish Lover,

Your best bet is to purchase 7 or 8 young fish, odds are some will be males and some will be females. As they grow, they will pair up on their own. Good luck!


Q: Dear Fish Doctor,

I would like to set up my first aquarium. Is a 10-gallon tank a good size to start out with?

Thank you, Fish Lover

A: Dear Fish Lover,

Many people purchase 10-gallon aquarium starter kits and meet with failure. In my opinion, 30-40 gallons is a much better choice. More water volume allows for a more stable environment.


Q: Dear Art & Scott,

I currently have a 150-gallon tank for African Cichilds and have been interested in salt water experience for a few months now. What is the best way to convert, as I have 3 filtration units on the tank now. Also what are the better-suited fish for a beginner? And one more thing; what additional equipment will be needed?
Thanks in advance,


A: Hello Deloris,

For starters, a 150-gallon tank is a great size to work with. Depending on what type of filters you are currently running, there are a few things that will need to be upgraded. One of the most important things that will help keep a healthy ecosystem is “Live Rock”. Live Rock is rock (mostly dead coral skeletons) that has been covered over with various types of bacteria and organisms. These living things help in many ways to create a long-lasting environment that will support fish and corals of all types and sizes.

That brings us to our next upgrade: lighting. The type of light that you will need depends on what you want to get out of your tank. If you want to get into some of the more difficult corals, then T5, Metal Halide, or LED lighting is the way to go. These will cost around $1000 and up to as much as over $2000.

If you’re more interested in fish than corals, then you can keep fish and lower-light corals with a much less expensive Power Compact Fluorescent light. These will cost between $300 and $600.

The only filter that would be a huge help would be a “Refugium”. If you have a drilled tank with a sump this is very easy to do. If you don’t have a drilled tank it is even easier. Most sumps can be converted to a refugium with a baffle system (pieces of plastic to control water movement). There are refugiums that hang on the back of the aquarium and they come with a pump and light. These install very easily as long as your aquarium is at least 4″ (check the overall width of the refugium you are going to purchase) away from the wall.

Last but not least, a Substrate for the bottom of the main aquarium is needed. Use at least 160 lbs. of a mixture of live sand and “Aragonite”. This will help with the ecosystem to get your tank established quicker and safer.

There are many different ways to set up a salt-water aquarium, with many different components. If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to contact us directly. The best first fish to put into your tank (once you’ve had your water tested) would have to be Black Mollys. They are fresh-water fish that can be acclimated over to salt water. They are very hardy and breed very easily (this helps establish your tank).

Art & Scott. Art and Scott can be reached at 203-294-1797 at the Aquaterium for more information.

Q: Dear Art & Scott,

What is the best way to set up a new aquarium?


A: Dear Tony,

The answer is the same no matter what type of aquarium (fresh, salt, coral, brackish, etc.) you choose to set up.

  1. Research the different types of aquariums and visit your local fish store, your local library or internet.
  2. Choose what type of a set up, the size tank and the location of the tank.
  3. Purchase all required equipment, water-conditioners (de-chlorinator and living bacteria are very important), decorations, etc. for the specified water type.
  4. All aquariums need to be set up with water, all equipment (filter, heater, lights ,etc.) running properly and the water temperature to the appropriate range for your fish type for a minimum of 1-2 days before adding any life.
  5. When you go to make your first purchase of a living creature for your aquarium, make sure to bring about a measuring cup of water in a sandwich bag or other clean container with you so your local store can test the water before taking anything home. This will ensure that your water is safe, so you don’t end up condemning your wet pet to death.
  6. The two most common mistakes anyone will make with their first aquarium is they overfeed and over populate the aquarium much too quickly. The best way to add fish after having your water tested is to add just 1 hardy fish in a smaller tank (up to a 20 gallon) or just 2-3 hardy fish in a larger tank (up to a 60 gallon) for the first month. Do not add any other fish during the first month. This is when your water is going to establish living bacteria colonies. This is also when your water is going to get a little hard for fish to tolerate. Every tank goes through this “cycle”. It is important to have your water tested once a week during this period so you know when your tank’s “cycle” is done. This can be done with home kits or by your local store. Once your tank’s cycle is complete you can start adding the appropriate inhabitants slowly, about 2-4 per month depending on how small/large the aquarium is. If at any time anything looks or is acting sick have your water tested by a local store as soon as possible…it could mean the difference between a speedy recovery or a burial at sea!

Art and Scott

Q: Hi Art and Scott,

We were given 2 very large goldfish, even though they are pinkish white, by a neighbor before she moved 4 years ago. They were then thought to be 8-years-old. Anyway 1 is smaller than the other, the large one always monopolizes feeding time, hence he is much bigger and stronger. The last week and 1/2 the smaller one is struggling, can’t swim to the top to eat, falls on his side, stays in one corner of the tank. We cleaned the tank as usual, although late for schedule by a few weeks. We checked levels…had dangerously high levels of ammonia, nitrates and nitrites, so we believed that he was poisoned. So we blasted the tank with the removal solution for the “emergency treatment” and all but the nitrate levels have returned to normal or safe now for several days. We are seeing a very, very slow, if at all, recovery with the little guy. He can’t eat much either because he can’t swim well enough to get his food, so I try to put some food near him in the tank, but carefully remove what’s left over later to avoid noxious chemical breakdown. Are we doing anything right, wrong or anything you suggest. I hate to see him suffer if we can help. Thank you.


A: Dear Lisa,

One of the most important things to add to a tank in distress is some form of bacteria. There are many companies that put out beneficial bacteria (all pretty much the same) that should be added every few days during the problem. If at all possible set up a small hospital tank using an air pump and sponge/submersible filter for the smaller fish. Use at least half of the water to set up the hospital tank from your existing tank, this will help keep the little one from going into shock. The symptoms you’ve described could be from swim-bladder disease or from dropsy, both of which will end in the demise of the fish without the proper treatment (and even with the proper treatment death is still possible). There are medications that can be purchased at your local aquarium shop that are for dropsy/swim-bladder disease. Just follow the directions except beginning with a half-dose of whatever the directions say. This will again help to prevent shock. If you have any further questions on this or any other matter don’t hesitate to contact us directly. [email protected], 203-294-1797.

Art & Scott

Q: Dear Art and Scott,

I just set up a new aquarium and it has been cloudy (looking like someone poured a small amount of milk in the tank) for a few days, what causes this and how do I fix it? 

Thank you, Bob

A: Dear Bob,

First the “cloudiness” is actually bacteria that is starting to colonize in the tank.  This is a good thing, for a tank cannot run properly without it. If the cloudiness does not go away on its own within a week or two, bring a water sample to your local aquarium store to have it tested as there may be other problems causing it.

The cheapest, the easiest fix is a material called “filter floss” and looks a lot like cotton (do not use cotton). The floss should be placed in direct water flow. If you have a canister filter the floss should be placed in the last container near the impeller. If you have a hang on the back cartridge style filter the floss should be tucked behind the cartridge. The floss can be changed as needed (when the water flow slows down).

Good luck, Art and Scott

Q: Dear Art & Scott,

I’m thinking of setting up a salt water aquarium but I don’t have a lot of room or a lot of money. Is it possible to have a small tank that isn’t too difficult to run?


A: Dear Sara,

We have a 12-gallon “environment cube” that is set up on our front counter for just that reason. There are a few different companies that make small “cubes” that are perfect for salt-water applications. An average 10-gallon cube will cost between $250-$350 for a full setup. A full setup consists of the tank, filter (built-in), lights for saltwater (built-in), small heater, live sand, and live rock to get you started. Once the tank is set up and has been running for approximately 1 month, you can start to add small fish (we have 2 Neon Gobies). The thing to remember is the more fish you add- the more work you have to do. A 10-gallon setup with the right balance will take less than 1 hour a month to maintain but if you have too many fish then you have to start performing weekly maintenance. There are other more expensive ways to set up a saltwater aquarium, but this one has worked for us many times over.

Thank you, and keep the questions coming. Art & Scott

Q: Dear Peter,

What is the best way to keep my pet fish happy and healthy?

Hilary, Lyme

A: Dear Hilary,

The single most important thing we can do to keep aquarium fish healthy is to provide frequent partial water changes. I recommend 25% water changes every two to three weeks. Keeping the water clean makes for a happy fish.


Q: Dear Fish Doctor

How can I tell the difference between male and female gold fish?

Thank you, Heather

A: Hi Heather,

The only time you can tell the difference between male and female goldfish, for sure, is during the spring and early summer, the mating season. The female goldfish will take on a fuller and rounder shape; this is because they are carrying eggs. Also, the males will develop little white bumps on their gills at this time. Then you will see the males chasing the females.
Thank you for your question,


Q: Dear Fish Doctor,

What are some safe live plants to use in a fresh water aquarium?

Thanks, Jo

A: Dear Jo,

For your first planted aquarium, I would suggest obtaining Java fern and Anubias. Both of these plants do well under low light conditions and herbivorous fish find their leaves distasteful.

Good luck, Peter

Q: Dear Fish Doctor,

Hi, I have a male beta and want to breed it. I am afraid that the female might kill it or he will kill the female. I have heard that betas don’t get along with any fish, especially their own kind, is that true?

Thank you, Rhonda

A: Hi Rhonda,

It is true that 2 male betas will kill each other, however, keeping a male and a female together shouldn’t be a problem. Betas are bubble nest breeders; look for tiny bubbles at the top of your aquarium.


Q: Dear Peter,

How many fish can I keep in a 30 gallon aquarium?

Monica, Hartford

A: Dear Hilary,

A typical rule is 1 inch of fish per gallon of water, but this does not always hold true. Try to choose fish that only grows about 1″-2″ fully grown and you should be able to keep 10-12 fish.


Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: