Why Is It Helpful to Know the Different Habitat Requirements for Fish?

Aquariums with different fish are popular in residential and commercial structures because these relax the eyes and mind. Fish are also wonderful pets requiring a minimum amount of care for as long as their pet parents are diligent, knowledgeable and observant.

Why then is it helpful to know the different habitat requirements for fish? Fish require the right habitat, or living space, to survive and thrive. Their habitat consists of physical factors, such as water temperature, movement and bottom, and chemical factors like dissolved minerals and oxygen levels.  These factors must be in the right balance for them to grow and reproduce.

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Do you want to know more about setting up the right habitat for your fish? If you do, then read on because we will provide useful information about starting your own aquarium at home! 

Things You Will Need to Start a Fish Habitat

It’s easy to just buy the tank and supplies, put fish and plants in the tank, and learn as you go. But it will be a waste of fish as well as your time and energy! You must learn as much as possible about setting up and taking care of an aquarium, and these books are useful: 

Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies

This is a great guide for starting a freshwater aquarium, from purchasing the supplies to keeping the fish healthy. You can even learn tricks in expanding your hobby. 

The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide

This book is designed for saltwater aquarium beginners, and we highly recommend it for its useful content. The chapters include choosing the size and type of saltwater aquarium, the equipment needed, and the best saltwater fish. 

The more knowledge gained, the less daunting aquarium maintenance will be and the more enjoyment you can get from being a pet parent.  You are well-advised to ask for proper care for your desired pet fish, too, from the pet store staff.

Start with the Right Tank

Fishbowls are great for a single goldfish and for beginners. But larger aquariums are better for many reasons, such as being able to keep more fish. Start with a 30-gallon tank or so like these two tanks. 

Aqua Culture 29 Gallon Aquarium Starter Kit with LED

Why buy separate components when you can buy most of them in one kit? This kit consists of a 29-gallon aquarium with a low-profile hood and an internal filter, which will keep the water crystal-clear and the fish healthy.

Tetra 20 Gallon Complete Aquarium Kit

While it’s smaller with a 20-gallon capacity, the Tetra aquarium is still large enough for smaller fish. Its scratch-resistant glass can withstand years of use while its LED hood provides sufficient light for fish.

It already comes with a whisper-quiet yet efficient filter, a heater, and accessories so you just need the water, fish and gravel. 

When choosing an aquarium, you have to take into account the sizes of the fish you’re planning on putting in it. Keep in mind that fish may be tiny as juveniles but many of them can grow to impressive sizes. 

Get a Solid Stand

On its own, a 30-gallon tank is already heavy. When it’s filled with water, sand or gravel, and accessories, it becomes heavier, perhaps as heavy as 250 pounds! You must then place a filled aquarium on a strong and sturdy stand that can take its overall weight.

But it isn’t just its load capacity that must be taken into account when choosing an aquarium stand. Choose one that allows the aquarium to sit at eye level for your enjoyment, as well as complement the aquarium itself.

Look for drawers for storing supplies and shelves for knick-knacks, if necessary. 

Brooklyn Metal Stand

The overall design may be industrial but it’s a sturdy stand that can carry a fully-loaded aquarium. You won’t have to worry about premature corrosion, too. 

Imagitarium Faux Woodgrain Fish Tank Stand

The elaborate design belies its sturdy frame that can carry an aquarium that can hold up to 30 gallons of water, perhaps more.  Think of it as a showpiece with the aquarium on top. 

Place a Cover and Light on Top

If you have other pets, you should ideally cover the aquarium but it’s an optional accessory. But a lighting system is a must since it aids in heating up the water and allows the fish to explore their surroundings. Besides, you will appreciate them better with good lighting.

MingDak LED Aquarium Light

The white LEDs not only make the water look shimmering but these also bring light to the fish. 

NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium Light

The adjustable metal brackets allow for precise fittings on tanks ranging in size from 18 to 24 inches. 

Install a Filter

Yet another must-have on an aquarium is a filter since it sifts debris and keeps the water clean. Keep in mind that the filter should be matched to the type of water in the aquarium and its size. 

MarineLand Penguin 350 BIO-Wheel Power Filter

With its multi-stage filtration, it’s a highly-recommended filter that ensures both wet and dry filtration. 

Aquatic Life RO Buddie Reverse Osmosis Systems

Install this filter for a saltwater aquarium.

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

But for a freshwater aquarium, the Penn Plax filter is the best choice.

Add an Air Pump and Heater

Fish need oxygen and an air pump circulates the water to maintain sufficient oxygen levels. A heater, on the other hand, will keep the water temperature consistent.

Tetra Whisper Air Pump

With its quiet operation combined with rubber feet, the Tetra air pump is a great choice for providing reliable airflow for your fish. 

Aqueon Pro Submersible 50W Heater

It can be fully submerged in water, as well as adjusted for heat from 68°F to 88°F.

Consider Other Accessories

With the tank and its accessories, your next step is to consider the plants and the bottom part of the aquarium. You can choose from either gravel or sand bottom depending on the fish in it.

You can add live or plastic plants, whichever one the fish can live with. But we don’t recommend adding these plants to an aquarium:

  • Dead or dying plants as these will have an adverse impact on water quality
  • Duckweed since it can block out the light
  • Newly-fallen branches and pine branches since these usually contain harmful compounds including resins

The best course of action here is to purchase the plants, wood and ceramic accessories that were specifically designed for use in aquariums. 

Filling the Aquarium with Water

Fish obviously live in water so the next step is choosing the best type of water for their habitat. The habitat requirements for a freshwater tank and a saltwater aquarium are different but their base water can be the same. 

The most common choices in aquarium water and their pros and cons are discussed below. 

  • Tap water is the easiest and cheapest to use. But it must first be de-chlorinated, usually by using either a dechlorinator or a chloramine remover, before fish can be placed in it. 

  • Aquarium water from an already operational tank is a convenient option. But we don’t recommend it due to the possibility of chemical toxicity and other hazards that come from the previous fish occupants. 

  • Deionized or reverse osmosis water since it has already been purified of impurities and particulates. But it isn’t recommended for beginners since it requires knowledge about alkalinity, hardness, and pH levels. 

  • Softened water can be used but it may or may not be safe for aquarium use. 

  • Bottled water is only recommended if the tap water isn’t safe to use for aquarium use. Plus, bottled water can contain flavors, colors, and preservatives that can be dangerous for fish. 

  • Rainwater and collected water from the sea, stream, or lake are also easy to collect. But these can carry pollutants and contaminants that cannot be filtered out by standard filters. 

The best type of water for an aquarium: Tap water!

Don’t immediately place fish into the tap water-filled aquarium! There are several crucial steps in ensuring that the optimal conditions are present in water, particularly its temperature, pH balance, and specific gravity.

This is the reason for reading about setting up freshwater and saltwater aquariums before doing so. 

For a Freshwater Aquarium

Always rinse the tank with tap water – no detergent of any kind – before filling it with tap water to the desired level. Then, allow for the cycling process, which can take between four and six weeks, to complete.

The cycling process allows the growth of beneficial bacteria that break down nitrate and ammonia in fish waste. 

Tip: Use bacteria starters to decrease the cycling time to just 1-3 weeks.

  • Install the accessories, particularly the filter, on the water-filled aquarium. Let the filter run for a minimum of 24 hours.
  • Introduce a few hardy fishes, such as gouramis and danios, which can withstand the nitrites and ammonia in water.
  • Allow the beneficial bacteria to do their work.

The water should be ready for the introduction of fish in three weeks or so. 

Note: A freshwater aquarium is best for beginners because it’s easy to start and maintain. As you will see in the following section, starting a saltwater aquarium requires more time-consuming steps. 

For a saltwater aquarium

Tap water is still recommended but it also requires further treatment before fish can thrive in it. But be sure that the tap water is of excellent quality, particularly free of organic compounds, petroleum and other chemicals. Also, de-chlorinate it before blending it with the sea salt mixture.

The basic steps in preparing tap water for a saltwater aquarium are as follows.

  • Buy a sea salt mix, either a synthetic sea salt mix or pre-made saltwater.

  • Fill a large container with water, just enough that when the water is poured into the aquarium, there will be enough room.

  • Insert a thermometer, heater, and powerhead in the mixing container. Measure and take note of the temperature of the water. If you’re planning a fish-only tank, the target temperature is 72°F to 80°F and 76°F to 78°F for reef tanks. The powerhead should create turbulence in the water and the heater should be at the same temperature as in the aquarium.

  • Slowly add the sea salt mixture into the water and stir well. Check the recommended ratio but, in general, the salinity should be about 35ppt or the specific gravity is about 1.025.  Mix in three batches for best results. 

  • Test the specific gravity and salinity of the water. Add more salt or water depending on the results. 

  • Let the water-sea salt mix sit overnight. Leave the powerhead running, too.

  • Check the water-sea salt mix for its temperature before adding it to the water in the aquarium. The water temperature in both should be about the same.

  • Slowly pour the saltwater mix into the aquarium.

  • Introduce the acclimated fish into the saltwater tank but be sure to check that it has optimal conditions.

Keep in mind that fish care doesn’t stop with the first water poured into the tank. You have to make appropriate daily, weekly and monthly check-ups of the water and the fish. 

Now that you have the tank and its water ready, your next step is to acclimate the fish that will be placed in it. You shouldn’t buy fish the day before or on the day you bought the tank for this reason. While it doesn’t seem like it, fish are sensitive to drastic and rapid changes in their environment, thus, the acclimatization.


Fish need the right habitat for their survival and, more importantly, for their contentment in their tank. You, their human parent, have the responsibility to ensure that their watery environment is conducive to their growth.

You should regularly check the water’s pH balance, salinity, and overall quality as well as your fish’s health.

As your experiences as a fish parent become more extensive, your fish should be healthy and contented. You can easily see if they are so when they are swimming actively, breathing regularly and eating well.

You can adjust their food as well as the factors in their watery environment according to their specific habitat needs.