Do you want a pet but don't want the hassle of fur on the furniture, figuring out pet day care, paying for grooming, or storing gigantic bags of pet food? It sounds like a fish is the right pet for you. They're generally cheap, just a couple dollars apiece, their dwelling is compact, and if you need to go out of town for a couple of days you can just drop in a three-day or 10-day fish feeder and they're good to go.

Before you rush out to buy your aquarium, you might want to know a few maintenance tips for keeping your fish healthy and extending their lives. We promise no pooper scooper is required.

  1. If you're going to invest in any kind of fish besides a goldfish, a filter for your tank is a must. Goldfish don't require a filter because they don't particularly care about the condition of their water, but if you want to extend their lives, you might consider getting one. The size and type of filter will depend on the size of tank you purchase and how many fish you plan to buy. Filters generally need to be replaced every 30 days, but if you have a lot of fish and a small filter, you may need to replace the filter more often.

  2. Have you ever seen a fish tank whose walls were encrusted with a mat of green fuzz? This is algae, and it will naturally grow on your tank over time. To keep the algae to a minimum, try investing in a fish called the Chinese algae eater. This fish comes complete with a sucker for a mouth and he will zoom around your tank cleaning every reachable surface. If you want to help him out, keep your tank out of direct sunlight as this encourages swifter algae growth.

  3. You should fill the bottom of your tank with about 2-3 inches of pebbles or gravel. This gives you something to anchor your aquarium decorations, and it also hides the fish feces that will inevitably build up over time. To clean your carpet of pebbles, you'll need an aquarium gravel vacuum. This is a long tube which can suction out the filth on the bottom of your tank and deposit it in a separate bucket for you to dispose.

  4. When you use an aquarium vacuum, you'll end up lowering the water level of your tank so you'll need to fill it back up. Keep in mind that water from your tap has chlorine in it, and high levels of chlorine are toxic to your fish. To remove the chlorine, you'll need to buy a bottle of aquarium chlorine remover from your pet store. Just follow the directions on the bottle to make the water in the tank safe for your fish.

  5. The ideal number of fish to have in your tank, at any one time, is one inch of fish per gallon of water. So, if you have a 10-gallon tank, you can have 10 inches of fish - which doesn't mean you can buy 10 fish. Also, keep in mind that the size of your newly purchased fish is not necessarily their full size. The store should have information on each species to let your know how big they can potentially grow. Some fish that are only an inch in the store may eventually grow to be four to five inches long.

Fish are the perfect pets for people without a lot of room or extra time or energy. If you follow these simple tips, you can enjoy your fish at minimal cost for years to come.

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