Stocking Essentials

FreshAquaria highly recommends the usage of AqAdvisor in order to get the correct stocking levels for your specific setup size, equipment used, and other aspects. Please note that this website does have into effect a conservative view when calculating the stocking levels and water change levels. This tool will also allow for you to be able to see if species require different water parameters, or in some cases they might be each others prey in the wild.

Inhabitant Zones

There are three distinct different zones where all inhabitants are classified within as they will most likely tend to be visible in these areas. By stocking your aquarium to have all of these zones filled, you can make an aquarium look completely stocked full of active fish when it reality you are still within or below stocking limits. Plus when you have all three zones covered, you will have the various natural effects and benefits that each species has when coexisting with each other. We will go over some of the most common traits that are found within species of each zone, along with any benefits and why they are placed into these zones under their profiles.

Top Zone

The top zone of the aquarium is normally one that will be the most noticeable when someone looks into your aquarium, and for obvious reasons. Without anything moving in the top section, it might seem like most of your inhabitants are hiding, scared, or it may also appear as if your aquarium is not stocked all the way. Decorations might curb this initial thought if they are placed correctly, it still is the first place that many people's eyes glow towards when they first see an aquarium. In order to tell if a fish belongs in this zone, we can most easily tell by the shape and direction of their mouth. Commonly we will see that they have a mouth that is on the top of their face and it should be shaped upward towards the surface of the water. This is due to the fact that these fish will eat directly from the surface in the wild, and need to have these adjustments in order to catch food or prey sitting on the water's surface. Other less common traits found in top zone fish would be the fact that they stay still in the water towards the surface, and sometimes more obviously will only stay in the top zone when viewed in various aquariums. When fish in this zone are sleeping they will tend to drift around the aquarium, however many that need to breath oxygen with their labyrinth organ will sink at the bottom of the aquarium and periodically swim to the surface to get the oxygen they require.

Middle Zone

The middle zone of the aquarium is one that holds most of the fish species, and is one that is most commonly used when stocking an aquarium. Commonly we see that many fish in this zone will have mouths that are directly in the middle of their body which allows for them to eat food that is falling or drifting throughout the water column. Many fish species that are within this zone are schooling or shoaling fish that require a moderate population of their own species in order to feel safe, and will mostly roam around the middle of the aquarium playing with other inhabitants. There are very few invertebrates that can be classified within this zone as they tend to always stay towards the bottom zone compared to the majority of the fish species that are classified within this zone. When fish of this zone are sleeping they will tend to stay floating (or hovering) in the same position the whole nigh although in some cases they will drift with the water current around the tank carelessly.

Bottom Zone

The bottom zone of the aquarium is normally one that will contain most, if not all, invertebrates and mostly bottom feeding fish. This zone is mostly forgotten due to the fact that decorations cover most of the bottom's surface and also that many aquarium owners do not see the direct benefit of having a cleaning crew for your aquarium. Commonly we see that many fish in this zone will have a mouth that is on the bottom of their body, can look like a round mouth, and the fish may have color that looks like camouflage to hide it from other inhabitants. For invertebrates most commonly they will be classified into this zone as without any decoration or walls they would only have this zone due to the fact that many cannot swim, and if they can swim it is only for a short period of time. Most of the inhabitants of this zone will feed off of the excess food that is placed into the aquarium during feeding time(s), any algae that may be on the walls of the aquarium or decorations, and some if not all will feed off of any dead inhabit that is resting on the bottom.

Quarantine Inhabitants

Quarantine tanks are a highly piece of aquarium pre-care that many do not simply know about or think as being unimportant until they face some of the negative consequences. Whenever a new inhabitant is transported from the breeder's location, to the aquarium shop, and then finally to your aquarium they go through a ton of stress which lowers their immune system. A lower immune system will allow for parasites, diseases or any other negative aspect to manifest itself within and not show any visible signs until they are highly stressed again. Thus, making sure that the inhabitant is perfectly health before adding it to your main aquarium is essential, since a simple disease or parasite can wipe out a whole aquarium within a matter or days to weeks. The most common and suggested timeframe to keep an inhabitant in the quarantine tank would be anywhere from 2-4 weeks since most parasites and diseases will show their symptoms within this time.

The whole range of benefits is huge, however the most is making sure that you will have a health and happy inhabitant to add towards the stocking in your aquarium. If you do notice that a inhabitant is acting sick, you can safely treat them with the correct medicine faster than you would be able to do in your main aquarium. This can be another benefit since you can make your quarantine tank act like a small hospital tank if some tank mates start to get sick, and it isn't effecting any other species in the aquarium. Another added benefit is the fact that you can slowly adjust a new fish or invertebrate to eat a specific type of food that they might not be so accustom towards without the hassle of other tank mates eating it before they try it.

A good size for a quarantine tank can be anywhere from a 10 gallon (37.85 liters) upwards to 40 gallon tank (151.41 liters) depending on the possible stock you are wishing to keep. The same equipment as a normal aquarium can be used for quarantine tanks, however the most used item would be sponge filters compared to other filters. This is due to the fact that they are highly inexpensive and if a disease does wipe out the whole quarantine tank, then it can be simple and easy to replace the whole unit. Many aquarium owners do not use a substrate in their quarantine tank, however this can make the fish be disoriented at times.

Acclimating Inhabitants

There are many various ways that you can place an inhabitant from the aquarium shop's bag or cup, into your own aquarium water. These are normally broken down into two main methods, one where you slowly add your aquarium's water to the plastic bag or cup, or the other where you float the plastic bag or cup inside of the aquarium's water and then release them into it. The most common and dangerous method would to be the floating bag method, since you are only adjusting temperature and not water conditions nor parameters. The uncommon method that is the safest is the drip method where you are adjusting everything slowly so that the inhabitant will adjust properly without any issues later on. Following the steps below is very important along with making sure to never rush.

Drip Method

For this method you may need to have a clean, unused bucket on hand along with airline tubing and a drip valve.

  1. Adjust the aquarium or room lights so that they are not focused on where you will be placing the plastic bag at.
  2. Place the plastic bag within a small and clean bucket and cut the bag open. Make sure that the fish or invertebrate does not touch the air and can move around, if they cannot try tilting the bucket at an angle so that they can.
  3. Using airline tubing make a small siphon with a drip nozzle to allow for water to drip slowly into the bucket. This can be done by twisting the airline tubing and making sure it is stable enough not to flick around on it's own. We want to make sure that we have roughly 1-5 drips per second is possible.
  4. Once the water volume inside of the bucket has doubled, we want to remove half of the water inside.
  5. After removing the water once and letting the water volume double again, we can transfer the fish or invertebrate inside of the aquarium now. Make sure to never let them touch the air as this can do damage to them even if it is only for a few seconds.
  6. Make sure to discard the plastic bag, empty the bucket, and disassemble the airline tubing and drip valve.

Floating Bag Method

For this method you do not require any equipment or tools.

  1. Adjust the aquarium or room lights so that they are not focused on where you will be placing the plastic bag or cup at.
  2. Float the plastic bag or cup inside of the aquarium, making sure that it is sealed and no water is getting inside for 15 minutes.
  3. Cut open the plastic bag making sure to roll up the sides about an 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) such that it can float on it's own without tipping over. Keep the plastic bag within the aquarium once it floats.
  4. Add roughly half a cup of the aquarium's water inside of the plastic bag every 5 minutes. Keep doing this until the plastic bag is starting to sink or is at the water level of the aquarium's water.
  5. Slowly tip the bag over and release them into the aquarium, making sure to discard the plastic bag.