Tropical Aquarium: The Complete Guide to the Freshwater Fish Tank

Greetings Reader, if you like freshwater fish tanks and are looking for answers to questions such as:

How to prepare an aquarium for tropical fish?
How much does it cost to maintain a tropical fish tank?
How much time do you need?

Welcome to the guide on the tropical aquarium of Today I am going to explain everything about Tropical Aquariums.

The qualities of aquarophilia are already known by many people, who enjoy beauty, relaxation, entertainment…

In fact, the contemplation of the rhythmic swings of tropical fish, together with the sound of water, produces calming therapeutic effects on the state of stress.

The world around the fish tank offers great rewards, and is instead undemanding. Less space and time than our friends, dogs and cats, for example.

If you are just landing in the world of aquarium hobby, you may be interested in starting with our Aquarium Manual for Beginners.

As I have already explained on another occasion, aquariums are the simulation of a natural ecosystem, and in this case we are going to treat the freshwater fish tank that seeks to imitate a tropical ecosystem.

The tropical freshwater aquarium is an exotic spectacle for the observer. And compared to the Marine Fish Tank, it is also easier to maintain.

To begin with, we are going to learn a little about the main ecosystems that are recreated in most tropical freshwater aquariums.

tropical waters

Tropical areas are characterized by high temperatures and many hours of sunshine throughout the year. Biological activity and diversity is favored by climate stability.

In the tropical region there are more than 8,000 species registered. 1,300 live in the Amazon, while in Europe there are barely 200.

Regarding the plants, their location is determined by the temperature and their development by the phenomenon of seasonal floods.

Major Tropical Regions

The most interesting tropical aquarium plants and fish in the world of freshwater aquariums are found in:

  • South America: The fresh waters of South America are usually waters with an acidic pH, quite soft and with a temperature of 25-30 o C. There are areas where a pH of 4-5 and a temperature of 35 o C are reached.
  • Central America: In this region the rains are not abundant, and the waters are strongly mineralized.
  • Southeast Asia: In these areas the temperature is very stable and the degree of humidity is very high. The rains are abundant, but they are distributed throughout the annual cycle. The water is acidic, with a pH that ranges between 5-6, and the maximum temperature reaches 28-29 o C.
  • Africa: There are two types of aquatic ecosystems: African rivers have characteristics very similar to the Amazon. Freshwater fish in these rivers are known to be aggressive and burrowing. African lakes have their own characteristics.

This type of tank is the most classic, and there are many species that you can house in a tropical freshwater aquarium, butalways checking that they are compatible.

The Tropical Freshwater Aquarium

Aquariums for tropical fish offer a wide range of possibilities.

You can choose from several types of tropical aquariums, such as a tropical community aquarium, a planted aquarium, or a biotope aquarium.

If you want to delve into the freshwater aquarium of natural plants, our great guide on Planted Aquariums is for you. There we explain everything you need to know about the natural plants in the tropical freshwater aquarium.

Each type of aquarium has its specific characteristics, we are going to see the main parameters of aquariums with tropical freshwater fish:

  • The temperature generally moves in a range of 24-28 o C, but it depends on the inhabiting species. For example, Discus fish need 28-30 o C.
  • Tropical waters are slightly more acidic, oscillating in a pH range between 6.5 and 7.5, depending on the species.
  • The indicative value of gH is in a range of 3-16 o dh. Most species need a kH value that should be between 3-4o dh.
  • Tropical freshwater fish tolerate the presence of nitrates in the water better. The acceptable nitrate level is 10-15 mg/l or ppm.
  • The oxygen concentration in the water must be equal to 8 mg/l or higher.

Equipment needed in tropical freshwater aquariums

Generally, tropical freshwater aquariums require simpler equipment than marine tanks. Even so, you need the minimum accessories for fish tanks that allow you to recreate a «natural» ecosystem, such as the filter, light, substrate, heater…

In any case, the final technical needs will be determined by the species that occupy these freshwater fish tanks.

Here are the freshwater fish tank accessories that any tropical aquarium needs:

  1. The aquarium-container-urn and its support or furniture.
  2. Filtering and oxygenation system
  3. Lightning
  4. Temperature
  5. Substratum
  6. test kit

The aquarium

The first thing you have to decide is the location and dimensions of the freshwater tank for tropical fish.

If you are thinking of buying an aquarium online, in the previous link we have prepared a guide to help you choose the best tank for your needs.

The characteristics of the tropical freshwater aquarium will condition the rest of the components and accessories, as well as the species that will inhabit it.

Click on the button under the image if you want to see an example of a tank on Amazon to set up your tropical aquarium.

Where to place the tropical freshwater aquarium?

  1. 1. Avoid sudden changes in temperature:Appliances such as heating and air conditioning should not be near tropical freshwater fish tanks.

  2. two. Avoid natural light from windows:It will alter the temperature and favor the increase of algae.

  3. 3. Easy access for maintenance:Prevent access from being complicated, make it easy for maintenance.

  4. Four. Electric plug:It will be necessary to connect devices such as the filter, light, heater, etc. to a grounded outlet.

Deciding where to place the fish tank is essential, because the place will determine the dimensions of the tropical aquarium. The size of the urn is the next decision to make.

Complete Aquarium Kit

See More Aquarium Kits

freshwater aquarium size

You can find freshwater aquariums of all kinds of sizes and shapes, from a 13L nano aquarium, to tanks that are authentic swimming pools. Here are a few tips regarding the dimensions of the tank:

  • I recommend that the height of the aquarium be moderate, to facilitate access and favor lighting.around 60cm.
  • Regarding the width, I recommend movingbetween 35-50 cm.
  • The length depends on the physical space and your budget.

Keep in mind that the larger the capacity of freshwater tanks, the easier it is to keep stable. And vice versa too, the smaller they are, the more complicated it will be to keep their parameters stable.

The Tropical aquarium for a novice should not be smaller than 80 liters.

Calculate the volume of the tank

To know the capacity of a tropical aquarium, you just have to apply this simple formula:

Height x Width x Length (cm) / 1,000 = X Liters

For example, a square tank 50 cm high x 50 cm wide x 50 cm long:

50 x 50 x 50 / 1,000 = 125 Liters

nano aquarium

See More Nano Aquariums

Keep in mind that the smaller the fish tank, the more difficult it will be to keep the parameters stable. Any minor alteration of the basic levels can kill the inhabitants of your little fish tank. For this reason, a nano aquarium is often recommended for experienced aquarists.

Filters for the tropical aquarium

The biological cycle of the tropical freshwater aquarium generates waste: the excrement and respiration of the inhabitants themselves, plant and food remains, and other organic remains.

These wastes in nature are broken down and metabolized without any problem. But in a closed ecosystem such as freshwater aquariums, these residues accumulate.

This is where the aquarium filter comes in to remove debris and biological waste from the tank water before it reaches toxic levels.

This is why every tropical aquarium needs a system that filters the water, cleans it and purifies it.

This filtering system is mainly based on the nitrification process:

Nitrification is the process carried out by certain bacteria biologically transforming the toxic elements in the water into a tolerable element.

This bacteriological purification, together with physical and/or chemical cleaning, make up the filtering system.

Filter Classes

In a filtration system for a freshwater tropical fish aquarium you will find three types or classes of filtering:

  • Mechanical:
    Made by very fine materials such as sponge or perlon, which retain the solid particles of dirt found in the water of freshwater fish tanks.
  • Chemical:
    It is used to make chemical changes in the water (pH, hardness, etc.) or absorb impurities. It is also used for specific purposes, such as Activated Carbon to remove drug residues.
  • Biological:
    Made by the nitrifying bacteria that colonize the porous filter material. This filtering carried out by the beneficial bacteria needs a minimum time to reach optimal levels. I am talking about what is called Cycling or Maturation of the biological filter.

the cycling

In this maturation process, while all the parameters of the aquarium are stabilized, the most important thing is the cycling of the filter.

Aquarium cycling is the period in which nitrifying bacteria colonize the medium and reduce the levels of toxic elements.

This aquarium cycling process occurs naturally, and usually takes several weeks for the colony of bacteria to settle and develop. If you have any questions, in the previous link you have our article dedicated to this important topic.

This process ends when the levels of ammonia and nitrites are adequate to be able to put the first fish.

The cycling or maturation of the biological filter is essential for the success of your aquarium.

Normally, it takes about 4 weeks for friendly nitrifying bacteria to naturally colonize the filter in freshwater aquariums.

There are also products for sale to speed up this process, that’s why there are two aspects regarding the cycling process:

  1. 1. Those who wait: Some aquarists prefer to wait the time necessary for the tropical aquarium to mature. From several weeks to a couple of months.
  2. 2. Those who use accelerator products: There are products that shorten this process, favoring the colonization of friendly bacteria and the elimination of toxic substances such as chlorine. In this link you can see an example of this type of product in the Amazon storefront.

If you are a beginner I recommend patience, and that you wait the necessary time. You can take advantage of it to learn more and better about the tropical freshwater aquarium.

Filter Maintenance

NEVER clean the filter with tap water -with chlorine- because if you can’t say goodbye to your little colony of friendly bacteria, you ‘ll kill them all.

ALWAYS clean the filtering materials with water from the aquarium itself.

The regularity of cleaning and/or changing the filters will depend on the conditions of each tank. Pay attention a little, and when you notice that the flow decreases, it will mean that the filter is saturated and that it is time to clean.

If your filtration device has a sponge as a mechanical and biological material, clean gently so as not to eliminate the entire bacterial colony.

When you have biological material in addition to the sponge, you can clean this thoroughly because the main colony is in the biological filter.

Biological filtration material requires very light cleaning when it becomes saturated with bacteria, the brown stuff.

Types of filter systems

The first thing you have to check is that your system at leastclean all tropical aquarium water 3 times an houralthough the more the better.

For example, for 100-liter freshwater fish tanks, they must have an aquarium filter that purifies at least 300 liters per hour. Although better if they are 500.

Having that clear factor, you can choose external filters for cylinder or backpack aquariums, internal…

Internal or Submersible

When we talk about the simplest freshwater aquarium filtration devices, we are referring to internal filters, also called submersible filters.

Internal filters take up space and are not aesthetically pleasing to the eye and their filtering capacity is usually limited.

Generally they only use mechanical filtration, but in some you can add biological material to increase their performance.

On the other hand, they are easy-to-use, versatile devices and are usually inexpensive. Click the button below the image to see an example of an internal filter and its price on Amazon.

Waterfall Or Backpack

Although they are still visible, waterfall filters do not take up space inside the freshwater aquarium.

This type of filter is very common in medium-sized tanks. They offer greater oxygenation of the water and more efficient filtering because they have more room for the filter material.

They usually have a greater capacity for biological material in addition to the mechanical filtration sponge.

You can find two common designs: the one that uses a cartridge and the one that offers the option of placing different filter materials. Click on the button below the image to see some of the best-selling waterfall filters on Amazon.

Filter maintenance is easier because it is more accessible, and less demanding than the internal filter thanks to its greater capacity.

External Filters

These filters are completely external so they can be easily hidden outside of freshwater fish tanks. The negative part is that they need an additional space.

The purification capacity of the external filters is far superior to the rest, a professional filtration for the most demanding fan.

Being completely external, they have a greater capacity for filter loads. This is why they are the most efficient type of filters, although they are also the most expensive.

They are also usually very easy to clean. Click on the button below the image to see the offer of one of the best-selling external filters on Amazon.

Other types of filters for tropical aquariums

There are other less common models such as the sump, the dry-wet filter, the protein skimmer, hatchlings, fluidized bed

The filters also have another very important function, to generate circulation in the water, simulating underwater currents.

To do this, do not forget toplace the filter inlet at the opposite end of the outlet.

Oxygenation in the water of tropical freshwater aquariums

The oxygen in the water is very important, basic for the life of our fish, plants and friendly bacteria.

And in an artificial environment such as an aquarium, the natural concentration of oxygen in the water almost always tends to decrease.

Freshwater aquarium water is supplied with oxygen in two ways:

  1. 1. Plants give off oxygen when they carry out photosynthesis.
  2. 2. Surface water absorbs oxygen present in the atmosphere in gas exchange.

But it is usually not enough for the oxygen demand of the inhabitants, including the nitrifying bacteria.

Be careful because it is a bad sign that the fish make very fast gill movements, and gasp at the surface.Indicates a possible lack of oxygenin the freshwater aquarium.

It is usually a recurring problem, newbie, overpopulate the tank and end up suffocating our aquatic friends.

In general, the help of an aerator has been used to correct the lack of oxygen.

The Aerator is an air pump connected to one or more diffusers, which generate the classic «jet» of bubbles.

But DO NOT get confused.

In reality, these bubbles do not oxygenate the water, it is the surface movement of the water that causes the exchange of gases, and the optimal oxygenation of the aquarium.

Although in recent times,the aerator is being replaced by the new much more efficient filtering systems, click the button under the image to see the best selling aerator in the Amazon store.

Aerating freshwater tanks also promotes a stable temperature throughout the tropical aquarium by avoiding hot and cold spots.

Oxygen and Temperature in freshwater fish tanks

Relationship between water temperature and oxygen concentration in the tropical aquarium
Temperature Available Oxygen Minimum Acceptable Oxygen
10 o C 11.3 mg/l [od] 08.8 mg/l [oma]
20 o C 9.2 mg/l [od] 7.8 mg/l [oma]
25oC _ _ 8.2 mg/l [od] 7.5 mg/l [oma]
30oC _ _ 7.5 mg/l [od] 6.9 mg/l [oma]

Temperature – C. / Oxygen concentration – mg/l
o.d. / oma

As here we treat the aquarium of warm water, 25-30 o, the oxygen in the water is another factor to take into account.

Different studies affirm that most of the fish population tolerates minimum concentrations of 4-5 mg/l.

But for afreshwater aquarium should always be 8 mg/l or higher.

Tropical Aquarium Temperature

For those wondering: what temperature should a freshwater fish tank be?

In tropical freshwater aquariums the typical water temperature recommendation for tropical fish is 24-26oC. But in reality, depending on the occupant species, the range can vary from 20 o to 29 o C.

For example, Corydoras prefer temperatures of 20 o, while Discus require around 28 o.

Each species has its preferred temperature spectrum. There are species that adapt to a wide range of temperatures, while others are very specific.

The really important thing is to maintain a stable temperature and avoid sudden changes that will harm the fish.

The key factor is to maintain a constant freshwater aquarium temperature, because fish depend on the environment to maintain their body temperature, they are cold- blooded.

To maintain the adequate and stable temperature of the tropical aquarium, heaters or coolers controlled by one or more thermostats are usually used.

Each tank has its own thermal conditions, and it will be its owner who decides what equipment he wants to use:

The thermometer in the aquarium fresh water

It is necessary to control the temperature in freshwater aquariums. For this, it is best to have a thermometer that visually reflects the temperature of the water.

We have these types of freshwater fish tank thermometers:

  • Glass: the classic thermometer that is placed inside and is one of the most accurate.
  • Digital: they are the most comfortable to use, and the most expensive Today there is a wide variety of models to choose from.
  • Sticker: they are the least recommended thermometers since they are the least reliable.

As usual, you can click on the button below the image to see one of the best-selling aquarium thermometers in the Amazon online store.

Heaters and Thermostats

Fish tank heaters, as their name suggests, serve to heat the water, being governed by the thermostat.

It is important to place the heater where there is good water circulation and away from the thermostat, because this will establish a homogeneous temperature for tropical fish throughout the aquarium.

Many consider that the ratio 1 liter – 1 Watt of the heater is sufficient, that is, 100 liters of tank, 100 W of heater.

You must take into account if there are more variables, for example, if the tropical aquarium is large you can put 2 small heaters instead of one large one. This gives you a backup if one of them fails.

Click on the button below the image to see the best offer of aquarium heaters in the Amazon storefront.

DO NOT plug heater out of water. You can burn yourself and damage the device.

When you meet some problem in freshwater aquarium water temperature,DO NOT cause sudden changes when correcting, do it gently.

Types of heaters for freshwater aquariums
  1. 1. Internal:
    It is the most used and is placed inside the water. NEVER light them out of the water. This «heating tube» is basically a resistance inside a glass and the thermostat.
  2. 2. External:
    It is connected to the outlet hose of the external filter to heat the water when it is passed through. It is more modern and effective, and also does not take up space in the aquarium.
  3. 3. Background:
    It is buried in the substrate to heat it, they do not usually have a thermostat and it is also in disuse.

Tropical Freshwater Fish Tank Lighting

Therefore, light is another factor to recreate in the «natural artificiality» of an aquarium.

It is a vital piece and we must choose well to recreate the necessary light, without excesses or defects. Too much light will waste money in the form of electricity and more algae in the water. Low light will not allow the growth of plants in the freshwater aquarium.

In this link you can see the best-selling aquarium lamp in the Amazon online store.

If the aquarium is only for tropical freshwater fish, the light is reduced to the simplest, illuminate enough to make it look good and highlight the colors of the fish.

To maintain plants you need a lighting system with more quantity and more quality.

For the stability of the ecosystem it is essential to maintain a time regularity between periods of light and periods of darkness.

Use a timer to illuminate the tropical aquarium for 12-14 hours and turn off the light at night.

Fluorescent tubes are the traditional, efficient and cheap option to provide tropical aquarium light. But today, LED fish tank lights have replaced the traditional fluorescent almost completely. But there are still more types of lighting.

Types of luminaires

  • T8 fluorescent tube:
    They are the most common but they are not the most recommended, since they are not very efficient. Common to kits.
  • T5 fluorescent tube:
    They are more modern, give better light and take up less space. They have a greater penetration in the water column.
  • Pll fluorescent tube:
    Used in places with a high need for light and little space. Its main drawback is that it emits a lot of heat. It is found on many clamp displays.
  • Low consumption light bulbs:
    It is similar to the Pll, and

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