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what do tropical fish need to survive?

What do Tropical Fish Need to Survive?

Tropical fish are a popular pet for many people all around the world.

They are beautiful and can be very interactive with their owners, but these animals require lots of care if they want to survive and thrive in their tank.

So, what do tropical fish need to survive?

The further into this article you go, the clearer it is that tropical fish aren’t that different with what they need to survive than us humans.

Like humans, tropical fish need the basics of oxygen, clean water and food in order to survive, but other important factors, for example, a home, friends, sufficient light and space will really help them thrive.

This blog post will go over the basics that any tropical fish owner needs to know in order to keep their pets healthy.

What do Tropical Fish Need to Survive?

Somewhere to Live.

new tropical fish tank
It was exactly like it said in the ad!

Tropical fish need a decent sized aquarium. This is usually a glass tank that can be found in pet shops or ordered online. A common size for the tank would be 10 gallons (45 litres), but the bigger the better, as this will give them plenty of room to swim and explore their environment safely.

The aquarium needs a lid to keep the fish from jumping out. The bottom of the tank should also be covered in some type of substrate, such as sand or gravel. This gives them something to explore and will help with keeping their water clean by hiding any uneaten food particles on the bottom of the habitat. This must be cleaned on a regular basis though to stop any excess build up of waste, which can lead to an ammonia spike which is dangerous.

There will be people who will argue that keeping fish in a tank is cruel and they should be out in the open.

While I understand their point, I think if you are a responsible pet owner, you will make sure that your fish have everything in this article to make them happy and stress free. Many of the small fish species have been captive bred now. While they may have shorter lifespans, they can still thrive and live a contented life in a proper aquarium.

Clean Water.

Fresh, clean water is just as important for tropical fish as it is for humans.

Our tap water contains chlorine, which is good for humans, but can be fatal for fish. A dechlorinating agent needs to be added to remove any chlorine to any water that is going to be put into your fish tank.

Dechlorinated water should be added to the tank by carrying out a partial water change once every two weeks or so depending on several factors, including the size of your tank, and number of fish in the tank.


Tropical fish need a filtration system in their tank.

Having one of these will make it easier for the water to stay healthy and clean, which is very important so that they don’t get sick from living in dirty water. There are different types of filters available depending on how big your tank is or what type of tropical fish you have, but they all serve the same purpose.

Some fish tanks will come with a filter built in. This is always a good option as you will know it is the correct size for your tank.

The filters hold good bacteria, which break down the ammonia in the water, keeping it clean. You should not clean your filter media with tap water as it will wash away all the good bacteria.

Correct and Constant Temperature.

Tropical fish need a regulated temperature. They can’t regulate their own body temperature like other animals, so it’s important that you provide them with one to make sure they’re comfortable and don’t get sick from being too hot or cold while in the tank.

You’ll want to have an aquarium thermometer to make sure they’re not in water that’s too hot or cold. The thermometer should be checked daily, so if there is a change, you can work out what the problem is and resolve it before it becomes impossible to do so.

You can read my guide to fish tank thermometers here.

Suitable Food.

tropical fish flakes
Tastes better than it looks apparently

Tropical fish need food. These animals should be fed at least twice a day and will eat any type of live, chopped up meat like shrimp, worms, bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp (these are all examples, and should be used as an occasional treat), as well as good quality flakes.

If you have fish in your tank that are bottom dwellers, you will need to feed them sinking pellets as they won’t come up to the top of the tank to feed.

Some species of Catfish, as well as the Zebra Loach and Bristlenose Pleco are all examples of bottom feeder tropical fish. They need to be fed sinking pellets so their food will come straight to the bottom of the tank.

A good diet will really help your fish to thrive. You will be able to see it in how they interact with others and even how their colourings will get brighter.

Any excess food that isn’t eaten after 5 minutes needs to be removed if possible, to stop it decaying at the bottom of the tank.

If you have a lot of food left over every day then you are overfeeding your fish so reduce the amount you are giving them.

Too much food can be as dangerous as not enough.


heavily planted fish tank
Can you see me?

Tropical fish need a place to hide from what they may perceive as predators and some shelter for when they just want a bit of ‘me’ time.. This is important for their mental health, so they don’t get too stressed out by being exposed all the time or in danger when other fish come too near them. This tends to happen if the tank is overcrowded, which hopefully, yours won’t be.

You’ll want rocks or ornaments with lots of nooks and crannies, or plants that they can hide in to make this a more natural environment for them. Make sure the nooks and crannies aren’t too small so your fish get injured or stuck.

Here is an article I wrote about the best fish tank ornaments to buy.

The live plants help to provide more oxygen which is a good thing too.

Space to Swim.

Tropical fish need lots of space for swimming. The shoaling fish-Danios, Tetras etc all love to dart around the tank in their groups so need some open space to be able to do that.

They’ll spend most of their time swimming, but when it’s resting time they like having some room down at the bottom of the tank where there is less light so they can avoid being seen.


lambchop rasboras
The boys decided to go out for the afternoon

Most tropical fish need tankmates. Fish can get lonely, shy or stressed if they’re by themselves for too long, so it’s important to have a few of them living in the same tank.

Some fish are happier in groups of one species while others need to be mixed up.

You will notice that with some species, the male’s colours will intensify when in a group of his species as they get more confident.

The more space there is available and the better care these animals have, the happier they’re going to be.


Tropical fish need regular light.

This is important for their day and night cycle, which is how they tell time. They should have access to fluorescent or regular artificial light so the tank can be lit during the day without worrying about direct sunlight coming in through a window.

Likewise, they also need some darkness as well.

It is recommended that you keep your tank lights on for 10 hours per day only.

So that’s it. If you are thinking of stepping into the wonderful world of tropical fish, follow these simple steps, and your fish will not only survive, but thrive in their new home.

The more care you put into your tank, the happier your fish will be.

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