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All You Need To Know About Keeping Pet Fish

Jan 26th, 2024

Living in an apartment doesn't have to mean missing out on the wonders of the underwater world. Keeping fish as pets can be a surprisingly rewarding experience, bringing a touch of tranquility and beauty to your living space and offering endless entertainment. 

But before you dive headfirst into an aquarium adventure, here are a few things you should know about keeping pet fish!

Fin-tastic fish for apartment fish tanks

Your very first step will be to decide whether you want freshwater fish or saltwater fish. Freshwater fish are easier to come by and a little easier to manage, so that’s always a good place to start. You can definitely go for saltwater, but for the sake of this introductory article, let’s focus on freshwater fish, since saltwater fish typically need more space than an apartment tank can provide. 

Not all fish are created equal, especially when it comes to apartment living. Goldfish, for example, might seem like the classic choice for fishy friends, but their large size and messy habits can quickly overwhelm a small tank. Instead, consider these other freshwater options.

  • Bettas: These iridescent beauties, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are known for their flowing fins and independent personalities. They thrive when kept solo in smaller tanks (around 5 gallons) and require minimal maintenance, making them perfect for apartment dwellers.
  • Guppies: These vibrant little fish come in a dazzling array of colors and patterns. They're peaceful and social, making them ideal tankmates for other guppies or similar sized fish. Just remember, they're prolific breeders, so be prepared for a guppy explosion if you don't separate the males and females.
  • Platies: these small, peaceful fish come in many colors and patterns and are great with other fish. Like guppies, they also breed fairly prolifically so make sure to separate males and females unless you want a platy army in your fish tank!
  • Neon tetras: These tiny, shimmering fish are like living jewels in your tank. They're schooling fish, so get a small group (6-10) to create a mesmerizing underwater disco ball. Just ensure your tank has plenty of live plants for them to hide in and explore.
  • Corydoras catfish: These small, bottom-dwelling scavengers are the clean-up crew of the tank, munching on leftover food and keeping things tidy. They're peaceful and add a unique charm to any fish tank community.

Another key point here. Before bringing your fish home, research the specific needs of your chosen species; the water temperature, pH levels and suggested tankmates can all vary from fish to fish, so ensure you can provide the optimal environment for their long-term health and happiness.

Supplies needed for a freshwater fish tank

Now that you've chosen your fishy friends, it's time to set up their underwater home. Here are the essentials for a happy and healthy aquarium:


The size of your tank will depend on the type and number of fish you have. As a general rule, aim for at least 1 gallon of water per inch of fish, though a 10 gallon tank is typically a good starting point for most small fish. Opt for a rectangular tank to maximize swimming space and choose a location away from direct sunlight and drafts to prevent algae growth and diseases. 


Lights are used for a variety of reasons, including plant growth, fish health and overall aesthetics. Find out what kinds, if any, your plants and fish need from your pet shop expert when you go to buy your fish tank supplies!

Filtration system

This is the lifeblood of your aquarium, keeping the water clean and oxygenated. Choose a filter suitable for your tank size and fish species.

Water heater

Most tropical fish prefer warm water, so invest in a heater to maintain the optimal temperature range (usually around 75-80°F).


Gravel or sand provides a natural bottom for your tank and helps house beneficial bacteria. Choose a substrate size appropriate for your fish and avoid anything too sharp that could injure their fins.


Live plants not only add beauty to your tank but also help improve water quality. Artificial plants and rocks can also provide hiding spots and enrichment for your fish.

Net, gravel washer and algae scraper

These small items come in handy when it comes to cleaning your tank. Use the net to add or remove fish from your tank, use the gravel washer to suck fish poop and algae from the ricks and use the alga scraper to clean the walls of grime and gunk. 

Keeping your fish entertained

Fish might not need Netflix subscriptions or video game consoles to keep them from boredom, but they still need mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. 

Variety is key, so rotate the tank decorations every few weeks to give your fish something new to explore. Gently blowing bubbles into the tank can provide amusement for your fish, especially bubble-loving bettas; you can also buy bubble machines that release long streams of bubbles for endless entertainment! Adding a small aquarium mirror can also stimulate your fish's curiosity and encourage them to interact with their reflections.

Occasionally supplement your fish's diet with live food like brine shrimp or bloodworms — the hunt will keep them active and engaged. 

The commitment to care:

Owning fish is a responsibility, not just a pretty decoration. Here's what you need to be prepared for if you decide that fish-keeping is in your future. 

  • Regular water changes: Partial water changes (around 25%) should be done weekly to remove waste and keep the water quality high and clear.
  • Frequent feeding: Most fish need to be fed twice a day, with a varied diet of flakes, pellets, and occasional treats.
  • Tank maintenance: Cleaning the gravel, wiping down the tank walls and pruning plants are all part of keeping your aquarium looking and functioning its best. It will also keep your fish healthy and happy, resulting in longer lives and more activity.
  • Be observant: Pay close attention to your fish's behavior and appearance. Changes in swimming patterns, loss of appetite or fin damage could be signs of illness and require immediate attention. 

Keeping fish as pets can be a delightful and rewarding experience, especially in a setting like our pet-friendly apartments.. By choosing the right fish, providing them with a proper habitat and keeping their minds and bodies active, you can create a thriving underwater world that brings a touch of grace, elegance and beauty to your living space. 


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Featured photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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