Tropical fish are vibrant, easy to care for pets that will be the perfect addition to your family. Learn all about how to set up a tropical fish tank, feed and look after your new finned friends with this handy guide.

Tropical fish fact file

Life span – 10-12 years
Size – 5cm
Diet – Fish pellets and frozen fish food
Home – Aquarium

Care and maintenance

Your tank will need to meet specific requirements. With testing kits and tools from your local Petbarn, it’s easy to maintain a stabilised tank. When looking to parent tropical fish, start by choosing river fish of smaller sizes, as they handle fluctuations to water acidity and temperature better than other breeds.

Temperature: An ideal temperature for tropical fish is  between 24 and 27°C.
pH: The ideal pH level is between 5.5 and 7.5.
Nitrite: The nitrite level should be between 0 and 0.5ppm.
Nitrate: Maximum 5–10ppm.

Remember, depending on the breed of fish you are caring for, these levels are subject to change. Talk to your local Petbarn team member to establish how to stabilise your tank’s water according to the needs of your chosen breed.

Setting up

Different species of tropical fish prefer to eat in different ways, so you’ll need to determine how your fish like to eat before you start feeding them. They will be either surface, middle or bottom swimmers, and will like their food at either the bottom, middle or top of the tank. The position of their mouth is a giveaway to how they like to eat. Talk to your local Petbarn team member about how your chosen species likes to enjoy their food.

Tropical fish need a variety of pelleted and frozen foods to stay healthy. You can find foods designed for particular species of tropical fish at Petbarn.

A common cause of death in tropical fish is overeating. When determining how much food to feed your tropical fish, a good rule of thumb to follow is to give your fish no more than what they can consume in less than five minutes – this goes for both indoor and outdoor fish. Ask your local Petbarn team member what type and amount of food is best for the particular breed of fish you are looking after.


When setting up your tropical fish aquarium, the first thing to consider is the size of your tank. Choose the size of your tank according to the amount of fish you’re planning to keep. Talk to your local Petbarn member to decide on what size tank is appropriate for your new friends.

When choosing a position for your aquarium, avoid heaters and full sun exposure. Fill your tank firstly with a suitable substrate, such as gravel. Also include different ornaments for your fish to hide in and swim around. Your fish will love rocks and plants. You can find these and even more ornaments at Petbarn.

Before welcoming your fish into their new home, cycle your aquarium for at least one week. This will ensure the water is clean and at the perfect temperature for its new inhabitants and allows good bacteria to form.

A water filter and thermometer will ensure your water is the best quality – you can even take some of the water to your local Petbarn to be tested.


You’ll need to regularly change the water in your aquarium in order to keep your fish healthy. The best way to do this without causing your fish any shock or stress is to remove around 20% of the water once per fortnight.

When replacing the water in your tank make sure it’s at the right temperature and has not picked up any chemical residue. You can use a siphon to remove any unwanted matter that is floating around in the water.

Clean the tank’s walls and any elements within. It’s worth investing in an algae scraper or magnetic glass cleaner to make sure your aquarium is squeaky clean.

Make sure you never completely clean out your tank, as healthy bacteria builds up over time. Check your filter often and if any elements need replacing in your tank, do this one by one rather than all at once. You can also find packaged bacterial agents at Petbarn to keep your tank healthy. Talk to your local Petbarn team member to decide what’s right for your new aquarium.

Health care

Before deciding on your new fish, make sure they don’t have any ailments or injuries. Once home, check your fish once a day to make sure they are thriving in their aquarium.

Tropical fish are vulnerable to various diseases. If you notice anything peculiar, such as food refusal, irritated scales, mucus or cloudy eyes, visit your local Greencross Vets.

Fish types – compatibility

Maintaining harmony in your tank is key to a successful aquarium, as incompatible fish can cause stress, disease and injury. Ask your local Petbarn member to get an insight into what tropical fish will be happy to live together.

Tetras, guppies, platies, mollies and swordtails are great choices for a healthy aquarium. You can find live fish online and in-store at Petbarn.

Pet safety tips

If one of your fish has contracted an infection, the whole tank is at risk. It’s recommended to have a quarantine tank, with cycled water, to house the unwell fish and reduce the spread of infection.

You will also need to take measures to disinfect your tank. Your local Petbarn team member has all the answers about the easiest way to go about this, so ask them for advice.

Tip: Check your water regularly to ensure it’s in top condition=

Tropical fish checklist

Visit Petbarn online and in-store for all the tropical fish supplies you need.


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