Who can forget the little blue tang that helped Marlin find Nemo? In Finding Dory, she looks for her own family — as soon as she remembers them. Just like she was there for Marlin, Dory makes new friends of her own. Many of her new friends live in a Marine Institute, a modern aquarium right on the ocean.
Finding Dory is in theaters tonight! If your kiddos can’t wait to see it, be sure to stack up the savings with a Fandango promo code.
You don’t have to travel to see an aquarium. More and more people have them right in their own home. Aquariums are very relaxing, the sound of the water is comforting and the slow movement of the fish helps to slow down active minds. Fish are also wonderful for families with allergies or asthma since they have no dander. Many parents find that a placing family aquarium near the homework area can help children focus. Other parents even place the fish tank in the child’s room to create a soothing nightlight!
But before you rush out to get your own Dory, stop and think. Fish are animals just like cats, dogs, or birds. Fish can’t bark or chirp to let you know they need something, but they still need to be fed and cared for every day. The fish can’t clean their own water or tank and that takes time. Good fish parents look for signs that the fish might be sick, or that one fish might be bothering another. Like any other pet, you must consider the commitment before bring the animal into the house.
If you and your family are ready for the commitment of bringing Dory or another friendly fish into your home, here’s how to build an aquarium at home with just a few items from your local pet store.
If you’re loading the kids into the car for a pet store run, don’t forget to check for online and in-store coupons for PetSmart, Petco, and Blue Zoo Aquatics. Even Amazon has fish and pet supplies, and you can save even more with Amazon coupons!
Step 1: Choose your fish
Before you choose your aquarium, decide what kind of fish you want to own. Knowing the kind of fish you want will determine what kind of aquarium you’ll need.
Dory, Nemo, and Marlin are all ocean fish, so clownfish and blue tangs would need a saltwater tank. Tetras, angelfish, and catfish are all freshwater fish and will need a freshwater tank. Goldfish can only live with other goldfish, while two male bettas will fight to the death. If you’re unsure, ask at your local pet store.
Step 2: Choose your tank size & shape
Homes for your fish come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, but you should know that different types of fish need different types of tanks.
A single male betta will live quite happily in a small bowl. Two or three goldfish will need a larger bowl. If you want a variety of fish, look at a 5- to 10-gallon aquarium. Saltwater tanks are usually 20 to 30 gallons to make it easier to keep the salt balance correct for the fish.
If this is your first foray into fish, try a smaller betta tank and see if you like watching the animals. You can always add the betta to a community tank later.
Step 3: Choose your filtration system
There are many different filtration systems available. Under-gravel systems use a grid system to lift the gravel from the bottom of the tank. Food and waste that collect in this space are sucked through a plastic tube into the filter before being poured back into the tank.
Other filters suck water from just above the gravel, while others pull water from a long tube that reaches all down one side. All have their strengths and weaknesses. The larger the aquarium, the larger the filter must be. Make sure that you choose the right size filter for your tank!
Step 4: Choose your gravel
Substrate is a fancy word for the gravel or sand that is one the bottom of every fish tank or bowl. It acts as a filter, keeping uneaten food and fish waste from floating around in the water. This means a cleaner home for your fish! Gravel also provides an anchor for any plants or decorations you want in your tank.
There are many different colors and types of gravel on the market, but be sure to use gravel, sand, or marbles that are designed to be used in fish tanks. Sand from your local hardware store may look just the same, but it probably has additives that will kill your fish. The same is true with marbles or rocks from the craft store. They often have paint or dye that is poisonous to fish.
It’s also usually a good idea to rinse your gravel in a colander before placing it in the aquarium. This gets rid of any dust or dirt and keeps your tank cleaner.
Step 5: Find a place for your fish tank
You can easily fill a bowl at the sink and move it to wherever you wish, but that becomes a problem for a full-sized fish tank.
Remember, a gallon of water weighs eight pounds, so a five-gallon tank weighs 40 pounds, and a 10-gallon tank is a whopping 80 pounds. Be sure to choose the right place for you before adding any water.
Step 6: Fill your tank with water
Try using an empty distilled water jug to fill the tank. If you’re in a hurry, you can use two jugs and let one jug fill in the sink while you’re pouring the other jug in the tank. Fill the tank or bowl to just about an inch shy of the top.
Don’t forget the conditioner! Tap water contains chlorine that’s poisonous to fish, so add aquarium conditioner to the water. There are several different companies that make water conditioner, so be sure to follow the directions on your water conditioner to make sure you add the right amount.
Step 7: Add some style
Pouring the water will disturb the gravel, so take the time to smooth it after filling the tank. This is also a good time to add any decorations you might want.
Fish use plants and other items in the tank to hide. This gives them time “away” from the other fish. They also provide a great place for fry to hide if any of your fish have babies. If you live in an area that gets cold, you may also need to add a heater to keep your tank warm.
Finally, fish need oxygen. Since they can’t breathe air, they need to get it from the water. The more fish you have in the tank; the more oxygen they will need. Be sure to add an aerator to ensure that your fish have plenty of oxygen.
Step 8: Let things settle down
Yup, just leave the tank alone for 24 hours. This gives the gravel a chance to settle. It also gives all the chemicals a chance to work and gives the water time to warm to the proper temperature.
If you’re creating a saltwater tank, this is when you would add the salt and check the water with a saltwater hydrometer or refractometer. This measures the salt levels so your fish will be healthy.
Step 9: Introduce your fish to their new home
Never just dump fish into your tank! Your fish will come home from the store in a clear plastic bag, but even if the water in the tank feels about the same as the bag, the temperatures will be different. This shock can kill your fish!
Instead, float the bag in the top of the tank for 15 minutes. Don’t be surprised to see him swim around in the bag, trying to explore his new home. When the time is up, use a small net to scoop him out of the bag and set him free in the tank.
Bonus! Aquarium shopping guide
There are many different high quality aquarium kits on the market. They come in a wide range of sizes and styles to fit any room or décor. Oftentimes, they come with the tank, filter, aerator, gravel, and plants. If you’re creating your own tank, you’ll need:
- A tank or bowl
- Plants or decorations
- Water conditioner
For a saltwater tank add these items:
- Aquarium salt
Bonus! Aquarium safety
Keep things safe for kids, other pets, and your fish. Never leave a little one near an open aquarium. It’s possible for the child to fall into even a small tank.
You should also make sure your tank has a secure cover that clips into place, and keep your tank out of reach. You would never want a curious hand — or paw! — to pull the tank over!
Help little ones feed the fish by placing a small amount of food in their hand and letting them sprinkle it into the tank. You’ll always want to supervise feeding time because too much food will contaminate the tank and can kill the fish. Also, remind children that sharing is wonderful, but that fish need their own toys and decorations. Children’s toys, especially those that contain batteries, will poison the tank.