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Common Exotic Pet Fish

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If you’re a beginner aquarist, setting up an aquarium is exciting. If you’re an expert, you know it takes diligence to maintain. If you’re just an observer, simply sitting in front of one can be relaxing. A varied mix of fish makes a fascinating and beautiful display.

Glowlight Tetra

Glowlight tetras, named for the orange stripe down their sides, reach adult size of 1.5 inches. Their stripes get brighter as the fish age, and a school of them can enliven an aquarium. They are a peaceful species who do well in schools of five or more. Schools of this size require a 15-gallon tank at minimum. Since they came from black waters, they need dim lighting; and floating plants can help set this mood. These are good fish for beginners.

Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf gouramis are also brightly colored and popular fish who are good for beginners. They grow to 3 inches and do well in community tanks of 10 gallons or larger. They have a peaceful temperament, but male dwarf gouramis can get aggressive, especially during breeding season. Dwarf gouramis are labyrinth fish, meaning the specimens have respiratory organs that allow them to breathe oxygen. If a water source becomes too polluted or low in oxygen, they can gulp air at the surface. They are shy fish who need plenty of vegetation in which to hide.

Jack Dempsey Cichlid

For the aquarist who likes fish with a little spunk, Jack Dempsey cichlids are worth considering. These colorful fish have iridescent blue, green and gold spots over their bodies and fins. They grow up to 10 inches long. This is a hardy fish and good for beginners. Their water conditions are not demanding, nor are their diets. However, because of their territorial nature, they are not good in community tanks. A single Jack Dempsey needs a 50-gallon tank; more than one requires much more capacity.

Puffer Fish

The puffer fish, a favorite among experienced fish keepers, is not recommended for the novice. They require a special diet to help keep their teeth worn, and carefully monitored water conditions. These fish have the ability to gulp water and puff up into spiny balls, making them unsavory to predators. They are known to show excitement, in hopes of food, when they see their keeper, but since they will overeat, a strict feeding schedule is necessary. They are aggressive toward other fish. Because they don’t have scales, puffer fish are highly susceptible to diseases.

Keeping Them Healthy

All fish require carefully maintained water conditions and researched diets. Most require a 20 percent to 50 percent water change weekly and well-monitored water temperatures. Also, watch for signs of skin flukes or other parasites, as well as Ichthyobodo and other bacterial infections.