Normally, this section would come after all the others as you can’t do this until the tank has been setup and matured. However, it is listed here because ultimately the livestock is what we are all interested in and it is only natural to think ahead!
This is where all you early thought and planning needs to be directed in order to have the right setup for the right animals and plants – see subsequent sections for more detail.
Rule No. 1
Don’t buy on impulse!
Do your research – read books, search the internet (though, always remember that not everything you read is correct!), speak to people – whilst any animal can cause problems, an impulse purchase invariably does! Is it suited to your tank? Is it suited to your water? Will it get on with others? We’ve all done it, and we’ve all suffered the consequences – a territorial/aggressive fish that terrorizes all the other inhabitants, a fish that eats your corals or invertebrates, an anemone that eats your fish, a starfish that eats your corals, or shrimp that eats your starfish!
Whilst it is impossible to avoid every potential problem, careful research and planning can minimize the risks.
Rule No. 2
Buy Healthy Livestock!
Take care that you only purchase from people you trust – do their tanks look well maintained? Does their stock look ‘happy’? Do they appear genuinely interested (not just in your money!)? Are they willing to answer questions? Do they quarantine their stock? Remember, whilst most shops will give a guarantee (maybe 24 hours) on livestock, you are the one who stands to lose out, so make sure you are happy that what you are buying is happy. If in doubt, either leave it alone or if you have to have it, ask the shopkeeper to keep it for a week longer (you may be asked to leave a deposit).
Rule No. 3
Ideally, you should quarantine any new purchase to ensure it is healthy. However, for most of us this is just not practicable – for that reason, follow rules 1 & 2 and you have a good chance of success.
Rule No. 4
Finally, when adding new stock to your tank, acclimatize them carefully – some species are far less hardy than others (particularly inverts, for example shrimps and echinoderms). All species are susceptible to rapid changes in PH, Salinity and temperature and can even die as a result. Always introduce with the lights off. Float the bag in the tank water to equalize the temperature then slowly mix in tank water over a period of 30 minutes to an hour (some species, for example Blue Linkia Stars require acclimatization over several hours to have any chance of survival) before placing it in the tank – using a drip from the tank to a temporary holding container is a good way to do this. Always avoid mixing water from the store into your own tank – this reduces the risk of waterborne parasites or disease. Also, some stores treat their fish with medications containing copper as a prophylactic measure – this will prove fatal to your invertebrates!