The Golden Rule of Fish Keeping…
There are many rules for keeping fish. Many tactics and everyone will give you a different answer. There is one rule that holds constant for keeping any kind of fish tank (reef, cichlids, planted tanks…whatever)
Emulate Nature as much as possible.
That rule sounds easy but it’s application is easier said than done.
We’ll start simple.
Do you ever see any blue pink and orange rocks in the wild? No? So don’t go setting up a tank with some crazy color gravel. There are exceptions to this rule if you have a small child who has a Little Mermaid tank, but don’t push it. Use natural colored rocks and you fish will like you more. (this is a beef I have so it went up first)
Lighting. What kind of duration do the fish you have typically get in nature? If you say 12 hours you are wrong. That happens maybe a few days of the year. Your planted tank needs no more than 10 hours of lighting. Sure you can go over but with this you are just asking for more problems. Algae, for example.
SIDE NOTE: I have actually cut back my lights on my reef tank to only be on for 7 hours. They are two 175 Metal Halides.
While running the tank lights for less of a “day” duration, I have been able to see a better growth in my corals. I strongly believe this is factored to the amount of resting that the corals receive.
Plants and fish in the wild have a set time it gets light and dark. Try as hard as you can to get them on this kind of cycle. It will really help the fish and plants grow. Ideally we would want to have this lighting come on gradually, but on and off is ok too. Do not leave your lights on overnight as this stresses the fish and the plants. Everything needs a break. How do you feel when you stay up all night?
What is the water like where your fish or plants came from? You might want to know this. Certain plants and fish have different home waters and habitats. Make sure you are knowledgeable about these conditions and do your best to recreate them in your aquarium.
Think about the seasons with your fishtanks as well. In south America there is a raining season. This is a great time with fresh water enters the ecosystem. The plants grow wild and the fish breed. It is well known though out the hobby that aquarium fish breeders often do large waterchanges to get their fish to spawn.
Breeding you fish aside, they love water changes.
What about substrate? Do your fish come from a sandy bottom or a rocky one? If we are talking about plants, what is the soil like? Muddy, sandy? Is there a bunch of iron in the ground? Are the plants competing with other plants or are they just alone as individual species?
Something that I think is greatly over looked when people set up a tank is water flow. What kind of motion do you have in you water. This is different for all kinds of fishtanks both reef and freshwater. If you are keeping rainbows you want fast moving water that your fish will think is a stream like they have in their natural habitat in the wild. South American fish like discus and tetras typically come from slow moving waters. Same deal with a reef, the waves beat on a reef so you should have your water moving back and forth.