Once your tank has finished cycling, you can start adding animals. Make sure your tank is completely cycled before moving onto this step, otherwise you could lose fish and nobody wants that. On average, it takes 10-14 days for a tank cycle to reach a point where you can safely add fish. Always be sure to have your water tested, to verify that the tank is safe.
The first thing you will add to your tank is a cleaning crew. Cleaning crews consist of various hermit crabs and snails that will help keep your tank clean. For reef tanks, Mexican Turbo snails and your average red legged hermit crabs are cheap and hardy, making them perfect for your first animals. Freshwater cleaners, such as the mystery snail, or Malaysian burring snail are good choices as well.
Once you’ve added your cleaning crew, give them a few days to graze on the algae before adding your first fish. You might want to consider adding a cleaner shrimp to your menagerie, and give it time to set up shop before adding fish. If all goes well in those few days, then it’s time for fish!
Chromis and Damsels make great starter fish as both are inexpensive and hardy. Chromis like to school together so getting three or more can create a dazzling display of color in your new tank. Damsels are brightly colored and energetic fish, but should be grouped in odd numbers to keep territorial aggression down. Blennies are neat fish that like to perch on rocks or scoot across the sand, bringing a unique look to your tank. It is to note that blennies should be kept one per tank. Gobies are another interesting fish that can be added to a tank early on. Clown gobies are small bright yellow (or green) fish that only get about two inches long and will perch on anything they can at even the most odd of angles.
Once your tank has decent amount of animals in it and has been around for a month with good results, it’s time to add a few unique cleaners. Sea hares are great algae cleaners and don’t harm fish or corals. Black sea cucumbers are wonderful sandsifters, making sure that your substrate is always clean. Sand-sifting starfish and nassarius snails are also great sand cleaners.
As your aquarium – and your skill – progresses, you can consider adding corals to your tank. Xenia makes a wonderful starter coral. It sways in the current, requires little special care, and grows fast. Most coral eating fish tend to leave it alone. Mushroom coral is another great coral to start your reef with. It will cover rocks and add a variety of color to your tank.
Be sure to visit us at Crystal Clear Aquariums to discuss any questions you might have about adding your first animals to your new aquarium.