The stay at home fishkeeper

It looks like we may all have some spare time on our hands this spring/summer, so now may be the time when you can finally get round to doing all those jobs you promised you’d do. And that goes for fish too. Here are a few things to keep you occupied.


Take a look at your tank’s interior design and evaluate it. Is it bland and lacking in colour? Does it need some new greenery or different hardscape? Would sand look better than gravel? Treat yourself to some new artificial plants and ornaments or if its a planted tank, try re-scaping it in the nature aquarium style. Replant now and you’ll get to watch your underwater garden grow. It may even help to relax you.

For marines, do some dry scaping and create some nice rock formations with caves, branches and overhangs. Do it away from the tank, stick it, leave it overnight and the evaluate it the next day. It’s not the days of live rock anymore where you need to keep everything wet and have just hours to do it. Mark out an area the size of your tank on some cardboard, take your time and create something epic. 

If your fish all come from one area, how about re-scaping the tank to be more biotope correct? For Amazonian species use fine sand, wood and leaves, and use either only South American plant species or leave them out entirely for that blackwater forest stream look. Your fish will reward you with better colours and more natural behaviour.


More time at home means more time can be given over to otherwise time-consuming practices, like breeding fish. Set up a separate tank and start to mature a sponge filter in readiness for eggs and fry. Get a brine shrimp hatcher or even a simple breeding trap for easy breeders like guppies. 

Breeding pairs need regular observation and growing fry, regular feeds throughout the day. So now’s the time to do it. Set yourself a breeding challenge and try breeding something you’ve never bred before, or breed multiple species and see how many you can log this year. Record how quickly you can grow your fish from egg to adult. Professional breeders can achieve just that in months. And its from regular water changes and regular food.

Buy spares

If you’re having anxieties about simply being able to run your tank with a nationwide shutdown, think about the regular items you consume in a month. Tapsafe is essential for freshwater tanks as without it you won’t be able to change the water. If you use RO, get your own unit. You’ll be able to produce endless quantities at home and you’ll save money versus buying it. You could even produce it for friends if there’s a crisis.

Work out how many months of fish food, filter sponges and carbon you have. Don’t go mad and just keep it to the bare essentials. Do you have a spare heater? And a spare filter? If you couldn’t visit a fish shop for four weeks what would you usually need? Common easy to keep fish will be fine on dry food and frozen foods. Fussy fish which only eat live food may not do so well if supplies run out.

Dig a pond

There aren’t any restrictions on gardening while at home and that includes water gardening. Get outside and fill your time by creating a pond. In-ground ponds can be so cheap as all you need is liner. If you’ve got some timber lying around build a raised pond, divide and re-pot a water lily, or breed your pond fish. Design and build the pond you’d always planned to do but never had the time. Get it built now and it will be mature and looking great for summertime. Cancelled holidays but forced staycations will mean you’ll have more time at home than in previous years. Time to get the garden looking great.


Modern times means that we aren’t as isolated as we would have been pre-internet. Research an area of fishkeeping that you want to get into, like Japanese koi, reef keeping, discus, aquascaping or Malawi cichlids.

Take time to learn the scientific names and ask the online community loads of questions. Read books – they are still massively valuable information resources, often written by experts in their field. Buy a book online and get it delivered. Be inspired and educated at the same time as taking your mind off other things. Share knowledge with others, join a Facebook group or create a YouTube video. Become an information resource for others. 

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Jeremy Gay is an author and freelance aquatic specialist. A former editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine, he offers a wealth of experience on all things aquarium and pond.

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