“Kids were upset with me because I didn’t have any Nemoes,” said Jack Ross, who maintains the 5,000-gallon saltwater tank at Trader Dick’s in John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
Ross was referring to clownfish. Children call them Nemoes because of the movie “Finding Nemo.” He had put the clownfish and some sea anemones — their natural habitat — in the tank. The clownfish seemed to like the anemones, but other fish destroyed them, Ross said. He captured one of the fish that attacked the anemones and put it in another tank.
Ron Bedera, who maintains the tanks at Scheels and several other tanks around town, warns that fish can be territorial. He recommends moving around decorations that fish hide in before adding new fish. That way no fish has an established territory to defend.
“Fish are little brats, some more than others,” Bedera said.
For someone new to maintaining fish tanks, Bedera recommended starting out with hardy fish in a freshwater tank. People shouldn’t attempt saltwater tanks until they have experience, he said.
Bedera said African cichlids are a good starter species for freshwater tanks. He said cichlids come in many colors, unlike other hardy fish, and are fun because they will breed in the tank. They are mouthbrooders, meaning that they hold their young in their mouths. Bedera warns that they are aggressive and not to put mollies in with them. They will be lunch, he said.
Bedera said the general rule is “big fish eat little fish.”
Bedera also said people should pay attention to how their tank will work out in the long term. He gets calls from people who want to donate fish that have outgrown their tank.
One of the fish that was donated to the tank at John Ascuaga’s Nugget was a puffer fish that had been spoiled by its previous owner. Ross said he hand-feeds the fish. He has to be careful because the puffer fish has a strong bite. It can break a shell open in seconds, he said.
Bedera said people who donate their fish to bigger tanks are doing the right thing. Other people dump their fish in local waters and contaminate the ecosystem with non-native fish, Bedera said.
A general rule for tank size is one gallon of water for one inch of fish in freshwater, Bedera said. The ratio is five gallons to one inch of fish in saltwater. He said people just starting out with a tank should talk to the person at the store. He also said some store employees might be what he calls fish scoopers — people who just get fish out of the tank — but most have some experience. Bedera suggests doing research online to see what fish work well together. He also said to stay away from tanks with dirty water or dead fish in them.