“Fish Keep Dying?” My 5 Step Guide to Success!

Keeping aquarium fish is an awesome hobby and can add a cool look to any room. It’s very common for your aquarium fish to keep dying if you don’t properly care for them. This 5 step guide will show you how to keep your fish alive and live a healthy life.

fish keep dying

1. You Need “Good Bacteria”

All fish aquariums are small ecosystems. Most people think you can just fill an aquarium with water and add fish… that’s not the case. Fish need beneficial bacteria (sometimes called good bacteria) to survive.

To grow this bacteria it can sometimes take weeks before adding fish. There is a way to jump start the process though! To do this, go to your local fish store and ask them for some “used filter pad” out of their aquarium setup. They will know exactly what your trying to do. Tell them your setting up a new tank and have to jump start your cycle of bacteria.

Once you have that used filter pad go home and put it in your filter and let it run for a couple of hours. This will make the fish able to live in the aquarium now. As long as the filter is running with that pad in it your fish will do fine.

2. Over Feeding Your Fish

aquarium fishSo many people over feed their fish! Think of a fish’s stomach being around the size of their eyeball. That’s how much food it will take to feed them. Don’t feed any more food then what your fish can’t eat in a couple of minutes.

When you feed your fish too much, the uneaten food falls to the tank bottom and starts to dissolve into your water parameters. Poop, food, and dead fish are pretty much all you have to worry about with your water.

3. A Good Filter

There are so many terrible aquarium filters on the market that it drives me crazy! Why do they let manufacturers produce these cheap pieces of crap in such large mass amounts?!? Why make a product of it doesn’t perform adequately?… Ok.. Rant over.

The most effective filters that I have found that are also cost effective are the bio-wheel filters. They are made by Marineland. The bio-wheel feature makes them SUPER effective. It takes months for that “good bacteria” to grow on the spinning wheel.. but once it does they work great! Let your wheels get gross because that’s when they’re most effective. View more reviews and prices here

Marineland Penguin Power Filter, 50 to 70-Gallon, 350 GPH
List Price: $34.71
Price: $26.24
You Save: $8.47
Price Disclaimer

4. Water Changes are Needed

Smaller fish aquariums don’t hold as much water volume so the water needs to be changed more often. When I say the water needs to be changed.. I mean that a percentage of the water needs to be changed. You can’t change ALL the water in the tank or the fish would go into shock. So by leaving some of the water in there while mixing the new water with it is the best combination.

A good amount of water to remove from your aquarium is 50%. Remember that when you add new water to not forget to add water conditioner (if you live on city water supply).

Most people use a “water changer” device to remove water from their fish tanks. It hooks up to any sink in your house and has a switch on it. The switch is used to remove water and also to add the new water. It’s a great invention! You can find more info here on it

5. Clean the Tank Bottom

I would estimate that over 90% of what makes a fish tank “dirty” is sitting on the tank bottom. If you have gravel it might be difficult to see but it’s hiding in there. Un-eaten fish food and fish poop is what it mainly is. If you can make a conscious effort to clean the tank bottom you will do just fine keeping pet fish!

The tool used to clean your aquarium bottom is known as a gravel vacuum. Basically it’s a big ended pipe that pulls water through it using siphonage (sounds complicated but it’s not). The cool thing about using a water changer like I mentioned in step 4 is the device has a gravel vacuum on the end of it. So as your doing you water change you are also cleaning your gravel if you want. You can see the gravel vacuum end in this photo here

Wrap Up:

If you follow these steps you will succeed in keeping pet fish. There a couple supplies that I mentioned that will make the task a lot easier. Check out the comments section below if you feel like asking any questions.


Have Something to Say?


Posted by Tiffany B: I have a 5 gallon planted aquarium and I’m having issues with black hair algae. Water parameters are perfect and I have a sponge filter running. I did get a plant with little spots of black hair algae and I guess it took over. How can I get rid of it? Is it bad?

  • Spot treat with Flourish Excel or Hydrogen Peroxide.
  • Bba usually due to too much light, inadequate or inconsistent co2 levels, inadequate water flow, etc. Like Razi said, spot treat to remove. Also consider trimming affected leaves (if you just pluck, it may disslodge abd spread further), but also make adjustments to lighting and Co2 if able. Figure out/fix underlying issue if possible.
  • Thanks a lot guys really appreciate the help.


Posted by Jesse G: How warm is TOO warm for your tank? Living on the 3rd floor my apartment gets warm during this august heat. Tank usually sits around 81-82 but has hit right at 83 a few times.

  • The outside temp where we live gets to 45 deg c during the day. The water in the aquarium comes to 30 deg c. I use a fan to cool the tank and keep it to 25-26 deg c even with the AC on. So 28 deg c as in your case is manageable.
  • im literally putting frozen water bottles in my tank every day around mid day since its like 107 degrees here and even with a fan on my tank its still high 80s…which is why at the time i only have a small betta tank on my desk otherwise id be in trouble.
  • All these water changes on my aquariums from April till now I have done 800 gallons in water changes, I record every water change, my newest set up jack dempsey and breeding convicts for Oscar food, it will be nice to have an aquarium python,lol my plants look wonderful


Posted by Angela R: So we plan on getting our fish for our tank Friday ( and probably the Wednesday after as I heard to not get all at once) we are wanting these fish maybe not all idk.. we have a 30 gallon tank what fish would be okay in there together and how many of each?

Angle fish
Neon tetra
Cory cat fish

  • I’m not an expert but angel fish are somewhat aggressive so probably no more than 2. I have 5 in a 50g. My first angels and they have been picking on eachother quite a bit.
  • What kind of loaches are you thinking. I have loaches so I know some about them. I don’t have any of the others on your list though.
  • Mollies thrive in hard water and neons prefer soft so figure out which you have (I’ve made this mistake). Corys are awesome, I would recommend them to anyone. Just research all of them individually on what their needs are, how big they get, how many you need (whether schooling or shoaling), male to female ratios, etc. Is your tank already cycled?
  • kissing gouramiI have all of the above in my tank apart from the gourami and angels. the loaches I have are yoyo loach I have 2 (better in groups) I made the mistake of having a gourami in my tank and my smaller fish kept disappearing.
  • Is your tank cycled? If you don’t know, make sure you buy an API test kit (not the strip, the kind with vials) and a bottle of Prime. These purchases may mess up your stocking budget ☹️ but you will need both items! And both are necessary with a new tank to get it stable.
  • I agree, your tank MUST be cycled before you add any fish or you are wasting your money. Also, when you have it cycled, you need to wait weeks, not days, to add more. You just don’t want to pay for nice fish and they die because the tank isn’t habitable for them.
  • Well you can do a fish in cycle with a few barbs or somethi g but you definitely want to get it cycled before you get them all! Its kinda hard on the fish though.


Posted by Mike S: I bought a male and a female Black Molly last Sunday(sadly I wasn’t familiar with Molly sexing when I bought them). The female one had fry the day I bought her actually. All of them were eaten by the other fish in the tank though. Unfortunately, the female one died after two days, and I’m not sure why. I had my water tested the next day and everything was good other than my ph, which was high, but you said they prefer a higher ph so it shouldn’t have bothered her. My only explanation is that when I turned on my tank light she would get REALLY freaked out, and the day she died there was an intense lightning storm and the room was dark. So I think that the sudden flash of light and sound boom may have killed her, in combination with the stress of giving birth and having only a one male to one female ratio.

Now, my male Molly seems like he’s about to die. He used to swim around the tank pecking at algae and exploring all day with his friend, but now he just floats in the same spot most of the time unless there’s food, which even then he isn’t as active. He has no weird coloration, but breathes slightly heavily especially since he’s usually stationary. I’ve since done a 25% water change, added one teaspoon off aquarium salt per gallon, added a dose of Seachem Paraguard(fish medicine) and feed my fish algae wafers and dried brine shrimp(soaked in tank water to prevent bloating) once a week each to switch up their typical diet of tropical fish flakes. Now I will be going on vacation for 3 days, which I read is completely fine for well fed fish, and I fear he will be dead when I get back. So the questions are, why did my female die? What am I doing wrong?

How can I help my Black Molly? Is he stressed because he has no one to school with? Should I get more Mollies even though I already have two Red Wag Platies(one male and one female unfortunately, bad gender ratio) and soon to be 3 Guppies in a 13 gallon tank. I currently have 1 male Guppy because the other male died after 9 days which was 3 days ago, so you can see why I’m worried this is all my fault. Granted, it was much smaller and was already somewhat hurt when I bought him(nipped fins and slightly paler). I will be getting two females if my water tests good again because I can already see my guppy harassing the female Platy on top of the male Platy too, so I will be forced to get females to avoid any sex related stress. I just don’t want my tank to be overcrowded.

I have good aeration, two plants, two medium sized marimo balls, two nano marimo balls, two ornaments, and four pieces of cholla moss. I also have a Wonder Shell in my tank that claims to allow for double the fish in your tank per gallon and two aquarium caves on standby in case I find room for them or need a place for more fish to hide. Is okay to only get male a Molly to avoid overpopulation? Is two Mollies enough for them to be stress free? Also, would a Dalmatian Molly be just as good as a Black Molly for schooling purposes, or should I stick with another Black Molly? Overall, what should my course of action be? Please reply, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

  • It sounds to me like your making it too confusing. Make sure your tank is cycled and do some gravel cleanings like the article mentioned.
  • Lets see if i can help.. All of these suggestions could work or could be a complete disaster. It all comes down to the temperament of your Betta. Only being in a 10 gallon makes it rough but you best bet for tank mates in general would be a snail or a school of Cories (as they like to hang out at the bottom and come as less of a threat to the Betta.).As far as filters go, I’d recommend a sponge filter or a Fluval Aqauclear. Aquaclears are my favorite. In a 10 gallon you could go with an AQ20 or an AQ50 (I’ll explain the 50 in a sec). The Aqauclears are really quiet, easy to maintain, and leaves plenty of room for media that lasts for years!

    As for the Betta itself, I highly recommend getting a King or Plakat Betta. You see so many posts are fin rot or the Betta eating away their heavy fins. Kings and Plakats have shorter fins but are still just as beautiful. And with the shorter fins, I personally feel they have better personalities and roam around a lot more since they don’t have so much extra weight.

    But back to the AQ50. I have an AQ50 in a 5 gallon which sounds INSANE for a Betta. But I have a Plakat and I made a plastic bottle water diffuser (which literally took a minute to make). The flow works great and is massive in size compared to the tank. Love it.

    Best of luck to you on your Betta hunt. If you haven’t done so, I’d recommend getting that tank cycled before you add your fish.

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