Tropical Fish For Beginners | Best Information & Guide


History of Tropical Fish

Tropical Fish have been kept in captivity as food items for hundreds of years. And, if you look at the many goldfish colors and forms produced by Chinese breeders over the centuries, or if you compare wild form Betta splendens to the aquarium version, it’s obvious that people have not only kept fish for a very long time, but we have also bred them selectively. All we can say for certain in establishing a timeline is there are pictures of captive fish in ancient Egyptian art.



The modern aquarium hobby seems to have begun in the nineteenth century. There are still a few surviving Victorian fishtanks – ornate affairs with very little room for fish in them. Fishkeeping seems to have had a short period of popularity back then.

There are also good records of a healthy German aquarium hobby in the period before the first world war.

Older tanks often had metal bottoms, to allow for heating by an open flame (a most inefficient system!). tropical fish tanks had large frames and caulking that should make us glad silicone was invented. They were also generally small in comparison to modern tanks.

What we would consider being cool water fish was the norm. Goldfish, paradise fish and temperate native fish seem to have been popular. As well, coastal species were often the only ‘exotics’ available.

Some tropical fish would make deals with sailors, asking them to bring back a few cans of freshwater fish collected in seaside streams on voyages to Africa or South America. It must have been exciting to see what would come back after making such a deal.


Delicate species didn’t do well traveling in tin boxes on slow freighters. It was only with the development of air freight that the hobby moved into the mainstream. Aquarium keeping had a burst of popularity in the 1950s, fueled by the importation of then expensive rarities like the neon tetra. Small tetras and gouramis were popular, including many wonderful species we rarely see today.


Tropical fish are generally those fish found in aquatic tropical environments around the world, including both freshwater and saltwater species. Fishkeepers often keep tropical fish in freshwater and saltwater aquariums.



tropical fish represent the largest numbers of animals typically found in home aquaria. Generally, this group of fishes is readily available for a small to moderate investment and can be easily maintained by the novice aquarist or hobbyist



Tanks were still generally small, hard to move and prone to leaking, but heaters were available, and air-driven filters were big items.


By the 1960s, fish were generally more available than they are today. tropical fish Along with a wide range of “Mom and Pop” aquarium stores, it seemed every five and dime store or department store had a profitable aquarium section. Species selection was limited, but Danios, small tetras, barbs and especially livebearers were easy to get in large to medium-sized cities.


The author’s hometown, with one pet-shop now, had nine aquarium outlets in the 1960s. Today’s pet shops tend to be much larger than their predecessors. The use of silicone sealants in the 1970s improved things radically. Larger tanks became affordable, and fish like cichlids became common pets.

Filtration and heating technology, coupled with a more developed understanding of the water cycle, allowed for the keeping of larger animals. In the 1940s, many aquarium books counseled against water changes, viewing “old water” as being the best thing for fish. We’ve since learned it didn’t quite work that way.



The importation of the colorful East African Mbuna cichlids of Lake Malawi, and later the exotic ‘new’ cichlids of Lake Tanganyika opened up new doors in aquarium-keeping. Soon to follow were Central America’ s large but fascinating cichlids, the magnificent rainbows of Australia/Papua-New Guinea/Irian Jaya plus a return to and deeper exploration of the fish fauna of the ‘original’ sources, Asia, West Africa and of course South America.

Many of the older species replaced in the hobby by newer and flashier creatures are making a comeback, as the fishkeeping possibilities available to the modern aquarist are expanding.

The ever-growing network of aquarium clubs, Internet discussion lists, magazines and books has allowed other changes to take place. Fish-breeding has become a hobby in itself, helping take the pressure off wild populations. Many aquarists are looking at the habitats their fish come from, and designing their tanks to reflect natural environments.

The idea of the aquarium as a tool for environmental education is an old and honorable one. However, the ease with which we can gain access to information about our fish has made it even more attractive for us to learn about our world through the glass panes of an aquarium.


So tropical fish, where do we stand? We have technology that makes keeping fish easy, and a vast selection of not just wild-caught fish, but a wide range of species made available by other hobbyists, and the huge fish farms of Florida and Asia.

The old standards,  tropical fish is popular because they are wonderful creatures, are easy to get, and for the adventurous, we’re seeing the constant arrival of new discoveries. There’s even a new and quick growing angle in the eco-tourism industry, as several rainforest tour-companies are offering guided fish-collecting trips for aquarists.

One has to wonder if the aquarist-tourists ever realize that to a degree, we’ve come back around to them in the role of the fish-collecting sailors of the last century.


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