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Finding Their Level

Learn what it takes to accommodate fish at the top, middle and bottom levels of your freshwater tank.

By Gary Elson |

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I like birds, but if I flap my arms, I just can’t get off the ground. It’s a darn good thing there’s a lot of food down here, or bottom-feeders like humans would be in a lot of trouble.

Technically, things tend to look easier for fish. But like the creatures we see when we look out our windows, fish have their habitats and hangouts, too. Most fish occupy niches in nature, which means they are able to prosper in a certain range of environments. If the niche your favorite species occupies is the bottom, there will be little activity higher up in the tank. The opposite holds true if you like surface-dwellers. What we often forget is that water has depth, and every fish has its place not only in the food chain but also in what we can call the “food ladder.”

There’s a lot of competition for food in the wild, and it only makes sense that fish have adapted by specializing. How aquarists deal with that specialization goes a long way toward determining how well we succeed in providing for the needs of the fish we keep. Every species of fish has specific needs in temperature range, food choices, water chemistry, lighting preferences and pH.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the March 2011 issue of Aquarium Fish International today.

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