The Art of Seining
aquarium is easy. Our native fish are generally hardier than exotics. Provide a clean environment and proper amounts of food and you can enjoy native fish for many years.
Begin with a 20-gallon aquarium or smaller. You can work up to a larger system as your needs and experience permit. Don't exceed more than one 2-to 3-inch fish per gallon of water. However, when getting started, I recommend not exceeding one fish per two gallons of water (or no more than 10 fish in a 20-gallon aquarium).
A healthy aquarium must have adequate oxygenation and, more importantly, good filtration. More fish die in aquaria from ammonia build-up than from any other cause, except for initial rough handling in the field. Clean and/or change the filters often. As long as you don't overstock, one small aquarium pump will provide more than enough oxygen in a 20-gallon tank.
Overfeeding also causes problems for novice aquarium owners. Avoid feeding your fish daily at first. Instead, try feeding once every two days. Minnows, darters and madtoms are small and do not need large quantities of food, especially in an aquarium. If your water appears cloudy after feeding, you have fed too much. Overfeeding can lead to excessive build-ups of impurities that could kill your fish.
If you feed, filter and oxygenate properly, you won't have to change the water in your tank for up to a year or more. If you do have to change the water, or when adding new fish to an aquarium, be sure the water temperature is the same as that from which the fish came. Remove all chlorine if the water came from a municipal supply. You can do this by adding aquarium dechlorination products, which are available in most pet stores. Change the water if it becomes cloudy when you place new fish in an aquarium.
Finally, give your fish a home. Place rocks, shells or other objects in the tank for fish to use as cover. Over time, you may add living plants and other animals, like crayfish and shrimp. I recommend keeping the aquarium out of direct sunlight to discourage algae growth.
To learn more about Missouri's fishes, obtain a copy of "The Fishes of Missouri," published by the Missouri Conservation Department. To learn more about native fish collecting and aquarium design, visit the web sites of the North American Native Fishes Association (NANFA) and the Native Fish Conservancy (NFC).