Adding a fish tank to your home is truly one of the best ways to add more life, beauty, and color to your indoor environment. With the fish’s vibrant colors and innate elegance, an aquarium can be quite a sight to behold, especially when adorned with bright aquarium LED lights and decorations.
Furthermore, keeping fish at home has scientifically proven effects in reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and improving mental health.
That is why tons of therapists, dentists, and doctors have aquariums in their waiting rooms.
And, on top of it all, setting up an aquarium is pretty easy, as long as you are equipped with the right nuggets of information and ideas in fish keeping.
Yes, folks, setting up an aquarium is easy and painless if you have done your homework beforehand.
I have been keeping fish for several years. With a wealth of experience in keeping fish, I have become a bona fide aquarium connoisseur and even a source of information and inspiration for others.
From friends and neighbors to strangers from east Asia, tons of aquarium enthusiasts worldwide have reached out to me to seek my advice.
And, one of the questions I get quite often is “how to set up an aquarium”.
Truthfully, some people think setting up an aquarium is extremely hard, especially when they do not get the result that they are dreaming of.
I often receive emails from other fish keepers telling me that they had bought a fish tank, and set up their aquarium only to have their finned pets die a day later.
But the truth is, setting up a fish is pretty easy if you know the needs of your fish and how to keep them incredibly healthy.
And, to help you embark on your fish keeping journey smoothly, I have created this guide on how to set up an aquarium.
- Choose a Pet Fish
- Get Some Info about the Water You are Going to Use
- Pick a Fish Tank
- Pick an Ideal and Appropriate Location for Your Fish Tank
- Get a Fish Tank Stand
- Setting Up the Aquarium
- Prepare Your Aquarium Water
- Remove the Aquarium From the Box
- Put Your Fish Tank in Position
- Install the Aquarium Filter, Pumps, And Heater
- Rinse Ornaments and Gravel
- Fill the Tank’s Bottom with Gravel
- Pour the Treated Water
- Install the Lighting System and Turn on all Electrical Elements
- Set Up Your Decorations and Plants
- Cycle Your Aquarium
- Add Your Fish
Choose a Pet Fish
There are literally over a thousand options to choose from when it comes to pet fish. And, not all every kind of fish is suitable for your lifestyle, needs, budget, and preferences.
For instance, saltwater fish may not be ideal for busy people or those who are on a budget. Generally, saltwater aquariums are more costly, as far as maintenance, than their freshwater counterparts.
Also, I recommend saltwater aquariums for experts or people who can dedicate a great deal of time taking care of their fish since they are more complicated compared to freshwater tanks.
So, before you make your way to the pet store, and buy the first beautiful fish you see, spend some time reading these handy tips.
Check out this cool video about keeping fish for beginners:
Learn More about these Finned Creatures
Read books from your nearest library, and talk to people in your local pet stores, to know more about the different species of fish. Additionally, you may check out forums, Reddit, and Facebook groups.
There are other websites like badmanstropicalfish.com, fishprofile.com, seriouslyfish.com, and aquahobby.com that can give you a plethora of information about pet fish.
Tour a Handful of Pet Fish Stores Near You
After learning the basics of fish care, tour the fish stores near you and see which one has the know the most knowledgeable staff and healthiest fish.
Afterward, find the type of fish that you want to be your pet at home.
Do Some Research About the Fish You Like
Once you arrive home, learn more about the fish that you want at the store.
Here are some of the important notes and reminders as you do a little research on the fish that you want to be your pet.
- Find out how big these finned creatures grow
- Know the aquarium size they need
- Figure out the food they eat
- Know their ideal water temperature
- Find out if they are compatible with the other fish that you like
- Know what water level they swim in
Make a Decision
Once you have gathered all the information you need, decide on the species of fish that you are going to keep at home. Moreover, try not to overstock your fish tank.
An excellent general guideline, when stocking small and peaceful fish, is to have 1 inch of fish for every 1 gallon of aquarium water.
For territorial fish, however, you must alter this general guideline a bit.
Get Some Info about the Water You are Going to Use
Municipal or tap water supplies, for the most part, contain chemical additives, like chloramine and chlorine, which both can be harmful to your fish.
In particular, chloramine can be quite a headache for aquarium enthusiasts since it is a mixture of ammonia and chlorine. And, did you know that ammonia is a highly toxic substance for aquarium pet fish?
So, contact your municipality and ask how the supply of water is treated. Ask them about the chemicals added to your tap water.
Then, look for the perfect aquarium water conditioners that will help remove those toxic additives.
And, do not forget to buy test kits to test the pH level and temperature of your water. Trust me, these kits will come in handy in your fishkeeping hobby.
Pick a Fish Tank
No single fish tank is right and perfect for everyone. So, do not just go online and buy the first beautiful aquarium that you see.
Since you already know what kind of fish you are going to keep, pick an aquarium that will accommodate your aquatic buddies.
The aquarium you pick must be big enough to hold enough tank water for the number and type of fish you intend to have.
Different fish types produce different waste amounts and need different room mounts. Generally, the larger your fish is, the more water is required, and the more waste they make.
And, do not forget to take note that decorations and live plants will take up some space as well.
When looking for an aquarium, make sure to heed these tips:
- Even if you are a newbie, do not go for any aquarium with a capacity of 10 gallons or less. So, try to avoid single betta holders or desktop aquariums. While it may seem tempting and nice, the quality of water in a small tank is so much harder to maintain.• If you are looking for a starter tank, go for a 20 or 25-gallon aquarium. This size range is perfect if you are keeping some hardy fish, like small cory cats, tetra, platys, guppies, and mollies.
- A 55-gallon aquarium is the standard size that lets you keep an array of fish. I usually do not recommend beginners to go larger than 55 gallons.
- Several calculators will let you decide what types of fish are ideal to keep based on the compatibility, needs, and aquarium size. The 1-inch of fish for every gallon rule may be an excellent place to start, but it is not ideal for smaller tanks. Would you keep a 10-inch fish in a 10-gallon aquarium?
Here is how to find the best aquarium for your home:
Pick an Ideal and Appropriate Location for Your Fish Tank
Your tank’s area will have a significant impact on your aquarium’s maintenance. Plus, it can also affect the health of your pet fish.
Here are some things to consider as you look for the best aquarium for your fish.
- Safety: Look for a spot where your fish tank is safe from the kids that might get injured unintentionally by the fish tank as well as the electrical equipment around it. Avoid high traffic areas as much as possible.
- Ease of access: Your tank must be placed in a spot where you can drop by there at least a couple of times a day. Moreover, the tank’s location must have enough space around it where you can perform periodic maintenance.
- Avoid HVAC vents and windows: Places with direct sunlight contact or HVAC vents will cause aquarium water fluctuations.
Give at least 5 inches of space between the aquarium filter and the fish tank. Also, choose a location that is near an electrical outlet.
Get a Fish Tank Stand
Fish tanks with a capacity of 20 gallons or more will definitely need an aquarium stand. You may opt not to have one only if your aquarium is placed on a well-anchored and heavy counter.
Buy an aquarium stand that is designed for your tank’s shape and dimensions.
And, never underestimate the weight of any full aquarium. That is why you should look for an aquarium stand that is either rated for your tank’s size or a sturdy custom-built one.
When looking for a fish tank stand, make sure to heed these suggestions and tips.
- Flimsy wood desks, end tables, television stands, dresses, and other furniture do not have enough strength to uphold large aquariums.
- Look for aquarium kits that include everything you need to start your fish keeping hobby. Ideal for newbies, these kits feature an assortment of equipment, such as filters, heaters, and many more.
- Not planning to buy a complete aquarium setup? Then, look for equipment that is rated for your aquarium’s size.
Setting Up the Aquarium
Ready to kick-start your aquarium hobby? Let us get right into action!
Prepare Your Aquarium Water
Prepare the water to be used for your aquarium, the night before you set up your fish tank. With an aquarium water conditioner, remove all the toxic chemicals and contaminants of your tank water, such as toxic metals, chloramine, ammonia, and chlorine.
Let the water sit overnight. Additionally, use testing kits to check the pH level and hardness of your water.
Remove the Aquarium From the Box
Remove your aquarium carefully from its packaging or box, and put it in a safe place. If you bought a fish tank background, install it while you still have easy access to the tank’s back.
If your aquarium comes with a lighting system, check it by turning it on.
Afterward, wipe your aquarium with a damp cloth that is free of any soap residue or chemicals, to make sure there is no dust.
Put Your Fish Tank in Position
Once you have unboxed and cleaned your aquarium, put it in its designated spot and above the stand. It is safe and easier that way than positioning it when it is heavy and full of water.
Install the Aquarium Filter, Pumps, And Heater
When it comes to aquarium filters, installation methods usually vary. Read the instruction manual to know more about your filter’s installation process.
Better yet, check Youtube videos on how to effectively and conveniently install aquarium filters.
- For an external aquarium, set the unit of the aquarium’s back in a position that lets the unit evenly distribute the outflow of water.
- If you have an under gravel aquarium filter, place its filter plate in, and ensure that its lift tubes are appropriately fitted. Do not turn the unit on, until the aquarium is totally filled with water.
Rinse Ornaments and Gravel
Thoroughly rinse your ornaments and gravel, with chemical-free hot water. That will ensure that your gravel and aquarium decorations are free from dust.
Gravel is a crucial part of a full setup aquarium. Not only does it make your tank more visually appealing, but it also helps your finned pets keep their orientation inside the tank.
Furthermore, it helps create a healthy and thriving aquatic environment for your fish.
Pour the Treated Water
Fill the aquarium with the treated water slowly and gently to avoid knocking around your gravel.
Just leave a little space between the water and aquarium, so that air can be efficiently exchanged at the water’s surface.
Install the Lighting System and Turn on all Electrical Elements
Once you have installed your lighting system, plug all the electrical components, and turn them on. Then, spend some time evaluating them and see if everything works.
Also, let the water let heat up or reach its ideal temperature before moving on to the next step.
Set Up Your Decorations and Plants
Arrange your plants and ornaments the way you like, at this point. Once the fish and water are in the tank, you will find it difficult to rearrange them.
- Pick the aquatic plants that you need based on the type of fish you are getting. Submerge their roots in the aquarium gravel, but not the leaves or stems.
- Some aquatic plants need to be attached or fastened to something. That is why you need to get a fishing line and tie the aquatic plants to a rock, driftwood or decoration.
- Some live plants get quickly gobbled up by hobby fish like the famous goldfish.
- You may use driftwood, which helps in decreasing the water’s pH level.
Cycle Your Aquarium
You have finally finished setting up your aquarium! Perhaps, it is time to add the fish for your aquarium, right? Unfortunately, not.
Although the aquarium looks ready for finned residents, you need to be a little patient and wait until it is cycled before you can add fish.
We call this process the “Nitrogen Cycle”.
The purpose of this process is practically to convert ammonia to nitrates. Moreover, it helps in making your aquarium a safe and healthy haven for your fish.
And, we are going to fully cover this topic in another article.
Here is a cool video tutorial on how to cycle your aquarium:
Add Your Fish
This is the moment that you have been waiting for. Finally, you can see your fish swimming the wondrous ecosystem that you have made.
Before you add them to your tank, though, you still have to test your aquarium water’s condition.
With an ammonia test kit, check if the ammonia level is 0. Additionally, use a pH test kit if the water’s pH level is optimal for your fish.
If the water conditions are perfect and correct, then add your beloved fish to your aquarium.
That is it! I hope you have picked up some valuable information in this blog post. Happy fish keeping!