A freshwater aquarium can provide years of enjoyment for you and your fish if established and maintained correctly. Different
fish or flora may require special equipment, or unique filtration, so setting up the tank correctly is essential to short,
and long term success.
Probably the most important task (and often the most overlooked) is the planning process. Before buying anything, simply
taking the time to plan out the habitat will almost eliminate any problems down the road. A few things that need to be on
you plan include: Tank Size, Tank Location, Type of Tank Environment (rocky, planted), Types of Fish, Substrate, Filtration,
Lighting, Heating and Water Circulation.
With these points in mind, start a real plan to put the tank together, write this plan down and then research the fish
to determine what equipment will be needed to provide the proper environment for them. Once your plan is assembled you can
purchase the equipment you need and feel confident you have the correct habitat for your fish. Use the list below as a general
step-by-step guide to setting up an aquarium.
1. Tank Location
2. Place Tank/Stand
4. Filtration Setup
7. Start Filtration
9. Cycle Tank
10. Introduce Fish
It is best to avoid natural lighting sources in most situations. Natural sunlight coming thru windows and patios tends
to spawn algae growth, and can lead to problems for the beginner. Find a medium to dimly lit, cool area with sufficient air
circulation for your aquarium. Make sure that you have access to electrical outlets close by and easy access to the location
is essential for your weekly tank maintenance.
Measure the length, width, and height of your stand/tank/canopy as it will set. Make sure that the chosen location is
large enough to accommodate not just the tank and stand, but any HOB (Hang Over Back) filters and hoses. Make sure the tank
is level and fits squarely on the stand. Remember that water is very heavy (close to 8 lbs. per gallon!) so it's preferable
to have a level, well supported area for your aquarium, failure to do so can result in disaster. It is recommended to "test
fill" any new aquarium outside to test for leaks.
After the substrate and decor have been sufficiently rinsed (Do Not Shortcut Rinsing), you can begin to arrange the aquarium
inside before you add the water. Put the substrate in first. Usually about a pound per gallon is enough when using plain
aquarium, or 2-3 inches of a good quality substrate (fluorite, eco-complete, aquatic soil) if you are choosing live plants.
Next put in the rock/wood/plants to decorate the tank. Some fish require hiding spots, caves, etc. so arrange with the specimens
you will be adding in mind,
Arrange the filtration components as where they will be when the tank is running. Make sure there is adequate spacing
both between the components and the wall. Ensure everything fits and that there is proper spacing.
Make sure that your electrical outlets are properly grounded and any extension cords involved are heavy duty and have
a breaker. Make sure to use drip loops on all cords coming from the tank. Check all plumbing fixtures and filtration components
to make sure they have been properly fastened/sealed.
Use treated tap water (add a tap water conditioner to the water) to fill your tank and take your time. Don't destroy all
the aquascaping you just finished. Filling the tank and starting the filters will be the test to see if the plumbing fixtures
are working properly, it will also show you what your finished aquarium will look like, and you may end up making some changes
to your aquascaping at this time.
Prime necessary pumps and filters as recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure that all devices are operating properly
and that your water flow is consistent with the needs of your future inhabitants. This is also the time to start your thermometer,
air pump and any power heads or other devices.
Turn on all of the aquarium lights to be sure all bulbs are working. Make sure all lights and fixtures are away from
aquarium/filter water splashing. Most lighting purchased with tanks is totally inadequate for a well lit tank, even more so
for a planted tank. A planted tank should have at least 2 watts per gallon to be considered a low light tank, 3-4 watts per
gallon for medium light and anything above 4 watts per gallon for a high light tank. Your plant selection should be partially
based on the amount of light you have as well as the addition of CO2 and fertilizers. Replace bulbs when needed.
THIS IS THE MOST NEGLEGTED PROCESS IN FISHKEEPING! It is also the reason for most beginner fish deaths and why some people
give up on keeping fish. Usually cycling a tank is done by putting fish in the tank and letting nature take its course. While
it is possible to cycle with fish, it often shortens the fish lifespan and often kills the fish outright. Fishless cycling
is actually easier and has the benefits of not hurting the fish and allowing you to fully stock your tank once the cycle is
complete. Fishless cycling is simple; add enough ammonia to the tank to increase the level to 5ppm. Keep the level of ammonia
at 5ppm until the tank is capable to removing the ammonia in a 24 hour period (ammonia level reading 0). Beneficial bacteria
have then been created that convert the ammonia into nitrate. Almost done now. The Nitrites are also dangerous to fish just
as ammonia is, but the next step in the process is bacteria that change nitrites into nitrates. Nitrates are less harmful
to the fish and are easily removed by water changes. A good test kit is essential to determining when your tank has completed
the cycle. BE PATIENT, cycling a tank can often take between a month or two. Yes it's a long time, but your fish will love
you for it. Bio-Spira can be used to "instantly" cycle a tank, but it is the only product known to actually work
and is usually hard to find. Some people add substrate/decorations or swish filters from an established aquarium to jump start
the cycling process.
If you have properly cycled your tank, you can add a full bio-load of fish right away, if you have chosen to go the fish-in
cycle method you must add specimens sparsely, and be extremely careful in the choice of additions; only very hardy fish will
survive. Add specimens that are compatible, not only behaviorally, but also environmentally. Be careful to not overstock
your tank, too many fish will create water conditions that are hazardous to your fish. For begginers it is recommended not
to exeed the 1 inch of fish per gallon rule (this is based on the adult size of the fish, not its current size). There are
several methods available for transferring fish from shipping bag to tank; Dumping fish straight from bag into tank is probably
the worst method; floating the bag in the water for 15 minutes then releasing the fish into the tank, water and all; netting
the fish out of the shipping bag and putting it into the tank; and dosing where you use a dose of AmQuel and NovAqua (a capful
per ten gallons or ten drops of each per gallon) added to the receiving tank and a small squirt of each is added to the shipping
bag as soon as it is opened, the net method is used from that point. The use of a quarantine tank is highly recommended, especially
for established aquariums.
In closing, starting a new tank is a rewarding experience, but as with any pets, you are now responsible for their health!
Do your research and plan ahead, you and your fish will be grateful in the long run.