So you are ready to take the plunge into fish owning. What a fin-tastic idea! Here are a few tips and step-by-step instructions on how to set up your aquarium correctly.

First of all, it is important to decide on what kind of aquarium you would like to have. For example, are you interested in adopting multiple fish? Do you prefer freshwater fish or saltwater fish? Are the fish compatible together? It is important to do your research and understand the needs of the fish that you are interested in adopting before you consider setting up your own home aquarium.

When it comes to deciding on what type of fish you want, cost and maintenance are important factors to consider. Freshwater fish tend to be less expensive and require less maintenance. Saltwater fish, on the other hand, require their aquarium to be cleaned at least once every two weeks. While they are known to be vibrant and colorful fish, saltwater fish aquariums can be costly.

As you can see, there are a plethora of things to consider before setting up your own aquarium. With that being said, here are the essential steps to follow when setting up your first fish tank.

Buying the essentials

The equipment required for an aquarium varies greatly depending on the type of fish. As freshwater fish are more forgiving and a better choice for new fish owners, we will focus on the equipment necessary for a freshwater aquarium.

  • Fish tank (ideally 10-20 gallons of water per fish)
  • Substrate (the material used at the bottom of the tank)
  • Filter
  • Filter replacement media (used to remove chlorine, sediment, iron, and acid neutralization)
  • Heater
  • Plants and decorations
  • Water conditioner
  • Aquarium test kit (used to measure water parameters such as pH, Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate)
  • Fish food
  • Fish net
  • Light (optional)

Adding in and cleaning the gravel

The decision making does not stop there. Fishkeeping is more than just a hobby. It's a full-time job! If you choose to go with gravel as your substrate option, the type you choose will have a huge impact on the visual appeal of your aquarium. Fine or large gravel? Blue or multi-colored gravel? The choices are endless and it's yours to make!

Whether you go for a more colorful or more natural style, it is important to clean the gravel before you start filling the tank. First, place the gravel in a clean container or bucket and fill it with water. Next, slosh the water around and rinse the gravel before throwing the water out. Then, refill the container and slosh the water around again. Once the water stays clear, the gravel should be clean enough to place in the tank. Make sure to fill the tank with the gravel softly. If you pour it straight in at a high point, you could crack the glass.

Filling the aquarium

Bigger is better! When it comes to fish, it is always best to purchase a larger tank. While it is more costly, it will greatly improve the quality of life of your fish. It also requires a less demanding and rigorous maintenance regime.

Once you are done filling the tank, make sure to put in some water conditioner. Although tap water is safe for humans to drink, it contains chemicals that are detrimental to a fish's health.

Putting in the filter and heater

It is important to verify that the filter and heater are suitable for your fish tank and the fish that you plan to welcome. Make sure to clean the filter and heater before you place it in. Follow the directions on the box to set them up. Once they are placed into the tank, it is safe to turn them on.

Plants and decorations

The possibilities are endless! There is a bevy of different plants and decorations available for aquariums. However, make sure to wash all decorations and plants thoroughly before placing them into your fish tank.

To protect your fish from harmful chemicals and toxins, avoid plastic decorations. Although it is strongly disadvised, if you prefer the look of plastic decorations, it is still possible to place them in an aquarium. If the plastic has been graded food safe and the paint has been sealed, it should be harmless.

Regarding ceramics, if it has been graded dinnerware safe, it should be safe to use.

When debating whether or not to place wood into your aquarium, make sure that it has been treated beforehand. Otherwise, the wood could disrupt and alter the chemistry of the water. Driftwood is generally a safe option.

Beach sand and seashells, on the other hand, could be extremely harmful to freshwater fish.

Regardless of what you choose to decorate your aquarium with, make sure to do your research before you place anything into your fish tank.

Aquarium decoration ideas

If you are fresh out of ideas on how to decorate your aquarium, here are a few examples of really interesting concepts for inspiration.

Zen Zone

This person took "zen" to the next level. In addition to the Buddha statue placed in the middle of the tank, plants were placed around the bottom and top. Bamboo was also placed to match with the zen garden vibe.

Super Mario Heaven

This aquarium was designed to resemble the Super Mario Bros. game with 8-bit graphics. This design is particularly interesting because it makes it look like the fish are part of the game.

Cycling the water

Although cycling may not sound like the easiest process in the world, it is vital to your fish's health. Cycling grows and spreads beneficial bacteria, allowing your fish to live in a better environment. The most common process is called "fish-in cycling". This process entails keeping an eye on the levels of Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. You will need an aquarium test kit to keep track of the pH and Ammonia levels of the water and regulate them.

Finding the perfect spot

As fish tanks can be very heavy, it is imperative to find a solid table, drawer, or counter that can withstand the weight of your aquarium and not topple easily. Ensure that the electrical equipment is hidden and out of reach. As aquariums are generally made with glass, protect the aquarium to the best of your ability. Avoid placing the fish tank in a room where balls are often thrown around or where children are often rowdy.

Buying the fish

The time has come! You are finally ready to buy the fish! If you are a first-time fish owner, it is recommended to start with Betta fish, Goldfish, Guppies, or Angelfish. As mentioned before, make sure to do your research before buying fish. Surprisingly, not all fish get along! In fact, little fish are often eaten by bigger fish.

Little happy boy holding a plastic bag with new fishes he bought at the zoo store for his home room aquarium feeding and taking care of pets

Placing the fish in the aquarium

Start off by leaving the closed bag with your fish in the aquarium for at least 15 minutes. This will allow the water in the bag to match the temperature of your aquarium. Next, pour a cup of your aquarium's water into the bag. Every 15 minutes pour in more water until the bag is full. You can then use a fish net to scoop out the new fish and place it in the tank. Ensure that none of the water from the bag goes into the fish tank. This process is done to prevent your fish from being shocked by the new environment. It is recommended to keep the lights dim to allow your fish to adjust. While it may be a time-consuming process, it is ideal for the well-being of your fish. If you plan to add more fish to your aquarium, use the same method.

Be prepared to clean your fish tank at least once or twice a month. When feeding your fish, make sure to take the uneaten food out after five minutes. The uneaten food can release toxins into the water. It is also imperative to keep your hands out of the aquarium as much as possible. If absolutely necessary, make sure that your hands are not covered with soap or have anything on them when you place your hand in the tank.

Source: Aquarium Info, Pet Circle, Live Aquaria

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