Set Up Your First Fish Tank

I still remember every minute of the day I got my first fish tank. Of course, I said I wanted to start small, so I got my 10-gallon tank with 3 small Goldfish… and I found out 10 gallons is waaaay too small for 3 Goldfish. Six months later, I had a 75-gallon tank with 9 Goldfish, and then I found out I should have had more than 7… but one learns The reason I tell you this is because, if you don’t want to repeat the whole process very soon, I would recommend getting the largest tank that you can accommodate. It’s actually easier to clean a bigger tank than a smaller one. Small tanks and bowls require a lot more maintenance, believe it or not, plus, no fish should be kept in a tank of less than 5 gallons, and that is for a very tiny fish, or maybe a Betta. You can find more information about all that throughout the site.

For now, let’s hope that this guideline can help you set up your fish tank. As I said, you can start with a 10, 20, or 30-gallon tank or bigger, made of glass or acrylic. Glass is traditional, but the advantages of an acrylic tank are many. It’s a lot lighter, seamless, and the clarity is unbeatable. Just remember to buy cleaning tools for acrylic and not glass.

You can buy a complete setup without ornaments for a low price, and this is a great beginning. You also need a stand that can hold the tank. Remember it’ll be very heavy once you add the water. Start out with plastic plants, and plastic or resin, maybe wood, stone or ceramic decorations. Be careful, not every rock or toy is good for your tank. Some have toxins that can kill your fish. Remember, a larger tank is easier to maintain than a small one and it can hold many more fish, which will lead to a more pleasant experience of fish keeping.

Once you have the equipment, the rest is easy. Choose a good place to set the tank and it’s stand in your home.

Once it’s filled you won’t be able to move it without emptying it first and you don’t want to do that try not to put it under the direct sunlight of a window or a very hot area, since heat makes algae grow faster, which means, cleaning will be harder, and high temperatures can actually harm some fish.

Rinse the gravel or sand well and spread it so you get an even layer. You always have to rinse everything very well before putting it in the tank.

If you have a hanging heater, hang it off the back, where you can still see it and tell if it’s on.¬†

A submersible heater should go near the bottom of the tank because the heat rises.

Powerheads are great for aquariums, but some species, like Goldfish, can’t tolerate the currents very well. Powerheads draw water from under the UGF and pump it out of the power head, creating water movement as well as delivering oxygen to the fish and the beneficial bacteria that live in the gravel (substrate).

It’s important to have filtration in the tank. You could use an under-gravel filter (UGF). These sit on top of the glass at the bottom of the aquarium. Lift tubes are inserted into the risers at the rear of the filter, and then the under-gravel filter is covered with gravel. If you have an underwater filter, find a location for your air pump and put your airline and air stones in. You will also need a gang valve for the airline, which will let you run two lift tubes off of a single outlet air pump. Run a piece of air line from the air pump to the gang valve. Run another air line from the gang valve to each of your lift tubes. Read the instructions for your filter to see exactly how to attach the air line to your particular air stones.

There are also mechanical filters on the market. I prefer and use a power filter with a Bio-Wheel. The Bio Wheel is a paper like cylinder that rotates as the water is returned to the tank. Beneficial bacteria live on the wheel and help increase the biological cycle.

Now place your ornaments in the tank and see where you want them before you get your hands wet. Expect some ceramic or plastic decorations to float or tip over as you put water in the tank.

Once your decorations are in place, you are ready to add water. You can just pour tap water into the tank and since you have no fish, plants, or a biological filter to worry about, add the treatment after the tank is full. Be careful that the water doesn’t dig a hole in the gravel as you pour it in.

You can use a good conditioner like Prime, and your water will be ready to add fish.

Then you’ll be ready to start the biological cycling process.