Decide whether you are ready to take the plunge: Having a fish tank to call your own can become the focal point of any room in your home, but it takes effort on your part in order to keep it looking the best that it can. Aquarium keeping requires daily attention, most of which doesn’t require much work on your part. Feeding the fish is one thing, but are you ready to clean the tank two or three times a month?
Establishing an aquarium also requires some initial costs. Tanks, filters, and heaters all cost money in the beginning, but they are only a one time purchase when compared to fish food, filter media, and fish, which need to be purchased as needed. Your fish must reside in an environmentally friendly and inexpensive structures. However, there are some things and material that you need to purchase for you to make an ideal and durable aquarium. If you are willing to put in the time and money, follow the proceeding steps in order to get your tank up and looking its best.
Determine the size and location of your aquarium: Fish tanks come in various sizes, from as small as a gallon or two, to thousands of gallons. The typical home aquarium is between 10 and 250 gallons, but size isn’t everything. First, determine where you are looking to put the tank, as well as if the floor under it will be able to support the weight of the tank. Remember, water weighs approximately 8 lbs. per gallon, so a 125 gallon tank may look appealing, but can your floor hold at least 1000 lbs? It is a good idea to keep the tank away from things such as open doors and windows, since sunlight can cause major algae problems in the tank. Also, make sure your tank is located near an outlet, since every piece of equipment for the tank will require its own plug. In this case, it is a good idea to use a surge protector to maximize your main outlet to compensate for the extra plugs. Finally, take into account what type of fish you are looking to keep. Some fish get rather large, and will require a larger tank in order to house them in the future. This must be planned for, as keeping large fish in a small tank is a disaster waiting to happen.
After deciding on a tank, it is time to purchase the other equipment that is needed to get the tank up and running. Among these, a filter, and heater are the most important, being that most tanks come with a hood and light fixture with them. If not, one can be purchased at your local fish store based on the size of the tank you have. (See filter section for details on different types) There are also many other types of equipment that serve specific purposes in the home aquarium, which I have outlined in the Equipment Section.
Now, the actual set-up process begins. If using a stand to display your tank on, place it in your desired location, leaving adequate space behind it for easy access and cleaning. Next, it is a good idea to rinse the tank out to remove any dust that accumulated while it was in the store. ONLY USE WATER TO DO THIS, NEVER USE ANY TYPE OF CHEMICAL OR SOAP AS IT WILL HARM THE FISH. After it is cleaned, place it on top of the stand, followed by the hood, but do not plug it in yet. At this time, it would be appropriate to add a background to the tank if you desire, but this is completely optional. If you plan on adding one, it is best to attach it to the back of the tank with clear tape, such as Scotch.
Rinse the substrate to remove any packing dust. The method that works best for me is putting the gravel in a strainer and running it under tap water. Once it is adequately rinsed, you can just dump it into the tank, and then repeat the process. When putting it in the tank, it is nice to make things such as gullies or mountains, since it adds to making the tank look more natural. There is no right or wrong amount to add, so this is completely up to you to make it fit look the way you would like it to.
Add the water. It is a good idea to use something such as a dinner plate in order to displace the water evenly as it flows in. This will prevent the gravel from becoming disturbed. Also, be sure to leave some room for the water to expand when things such as rocks and plants are added. If this step is skipped, it could cause your tank to overflow.
Add your filter. If using a hang on back filter, place it over the back or side of your tank, and if using a canister filter or wet/dry filter, place it below the tank inside the stand. For the hang on back filter, just add the filter cartridge into the filter housing, and partially fill it with water in order to prime it. In the case of the canister or wet/dry filter, follow the instructions that come with the filter in regards to setting up the necessary tubing and hoses. Don’t plug the filter in yet.
Add your heater. This step is relatively simple. Attach the suction cups to the heater and stick it to the glass wherever you think it looks best. It can be attached both horizontally and vertically. Again, don’t plug it in yet.
This is where the creative freedom comes in. It is now time to add things such as rocks, plants, and decorations, but make sure that you rinse them off first to remove any package residue or debris. Aquascaping your tank is very enjoyable, and it can be done in an endless amount of ways. Keep in mind that you are going to have to clean the tank and gravel, so don’t make it overwhelming intricate.
Place the hood and light fixture on top of the tank, essentially topping off the tank. At this point, if your tank came with a canopy, it can be placed over the hood now as well. It is also a good idea to stick a thermometer on the side or front of the tank in order to monitor the water’s temperate at all times.
Plug everything into your surge protector aside from the heater. It is a good idea to wait 10 or 15 minutes after adding the heater to the water before you turn it on just to let it get acclimated with the current water temperature. Once this time has passed, turn on your heater and adjust it to approximately 78 degrees for the time being (it can be adjusted based on the fish you are going to keep). Make sure the filter is running, and turn on the light.
Don’t forget to add dechlorinator to the water in your tank. This is a crucial step in removing harmful additives in common household water. Any pet shop has many brands of dechlorinator or tap water conditioner, and they all do virtually the same thing.
Congratulations, your tank is now up and running. Now, go against your will to add fish and wait. Waiting is crucial at this point to your tank cycling properly.