How to set up a fish tank

So, you have committed yourself to the fish hobby. You've hopped on Amazon and bought your fish tank and now you're wondering how to install it. To help establish a healthy and clean environment for your new members of the family, we have arranged a step-by-step guide on setting up your fish tank. Plus, we will discuss all the critical information about your new ecosystem: the tank cycle (nitrogen cycle), and the necessary products to help you along the way.

Make sure you've got everything you need to setup your tank with our ultimate freshwater aquarium check list.

step by step setup for your aquarium

Now, let's set up your fish tank.

1. Remove the aquarium/fish tank from the box:

Cautiously remove your tank from its box and place it in a safe place. Build your stand (if necessary) at this point. While you can still easily reach the back of the aquarium, add your aquarium background if you've purchased one. If your tank comes with a light, make sure it's working by plugging it in and turning it on. You must clean the inside of the tank with a damp cloth after its placement to ensure there is no dust.

2. Put your tank/aquarium in position:

Once you've built your booth/stand and added your background, place your tank in its designated area. Do this now while it is much easier and safer than when it is full of water and very heavy! Ensure the stand is located on solid flooring, ideally use a beam finder to ensure it's positioned on the strongest part of the floor. Aquarium's are always heavier than people anticipated so make sure you get this right.

3. Rinse off all ornaments and gravel

With some hot water (no chemicals or soaps), thoroughly rinse the gravel and any ornaments you may have purchased. This will ensure that they are free of dust and paint. Drop them into the tank, adding the stone slowly and carefully to make sure it doesn't hit the tank's bottom too hard and cause damage.

4. Fill up your tank

Fill your tank with tap water. You may want to use a water hose if possible. Begin filling the tank slowly to avoid clouding from the gravel. An easy way to do this is to place a plate at the bottom of the tank and pour water onto the plate, or just pour into your hand.

5. Turn on the filter (and heater if applicable)

Now once your tank is completely full it is the time to turn on all the electrical equipment associated with your tank (DO NOT do this beforehand as this will damage your electrical equipment). As a general rule, only leave the light on for up to eight hours a day, as once again, it can promote too much algae growth.

6. Add treatments

Read all the instructions on your treatment bottles to add the correct dose to your tank. Add all treatments correctly. Biofilter products and water conditioners to establish beneficial bacteria are a must.

7. Let the tank cycle begin

There is lots of information regarding cycling an aquarium in preparation for fish. This is what what worked for me but understand that everyone has different heat, water conditions, filters etc. the best thing to do is just don't rush.

Let your aquarium cycle and create a healthy and clean biological filter before adding any fish. This can take up to a month. To start the cycle, add a good pinch of fish food to the water; This will break down into ammonia, and the products that promote bacteria will begin to work. By allowing a healthy environment to develop, you will decrease the chance of your tank suffering from New Tank Syndrome, which is a toxic buildup of nitrites and ammonia.

Once all the necessary products have been added (after following the product instructions), you should take the opportunity to regularly test the water quality using a basic test kit (strips will work fine for starting out), try and do this at least once a week until the nitrite and ammonia levels are around 0ppm. If you want you could also visit your LFS (local fish store) with a sample from your fish tank, a member of the team can make sure the GH, pH, ammonia, and other levels of your water are optimal before adding your fish. This can take up to a month so just be patient! When these results are positive, it's time to buy some fish.

Afterwards: Keep testing your water

Once you've added fish to your new tank, fish waste produced by the fish could cause more ammonia to reappear. Beneficial bacteria will continue to consume ammonia. However, it is essential to keep a good eye on the tank while fish is becoming accustomed to the new environment. Reacting to any necessary changes will help keep your fishy family members healthy and safe. A good rule of thumb is simply do a 25% water change every 2 weeks. Please remember to do this, far too often we neglect our aquariums and let the water quality drop, all it takes is max 1 hour every few weeks to give them a good habitat.