Aquarium setup is not as simple as purchasing a tank, dumping in some water and adding a few fish. Setting up a healthy home aquarium is a process and it takes a bit of patience and effort to get started.
If this is your first aquarium, it’s best to start out slow and plan on purchasing more robust freshwater fish. But let’s not jump the gun. Before you even think about what fish you will buy, you have to set up your aquarium. Many pet stores sell aquarium kits that take the guess work out of aquarium setup. Everything you need comes in one box. You just buy it, take it home and follow the directions.
Once you buy your aquarium, you have to prepare the tank. The first step of aquarium setup is to rinse everything completely with clean tap water: the tank, the gravel and the substrate. The next step is to put everything into the aquarium.
If your aquarium will have an under-gravel filter, put that in place first. Then pour about 2-3 inches of gravel into the aquarium. Now add de-chlorinated water until the tank is about one-third full. Next place all of your decorations and any plants that you are including in your aquarium setup. If you want to use live plants, it is best to consult someone at the pet store for advice, because certain live plants have to be anchored to the bottom of the tank and some float freely in the water. Now hook up the air pump and filter and fill the rest of the tank with water. Finally, put the lid on. For the most successful aquarium setup, let the aquarium run with the filter on for a day or two before you add your fish.
Monitor the tank for the first day, and watch for cloudiness. This is also a good time to test the water temperature and pH level. If everything looks good after a day or two, go ahead and add a few fish – the more robust types we told you to buy a few paragraphs ago. When you are starting a brand new aquarium, it is wise to begin with hardier fish that can survive high levels or nitrites and ammonia, as levels of these chemicals are always higher in a new aquarium environment because of the nitrogen cycle. Once your tank gets established, debris from fish excretions will generate good bacteria that is needed to stabilize the aquarium environment and improve conditions for fish survival. Once you add fish, It generally takes 4-6 weeks for the aquarium to balance out.
After you buy your fish and bring them home, leave them in their plastic bags floating on top of the tank for 15 minutes or so. This helps the fish get used to the temperature of the water in the aquarium. Once you have given your fish time to acclimate, gently transfer them to the tank with a net and bucket. It is not recommended that you pour the fish into your aquarium with the water from the bag, because this water could negatively affect the balance in your newly regulated aquarium.
Keep an eye on the fish after you add them to the aquarium to make sure they don’t show any signs of stress. If your fish get stressed, they can become sick. You can monitor stress levels by noticing how your fish behave. If they are inactive or stay near the surface of the water, they may be stressed. Get some stress coat if your fish start exhibiting this type of behavior.
It is recommended that you wait awhile – anywhere from a week to a month – before adding new fish to your aquarium. Give your first fish a chance to get comfortable in their new environment before you invite in anyone new.