Starting A Freshwater Aquarium

Freshwater aquariums are great for beginners. They require less maintenance and cost less to set up. You can start with a fish tank as small as 2 gallons to as large as your pocket book will allow. If you want something small, maybe for an office or child's bedroom, aquariums 5 to 20 gallons are excellent.

The larger the aquarium, the easier it will be to maintain. This sounds contrary to what common sense would predict but here is the reason why: A large aquarium has a better chance at replicating nature, which is the natural cycle that fish live with.
The larger the fish tank, the more likely it can sustain it's own biological processes, the more space beneficial bacteria has to grow and flourish on which in turn reduces the nitrate levels in the aquarium, allowing the water chemistry to be stable and the tropical fish to be happy and healthy.
Help with choosing tank size and location see the section about choosing a fish tank.
For help choosing some of the equipment click on the following links: Choosing a heater or Choosing a filter

For setting up the tropical fish aquarium let's go through the process step by step:

Step 1: Level the stand the aquarium will sit on. Use at least a 2 foot level and shim the bottom of the stand if necessary. This is very important for even weight distribution so that your aquarium does not crack.

Step 2: Clean out your new aquarium with cool clear water and a cloth. Don't use any soaps or cleaners because they may harm your fish. If you are trying to clean out a used tank and need a safe cleaner, try Rydyt from Python Products.

Step 3: Attach the background to the aquarium. Most backgrounds go on the outside of the aquarium. Use clear packing tape to attach the background.

Step 4: Rinse the gravel or sand. Be sure to use cool water with colored gravel. Hot water can cause the epoxy color to peel off down the road. How much gravel? For most tropical aquariums less than 100 gallons, one pound per gallon is sufficient.

Step 5: If you opted to add an air pump, run the airline and air stones. Be sure to follow the instructions on the box of the air filter that you purchase. If you run air stones, be sure to allow enough air tubing so that you can pin it down with a heavy ornament or with suction cup clamps to the side of the aquarium. If you do not allow enough tubing for this, your air stones will surface when you turn it on and always float!

Step 6: Add the gravel or sand carefully, do not drop it in from a high height to prevent any cracks in the bottom of the aquarium. Scoop it in gently and level it.

Step 7: Fill your aquarium up with tap water.

Step 8: Add your filter system. Follow the instructions on the filter box. The steps to setting up the fish tank filter will vary according to the type of filter you purchase.

Step 9: Put the heater in place. Don't plug the heater in yet, it is important to let the heater sit in the water in the tank for at least an hour. That way the glass on the heater can acclimatize to the temperature of the water. This prevents thermal cracking.

Step 10: Rinse off any decorations and plants under lukewarm water to remove any dust or dirt. Decorate the aquarium with any plants and ornaments. make sure that the ornaments are safe for use with fish tanks, do not put just anything in your aquarium because the pain may leak toxins into your water.

Step 11: Fill the aquarium up the rest of the way. Most factory built aquariums have a black trim around the top. Fill the aquarium up to just above the bottom of the black trim to hide the water level.

Step 12: Add water conditioner according to the direction on the bottle and also add other additives like aquarium salt.

Step 13: Turn on the filter and turn on the heater. Monitor your temperature with your thermometer to make sure that your thermostat setting is in the proper range.

After your finished setting up the aquarium let it run for 24 hours before you add fish. This time is needed to equalize the water pressure, you will notice tiny bubbles floating to the surface, this is the water settling. If you place fish in immediately, your fish will die! There is no need to run a freshwater aquarium for longer than 24 hours before adding fish. As long as the temperature is stable and all of the aquarium equipment works properly, you are ready to add some aquarium fish.

For help choosing you first aquarium fish click on the following links: Choosing your first tropical fish

Introducing Your new Fish

When you get your tropical fish home, do not dump them directly in the fish tank. They need it be floated, let the bag float in the water for about 15 minutes so that the water temperatures can adjust.
If you dump the fish in right away, the temperature difference it will shock it and can cause it to die or get sick. Another recommendation is to put a cup of your fish tank water in the bag after 10 minutes and then let it float for another 5 minutes, this will get the fish used to your water chemistry.
After the time is up, use a net to release the fish and do not dump the pet store's water into your aquarium into your fish tank.
The photo below shows how to float your fish:

For frequently asked questions about Aquarium Help, click the link!