How to Set Up an Aquarium (Easy Step-by-Step Guide)

Still, congratulations! Fish keeping is a fun hobbyhorse that can be veritably satisfying If you’re planning to buy fish for your home terrarium. But that does not mean there are no challenges. It’s common to buy everything you need for your terrarium, including the fish, in one go at the store. This can beget numerous problems, but they all stem from poor planning. Introducing new faves into your home takes time and planning, whether it’s a canine or a fish. You’ll also save yourself a lot of time and plutocrat if you figure out what you need to start with before buying a terrarium. Then are the effects you need to know about setting up a terrarium.


First Things First: Pick Your Fish

To be clear, you need to think about what kind of fish you want to have in your aquarium. Don’t go to the store to buy fish yet! But before you buy anything, you need to know what kind of fish you want to have. Do as much research as possible and start with the fish you are most interested in. You may start reading about a certain fish and find that it is not for you. Some fish are not suitable for beginners, some require a certain tank size, some do not get along with other tank inhabitants. Not all fish are suitable for all aquarists, especially if you are a new aquarist.

Where to Start?

Fish such as guppies and goldfish tend to be popular fish that are well suited for new aquarists because they are hardy, interesting and can generally withstand a learning curve. However, if you read about guppies and goldfish, you’ll discover that they are not ideal aquarium partners. They have different temperature preferences, and goldfish will eat virtually anything, including guppies. If your goldfish are big enough, they will even eat your adult guppies!

If you have no idea where to start, a good idea is to search on forums or even go to local aquarium stores, look at the fish and talk to the staff. This will help you narrow down your fish preferences and find fish that will go well with your aquarium.

Now You Need an Aquarium

Once you know what species of fish you are interested in and have familiarized yourself with their needs, you should have a good idea of the size of aquarium they need. Some fish even have preferences for the shape of their aquarium. Roaches have completely different needs than a school of neon tetras. Remember that you don’t have to buy an aquarium tailored to the maximum size of your fish right away, but you should have a plan in your head for how you will set up your new aquarium when the time comes. This adorable 3-inch screech owl can become a 10-inch giant in no time, and that’s not even counting their friends, as the screech owl prefers to be kept in groups. Don’t fail with your aquarium!

Here are the tank elements you need to investigate for your chosen fish:
  • Filter: There are hundreds of filters on the market, so choosing the perfect one can be intimidating. The size, species and number of fish you plan to take home will help you decide. An aquarium with neocaridina shrimp can do with a sponge filter. An aquarium with four goldfish will probably require a HOB filter or a canister designed for a larger tank than the one you buy. Generally, you can under-filter a tank, but not over-filter it. The exception is that some fish require a very slow or gentle flow. Bettas, for example, do not tolerate strong, powerful filters and usually do best with weak filtration. Still, care should be taken to ensure adequate filtration.
  • Heating: guess what! Not all fish need heaters! Cold and cold-water fish usually don’t need heaters if they are kept in an air-conditioned environment, such as a home with heating and air conditioning. Unless you keep your home in an extremely cool climate, you may not need a heater for goldfish. In contrast, most tetras are tropical fish and therefore need heating even in a comfortable indoor environment. If you invest in an aquarium thermometer, you will be able to monitor the temperature while preparing the fish tank. This will give you enough time to see how different temperatures in the aquarium room affect the water temperature, so you can make an informed decision about the heater.
  • Substrate: All fish that feed or reside in the lower part of the water column have preferences for substrate texture and density. Cow loaches like to dig, so they do well with sand and other soft substrates. Goldfish are known to put gravel in their mouths, so they do best with sand or pebbles that are large enough to fit in their mouths. In addition, some substrates change the water chemistry. Ground coral, aragonite and some plant aquarium substrates raise or lower the pH in the aquarium. Aquarium gravel and sand are usually inert and do not change pH, but there are exceptions. Remember to carefully research the possible effects of the substrate on water parameters.
  • Tank Stand: Technically not part of the sink, but it is extremely important to choose the right sink rack. A liter of water weighs about 8-9 pounds, so a 10-liter tank weighs much less than a 75-liter tank. When determining the weight of the aquarium, also consider the weight of the empty aquarium and any substrate or decor you want to add. You can’t just take an old dresser from the garage and use it as a tank stand. Not all furniture is sturdy enough for an aquarium. The last thing you want is a flooded house and dead fish because the rack you chose collapsed.

Fancy Up the Place!

Live plants are a great addition to an aquarium. They help remove waste products from the water and can create an enriching environment for your fish. However, some fish are extremely hard on live plants! You may be able to figure out how to trick goldfish or cichlids into not pulling out and killing the plants you place in the tank, but some fish are eager to destroy any semblance of plant life you place in the tank.

Knowing where you stand before buying plants will help you decide which ones to choose. Some are strong enough to withstand the fish, while other plants grow back so quickly that the fish are unable to completely destroy them before they grow back.

Decoration can be a fun addition to an aquarium, but it can also serve an important purpose for some animals. Some fish like caves or rocks in which to make their home. Nocturnal fish often prefer a dark, quiet place where they can hang out during the day. Long-finned fish, such as goldfish and betta, usually need an arrangement that does not have rough or sharp edges where they can pinch and tear their fins. Some fish like to wriggle into the set, but then can’t get out without splitting the set in two with surgical precision. All of these things should be taken into account when choosing an aquarium decoration.

Cycle Your Tank

fish tank_Ja Crispy_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Ja Crispy, Shutterstock

Although people have been buying fish and putting them directly into a new aquarium for centuries, we now know that this is not the best method. Aquarium replacement is the process by which colonies of beneficial bacteria settle into your aquarium. The beneficial bacteria consume waste products, namely nitrite and ammonia, and convert them into nitrate, which can then be absorbed by living plants or removed by water changes.

Both ammonia and nitrite can poison your fish and cause permanent damage and even death. By creating a tank environment that supports beneficial bacteria, your tank can naturally maintain safe levels of waste products.

How to Cycle a Tank

aquarium cycle_hedgehog94_Shutterstock
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

There are several ways to grow an aquarium, but the two most common are adding ammonia in small amounts or adding food to the aquarium that will rot and produce ammonia. This provides food for beneficial bacteria so that colonies can grow and thrive. You should invest in a test kit to monitor ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels and check these levels regularly as your aquarium goes through a cycle. If your aquarium has no ammonia or nitrite, but low nitrate levels, it has passed.

Of course, you’ve probably seen bottled bacteria or “quick-start” products sold with claims that you can immediately add fish to your tank. Some of these products are useful, but they are no substitute for proper filtration of your aquarium. If you know someone who already has an aquarium, he or she may be willing to give you some used filtration media to help get the aquarium cycle started. Sometimes your local fish store may also be willing to give you used filter media.

Choose the Right Filter Media

aquarium filter_Andrey_Nikitin_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Andrey_Nikitin, Shutterstock

An important part of the aquarium cycle is the choice of filter media, which provide a large surface area for beneficial bacteria to settle. Although many filter manufacturers recommend changing filter media every month or even every week, with each change you remove some of your good bacteria. By choosing durable filter media that requires little replacement, you can maintain these colonies.

Stock Up

While you’re waiting for the aquarium to cycle, which can take several weeks or even months, it’s a good idea to stock up on aquarium supplies. Not just things like fish nets and food, but also broad-spectrum medicines and water treatment. Having these things in stock can save you time when it matters, such as when you have sick fish. It can also save you money, especially if you look for deals instead of waiting until you need the product soon.

Ok, Now You’re Ready!

goldfish in freshwater_ luckypic_Shutterstock
Image Credit: luckypic, Shutterstock

Once your aquarium is fully set up and you’ve stocked up on everything you need to take your fish home, it’s time to take your fish home! Fish can be purchased at local aquarium stores, pet stores or online retailers. Be prepared to prophylactically treat or quarantine your new fish in case they come to you after contracting a disease or parasite. And as difficult as it is, be patient! It can be disappointing when you go to the store and discover that the fish you want is sold out for the fourth week in a row. But when you’ve put so much time and planning into your aquarium, the last thing you want is to have to start all over again to properly set up your aquarium for other fish.


Zakładanie akwarium i wprowadzanie nowych ryb to ekscytujący czas. Nikt nie może cię winić za to, że jesteś trochę podekscytowany! Brzmi to jak dużo planowania i szczerze mówiąc, jest. Jednak wysiłek i planowanie, jakie trzeba włożyć w założenie akwarium dla ryb, opłaci się. Warto zapewnić swoim nowym przyjaciołom najlepsze możliwe środowisko, a gdy poznasz osobowość i preferencje każdej z ryb, czas spędzony przy tworzeniu tego środowiska opłaci się.

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