Setting up an Aquarium - Creating a Safe and Healthy Home for Your Goldfish

Most goldfish varieties are inexpensive both to buy and to maintain - once you've properly set up their aquarium, that is. Even if you plan to keep only a few Common goldfish, you will need to budget for an adequate-sized tank, a good filtration system, lighting and tank decor. You may also want to buy a heater to maintain a constant water temperature. Choose carefully, follow the instructions and advice and stick to a few basic maintenance tasks and your goldfish will enjoy a stress-free environment and you a stress-free hobby!

Substrates - which type to choose

Choosing sand or gravel to cover the bottom of your tank involves more than deciding what will look best. As always, you need to consider the needs of the fish and also of any plants, if you're planning to use real ones. Aquatic dealers and pet shops sell a wide range of sand and gravel - both natural and colored and in different sizes - that is safe for aquarium use.

Adding the substrate

Even though the gravel you buy for aquarium use will be described as 'washed', it is likely to be very dusty and should be thoroughly washed in clean water before you place it in the aquarium. How deep you layer it will depend on what type of filter you plan to install and on whether or not you are using real plants. Generally, a depth of 4-5cm (l 1/2-2in) is ideal.

Heating and Lighting

Although heating a coldwater aquarium may seem unnecessary, providing a heater in the goldfish aquarium will enable you to maintain a constant temperature, which is very important for the health and wellbeing of your fish as well as for any natural plants you may have. The right lighting will enable you to view your fish to their best advantage and will also encourage real plants to flourish.

Installing a heater

A stable temperature may be provided in a centrally heated house during the day, but at night, heating thermostats are often turned down, leading to a fluctuation in the aquarium temperature. The optimum temperature for a goldfish aquarium is about 18°C (64°F).

Combined electronic heater/thermosta are housed inside the tank. A 100-watt model will be quite adequate for a 60cm (24in) aquarium. Install the unit at an angle, so that the rising heat does not directly pass the thermostat. The sensor should sample the ambient aquarium temperature, not a localised hotspot. Leave a gap between the bottom of the heater and the substrate.

Lighting the aquarium

Fluorescent tubes are the most popular form of aquarium lighting: they are very efficient, use little electricity and are relatively cheap when used in small numbers. They are also cool, which means that they don't heat up the water as ordinary bulbs would do.

Most modern aquariums are supplied with hoods with lighting already installed and it is simply a matter of plugging the system into the electrical supply. If you want to fit lights yourself, remember that lamp fittings must be shielded from condensation and splashes.

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