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How To Set Up A Goldfish Tank

Updated on November 11, 2007
To be safe, your goldfish need to live in a tank.
To be safe, your goldfish need to live in a tank.

Although bowls have come a long way with the introduction of Biorb type bowls with filtration, tanks are still the best homes for your goldfish. They provide your wet pets with a maximum of space and surface area for oxygen with a minimum of maintenance time for you. You don't have to get really fancy with goldfish tanks unless you want to. Goldfish also will not sue you for bad interior decoration.

Ideally, you should have the tank set up and bubbling away for a month before you introduce any fish. In helping you select the right tank for them, ask yourself the following questions before that month begins.

What Kind Of Goldfish Will You Keep?

Yes, this makes a difference. If you have common goldfish or Black Moors, they can live well in tanks with decorations and heaters. But if you want to keep really fancy, delicate strains of goldfish like Celestial or Bubble Eye, then you need to have a bare tank. They will easily injure themselves on plastic plants or other decorations. They also need to be kept by themselves to prevent injury.

If you are new to fish keeping, stick with "easy" goldfish to keep like Comets, Commons and Shubunkins. They are colorful, active, hardy and won't mind changes in interior decoration.

Where Are You Going To Place The Tank?

Answering this question is so detailed, that it deserves it's own article. And here it is. You need acess to water and electrical outlets, a strong enough floor, a level enough floor, and a place quiet enough for the fish not to get easily stressed.

Now that these questions are answered, you can set about gathering the materials you need to set up your goldfish tank. Part of the fun of keeping fish is using all of the gizmos!

The Basics

You need:

  • a tank (duh!) The more surface area the better, so the goldfish can get the oxygen they need.
  • a tank stand or something strong enough to support the hundreds of pounds this thing will weigh.
  • a lid (IMPORTANT! Goldfish like to jump) Preferably, with a light.
  • an air pump
  • an air stone (that goes on the other end of the air pump's tubes)
  • a heater
  • a thermometer (either floating or stick on)
  • a filteration system of some sort
  • any extra tubing to connect everything
  • some sort of substratae, such as 1/8 inch (3 mm) gravel made for aquariums. Don't just shovel sand from the local beach or usegravel from a local creek -- you don't know what pollutants are in it


  • real freshwater plants (NOT just any old plant stuck under water to drown and decay).
  • plastic plants
  • aquarium background
  • rocks (not limestone) or decorations specifiaclly made for aquarium use. Avoid seashells or any ceramic items, as these can leech chemicals into the water that will kill the goldfish and any live plants
  • chemicals for your water to help make it healthy. You should test your water to see if it needs any specific conditioners. This writer used Cycle.

Setting Up

Here we go. Take your time with this. I took a whole weekend with mine, as this stuff gets heavy. Clean the tank with cold water only (hot can crack it!)and a clean cloth to dry it . Do NOT use any cleaners or chemical detergents.

Attach the aquarium background at this time (it's a lot easier to do it now!)

Set the tank on the stand and just put a little bit of water in it to see if the tank is level. Adjust accordingly so that the tank is perfectly level -- even use a spirit level from the toolkit if necessary.

Rinse off the gravel with cold water in a bucket or sieve used for no other purpose than for fish care. Stick your hand in there and give a good stir. Much gravel sold is colorfast, but if yours is giving off clouds, rinse until the water is clear.

Place in aquarium gently, transporting only as much as you can comfortably carry. Pile the gravel higher in the back. In making a gente slope forward, you will make cleaning easier.

Place any plastic plants, rocks or decorations in the now empty bucket and fill with water and any commercially available plastic plant cleaner or a few tablespoons of table salt. Let soak overnight.

Next day, place the plants, rocks and decorations in the tank, puching it in the gravel. Have bigger pieces in the back of the tank. Be sure the fish won't knock a rock over. Make a couple of places for the fish to hide, as well as using big, biushy plastic plants to cover up the airstone and heater.

DO NOT PLUG IN but attach the heater, airstone, filter and thermometer. Since there isn't any water in, you are free to move everything about unitl you like it. Shove them at least a half inch into the gravel so they will stay put. The plastic plants and rocks will always look like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree until the tank is filled with water.

Getting an electrical outlet strip just for aquarium equipment is great for saftey and convinience. You will need plugs for the filter, the heater, the air pump and the light. So, you need a strip with four outlets at least,

NOw add water to about so you fill about a quarter of the tank. In order to avoid the force of the pouring water dislodging everything, pour the water onto the top of a flat rock or place a saucer into the tank to pour water onto. Remember to take the saucer out.

Check out the set up so far. Is the tank still level? Are there two hiding places for the fish? Do you need to move that rock over to the left? Usually, things looks better in a tank when they are grouped in small clusters rather than set up in even rows. But let your instinct be your guide and have fun.

When everything is where you want it to be, fill the rest of the tank with water. It looks a lot better now, doesn't it? Plug in the filter, heater, light, and air pump. This is good way to see if your equipment works BEFORE you bring the fish home.

Add Cycle or any biological water conditioner that adds good bacteria to a new tank. Let it bubble way for at least a month before adding any fish. In this way, you not only see whether your gadets work, but this gives the tank a chance to grow healthy bacteria.

Your fish will thank you for your hard creative work...if they knew how to speak, that is.

A goldfish mansion! Film by Magscat 3161


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  • RenaSherwood profile image

    RenaSherwood 10 years ago

    You're quite welcome. Good luck with your tank, if you should get one or already have one.

  • profile image

    ashley 10 years ago

    thank you for the great advice