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Setting Up A New Aquarium: Get Your Tank Right From the Start!

Updated on February 7, 2015

I Must Have Fish Right Away!

If you are not patient, you will only harm your fish! Title: Guri  Attribution License: Photographer: Katia:
If you are not patient, you will only harm your fish! Title: Guri Attribution License: Photographer: Katia:

Setting Up A New Tank Requires Patience!

When you decide to get an aquarium, you will probably be eager to get fish right away. Exercise restraint! If you get fish right away, you will be highly likely to kill them all off right away. It is very important to take the time to establish your tank and get a good biological filter started before you introduce fish to the tank. This can take a week to two weeks.

Aquarium Sets Are Great For Beginners!

Super serious aquarists tend to look down on aquarium sets that come with everything in one box because they say that the components are inferior; however, if you are just starting out, you are better off getting one of these sets than trying to assemble a good set-up from separate components. You can always upgrade later.

Starting out with an aquarium set is an affordable way to make sure you have the basics. Be sure that your set includes the following:

  • Tank
  • Cover
  • Light
  • Filtration system
  • Air pump (if required - some filtration systems don't use an air pump)
  • Thermometer

Additional Items You Will Need


Some sets will include a heater, but not all. I never use heaters. I just keep my house at a comfortable temperature, and that is always fine for all of my fish. If you let your house get very cold in winter, you will want to be sure to have a heater.

Net & Food

Some sets also include a net and food. This is nice if the net is the right size, and the food is the kind your fish will need. If not, it is better to buy these things separately.

Water Conditioner

Some sets also include water conditioner. If your's doesn't, be sure to get a good brand that neutralizes chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals in your water. This is very important. Without it, your fish will die, even if you let the water stand to allow chemicals to disperse, there will still be enough chemicals in tap water to kill your fish.

Aquarium Salt

You will also want to buy some aquarium salt. Even fresh water fish need some salt in their water. It reduces stress and defends against fungus infections. Follow instructions on the container regarding how much salt to use.

Partial Water Change Equipment

Performing a 25% water change weekly is very important for aquarium health. You will want to have a specially designed suction hose and a couple of clean buckets used only for this purpose.

Keep This On Hand!

Another very good thing to always have on hand is a fish tonic/medication called Melafix. This is a natural product that is very helpful to the aquarist. It helps reduce stress in fish and also cures a number of diseases. I strongly recommend using it when introducing new fish to a tank and keeping it on hand to use immediately if you notice your fish becoming ill. Even if Melafix is not the medication you ultimately need to cure an illness, it will comfort your fish and reduce stress right away while you figure out what is wrong and get the exact medication you need.

*TIP: Melafix for Ponds is highly concentrated. You can use it in your aquarium at a rate of 2 drops per gallon. This will save you a lot of money!

Don't Overdo The Gravel!

You will probably need to buy gravel separately. Get enough to cover the floor of your tank to a depth of one inch - no more. That is plenty to get a good biological filter going, but not so much that it is going to cause cleaning problems or take up swimming space.

Fish Are Minimalists When It Comes to Decoration!

You will also probably need to get plants and decorations separately. Again, keep in mind that you do not want to crowd your aquarium with knick-knacks. Your fish will need someplace to swim! A couple of medium sized plants per 10 gallons is plenty.

Many people love to buy real plants. Personally, I never have good luck with them and always go for silk plants. They look beautiful, last a long time, and are easy to clean.

Clean Everything With Water Only!

When you get your new tank home, rinse the tank and everything that will go into it thoroughly. Don't use any kind of soap or detergent. Just give everything a good rinsing to get off any dust or film of chemicals that may have settled on it during transport and handling.

Set Your Tank Up Safely & Securely!

Naturally, the best thing to set your aquarium up on is an aquarium stand. It is specially made to handle the weight of an aquarium and to be tolerant of contact with water. If you don't have a stand, be sure to set your tank up on a very sturdy piece of furniture that will not be damaged by water. Set your aquarium in indirect sunlight. Your fish should have some natural light every day to stay healthy; however, they should never be subjected to strong, direct sunlight. This can heat up the water rapidly and kill your fish.

Once you have selected a place for your tank, follow instructions for setting it up. Place your filter, find a good location for your pump (above the aquarium to avoid electrical accidents caused by water being spilled on it), place your gravel, and carefully add your treated water. Plug everything in and wait! You will want to let your tank run for at least a week to let friendly bacteria set up housekeeping and provide you with a good biological filter. Two weeks is better. At the end of this time, your tank will be considered "seasoned". This is very important. If you don't do this, your fish are likely to drop like flies when you introduce them to the tank!

You Only Look At It!

Title: Our New Fish Tank  Attribution License: Photographer: dlkinney:
Title: Our New Fish Tank Attribution License: Photographer: dlkinney:

Your Fish Live In the Tank

Note the cloudy water in this new tank. This is normal in an unseasoned tank. Given time for a biological filter to set up, this cloudiness will disappear. This tank also has far too many plants and ornaments! When you set your tank up, get about half this many or less. Your fish want water to swim in, not knick-knacks to look at. Just provide a few good hiding places!

Your fish will appreciate it!

Be Patient & Do Your Homework!

Some people speed the seasoning process up by adding "trash" fish to the tank - that is feeder goldfish or guppies - but often this just results in killing those fish off! If it doesn't, then you will need to do something with them when you are ready to get your permanent fish! Additionally, they may introduce diseases to your tank. So I think it is better just to wait.

While you are waiting, do some research! Look up various types of fish online. Get a good book. Visit your local fish store and ask lots of questions! By the time your tank is seasoned, you will know exactly what you want. When the two weeks is up, do a partial water change (25%). Take a sample of your water to your local fish store for testing. If it tests safe, get your fish and bring them home to a happy, healthy environment.


Submit a Comment
  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Texas

    Thank you! I was fishless for quite a while, but my neighbor and I got goldfish to live in outdoor horse troughs last summer. I brought them in for the winter, so I have an indoor "pond" in a plastic tote now. They will be going back outside in June.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    4 years ago from Houston, Texas

    I had two aquariums at one point many years ago and did enjoy them but finally gave it up due to the constant attention it takes to keep the tanks clean and the fish healthy. I gave the fish to a guy who loved caring for aquariums so I know they got a good home. Sharing this once again for those who are just beginning that adventure.

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Texas

    Many thanks for all the kind words! :)

  • rose-the planner profile image

    rose-the planner 

    6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

    Great article with excellent tips! I absolutely love aquariums but I guess it absolutely requires a certain level of commitment to create the perfect environment for your pet fish. Thanks for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

  • Jenn-Anne profile image


    6 years ago

    Nice hub with solid advice presented in an easy-to-read style. Wish I'd known some of this info before we set up our first tank several years ago!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    6 years ago from Houston, Texas

    This is a very informative hub for those just starting out and wanting to have aquariums filled with fish. UUI votes, sharing and pinning. Good job!

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Texas

    Hope it helps! Fish can be quite challenging to take care of, and you MUST do your partial water changes every week to keep them healthy. Once you get good at caring for them, you will find that some individuals will live for years and years, and you will be just as attached to them as you would a dog or cat!

  • PaperNotes profile image


    8 years ago

    Thanks for this. Just last time, my husband and I were discussing about getting a pet for our daughter. They both wanted a dog or a cat but I said no because when my first and only dog died about two years ago, I really felt so sad that I still get teary eyed whenever I think about her. What I suggested was to get a fish or a couple of them. I think they are easier to take care of too.

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Texas

    Thanks Scott,

    Generally speaking, 1 inch of fish per 1 gallon of water is a good rule to follow regarding size of fish and size of tank. I cover that in more depth in my other articles about fish. You may have noticed the link to the Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta) article listed above.

    I also have a series of aquarium advice articles at

    Cheers! :)

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    this was helpful, i used a couple of my girlfriends unwanted fish as my sacrificial fish, they are INCREDIBLY hardy as they are a cross between something and molly i believe. and it gives me something to look at. just one thing. you did not mention the type of fish to the size of tank. for instance betta's need medium to large tanks, not small glasses of water or vases.

    again, good job :P

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Texas

    You would have a hard time killing a Siamese fighting fish! Just be sure to use dechlorinator when you change the water.

    Read my hub about the Siamese Fighting Fish as a Desktop Pet


  • BkCreative profile image


    9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    I've revisited this hub because I am house sitting for a friend - actually two of us are working together and she has the fighting fish - so your hub is giving me necessary info on how to care for fish in general. Will do research as you suggested. This is such a responsibility!!!!! Yikes!!!

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from Texas

    Thank you for your kind words, RGraf! I have set up a couple of mine outdoors in deep shade this summer. They seem to like it very much. I always had an outdoor summer aquarium when I was a child. My best friend and I would net baby native fish and keep them for the summer then turn them loose in the fall. Cheers! :)

  • RGraf profile image

    Rebecca Graf 

    10 years ago from Wisconsin

    Great piece. I love it when we have aquariums. We are hoping to have one up this summer. My husband loves to set them up just right (in his eyes).

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from Texas

    Well, just do one Beta! They are beautiful and easy to care for! :)

  • BkCreative profile image


    10 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    By the way justmesuzanne - a friend has the fighting fish - in two separate bowls - they are absolutely beautiful. Your hub has insprired me. I am a restless sort but think I may be settling down a bit and can do the aquarium. I think 14 is too many in feng-shui - but something I would love to see.


  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from Texas

    Thanks, BK! I don't know about the great wealth! I once had 14 aquariums, and I didn't have great wealth! LOL!

  • BkCreative profile image


    10 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    Since I enjoy feng-shui I should have an aquarium - so I can attract more wealth! I'll save this hub as a great guide. I have to work on being patient, however - that's good advice.

    Many many thanks!

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from Texas

    My Pleasure! Thanks for the kind comments! :)

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    That's great info you have there! I'd love to have fish one day too. I think they are the prettiest and cleanest pet on the face of globe. Thankyou so much or giving the starter info! :D

  • VioletSun profile image


    10 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

    How I wished I had this information when my s/o and I purchased fish last year. We were very eager to fill our new aquarium with gold fish, and most of them died as they were sickly. The ones that survived are healthy and big. Will share this hub with my partner.  Didn't know about the product to relax the fish, good to know!

    Informative hub; I had left this hub to read during the evening. :) 

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from Texas

    Thanks, Carla! :)

  • CarlaBoner profile image


    10 years ago from Elko, Nevada

    Great hub Suzanne! Very interesting!


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