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Setting Up a 32 Gallon Aquarium

Updated on May 30, 2013

Growing Up

We first started our 10 gallon fish tank over eight years ago. We've always talked about moving up in the world and now we have finally done it.

This lens documents the set up of our new 32 gallon aquarium home from start to finish.

Setting up a fish tank can be a costly venture if not done properly. I highly recommend talking to your local aquatic professionals before setting up your own aquarium.

The Base

One of the most important things you must decide on is the base. A 32 gallon tank can weigh 320 pounds (approximately 10 lbs/gal plus rocks etc.) so it is important to use something that can withstand that kind of pressure. That means not using a TV stand or bookshelf.

Because of the potential of water leakage it is also important not to use any favorite pieces of furniture or antiques.

We decided the Top Fin Aquarium Cabinet of native oak laminate which measures 33 1/8" x 14 3/8" x 30 5/16". We found it at Pet Smart and it can hold up to 37 gallons. It fits a 32 gallon tank perfectly.

One gallon of water is approximately 10 pounds.

The Tank

After a week of shopping around we finally decided on a 32 gallon Waterhome aquarium kit by Hagen from a shop called Fin Addicts (sorry, no website yet) in Kingston, ON. They had the best price ($219 CAN) and were very knowledgeable and helpful.

The kit includes:

* 1 Allglass Aquarium, 118.2 L

* 1 Light Glo Double Fluorescent Canopy, black

* 1 Aqua-Glo Fluorescent Bulb

* 1 Sun-Glo Fluorescent Bulb

* 1 AquaClear 200 Filter

* 1 Thermal Compact Pre-Set Heater, 200 W

* 1 Digital Themometer

* 2 Plastic Plants, 37.5 cm

* 1 Fish Net

* 1 Nutrafin Max fish food

* 1 Combo Pack (Cycle, AquaPlus, Waste Control)

* 2 Basic Aquarium Guide (1 each English and French)

* 1 DVD

Not only are these aquarium kits convenient but they are so much more economical than trying to buy everything separately. It fits perfectly on our Top Fin Aquarium Cabinet above.

Before the tank can be used it must be wiped out with clean warm water to remove any dust or pieces of packing Styrofoam.

The Hood

Because aquariums are multi-use, the hood of this tank needed to be adjusted to fit the filter and heater. This was a simple task because the hood came already scored at the back. An Exacto knife did the trick. As you can see from the image, two separate cuts were needed.

Setting Up a 32 Gallon Tank in Images - Part 1

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Find a sturdy base that can hold 300 lbs.Make sure the aquarium fits the base. It is important for the integrity of the tank that it doesn't hang over the edge of the base.Clean the tank to remove dust and packing debris.Measure and cut out space in hood for filter and heater.Rinse filters and fit into holders.Make sure filters sit properly between hood and tank once cut.
Find a sturdy base that can hold 300 lbs.
Find a sturdy base that can hold 300 lbs.
Make sure the aquarium fits the base. It is important for the integrity of the tank that it doesn't hang over the edge of the base.
Make sure the aquarium fits the base. It is important for the integrity of the tank that it doesn't hang over the edge of the base.
Clean the tank to remove dust and packing debris.
Clean the tank to remove dust and packing debris.
Measure and cut out space in hood for filter and heater.
Measure and cut out space in hood for filter and heater.
Rinse filters and fit into holders.
Rinse filters and fit into holders.
Make sure filters sit properly between hood and tank once cut.
Make sure filters sit properly between hood and tank once cut.

The Back Drop

A back drop helps to hide the cords from the filter and heater as well as highlight your fish and plants. We decided to go with simple patternless image when it came to our backdrop.

The two side aquarium plastic we purchased separately came with black on one side and graduated blue on the other. We chose black.

The back drop was centered on to the aquarium and black electrical tape was used to secure it at the top in a few spots so it could be cut to the size of the aquarium. When it was cut to size more tape was put across the entire top of the back drop to prevent water from seeping between the glass and the back drop. Then the sides were secured with smaller pieces.

The Gravel

We chose Pure Water Pebbles rose/white river gravel for aquariums. It was $25.99 for 25 pounds. We thought we might need two but one has worked out pretty good so far. I like the way it looks because it isn't tiny like traditional aquarium gravel. There's lots of pretty rocks throughout and it makes the plants stand out.

Before you add the gravel, it is important to fill the tank by 1/3. This will prevent the rocks from damaging the bottom of the glass tank when you pour them in.

Setting Up a 32 Gallon Tank in Images - Part 2

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tape the top of the backdrop in center to hold it while you cut the sides to size.Cut the backdrop to the length and width of the aquarium.Tape all across the top so water can not accidentally drip between backdrop and tank.Position tank on base where it will permanently sit.Fill the tank 1/3 full before adding your gravel base. This gives the glass some cushion as your add the stones.I love the look of river pebbles. They are larger than gravel, have a natural appearance. These ones are rose and white. Very nice.Thoroughly rinse gravel to remove dust. Rinse again. And again.Add a little gravel in the center and build up from there and then out. Do not let the stone drop from the container. Carefully continue to add gravel, moving out until bottom of tank is covered.Check positioning of filter and heater.Check that hood fits and check lighting one more time.
Tape the top of the backdrop in center to hold it while you cut the sides to size.
Tape the top of the backdrop in center to hold it while you cut the sides to size.
Cut the backdrop to the length and width of the aquarium.
Cut the backdrop to the length and width of the aquarium.
Tape all across the top so water can not accidentally drip between backdrop and tank.
Tape all across the top so water can not accidentally drip between backdrop and tank.
Position tank on base where it will permanently sit.
Position tank on base where it will permanently sit.
Fill the tank 1/3 full before adding your gravel base. This gives the glass some cushion as your add the stones.
Fill the tank 1/3 full before adding your gravel base. This gives the glass some cushion as your add the stones.
I love the look of river pebbles. They are larger than gravel, have a natural appearance. These ones are rose and white. Very nice.
I love the look of river pebbles. They are larger than gravel, have a natural appearance. These ones are rose and white. Very nice.
Thoroughly rinse gravel to remove dust. Rinse again. And again.
Thoroughly rinse gravel to remove dust. Rinse again. And again.
Add a little gravel in the center and build up from there and then out. Do not let the stone drop from the container. Carefully continue to add gravel, moving out until bottom of tank is covered.
Add a little gravel in the center and build up from there and then out. Do not let the stone drop from the container. Carefully continue to add gravel, moving out until bottom of tank is covered.
Check positioning of filter and heater.
Check positioning of filter and heater.
Check that hood fits and check lighting one more time.
Check that hood fits and check lighting one more time.

The Decorations

Decorations add a theme for viewers and provide additional hiding places for the fish.

Driftwood

We added a medium size Top Fin old root system that looks very authentic in the water with green moss growing on it. It is designed not to fade in water and is non-toxic. This was purchased from Pet Smart for $22.

Rock

We also added a rock with a bit of amethyst on it. It was a gem we found at Tropical Paradise, a family run business on the other side of town, for $4.99 (you couldn't find a piece this size at an amethyst mine for that price). If you add rocks then you should soak them in boiled water for at least 10 minutes which ensures they will not introduce any microbes into the tank.

Any thing that you add to the aquarium needs to be cleaned before hand. NO SOAP, just warm to hot water.

The Filter and Heater

The filter helps to remove impurities, waste and also helps with oxygenation of the water while the heater helps to keep the water at a comfortable temperature for your fish, usually 75-80 degrees F or 24-27 degrees C for fresh water.

After your gravel is in place this is a good time to position your filter and heater so you know their positioning when you go to the next step, adding your plants.

The Plants

The kit we purchased came with two large plastic plants. We decided to use these near the back of the tank and put live plants (which are great at removing nitrates, ammonia, and phosphates; adding oxygen while removing carbon dioxide; and they compete with algae so it cannot grow as easily) up front. Eventually we will replace the plastic ones with live plants but at the moment we are not sure what else we want. The plastic ones come with a mini cup attached to the bottom to put the gravel in to help anchor it. Regardless they are still hard to get into place because of their buoyancy.

When we set up this tank we added the following live plants: vallisneria and sword. We have plans to add a few small ones in the front.

Plant Tips

  1. Pick three different sizes. Tall in the back, medium mid way and small in the front.
  2. Remove rubber bands from bound plants.
  3. Leave aquarium lights on a minimum of 10 hours per day.
  4. Check your aquarium's CO2 levels. If you have a lot of plants you may need to make additions.
  5. Check water PH, if it is over 7.0 you may need to add a special plant aquarium fertilizer.
  6. Rinse plants before planting in tank to remove any snails or water bugs.

Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants

Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants
Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants

"This heavily illustrated volume will prove a blessing to every aquarium hobbyist who has had to settle for superficial plant descriptions in general fish-keeping books. It presents a detailed A-to-Z directory covering hundreds of aquarium plants with high quality color photos and succinct profiles of each plant. Information includes the plant’s common name, botanical designation, growth cycle, and general description. The book’s additional sections offer details on how to grow and propagate aquatic plants, and how to protect them from parasites and other problems. This handsome volume features approximately 450 color photos and illustrations."

 

Setting Up a 32 Gallon Tank in Images - Part 3

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Position your large decorations before adding water.Try the decorations in a couple different spots.Add plants. We used a combination of plastic and live plants.Here is the top view of decorations and plants before tank is completely filled.Pour water over your hand to keep it from splashing and to keep the force of the water from displacing the plants you have positioned.Fill tank two centimetres from the top edge.One final check of plants before you completely fill tank.
Position your large decorations before adding water.
Position your large decorations before adding water.
Try the decorations in a couple different spots.
Try the decorations in a couple different spots.
Add plants. We used a combination of plastic and live plants.
Add plants. We used a combination of plastic and live plants.
Here is the top view of decorations and plants before tank is completely filled.
Here is the top view of decorations and plants before tank is completely filled.
Pour water over your hand to keep it from splashing and to keep the force of the water from displacing the plants you have positioned.
Pour water over your hand to keep it from splashing and to keep the force of the water from displacing the plants you have positioned.
Fill tank two centimetres from the top edge.
Fill tank two centimetres from the top edge.
One final check of plants before you completely fill tank.
One final check of plants before you completely fill tank.

The Water

Now that your gravel, decorations and plants are in place it's time to add the rest of the water. Depending on the fish you are going to add you need to have your water at about 75-80 degrees F or 24-27 degrees C.

Instead of depending on your heater to warm up a large body of water it's easier if you warm it up to temperature or thereabouts before you add it.

Be careful when pouring it in. Place your hand underneath it to keep it from splashing and displacing your plants.

The Chemicals

Now that the tank is full we had to add the chemicals. The amount of chemicals varies for the size of the tank so it's important to read the instructions and do the required math.

We used Nutrafin Aqua Plus to remove the chlorine from the tap water and also added Nutrafin Cycle to quickly populate the aquarium with beneficial bacteria based on package directions.

Setting Up a 32 Gallon Tank in Images - Part 4

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Now that the tank is full, the filter is running and the heater is activated it is time to add the chemicals to create an environment the fish will thrive in.And a final glance...Or two...Pseudo mirror image on the bottom for effect. Done by leaving a small pool with out gravel.The grass looking plant is vallisneria and short plant behind the stone is a sword. The red one in the corner is plastic.This green plant is plastic.Almost like a big screen television. We can sit back and enjoy the view for the next week while the tank builds up yummy fish bacteria.
Now that the tank is full, the filter is running and the heater is activated it is time to add the chemicals to create an environment the fish will thrive in.
Now that the tank is full, the filter is running and the heater is activated it is time to add the chemicals to create an environment the fish will thrive in.
And a final glance...
And a final glance...
Or two...
Or two...
Pseudo mirror image on the bottom for effect. Done by leaving a small pool with out gravel.
Pseudo mirror image on the bottom for effect. Done by leaving a small pool with out gravel.
The grass looking plant is vallisneria and short plant behind the stone is a sword. The red one in the corner is plastic.
The grass looking plant is vallisneria and short plant behind the stone is a sword. The red one in the corner is plastic.
This green plant is plastic.
This green plant is plastic.
Almost like a big screen television. We can sit back and enjoy the view for the next week while the tank builds up yummy fish bacteria.
Almost like a big screen television. We can sit back and enjoy the view for the next week while the tank builds up yummy fish bacteria.

Final Results - Before Fish

500 Freshwater Aquarium Fish

500 Freshwater Aquarium Fish: A Visual Reference to the Most Popular Species
500 Freshwater Aquarium Fish: A Visual Reference to the Most Popular Species

"Illustrated in full color, this comprehensive reference includes 500 of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish. It provides concise at-a-glance information on their behavior, diet and breeding, along with a recommended aquarium setup. Practical and well organized, this book is tailored to the needs of a wide range of freshwater-aquarium hobbyists."

 

The Fish

The best part of having an aquarium is obviously the fish. But it is important not to rush out and get fish. The tank needs to cure for at least a week to get enough helpful bacteria for the fish to thrive in.

There are kits you can get that provide dip sticks to test pH, nitrites, nitrates, carbonate and general hardness. It would also be helpful to have an ammonia test kit. Once your tank passes these tests then you are all set to add fish.

Spend some time talking to one of the specialists in your favorite pet store. You might also want to pick up a book on fresh water fish.

When you look at your tank from the front, think of it on three levels. Top, middle and bottom. Different fish tend to congregate in one of these areas. It is important to know where the fish you buy want to hang out or else you might end up having one of these levels crowded while another area is vacant.

Planning ahead will help you pick fish to fill all three levels of your tank. It's healthier for the fish and it looks better to the eye. Don't go and add all your fish at once -- pick a variety (school of 10 neon), add them, wait a few days to let them settle before adding more.

Obviously, your plan doesn't have to be strict but you need to be aware of these considerations when fish shopping. We decided to go with the following to start:

* 10 neon tetras (day one)

* 2 otocynclus (week later)

* 4 black tetras (few days later)

* 2 blue gouramis

Now we're sitting back and relaxing as we watch everyone get settled into their new home.

Enjoy your aquarium, we sure are!

Add smaller fish first (i.e. neon tetras) so larger fish won't think a snack is being added to the tank.

"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." ~Loran Eisley, Anthropologist

"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." ~Loran Eisley, Anthropologist
"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." ~Loran Eisley, Anthropologist

New Fish!

Polaroid

Polaroid
Polaroid

Tell me about your aquarium, your favorite fish or plant, or just leave a warm fuzzy.

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    • PromptWriter profile image
      Author

      Moe Wood 3 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      @hlinds1128: Thanks. Have fun!!

    • profile image

      hlinds1128 3 years ago

      I am loving your tank! We are setting up our 30 gallon tank this week and are definitely going to take your advice!! Great tutorial!! Your fish are awesome, too!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Water weighs exactly 8.34 lbs per gallon

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 4 years ago

      Gorgeous how to set up a large aquarium tutorial :D

    • PromptWriter profile image
      Author

      Moe Wood 5 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      @Hairdresser007: Sorry to hear about your turtle. It must have been pretty big. Good luck with the tropical fish -- 75 gallons will be awesome but lots of work.

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 5 years ago from Burbank, CA

      My turtle of 34 years just died so now I have an empty 75 gallon tank that I am trying to do something with. it is in my garage and it gets pretty hot in there so it has to be super tropical fish.

    • Charmcrazey profile image

      Wanda Fitzgerald 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Wow! A very thorough look at your fish tank set up. I'm still at the 10 gallon stage but the hobby is quite addicting.

    • profile image

      r2fish 6 years ago

      Hey You did it successfully...hats off to you!!!

    • carlajo73 profile image

      carlajo73 6 years ago

      We just finished setting up our 10 gallon tank. Your tank is gorgeous and the lens is very nicely done! Great job!

    • PromptWriter profile image
      Author

      Moe Wood 6 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      @The_Fish_Experts: Awesome, very convenient.

    • profile image

      The_Fish_Experts 6 years ago

      How did the Hagen kit work for you?

    • caketech profile image

      caketech 6 years ago

      Wow...great step by step info. We are wanting to get a fish tank for our house. This is very helpful! By the way, your aquarium is beautiful!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      Fish are magical to watch and so relaxing. Thanks for such good step-by-step advice on how to choose and set up your aquarium and its contents.

    • profile image

      grannysage 6 years ago

      I've had small aquariums but always got sad when the fish died. I also murdered an algae eater but t that's a story for another day. I think it forever barred me from tending an aquarium again. However, my daughter is putting together a big aquarium so I know she will appreciate this information. I'm sending it to FB.

    • The Eclectic Muse profile image

      The Eclectic Muse 8 years ago

      Super lens! I'm rolling this to my aquarium lenses. Right now we're dealing with two pairs of very prolific Yellow Labs (cichlids). We just set up a special nursery aquarium 29-gallons. It's been a long time since we've had to start a tank. So far, so good. The fry is looking great and thriving.

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 8 years ago

      I love aquariums! My parents have an awesome one!!

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Great lens. Very useful information.

    • PromptWriter profile image
      Author

      Moe Wood 8 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      [in reply to kiwisoutback] With our 32 gallon DH tends to do 30%. It improves the clarity of the tank as well as reduces the incidence of possible fish infection. The Amazon swords are excellent.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      I used to have a lot of fish when I was younger. I think I had all of the ones you mentioned. For the live plants, I remember having the most luck with Amazon sword plants and the live versions of the ones on the right side of your tank. They grew very easily. My biggest tip would be to change 10-20% of the water weekly. It's a pain, but it's completely necessary to keep them healthy. The tank looks great!

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 8 years ago

      What a great lens I always wanted an aquarium you did a great job!

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 8 years ago

      Very educational, well done!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 8 years ago

      Boy, what a lot of information. You make me want to do it, if only I could keep them alive.

      But really interesting information about the putting little fish in first, I would never have thought about that.

      5*