Setting Up a Freshwater Aquarium

Simple steps for creating and maintaining the perfect environment for your fish!

Despite what some people may think, aquariums are one of the hardest environments to maintain. However setting up the aquarium right the first time can save you trouble in the end. There are three main steps to setting up an aquarium and those are, preparing the tank, creating the environment, and the addition of fish.

When you purchase and bring home your aquarium, the first step is to wash it to make it safe for fish. An aquarium is never cleaned with soap, bleach or other harsh detergents because these can harm and even kill your fish. One of the biggest problems in aquarium set ups, is people using a soap or detergent to clean their tank, and within a few days, or even a few hours their fish are dead or dying and no one knows why.

Once the tank is cleaned, you must wash your tank gravel using a strainer. Never use warm water to wash the gravel as warmer water can mess with your tank cycle and cause it to take longer. All decorations that you wish to add are also washed with water. These however can be washed with warm water.

Add all gravel first and then move onto adding the decorations. Set these up however you wish. Once you are finished the decorating process, you are to set up the filter according to the factory directions. The filter cartridge should be rinsed with cool water to remove any carbon dust and then added to the filter. However do not turn the filter on as this can cause your filter to over heat and burn. If this happens, you must either take it apart or return it. No one wants a filter that doesn't run!

Now you can add water to your tank. If you are worried about disturbing the gravel and decorations, you can use a small plate or bowl to pour water in. The important thing to remember during this step is the aquarium should be filled where it is going to stay. Filling the aquarium now and moving it later is not only dangerous because you can cause injury to yourself by moving a heavy tank, but the bottom could fall through sending water and glass everywhere. Once the tank is full, or at least full enough to cover the bottom of the filter pump, you may turn the filter on.

After you have added the water, a liquid de-chlorinator must be added to make the water safe. De-chlorinator removes chlorine and heavy metals from the water that can harm or kill your fish. There are plenty of products on the market for this purpose but a good rule of thumb is one that removes chlorine and heavy metals as some only remove chlorine. Always add the recommended dosage of this product to your water, however a drop over will not cause harm. It is important that the tank set at least 30 minutes before adding fish. The temperature of your tank should always be kept in mind as it is important for the health of your fish breed (some fish are cold water fish, and others are tropical and require warmer temperatures).

Before adding fish, make sure the water as 'aged' for a certain amount of time. If your tank is new, many recommend letting the tank run 24 hours if you do not already have the fish on hand. If you do, let it set 30 minutes to an hour before attempting to add fish. Check the temperature, if it's within the correct range, and if all decorations are correctly placed, this will limit stress on your fish because you won't have to stick your arm in later to set them back up again. Now you're ready to add fish.

Fish should be floated within the tank to insure their water acclimates with the water in the tank. Once they have floated for at least 15 minutes, more if their water was too cold or too warm, you can use a net to release them into the tank. Never allow water from their bag into the tank as water from their old environment may contain bacteria causing illnesses that can harm your fish later. Once fish are added and seem pretty adjusted, feed them to help them relax and settle into their new home.

You've done it! You've created a safe and happy environment for your new finned friend. With regular maintenance and check ups, you'll keep your fish happy and healthy for years to come! Remember to change the filter cartridge every three to four weeks and do complete water changes every month, more if you tank is rather small, or less if your tank is rather large. Smaller water changes can be done every two weeks as long as you do complete water changes every so often. I hope you enjoy your new environment!