Proper Aquarium Set Up Tips

The following 14 steps will help you set up and maintain a healthy underwater environment for many years.

Location - Decide where to place your aquarium by choosing a site that avoids direct sun and drafty areas. Direct sunlight will cause algae. Use an appropriate size aquarium stand placed  near a wall and an electrical outlet.

Clean Aquarium - To clean your aquarium simply wipe the inside and outside with a damp cloth or paper towel. Be careful when handling a wet aquarium because glass can be slippery when wet. Never use soap to clean your aquarium. Do not rest the aquarium on its side because bumping the exposed glass edges can cause chips and cracking.

Filtration - The basic filter systems are under gravel, inside box filter or outside power filter. If this is your first aquarium we suggest that you ask your sales person for advice on which system to select. Among your options power filters are our recommended choice because they remove sediment and particulate matter from the water while also providing chemical filtration with the use of activated carbon. If you decide to use a power filter install it but do not plug it in until the aquarium is filled. Above all, carefully read and follow the directions for whatever system you choose

Gravel - Gravel is necessary to anchor live or artificial plants and comes in a variety of colors. Natural or brighter colors can be used to match or contrast your rooms' decor. Remember to use about 1.5 pounds of gravel per gallon to have depth of about 2 inches. Most gravel contains a little dust or fine particles and, therefore, should be rinsed thoroughly. For best results put about five pounds of gravel at a time in a clean bucket. Use a laundry or stationary tub to run water into the bucket while stirring the gravel. Empty the water and continue stirring until the water is clear. Empty the water from the the bucket and carefully dump the gravel into the aquarium. Continue this process until you have finished washing the rest of the gravel.

Water - Slowly fill your aquarium with fresh, room temperature water. Do not use cold water because condensation may form and cause puddling, which looks a lot like leaking. You can use a plate or saucer to diffuse the water and keep the water from scattering the gravel. Leave about 2 or 3 inches of space at the top so you will not overflow the aquarium when you add decorations.

Decorations - Add rocks, driftwood, ornaments and plants to decorate your aquarium environment. Before starting take the time to visualize where your decorations would look best while remembering to leave open space in front of the aquarium where you will feed the fish. Avoid moving the decorations after you add fish because this can be very stressful to the fish.

Water Treatment - To ensure the water is suitable for sustaining healthy fish you must add water conditioner to your aquarium. The main purpose of this is to remove chlorine, but most conditioners will also remove other harmful chemicals. Be sure to ask your sales person for advice before making a selection.

Start the Filter - Carefully read and follow manufacturer's directions for starting the filter you selected.

Heater and Water Temperature - For tropical fish a heater is always necessary. Ask your sales person for their advice, but a good rule of thumb is about 5 watts per gallon. Never allow a plugged in heater to remain out of water. Always check for cracks before putting the heater in the aquarium and carefully read and follow the manufacturer's directions. To help you regulate the temperature buy a thermometer and place it on the front or end of the aquarium opposite the heater. The ideal temperature range for tropical fish is 76° to 78°.

Lights - A full hood is necessary to provide light for your fish, reduce evaporation inside the aquarium and keep the fish from jumping out. A cutaway back strip allows room for heaters, air line tubing and power filters. Fluorescent hoods are the best because they evenly light the aquarium and are more energy efficient than incandescent hoods and the bulbs last longer. A full hood may be used with a timer to control the amount of lighting in your aquarium. You should light the aquarium for about 8 to 10 hours per day. Avoid too much light because it can cause algae growths.

Test Water - It is important to test your water for unacceptable levels of ph and ammonia. There are many options for controlling these chemicals. Ask your sales person to recommend a test kit and give you help solving any water quality problems.

Fish - At first try a few fish to make sure your aquarium is suitably set up. Float the bag in the aquarium for no more than 15 minutes before opening the bag and adding a little of the aquarium's water. Do this about two or three times and then allow the fish to swim into the aquarium. After an hour or so observe their activity. They should swim easily through the water in a smooth manner. Their fins should be erect and they should be moving not laying on the bottom unless they are bottom catfish, which stay on the bottom most of the time.

Feeding - Ask your sales person for help on selecting food. For variety use two or three different types to feed your fish lightly three or four times per day. Make sure the fish eat all of the food. If they do not finish the food within five minutes look for problems and feed a little less next time.

Enjoy! - Keeping fish can be educational for children as well as a relaxing hobby for all ages. Use common sense to maintain an active and healthy home for your fish.