Having an aquarium is a great hobby. If you are interested in setting up an aquarium you have come to the right place. If you have already bought aquarium equipment, read on. If you are not familiar with aquariums, please read Components of an Aquarium Setup before you continue. You can build a simple setup or the tank of your dreams. It all depends on your budget, experience, and knowledge. For the beginner I recommend starting out with a smaller tank with a few fish. A fifteen or twenty gallon tank should be about right for a nice looking aquarium that won’t break the bank. One important thing to consider when purchasing a tank is the amount of maintenance required. In general, smaller tanks and fish bowls require much more maintenance than larger tanks. This is because the bigger the tank the more stable the environment is.
Install the Tank onto the Tank Stand
You will need to find a great location for your aquarium. This is a critical step in the aquarium setup. You want to find a location that meets these criteria:
- Out of direct sunlight
- Looks good with surrounding decor
- Is easy to view
- Reaching tank accessories is easy
- Is a permanent location, as moving the tank is very difficult
Once you have your tank stand build, secure the tank onto the stand. Make sure the stand is level and is does not have a warped surface. The tank should make good contact with the stand to avoid stressing the glass unevenly. You should have a tank cover as well to install. This is usually glass or plastic with a light bulb. Make sure it fits, install the bulb, but then you can remove it until you are done with the aquarium setup. If you have the tank in position and are happy with the location, proceed to the next section.
Install Under Gravel Filter (if applicable)
If you plan on installing an under gravel filter system in your aquarium now is the time to set it up. If you do not have an under gravel filter, please skip this section. Follow the specific instructions that come with your model of filter. Usually you need to place the filter trays at the bottom of the tank. Connect the tubing to the power heads or air pump. Be sure to wash off all items that are going into the tank with water before installing. Make sure you have the filter in correctly before moving on to the next section.
Gravel serves a couple important roles. It helps collect debris that float in the water, and it makes the aquarium look nice. Before pouring the gravel into your tank, give it a nice rinse with water. Add an even layer of gravel over the entire bottom of the tank. You want to avoid dips and humps, as this will be harder to clean. A tip is to slope or create a dip in the gravel at the front of the tank. Debris will collect at the low spots in the tank, and it’s easier to see and clean if that spot is at the front of the tank.
Add Filter System
If you are using a side mounted filter system now is the time to install it according to the specific instructions provided by the manufacturer. Usually you want to hang the filter unit over the back panel of glass. Adjust the intake tube so that it cannot suck in air. Make sure when you plan the arrangement of your aquarium that the intake tube is not blocked by any accessories and is easily reachable for cleaning and inspection.
Install Air Pump System
Next you can install your air pump system. This includes the pump, tubing, and bubble accessories. Route your tubing under the gravel and up the back corner of the tank to minimize visibility of the tube. Follow the specific instructions of your model of air pump.
Install Water Heater
The final major component to install is the water heater. Since there are many kinds of heaters you will need to follow the specific installation instructions provided by your model. Usually you should install heaters low down in the tank because warmer water will move upward. This should be the last electrical component of your aquarium setup. Make sure to route all electrical cords in a neat manner. Do not plug in any of the accessories yet.
Add Accessories and Decorations
The last step before filling the tank is to add accessories and decorations to your tank as you see fit. Add in some fake plants, rocks, bubbling accessories, caves, etc. to give your aquarium a personal feel. Make sure you rinse all accessories before putting them into the tank. Roughly plan out your design and make changes as needed. You want to get this step right because you will be filling the tank with water next and it will be harder and messier to make changes to your accessories after this point.
Fill Tank with Water
Now you want to add water to the tank. Try to get the tap water near room temperature. A tip is to pour the water in over a rock to avoid messing up the gravel. Fill the tank with the proper amount of water and the readjust or change the location of accessories if necessary. Since you do not have any fish or live plants in your aquarium yet, you do not need to pH balance the water at this point. Turn on the filter, air pump, and heater. Make sure you fill the filter with water if your model calls for you to do so before turning on. Make sure everything is operating properly and that your heater is working especially. You should give the tank a few hours for the temperature to stabilize.
At this point its time to cycle the tank to make it safe for fish. To learn how to cycle an aquarium, please read about cycling a freshwater aquarium.
Enjoy Your New Aquarium
That’s it! You have set up an aquarium that is looking great and running smooth. Hopefully if you followed all the tips in this article your fish will live long and healthy lives. Be sure to check out other articles related to aquarium setup.