How to set up a fish tank

Aquarium Placement

Attention needs to be given to the location of the aquarium. This should be done before setting it up as moving it once operational can be a real hassle. When choosing a prime spot, keep the following points in mind:

Avoid direct sunlight which will skyrocket water temperature and cause algae blooms.

Children’s bedrooms may not be the best place – an air pump and filter are noisy in a quiet room.

Consider the weight of a filled aquarium. Make sure the floor can support the weight if a large aquarium (beyond 70 US gallons) is your choice.

Glass cannot tolerate uneven weight variance so use a proper aquarium stand. If you are making your own stand or placing it on a tabletop, place layer of Styrofoam under the aquarium to absorb stress and slight angular distortions.


How to Set Up an Aquarium Step by Step

Using a level, be sure the surface is flat. Use shims under the stand if necessary to make the spot completely level. Cut a piece of Styrofoam to place the aquarium on if you cannot make the surface completely level.

Wipe the aquarium’s interior with a damp cloth to remove dust.

Rinse gravel in a bucket. Fine dust particles will cloud water so rinse several times. Use cool water with colored gravel, hot water can cause the epoxy color to peel.

Place gravel in the aquarium. Even though a thick layer of gravel looks pretty, it can be difficult to siphon properly down the road. 

If using an air pump, trim the tube and connect the pump, tubing and air stone. Leave lots of slack to easily anchor the stone down with an ornament. When the pump is turned on, the air flowing through will cause the stone to float upwards if not properly anchored.

Fill the aquarium 3/4 full with tap water.

Install the filter according to the directions on the box. If using a power filter, place it closer to one side to enhance circular flow of water, furthermore it will place less stress on the glass if not hung from the center.

Install the heater but do not plug in. 2-3 hours are required to acclimate in the water to prevent the glass from cracking.

Rinse decorations and plants to remove dust. Use only aquarium approved ornaments as other toys or statues can leak toxins into the water. If using rocks from outdoors, soak in a bucket of water for at least a day because dust accumulates within the pores and requires a long soak to completely dissolve.

Fill the remaining 1/4 of the aquarium with tap water.

Add water conditioner and/or bacteria cycling additives according to the directions on the packaging.

Fill up the filter unit with water and plug in. Never run a filter “dry”.

After 2-3 hours, plug in the heater. Monitor the temperature throughout the day with a thermometer to make sure the thermostat setting is in the proper range.

Let the filter and heater run for at least 6-7 days before you add fish. Beneficial bacteria will colonise during that period converting the tap water into a healthy balanced ecosystem habitat for your fish to thrive.