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How to Set Up an Aquarium: An 8-Step Guide for Beginners


How to Set Up an Aquarium: An 8-Step Guide for Beginners
How to Set Up an Aquarium: An 8-Step Guide for Beginners

Fishes are among the most popular pets for those with no time and space for other common animal companions. They don’t require training and can live up to 20 years if cared for properly.

On top of that, fish tanks also serve as an excellent decorative element that can brighten up your home. And, like other pets, having these aquatic animals around also provides stress relief and other health benefits.

Planning to set up your first aquarium? This guide will help ensure that you have all the necessary fish supplies and follow the eight crucial steps in setting up a fish tank.

7 Aquarium Essentials

Before setting up your fish tank, you must ensure you have all the necessary equipment and supplies. For starters, you’ll need the following:

  1. Aquarium

Pick a spot for your fish tank or build a surface with a stable base. Use the measurements of this area when selecting a tank.

Generally, larger aquariums are the more stable choice for first-time fish keepers. You can also look for complete kits sold in pet stores.

  1. Gravel

Choose fine enough gravel that will encourage the growth of nitrifying bacteria but coarse enough to support water flow. Don’t use limestone- and calcium-based substrates.

  1. Filter

Choose an aquarium filter that will turn over three to five times the tank’s total volume per hour. Use hang-on-back or power filters for smaller aquariums and canister filters for medium to large tanks.

Other types of filters include:

  • Box filters
  • Diatomic filters
  • Sponge filters
  • Trickle filters
  1. Water Test Kit and Conditioner

A water test kit lets you check whether the aquarium environment is liveable for fish. It measures different characteristics of water, including the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels.

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Besides the test kit, you’ll also need to buy water treatments, particularly the conditioner and bio-filter product, to establish beneficial bacteria in the tank.

  1. Fish Net

Fish nets allow you to keep the tank clean and free of excess food and dead plant matter. It also lets you safely move the aquarium inhabitants as needed.

  1. Aquarium Ornaments

You can use fake or real plants to decorate your aquarium. Pet stores offer a wide range of decorative pieces you can choose from.

  1. Fish food

Stock up on food for your fish. You can purchase some from a pet store or have them brought straight to your doorstep via an online pet food delivery in Dubai.

8 Steps in Setting Up Your First Aquarium

Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to set up your very first aquarium.

Step #1: Unbox and Position the Tank

Gently unbox the tank and put it in a safe and stable spot. This is also the right time to build its stand (if necessary) and attach the aquarium background.

If your aquarium set includes lights, check if they’re working properly.

Wipe down the inside of the tank using a damp cloth, but don’t use any chemicals or soap.

Once the tank is dust-free and its location is ready, you can set it in place.

Step #2: Clean the Substrate and Ornaments

Gather all the ornaments and gravel into a bucket and wash them thoroughly using hot water. Avoid using soap, detergents, and cleaning agents, as they can harm your fish.

To ensure the gravel is clean, use a strainer or colander and wash over a bucket or plastic pan. Stir and drain. Then, repeat the process until the water becomes clear and debris-free.

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You can also use a hose or a high-pressure spray to remove any dust particles on the gravel.

Note that some substrates may continue to cloud the water even after being washed four to five times. This may be because of the silty and fine texture of the substrate that naturally settles in the fish tank.

Step #3: Put the Substrate Into the Tank

Once your substrate is clean, gently place it into the aquarium. Don’t pour it all at once, as it can cause damage to the bottom glass and stir any finer particles left in the gravel.

Instead, scoop the gravel gradually. As you pour each batch, smooth the substrate with your hands. The goal is to create an even base that’s at least 12.7 millimetres thick.

Experts also recommend forming a slight slant on the base layer, starting from the back of the aquarium to create greater depth, resulting in a lovely perspective of your aquarium.

Step #4: Fill the Aquarium With Water

Using a hose pipe or bucket, carefully fill the tank with water. Make sure you leave some air space between the water and the cover.

Then, use a water de-chlorinator to prevent chloramines and chlorine from building up in your fish tank. You’ll need to use this every time you replace or add water to your tank.

Step #5: Run the Filter

Run the filter after cleaning and installing it in your filled-up aquarium. Never do this before your tank is filled with water, as it could damage the electrical equipment.

If your aquarium has lights, you can keep them switched off, for now, to save energy.

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As a rule of thumb, only keep your fish tank light on for a maximum of eight hours daily. Any longer will promote algae growth.

Step #6: Treat the Water

After running the filter, pour in the water treatment. Follow the recommended dosage on the products’ labels.

The water conditioner and bio-filter products help establish beneficial bacteria in your aquarium.

Step #7: Allow the Tank to Cycle

Let the tank cycle for at least one to two weeks or up to one month to ensure the aquatic environment is safe before adding any fish.

To start the cycle, add a pinch of fish food into the water. This will later turn into ammonia and trigger the activation of good-bacteria-promoting products.

Do not skip this step to ensure a fish-safe and fish-friendly environment in your tank. This will prevent “new tank syndrome” arising from the toxic build-up of nitrites and ammonia.

Step #8: Test the Water

After the cycle, test the aquarium water to see if it’s ready for your new pets.

Once you’ve added the fish, perform periodic testing to check whether there’s been an increase in ammonia levels from the fish waste. Although the good bacteria will regulate the ammonia, it’s still best to keep an eye on it while the tank is still establishing itself.

Adjust accordingly to ensure that your aquatic companions remain healthy and safe.

Create a Fish-Safe Environment

You have one goal when setting up an aquarium: to ensure that it is safe and fully equipped to house your pet fish. 

After following this guide thoroughly, it’s time to introduce your aquatic pets to their new home.


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