Thursday, April 28, 2011

How to Set Up a Fish Tank

Here is a a step by step guide on how to set up a freshwater fish tank.

Step 1: Rinse your tank out thoroughly. They often collect dust in the store, so you want to rinse it out before putting your fish and the water into it.

(if you have a large tank that cannot be carried/transported, or doesn't fit under a faucet, you can simply wipe the tank down with a damp cloth) (a terry cloth works best for this)

You do not need to dry it off or anything, since it is going to be filled with water anyway.

Step 2: Thoroughly rinse out your gravel, being careful not to rub or grind the gravel together. Rinse until the water comes out clear. (this may take a while for colored gravel)

Step 3: Place the desired amount of gravel in the bottom of the tank. Usually one to two inches is a good amount. (when you buy gravel plan on buying one to two pounds of gravel per gallon of water in the tank). 

If you have any leftover gravel, you can dry it and store it in a plastic bag.

Step 4: Rinse your plants out thoroughly and make sure none of the color is coming off.

Step 5: Rinse off any ornaments (rocks, driftwood, caves, etc.)

Step 6: Place the decorations into the tank. Place the weighted base of the plants underneath the gravel to secure the plants.

Step 7: Install the filter. Make sure your read the instructions for your filter. Rinse out the filter cartridge and any sponge inserts and place into the filter. IMPORTANT: DO NOT PLUG IN THE FILTER YET!!! Filters are only meant to be run in water, so plugging them in (most filters turn on when they are plugged in, there is no on/off switch usually) will break them.

the filter cartridge

this is the filter intake (the water get sucked up through this part)

Step 8: Rinse off the thermometer (I recommend getting a glass thermometer as opposed to a stick on strip, the glass ones are more accurate and easy to read)

Step 9: Place the thermometer in the tank. The particular kind I have can be free-floating or it can suction to the tank. It is best to suction it to the tank because you will get a more accurate reading. Also make sure you position it on the opposite side from where the heater will be, and do not position it directly in front of the flow from the filter, you will not get accurate readings.

Step 10: Put the your light bulb in the hood of your tank and switch it on to see if it works. (if you have live plants in the aquarium, make sure it is a fluorescent light bulb, this grows plants better than incandescent ones)

(the rest of the room isn't really dark, the camera would only pick up the light from the tank's bulb though.)

Step 10: Rinse off your heater. Be careful! Only rinse parts meant to be wet!!! 

Step 11: Carefully read the instructions for your particular heater. 

Step 12: Place the heater in the aquarium using the included suction cups. IMPORTANT: DO NOT PLUG THE HEATER IN YET!!!! Most heaters are not meant to be operated out of the water, like the filter, if you plug it now with no water in the tank yet, it will break.

Make sure that the max/min water level of the heater will be in the right place. And make sure nothing is directly right in front of the heater, or touching the heater.

Step 13: Now you can fill the tank up with water! But first, if you have tap water from a city, you need to use chlorine remover to remove the chlorine and chloramine that is toxic to your fish. (If you have well water, you probably don't need to do this). 

Use the measuring cap normally included to measure out the correct amount according to the instructions on the bottle.

Step 14: Fill up a bucket with water, add the chlorine remover (water conditioner) (if needed), to the water and pour into the tank until the tank is full. (So that you don't displace the plants and gravel pour the water slowly onto an ornament such as a cave or rock. You can also use an upside down plate and pour the water on to that. (just remember to remove the plate when you are finished.

Step 15: Now you can start the tank's cycling process (I will do a post to explain nitrogen cycle, and how to cycle a new aquarium soon). I chose to add a bacterial supplement to start the process. (the supplement helps start a colony of bacteria needed to break down fish waste). If you used water conditioner, make sure the let the water sit for about fifteen minutes before adding the bacteria supplement. (I can't explain why, I have no idea. But that is what all the bottles of water conditioner and bacteria supplement say you should do.) Measure out the correct amount according to the instructions and add to the tank. 

Bacteria need ammonia to breakdown, so you can add a few fish flakes to the water. The flakes will eventually produce ammonia, which the bacteria should breakdown.

Step 16: Now you can plug everything in! (the filter, heater, light, etc.) BUT FIRST: You must install drip loops. Drip loops are simply a loop in a cord, making  the cord go down, then up before it goes to the outlet, so that if the cords get wet (since it is an aquarium that is a pretty good possibility!) the water won't run into the outlet (which is super DANGEROUS!!!)

Because some of mine went into a power strip, I used tape to create drip loops, and I made sure the power strip wasn't anywhere near where it could get wet. If they are just going into a regular outlet you probably don't have to use tape, most cords will be long enough that they will automatically make a loop. 

Step 17: Done!!! And almost ready for fish. Just let the tank cycle for a few days to a week and then you can add hardy fish (danios, tetras, etc.) (or a betta). If the fish you are going to put into the tank is not a very hardy fish, then you should let the tank cycle for about 4 weeks to fully establish the bacteria. Before you put the fish in you also need to test the water to make sure the ph, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, hardness, and alkalinity levels are at safe levels for your fish.

Click this link to my youtube channel to see the finished tank:


  1. Cool tank!
    Sarah :)

  2. The tank looks so nice. Now a few questions: what kind of food will you have to feed your betta and how much and how often?
    -Goldfish Granny