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Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium

Posted on September 15 2020

Setting up a Fresh water Aquarium?

So your so-fish-ticated and your committing to the fish life? Well welcome to your new obsession. Wondering how to set up your first aquarium? Look no further. 

Find a comprehensive guide to starting your own aquarium here. 


1. Plan your tank

It’s great to have a wee think about what kind of fish you want to have in your tank. It might be tempting to go and fill your tank with all the beautiful species you can get your hands on but it’s not quite that simple. There are cold water fish and tropical fish that need to be in different temperature waters, there are some species that can breed uncontrollably or there are some species of fish which unfortunately have to live on their own or your tank will be like Las Vegas UFC fight night.   

2. Prepare your tank

Firstly remove your brand new tank from it’s box and give it a little clean. Small amounts of chemicals, debris and dust can be harmful so clean it with a damp cloth and water. For the love of cod, don’t use soap either. 

Have all the different materials and components ready.
For a heated aquarium you will need : 
Aquarium gravel or another substrate material Water filter, Heater & thermometer, Water testing kit, A light unit, Plants, Water Pump. 

3. Position your tank

Keep the tank out of direct sunlight, out of direct breezes and wind and close to a power point and away from noise or vibrations. Make sure to keep the tank is on a sturdy surface and make sure that all lights and cords are safely tucked away to prevent any fishcious accidents, tripping or tipping the tank. 

4. Fill your tank

Gravel  - Fill the tank with your gravel or substrate material cleaning and washing it with a strainer beforehand. 

Water - Gently pour the water in. If your tap water is chlorinated using a product like Prime helps to remove chlorine, chloramine and detoxifies ammonia.  It also detoxifies nitrite and nitrate and removes any heavy metals found in the tap water. 

Plants - Add plants into the aquarium. This is especially important to help oxygenate the water, stabilising the pH, and plants absorb the fish waste helping to end the nitrogen cycle, they also help to cycle your tank before the fish go in. Plants are the bomb diggity - We love plants. 

As a rule of thumb it’s best to add taller plants to the back and smaller plants at the front. Try not to fill your tank up too much, leave roughly 1/3 of the tank empty for your fish to swim around in freely.

Decorations - Add some funky decorations. Perhaps a shipwreck, some properly treated driftwood and big well washed rocks and boulders can make your tank a home. 

5. Setup your tank

Filter - A filter is an absolute essential part of the aquarium, acting as the heart of your tank. It keeps the water clean and neutralises harmful chemicals by filtering out the nasties. It’s important like your heart to be going ALL THE TIME. 

Heaters - It’s important that your warm or tropical fish have a warm water temperature much like their natural environment. Heaters a generally easy to use and will sit underneath the water to keep the water at a constant temp, you set the dial and it will turn off and on when they need to. 

Lighting - LED Lighting is important for fish to retain their beautiful colours. Lights will need to be put on a timer or you can manually switch them off at night. You need to create an environment just like the one they would thrive in in the wild. This includes day and night. Many of your beginner tanks will have a little light in the lid, but for bigger tank set ups your will have to buy your light separately. Your lighting requirements will always depend on the fish species you have so always seek help if you're unsure. 

Pumps and Airstones - An aeration stone helps break the surface tension and allows more oxygen to be absorbed into the water. More oxygen in the water is beneficial to the health of your fish, particularly on a warm days when oxygen levels are lower. 

Cycle your Tank - Turn on your filter and cycle for 2 - 14 days and add a very small amount of fish food to the water each day. This releases ammonia into the tank as it decomposes establishing some bacteria in the water. Both the food and the plants will help to establish the nitrogen cycle. 

6. Test the water

Most freshwater aquarium tropical fish do best at a pH of 6.8 to 7.6, where 7.0 is considered neutral. The number one reason your fish will get sick is the nitrogen cycle, and while you’re first setting the tank up you’ll likely see spikes in it. Be sure to have a test kit to test the Ammonia, Nitrate and Nitrite levels while you’re establishing your tank. These three nasties are crystal clear so if they’re lurking in the water the only way to catch them is through testing. 

7. Add your fishies

Adding too many fish to the water at once can throw off the balance of ammonia, nitrates, and bacteria that you’ve built up. Choose 1 or 2 tropical fish that are easy to care for and then add more later.

Maintaining the Tank

- Once the tank has had time for the good bacteria to establish and there is a healthy eco system you will need to frequently test your waters PH, Nitrate, Nitrite and Ammonia to make sure your fishes, eco system is in tip top condition. 

- Partial Water changes are important but it’s important to never change all of the water once your tank is established or else you’ll get rid of all of the hard work you’ve put in to set up the tank.

- Watch your fish for signs of illness or stress. Signs that your fish is unwell could include loosing its colour, disorientation, bulging eyes and not eating their food. 

Pet Connect has a wide range of products to help you with your setup, click below to check out our aquarium range and take the first step to setting up your first fresh water auarium!


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