Keeping fish can be a great experience, but some people are put off by the perceived difficulty of maintaining them. It’s true that you’ll need to do your due diligence to be sure that you can take proper care of your new friends. There are many different types of fish, and you should properly research each of them before you start building your tank. Some fish do great in groups. Some fish do better alone. Some fish require warm water while others are cold water varieties. You should also be careful of your stocking levels. The more fish in a tank the more often it will need to be cleaned.
Preparing The Tank
You have no idea where your tank or your decorations have been. The first step is to thoroughly wash everything involved in your tank set up. That means all the decorations, the gravel and the tank itself. Keep in mind that you should never use detergents or soaps to wash your tank. These can be toxic to your fish and ruin your water quality. Even if you think you’ve gotten all of the soap off no doubt a little will remain to muck up your water and become a danger to your fish. Instead use only warm water which will work just fine. This process also helps remove any debris or dust that could be left behind on your gravel and cloud your water. You may need to strain the gravel a few times before you get all of the dust off of it. The water should come away clear when you’re done. If there’s visible cloudiness rinse the aquarium gravel again. After everything is cleaned you can add your gravel and your fish tank decorations.
Prepping the Aquarium Water
Next you should fill your tank about one third of the way full with water. This water should be room temperature. Keep in mind that your tap water is not safe for fish. Almost all public water contains chlorine and other additives to help kill bacteria growth, but these chemicals are not safe for your fish. A tank that’s not properly treated will quickly kill off anything dwelling in the aquarium. You’ll need to purchase an aquarium water conditioner. These are available in most pet stores or big box stores with a pet department. Follow the directions on the package for how much of the dechlorinator you should add to your aquarium water as it might be based on gallons. This will remove the chlorine and other contaminants from your water making it fish safe.
Connect Filters and Airline Tubing
With the exception of some air breathing fish like gold fish or bettas you’ll need to have a way to add oxygen to your water in order for your fish to breath. This is typically done with the use of bubble stones and aquarium tubing or something there are filter combos that can do the trick. At this point, you need to start connecting these items. Most people hide their bubble stones and tubing behind plants. It’s perfectly fine to use decorations to obscure these, and some decorations even have a bubble stone built in for you to use! Depending on the model of your air pump you may or may not need a check valve. If your pump is located below your aquarium this device helps keep water from backing up into the pump, and ruining your equipment.
Add Your Plants – Plastic or Alive
Plants are great additions to any aquarium. They not only look nice, but they provide a great place for fish to hang out. Many smaller schooling fish will enjoy hiding in these plants. It will make them feel much more secure. While adding live plants to your aquarium is very rewarding it’s not requires. You can just as easily use plastic ones that will never die on you. If you choose to use live plants make sure you’ve chosen an appropriate plant growth aquarium light. A normal light will not be sufficient, and your plants will wither without a proper UV bulb. You can also purchase aquarium safe fertilizer to use for your plants. At this point you can finish filling your tank with water. Leave a small amount of space at the top as an air gap between the surface of the water and the lid.
Set up Your Aquarium Filter
An aquarium filter is important for siphoning out pollutants and fish waste in your tank. Eventually, these things build up, and they need to be removed to keep the ammonia levels from getting to high and killing off your fish. Most of these filters have a replaceable cartridge that will need to be changed out every few months for optimal performance. At this stage make sure your cartridge is inserted and that your filter is functioning properly. Observe to see that the water is entering and exiting the filter the way that it should be.
Cycling Your Tank
Did you know that fish tanks need healthy bacteria? A brand new tank will obviously not have these important bacteria that are needed for you to have healthy fish. So how do you get them? You can either use water from an established tank or you can buy a product like Tetra Safe Start. This will give you a jump start of the healthy bacteria you need to cycle your tank. The Safe Start will allow you to add fish immediately to your tank. In fact waiting too long will cause your bacteria to die off as they feed on waste. You can now plug in your filter, aerator or aquarium heater if you’re using one. Don’t ever leave these on without water running through them as it can burn up the motors. Use a strip test kit to check the conditions of your water. When those strips read safe it’s time to add the fish!
How to add fish to your aquarium
While it might be tempting to just dump your fish right in you can’t do that! The shock of the new water can kill your fish instantly. Instead you’ll need to acclimate them to their new environment. When you get your fish from the pet store they should come with some of the water from the tank they were living in before. Place the bags, still closed, into your tank and let them float there. It’s advisable to let them float for around an hour. The point of this is so that the temperature of the water in the bags will slowly acclimate to the water in the tank. This way when the fish are released they won’t be killed by temperature shock. Next you’ll want to either undo the tie at the top of the bag a little or poke a small hole in the bag. The idea is to let the aquarium water and the water in the bag mix very slowly so your fish can become used to the new water. Leave them like this for around 30 minutes. Some of the fish may swim out on their own, but if they don’t it’s now safe to dump them out into their new home.