Aquarium Basics - Setting Up
a New Aquarium
Setting Up A New Aquarium
by Leon Huang
of your aquarium
So, you bought your very first fish tank. And you probably
already decided where to place it. But keep in mind that
a fish tank filled with water is much heavier than it
seems. So please, place it on something strong and stable.
It is also advisable to keep your fish tank away from
direct, or even indirect, sunlight. Long hours of sunlight
will induce algae, something you do not want if you wish
to keep your aquarium beautiful.
Skip this part if you plan to have a simple bare-bottom
fish tank. Personally, I feel that gravels make an aquarium
looks so much nicer. Having gravels also helps hide your
Before you start pouring your gravels into your fish tank,
stop! Take a pail, pour your gravels into it instead.
Start washing them over and over until the water is decently
clear. This is important, as you don't want your fishes
to be swimming in chocolate milk.
Preparing your water
Water is the single most important element of an aquarium.
It is important to prepare your water before adding any
fishes, as most tap water contains chemicals like chlorine
and chloramine, which are harmful to fishes. So be sure
to get a bottle of water conditioner from your favourite
pet shop that neutralizes both chlorine and chloramine.
If you have gravels, be very gentle when pouring water
into your tank, so as not to stir up the gravels. A useful
tip is to pour your water onto a floating plate or saucer,
so as to divert the force of the falling water. Fill water
to your preferred height, and add measured amount of your
anti-chlorine-and-chloramine water conditioner.
Setting up your filter
Setup your filter according to your filter's manual. Make
sure that it is working properly as intended, as the filter
is a very important part of an aquarium. Your filter provides
water circulation, and also oxygenates the water, if your
type of filter causes water surface disturbance. If your
aquarium is heavily loaded with fishes, and your filter
fails for even a few hours, it could be fatal.
What is cycling?
"Cycling" is the process where bacterias break
down ammonia(NH3) into nitrite(NO2), and from nitrite
to nitrate(NO3). Ammonia and nitrite are both very toxic
to fishes, and nitrate being the least toxic of the three.
Therefore this process is the most important for any aquarium.
The nitrosomonas species of bacteria starts forming when
ammonia is present. They form all around our fish tank,
the driftwoods, the substrate, and especially inside our
filter. Slowly, they will form into a colony large enough
to efficiently breakdown ammonia into nitrite. When nitrite
in the water has reached a certain level, the Nitrobacter
species of bacteria starts forming. Slowly, they will
breakdown the nitrite into nitrate. And finally, nitrate
in the water can be removed via the most common and cost-effective
method, water changes.
In a nutshell: Ammonia > Nitrite > Nitrate
Introduction of ammonia
These are the various ways of introducing ammonia: - "Seeding".
Transfer some gravel or filter sponge/wool/etc from an
established fish tank into the new one. - Fish wastes.
Zebra danios are very hardy fishes that are commonly used
for cycling. - Market prawns. Yes, it will stink. - Commercial
Personally, I feel that the "seeding" method
would be the most reliable and yields the fastest results.
Fish method is slow, but adding more fishes does makes
the process faster. Just that the fishes might not survive
the intense ammonia poisoning. We don't want fishes to
die in our new fish tank. It is also not recommended to
use feeder fishes for this task, as they often carry diseases.
Prawn method is easy, throw them in and wait. But be prepared
for the smell.
Commercial products are not the most reliable. Most of
us would wonder how much shelf life do these products
have. After all, we are talking about live organisms here.
But there are indeed cases where hobbyists introduce fishes
without cycling, relying on commercial products to do
its work. It all boils down to how much risk you are willing
to take. Personally, I have a bottle of Nutrafin Cycle,
which I bought when I upgraded my filter.
So you've introduced ammonia, turned on your filter, and
is waiting for your fish tank to cycle. I would recommend
at least three days of cycling before introducing your
fishes. Longer, if the fishes you plan to keep are sensitive.
Or if you have not decided on what fishes to keep, now
is a good time to research on that.
Find on how big will the fishes grow up to. Most fishes
are so tiny when young, but can grow up to huge sizes.
This is important, as having no space to swim will stunt
their growth, their colors will not show, and they get
sick easier. So get suitable fishes, unless you have plans
to upgrade to a larger fish tank.
Find out if the fishes are to be kept in brackish water
or fresh water. Do not mix the two types of fishes. Find
out also their aggressiveness, feeding habits, behaviors,
and anything else you need to know to keep your fishes
healthy and happy.
Acclimatizing your new fishes
Finally, it's time for you to go out and buy your fishes.
Get the pet shop people to help you select healthy ones.
While at the shop, make sure you've already gotten everything
you need. Things like food, aquarium salt(if keeping brackish
water fishes), net, water pump, and a bottle of anti-chlorine-and-chloramine
Once you reached home, float the packet of your new babies
in your tank water. This is to acclimatize your fishes
to the new water temperature. Float for about 15 minutes,
then open up the packet, and pour some of your tank water
into it. This is to acclimatize your fishes to the new
water parameters. Wait for another 15 minutes, or more,
if your fishes are sensitive species. And finally, use
a net to catch your fishes into your fish tank!
Observing your fishes
If your fish tank has decorative objects, most likely
your new fishes will go into hiding. This is normal, and
will last up to a few days. When they do show themselves,
observe them. Take note of how their bodies look like,
and how they behave, so you will know when something odd
Feed very sparingly during this beginning stage. As the
filtration and bacteria system is still new, do not want
to pollute the water too much. I suggest feeding small
amounts once a day starting from the second or third day.
If your fishes refuse to eat, do not put in more food.
Try feeding again the next day. This is normal and you
do not need to worry, as the fishes most likely already
eaten when in the pet shop, and they can survive for as
long as a week without food.
Soon, your fishes will get used to their environment.
They will start becoming more active. Their vibrant colors
will start showing. And they may even recognize you whenever
you come close to feed them. That is the reward of fish-keeping!
But of course, you have to be a responsible owner. Performing
the regular water changes, medicating them when they get
sick, and feeding them quality food everyday. And I officially
welcome you to the hobby!
About the Author
For more fishy articles by Leon Huang, visit Your Fish