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Fish Health

5 Steps to Setting up your First Aquarium


Most fish tanks now come complete with everything you need to start off a beautiful aquarium. Many come complete with a filter, lighting and a heater plus other accessories which save money and time. There is a huge range of high quality aquariums from major manufacturers, all packed with features.

Decide upon the tank, there are many available at 10 or 20 liters in size, that house a few fish. They are perfect for those without much space, or for a beginner. However if you plan on a large fish stock or you want a big tank, there are plenty available.

 1.    Once you have chosen a tank, decide where to put it.

Make sure that the unit it sits on can take the weight of the full tank. Also, take care not to place it in direct sunlight or over a radiator, to avoid too much light and warmth. Most tanks come complete with lighting.

A cold water aquarium just needs light for viewing and for fish health; they generally need around 7-10 hours a day. Tropical fish benefit from specialized lighting that enhances their beautiful colors.


2.    Fill the tank with water.

Treat with a de-chlorinator to remove chlorine, chloramine and other heavy metals from the tap water. This is important, as these elements are toxic to fish.

Then let the tank sit for a few days to allow the water to settle.

3.    It’s important to cycle the water, which means mature the filter to ensure that the water is ready for fish.

A build up or spike of fish waste (ammonia) is poisonous and can kill fish in a tank’s early days. This is called New Tank Syndrome and can be avoided with some preparation and perseverance. A filter is vital to keep the tank clean and cut down on maintenance. One may come with your tank or you can buy it separately. Choose one that can handle the amount of water in your tank, maybe even a little more – this will provide better filtration.


Fish will really benefit from adding Stress Coat, which helps calm the fish and protect their scales.

Before you put the fish in, test the water with a good test kit. Make sure that ammonia and nitrite levels are around 0ppm, although you may find they rise after a few days with fish in, but they should settle as the filtration system kicks in.

Be patient! This can take some time to settle.

4.    If you are going to keep tropical fish, you will need a heater.

Again choose one that can handle the size of your fish tank, so that it adequately heats the water.

You may want to use a pump too, to circulate the water and make sure it’s aerated.

5.    Once you are sure the water is ready for your fish, you are ready to add some substrate and decor.

There are lots of designs and various types of decor to choose from, and you can really personalize your aquarium. Be sure your fish have plenty of hiding places. Prior to purchasing live plants, be certain you do your homework. Certain types of fish need certain types of plants that are native to their original environment.

Know your source, as well. (We once had an unfortunate experience with snails taking over our tank after adding a couple of live plants from an unscreened source.)


Now you can add the fish! Gold fish are great starter fish, and they are available in many variations. A small group of Tetra are lovely in a small tropical tank too.

Now sit back and enjoy your aquarium, keep on top of maintenance and it will look beautifully healthy all the time.

Learn more about fish-keeping:

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