How to Set Up the Aquarium

Although you may well want to rush out and choose the fish for your aquarium, the correct approach is to set up the tank first, and get the water conditions right, before you obtain any fish. If you buy the fish first, they are likely to become chilled while waiting for their new home to be prepared. In addition, if there are any unexpected hitches, such as a failure in the heating system for example, this could create serious problems, because you would need to find a replacement urgently.

Preparation the tank

The first step is to wash or hose down the tank, and check it carefully all over for signs of damage. With frameless tanks, the base sheet of glass has sometimes become compressed and broken at a corner, for example. For this reason, you should never stand a tank up on its edge, but keep it off the ground while emptying it.

Rinsing the tank should also wash out any minute particles of glass that might remain after the sheets were cut. These could possibly injure the fish, especially if they become lodged in the gills.


Placing the tank

The next stage is to stand the tank on a layer of expanded polystyrene, which will absorb any unevenness in the surface. Without this precaution, the tank might start to leak once full, because of the greatly increased water pressure on the vulnerable part of the tank.

The filter plate

If using an undergravel filter, you should then fit the filter plate, ensuring that it lies flat on the base of the tank with no gaps. The gravel should be washed, disinfected, rinsed, and drained, then tipped carefully on top, and spread out to the appropriate depth.

Preparing the decor

Once the substrate is in place, you can add the tank decor in the form of real or replica rocks or wood. Take care to leave a relatively clear space at the front of the aquarium, and do not cover too much of the base in all, because it impedes areas of the undergravel filter, so reducing its efficiency.

If you decide to use natural rocks, rather than lightweight substitutes, it is usually safest to obtain them from an aquatic store to ensure that they are safe for aquarium use. Use only impervious rocks such as granite or slate, which will not dissolve and affect the water chemistry. Limestone is only suitable for aquaria accommodating fish that require hard water conditions. Should you decide to collect your own rocks, and are unsure if they contain any limestone, you can test them easily. Simply pour some vinegar (acetic acid) over them outside. If the rock starts to fizz, then this indicates the presence of calcium carbonate (limestone). Click here to learn more aquascape ideas.

All rockwork, irrespective of its origins, should be scrubbed with a clean brush, to remove any mud or contamination. Then treat it with a solution of aquarium disinfectant, rinse it, and place it in the tank, making sure that it is stable and settled in the substrate.

You can also put some grade a indian almond leaves in your aquarium.

Clay flowerpots

Clay pots are a useful addition to the aquarium, and have a number of advantages over rockwork. Only a relatively small proportion of their surface area is in contact with the gravel bed, so the effects on an under gravel filter are minimal. Roughly broken in half, a flowerpot provides a valuable retreat for certain fish, such as catfish, and may also be used for spawning by a number of species. The best way to break a pot without smashing it to pieces is to crack it carefully with a chisel.



Artificial wood is easier to work with than natural bogwood, partly because it will not float – real wood floats unless it is saturated. Bogwood from aquatic outlets is normally sold in a dry state; it takes several weeks to be fully saturated so must be wedged into place when you first position it.

Boil or at least soak the bogwood several times, using fresh water each time. This prevents it from leaching and discolouring the water, as well as clearing it of any pathogens which might harm the fish. Another option is to saturate the wood, then varnish it. This is also not without its problems, however: you must wait for the varnish to dry completely, and it is usually recommended to use more than one coat to ensure that the wood is totally sealed. There is also a risk that fish may nibble at the varnish, particularly if it has bubbled at any point, and they could become poisoned.

Wood is a good anchorage point for some aquatic plants, such as Java fern (Microsorium pteropus), adding to the natural landscape effect in the aquarium. It is also important for the well-being of some suckermouth catfish (of the family Loricariidae); if you keep these fish, supply them with some untreated bogwood.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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