First Tank Set-Up

How Do I Set Up My Tank for the First Time?


If you are setting up your very first aquarium you are likely to have questions regarding where to put your tank, what type of equipment you need and how to arrange everything. Setting up your tank correctly the first time is very important because if you make a mistake, you might find yourself redoing the process later. A mistake on your part could also impact the health and well-being of your fish. In order to ensure that your fish tank functions properly and that your fish are given the healthiest environment possible, take your time in selecting your tank equipment and in going through the process of setting up your tank.

Simple Aquarium is Best

For your first tank it is ideal to choose an aquarium that comes as a complete kit with everything such as having filters and lights built in. One of our favourites is we sell is the Fluval Edge.

For residents outside Australia the best prices we could find was through Amazon (see link below)



Before You Set Up the Tank


Before you can set up your tank, you need to decide where you are going to put it. The ideal location for an indoor fish tank is a place where it will be visible but somewhere it won’t be in danger of being bumped or knocked over. High-traffic locations are not recommended, but neither should you place the tank in some out-of-the-way location where you are likely to forget about it or in a location that makes cleaning difficult. In order to prevent excessive algae growth, you should also avoid placing your tank in direct sunlight. No matter where you choose to place your tank, it is important that the tank has the proper support. A high quality tank stand or cabinet is essential because your aquarium could weigh several hundred pounds once it is full.

After you select the location for your tank and position your tank stand or cabinet you will need to clean the tank. Wipe out any dust or dirt using a damp paper towel and thoroughly rinse your substrate until the water runs clear. Pour the substrate into the tank and distribute it evenly along the bottom of the aquarium.

Steps For Setting Up the Tank

  1. Fill your tank about two-thirds full with tap water. The water should be warm but the exact temperature is not important because you will be setting up your aquarium heater later.
  2. Mount your filter on the back of the aquarium, following the manufacturer's instructions. If your filter has a chemical filtration (carbon) component, rinse the filter cartridge then insert it into the filter box. Do not plug the filter in until you fill it with water.
  3. Mount your aquarium heater on the back of the tank on the opposite end of the filter. If you have chosen to use a hang-on heater, use the suction cups to attach the heater vertically to the back of the tank. Submersible aquarium heaters can be attached horizontally along the tank back, positioned a few inches from the bottom of the tank.
  4. Put your tank decorations in place inside the tank.
  5. Place your live plants in the tank, burying the roots in the substrate. Position the larger plants near the back of your aquarium and concentrate the smaller plants closer to the front.
  6. Fill the tank the rest of the way and treat the water using a dechlorinating solution. Follow the instructions on the package to determine the proper dosage for your tank size.
  7. Plug in your aquarium heater and adjust the thermostat to the proper setting. You may also want to install an aquarium thermometer in the tank so you can monitor the tank temperature.
  8. Install your aquarium lighting. If your tank came with a hood you can simply insert a fluorescent light bulb into the hood. If you prefer to customise your tank lighting, however, you can purchase individual fixtures and mount them over the tank.


Tips for Setting Up Your Tank


After setting up your tank the best thing you can do is wait. Your tank will need several weeks for the nitrogen cycle to be established before it will be safe to add any fish. The nitrogen cycle involves the establishment of a colony of beneficial bacteria which help to break down organic wastes and remove harmful toxins like ammonia from the water. In order to cycle your tank you can “feed” the tank by sprinkling small amounts of food into the tank several times a day. As the food breaks down, beneficial bacteria will jump into action and eventually reproduce to form a colony. If you attempt to add fish to your tank before it has cycled properly, your fish could suffer from ammonia poisoning and the tank itself could suffer shock due to the increased biological load. After putting in the effort to set up your tank correctly, you do not want all your hard work to go to waste by adding fish before the tank has cycled properly.