How to Start Your Very Own Aquarium

Fish offer a solution to the space and time constraints of your average pet lover. Fish don’t need to be walked or housebroken, and they can be left home alone for a few days. They don’t need annual vaccinations at the vet and they don’t get diarrhea! Finally, watching an aquarium is very soothing.

Freshwater aquariums are the place to begin your life as a fish hobbyist. You can use regular tap water to fill your tanks, as long as you condition the water properly.

Common Problems
Common problems for a beginner aquarium hobbyist include ‘new tank syndrome.’ This can occur when many fish are added quickly, throwing off the natural chemical and biological balance of the environment and killing most of the fish. Avoid this problem as it can be very discouraging when you’ve just started your aquarium. Take your time and add fish a few weeks apart, allowing the water and the fish to adjust before introducing new species.

It’s also important to not overcrowd your aquarium. Most fish may appear small, but they require a bare minimum of 1 gallon of water per fish. For ideal conditions, fish need much more space than that.

Make sure your chosen species are compatible as well.

Get Started

You’ve got your aquarium – now what? Choose a place for your aquarium and be sure it’s close to an electrical outlet and out of direct sunlight to inhibit algae growth.

Fill half the tank with water and add your water conditioner (dose according to instructions). Remember, aquariums are heavy! Water weighs 8.5 lbs (4 kg) per gallon. A 20 gallon aquarium filled with water weighs about 170 lbs. Consider the weight when choosing a place and stand for your fish.

Rinse your gravel and décor and add to your aquarium. 1lb-2lbs of gravel should be used per gallon (e.g. 55g tank requires minimum 55 lbs of gravel).

Fill the remaining half of the tank with water.

Add your heater. Use 3-5 watts per gallon when determining the proper heater size (For example: a 30 g tank multiplied by 3 watts = 90 watt heater). Tropical fish require water temperatures ranging between 74-82° F (23-28° C).

Add your filter following the manufacturer’s instructions for set up.

Add a biologic supplement, such as NutraFin Cycle to the water to help grow beneficial bacteria (dose according to instructions).

Run the filter and allow the tank to cycle for at least 24 hours.

Once your tank has cycled and it has reached the appropriate temperature it’s time to add the fish.

Determine how many fish your tank can accommodate. A good rule to follow is one gallon for every 1 inch of full grown fish. Only add 2-3 fish at a time so they don’t overload the bio-filtration capacity. Float the sealed bag for 20-30 minutes to equalize the temperatures.

Slowly and gently add your fish using an appropriate size net. Be certain to rinse the net well if it’s new.

Feed the fish 2-3 hours after adding them to the aquarium.

Sick Fish?

Watch for these signs of an unhealthy fish, several medicines are available to help bring your fish back to health.

  • Inflamed gills
  • Lying on the bottom of the aquarium
  • Fins clamped to its sides
  • Scraping its body on rocks
  • Spotted scales

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