Freshwater Tropical fish pictures

How to Set up a Freshwater Aquarium

  1. Decide on the placement of your tank. Decide where you want to put your tank; this will determine what size you buy, and whether or not you'll need a stand to go with it. 20 gallons or more will need a stand no matter what. As tempting as it is to buy a small tank they actually are harder to maintain good water quality. Buy a 20 or 25 gallon tank for a starter tank and keep just a few hardy fish (Mollies, guppies, platys, Tetra, small cory cats & no Cichlids). See if you like the hobby. Consider not subjecting any fish to a "fishbowl". They tend to suffocate the fish either by lack of oxygen or by their own waste. For something that already sees with a 'fisheye', the double-fisheye of the bowl disorients the fish. Some things to keep in mind when choosing location for your tank:
    • Too much sunlight will cause excessive algae growth and a maintenance nightmare. An interior wall, away from bright light, is best.
    • Try to stay away from putting the tank under a vent - dust will blow out and drop into the fish tank. It will also be harder to maintain a consistent water temperature, something that is important for all fish but vital for some.
    • It is also important to consider the ability of the floor to support the weight of the fully loaded aquarium. Make sure that there is adequate structural support under the floor. If necessary find your home's blueprints and look for crossbeams.
    • Choose a location near an outlet, and keep in mind how far you will have to haul water for weekly tank maintenance! No cords should be straining to get to the outlet either. In fact, it's a good idea all around to get a surge protector power strip (which you'll love when the power snaps back on after an outage) and go from there.


  2. Choose a fish tank. Choose a fish tank that fits the space you have decided on. (The process is the same for large tanks versus small, so don't worry if you're thinking of going large the first time around.) Also consider the type of fish you would like to keep, you want a tank big enough for their adult size. Thinking of live plants? Consider a taller tank to allow them room to grow tall, but keep in mind that appropriate lighting for many types of plants can be expensive (especially if the tank is tall). Whatever you decide, don't start out with anything less than 10 gallons (meaning no "Desktop" aquariums or the small, single Betta holders.)
    • Get an aquarium stand that is designed for the dimensions and shape of your tank. It is vital to the integrity of the tank it will hold that (if it had just a bar and a frame, the frame be the right size. It is not safe to have any edge in the air (over the end or not reaching far enough). The crossbeam is only there to support the 100+ lbs you're asking it to hold. Look for complete tank kits at those big box pet stores. Used setups from websites like Craigslist are often available for great prices, just be sure to check for leaks and clean very well before use. Don't underestimate the weight of a full fish tank! Make sure the stand is either rated for the size of your tank or that it has been custom built to be very sturdy. Things like dressers, T.V. stands, end tables/buffets, or flimsy wooden desks aren't strong enough.
    • If you don't buy a complete setup, make sure the equipment you choose is rated for the size of your tank.
    • Some lights (sometimes included in starter kits) put out so much heat that the water temperature will be drastically altered. When it is turned off, the temp. falls drastically as well. Not good for fish. If this happens, simply go to the hardware store and get the kind that don't give off such extreme heat.
  3. Filter the tank. Decide which filtration system you would like to use. The most common and easiest are either undergravel filters or power filters (recommended for first time owners over undergravel filters)that hang on the back of the tank. Don't get caught up in technology. Penguin and Whisper power filters provide both mechanical and biological filtration and are easy to clean and use. Only use TopFin if you know your way around filters (get a Whisper if you get the excellent TopFin starter kit).
    • If you choose an undergravel filter, make sure that the air pump or powerhead you buy with it is strong enough for the size of the tank. In this case, bigger is better. Note that if you don't regularly vacuum the gravel it will eventually clog the undergravel filter and turn it into a killing zone. Keep in mind that you can't use an undergravel filter if you plan on having sand or other fine substrates.
    • If you decide to go with a power filter, select one that will circulate enough water for the size of your tank. (Ideally, it should circulate 5 gallons of water per hour [gph], per gallon of your tank capacity. For example: a 10 gal. tank would need a filter that circulates at least 50 gph.)
  4. Heat the tank. Make sure you get a heater if one doesn't already come with your tank, the fully-submersible ones are the easiest to use. Look for one with an adjustable thermostat, since different fish prefer different temperatures. A good rule of thumb is 3-5 watts of heat per gallon of water. Most fish like it between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Basically, keep it between 78-82 degrees F. or 28-32 degrees C in a community tank.
  5. Get substrate. Choose gravel or sand for the bottom; this is essential to a healthy aquarium (approx. 2-3 inches) and helps fish keep their orientation in the water. Cheap gravel (lots of color choices) and play sand (stick with black or natural white or brown) can be purchased from Pet Stores dealing in aquarium products. Sand is optimal for fish and invertebrates that like to burrow but it needs to be stirred on a regular basis to prevent dead spots that can wreak havoc on your tank.
  6. Look for leaks. Fill the tank with about two inches of water, then wait for a half an hour. If there are any leaks, it's better they show up now, rather than when you have filled the entire thing. Do this somewhere where you won't mind water if it does leak. Have sealant on hand so that you can dry the tank and start fixing it.
  7. Get a basic setup. If all is well, open your bags of gravel, and give them a good rinse under running water in a colander. The less dust in the water, the faster it'll clear when the filter is started up. This step is especially crucial if you're using sand instead of gravel but important for all set ups.
    • For undergravel filters, put the filter plate in, and make sure the lift tubes are fitted. (If you have a submersible powerhead, you only need one; with a traditional air pump, two are best for most tanks under 40 gals, one at each end.) Do not turn it on until the tank is filled completely with water.
    • Attach your pump airlines or powerhead into the appropriate lift tube(s) now, if you've got an undergravel filter. Don't turn it on.
    • Spread the rinsed gravel in an even layer across the surface of the filter. (Pour in a bit at a time - to allow it to settle the way you want but also because it will scratch the tank walls if you pour it in too fast).
    • If you've chosen an external power filter, set it up on the back of the tank in a position where the outflow will evenly distribute the water. Some tank hoods come with pre-perforated cut-outs which make it easier to position your equipment. Do not turn it on until the tank is filled completely with water.
    • Install your heater (suction cups) on the inside of the tank. Try to position it near or at the mouth of the filter expelling water. This way the water will be evenly heated. Most of the thermostats on new heaters now come pre-set at an acceptable temperature range of 70-77 degrees Fahrenheit (21-25 degrees Celsius). Plug in the heater and install your thermometer. Do not turn it on until the tank is filled completely with water.
    • Fill the tank to 1/3 full with water. place a bowl or plate on the gravel and pour water into that to avoid disturbing the settled gravel. The water will gently overflow the basin
    • Place in any plants or decorations. Plants are functional decorations. It is difficult to make a mechanical filter control a plankton bloom. Live plants make it easy. For some fish, plants are compulsory. Submerge the roots but not the stems or leaves. Certain plants need to be fastened to something so get some fishing line (will not hurt the plant or fish) and tie the plant to a decoration or an appropriately cleaned piece of driftwood or rock.
    • Once you are sure that all the decorations are just the way you want, fill the tank up the rest of the way. Fill the tank with water to just under the rim of the tank, usually a gap of 1" will do.
    • Fill the reservoir of the filter with water, and plug it in! Water should smoothly (and quietly) circulate after a couple of minutes.
    • Plug in the powerhead/pump for the undergravel filter. Water should start moving vertically in the lift tube(s).
    • Wait for an hour or two, and check that the temperature is still in the safe range, that there are no leaks, and that the water is circulating properly.
    • Add the water dechlorinator, according to the instructions on the bottle (if you have not used purified drinking water). This is also the time to add a starting dose of SafeStart, a bacterial catalyst which will speed up the growth of good bacteria.
  8. Cycle your tank. For instructions on the fishless cycle(the most humane way to grow the beneficial bacteria all tanks need) see Do a Fishless Cycle. The cycle must be completed before you add any fish to the tank. This can take anywhere from 2 weeks to a month and 1/2. During this time you need to monitor the water parameters (pH, High pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate). When the numbers for Am., Nitrite, and then Nitrate spike and lower to 0, you have completed your initial Nitrogen Cycle and are in the clear to add fish. (To help move Ammonia and Nitrites along, you may have to use Ammonia Remover. The only way too reduce the Nitrates is to do water changes and physically remove the bad chemicals).
  9. Choose fish. Discuss what type of freshwater, tropical fish you want to have with the sales person. Inform yourself in fish forums on the internet about your favorite kind of fish. They should give you tips on who can and can't get along, and so forth. Watch out though, some salespeople might not have experience with aquariums and therefore can provide poor advice. See if there is a locally-owned fish store in the area, they tend to provide the most accurate information and high-quality fish. Petco and Petsmart both have compatibility charts for Freshwater and Saltwater fish. Don't get all of your fish at once. Know all the fish you hope to eventually have in your fish tank and buy two of the smallest (not the same for schooling fish). Keep in mind that schooling fish should be bought in groups of 4 (ideally 6+). Then every two weeks (or after the tank has gone through its mini cycle, which ever is later), buy the next group of fish. Add the largest fish last.
    • Although you may see two types of fish you really like, they may not be compatible. The result of bringing them both home would be harassed colorless fish (they lose color when stressed), and eventually the fish that is not the alpha bully will simply die. Why spend the money, right?
    • Please, please, please: If this is your first tank, do not get fish that are only recommended for intermediate or experienced aquarium owners. Like owning a dog, there is a reason they are not for beginners.
    • Be aware of the size of the adult fish (not the baby you're getting) and do not get a fish you won't be able to handle down the line. The same goes for Freshwater Sharks, Crabs (who, by the way, try to escape all the time), Cichlids, and animals that bury themselves. It's not fair to the fish.
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    Transport the fish home. The sales person filled a plastic clear bag with water and then fish(s) and then blew it up with Oxygen. Then gave it to you and took your money. When you get to the car, rest the bag in a place where it won't roll around or have something fall on it. If you have a lot of empty soda cans, junk food cartons and wrappers, and random items on the floor of the front passenger seat, then this is not the place for the fish. Go straight home. Do not stop at Go, collect $200 (well, if someone's giving out $200 for free, you should always stop), don't go to the supermarket or run a few errands. Just go home. The fish can only survive on the water and oxygen they've been given for maybe 2 1/2 hours. For trips longer than that, different packing procedures should be taken.
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    Add Fish. Start with two or three fish the first ten days, then get two or three more, wait another ten days, etc. If you put too many fish at once into a new tank, the water will not be able to adequately cycle, and will quickly turn toxic. Patience is the key for the first six to eight weeks. That said, a big mistake people make is to buy schooling fish but only get 1 or 2 of them. This is stressful and cruel for the fish. A school means that a group of 5 is the minimum. A great book for stocking suggestions is "The simple guide to freshwater aquariums by David E Boruchowitz".


I would highly suggest...

by Asidi

... not giving/adopting them out to just anyone. Seahorse can be extremely difficult to take care of. You don't just feed them and walk off like most people do with other fish.
What species are they? Are they eating frozen foods or only taking live foods? Did you get them from a petstore or perhaps Ocean Rider online?
I have raised seahorses before, they are beautiful creatures.A friend of mine writes articles about them and their care for some of the tropical fish magazines. :)
I personally would love to see pictures of yours.

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