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Setting up an Aquarium

August 07, 2008  |  Difficulty: Easy

Happy family
Keeping an aquarium is more than just a fish in a bowl!

Think hard if you think you’d like to keep fish and maintain an aquarium.  Setting up an aquarium requires some special equipment, attention to detail and patience to reap the rewards of happy, healthy, beautiful fish.


  • Tank:  The minimum 10 gallon size fits perfectly in a child’s room. Go larger if you plan to grow your fish collection, breed them and have the time to care for your tank.
  • Air pump: This pumps air bubbles into the water to keep it circulating. It helps avoid thermal layering by mixing up the water and keeps a film from forming on top of the water.
  • Filter: This necessity keeps your tank clean by filtering out wastes through biological, chemical and mechanical means. They need to be cleaned regularly to keep them working efficiently.
  • Lighting: Most fish do not like bright lights, but a cool fluorescent light in the tank hood is fun for fish-watching as it makes colors glow! Don’t use an incandescent bulb or heat light as they get too hot for the proper water temperature.
  • Heater: Most fish can live at room temperature between 65-75 degrees F.  If you choose fish that need a warmer temperature then you’ll need a heater. Be sure you choose other fish that are compatible with the same water temperature so it’s healthy for your whole collection, otherwise you’ll have health troubles.
  • Foliage, Rocks, Decorations: Fish love to hide and swim to and fro so provide them a hide and seek atmosphere with plants (natural or artificial), large rock formations with large holes in it and fun decorations you like to look at. Warning: Never use your old beach finds for freshwater fish tanks because the salt leaches out of the shells and corals and will kill your freshwater fish. You can use them in a salt-water tank, however.
  • Gravel:  It’s the perfect covering for fish tanks and comes in every color from all-natural sand and pebble to hot pink. It’s easy to keep clean as bottom feeders can feed from it and it looks natural.
  • Backing: Put a seascape backing on the tank to give the fish something natural to look at as well as a feeling of depth as they are swimming.  It’s also more pleasant for you to look at.
  • Bottle of de-chlorinating drops: You need this to add to new water before you add it to your tank. Follow directions on the bottle exactly.  


  • Set up your tank about one week prior to putting in your fish. The water needs to balance by evaporating its chlorine content which is harmful for fish. This also gives the “good” bacteria that fish need to grow.
  • Plan for about one gallon of water per fish. So 10 fish at most in a 10 gallon tank.
  • Plan to bring home a few fish at a time so you avoid putting 10 new fish together in a strange place.
  • Do your research! Visit the fish store before choosing your fish and write down the names of all the ones you like.  Then, go online, or get a fish book from the library, and check for compatibility among the types you selected. Some fish eat each other and some fish need different water temperatures, acidity, hardness or softness.  Choose fish that have the same requirements and be aware of all the special considerations if you want your aquarium to be a success.


  • Fish can get stressed out by being plunged into strange water. Be sure you have time to let your new fish acclimate to the water.
  • Start by placing the fish bag in the tank to float in the new water. After about half an hour, begin adding a small amount of the tank water to the fish bag water.
  • Do this for another half an hour until the water has been equalized.
  • Don’t dump the bag water (and fish!) into your new tank water because the store tanks might have had bad bacteria or other parasites you wouldn’t want to introduce to your new tank. Use a net to remove the fish from the bag and place it gently into the tank.

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