Setting up your Fish Tank
Setting up your fish tank
Our guide below will help you to set up your fish tank step by step. Once your fish tank is up and running we recommend that you wait 3 days before introducing any fish to allow the water and filtration system to settle.
How do I set up my tank?
- Wash out your tank with warm water – don't use soap or liquid detergents. Your tank needs to be positioned away from direct sunlight and excessive heat (ie not close to a radiator) to prevent major problems with algae. The tank should also be near to an electric socket to supply the lights and filter with power. For safety make sure that you create a drip loop with the electric cables. To make a drip loop all you have to do is to have the electrical cable long enough so that it droops below the electric socket and then back up. Any water running down the cable will drip down from the loop, rather than running straight into the electric socket. Remember once filled with water your tank will be very difficult to move if it is a large tank!
- Wash your gravel, ornaments and plants in water before adding them to your tank.
- If you are using an Under Gravel Filter place it on the floor of the tank.
- Layer the gravel on the base of the tank – it should be about 2 inches (5 cm) deep. Slope the gravel down towards the front of the tank to create depth of field (this also lets debris fall to the front of the tank which makes it easier to remove).
- Add your stones, driftwood and ornaments – you can create different zones for the fish, clearings where they can congregate and dwelling places where they can hide.
- Place a large plate or dish on top of the gravel and slowly fill the half full with cold water. The plate will stop the water splashing about and disturbing the gravel and altering the positions of your stones.
- If you are using live aquatic plants add them at this stage. Position tall plants towards the back of the tank and shorter ones towards the front. Don't forget to anchor your plants so they don't float back up to the top when the tank is filled!
- Set up your equipment: install your heater (if you are keeping tropical fish), filter and air pump. Make sure that your electrical cables are safe and dry.
- Fill up your tank to an inch (2.5 cm) from the top.
- Tap water contains chlorine so add a water conditioner or dechlorinator to the water. Water conditioners can also contain a solution that breaks down organic matter to aid in the development of bacteria which will ultimately establish a natural balance in your tank. You can test the water to see if it is safe for your fish with a water test kit – this will also help you to monitor your water once you have added your fish.
- Place your hood and light on the top of the tank. Switch on the electrical equipment.
Visit our fish Products section for everything you will need to set up your tank
Tank and Water Maintenance
Changing the water - you will need to change the water in your tank about every 2 weeks but only 15 – 20% needs to be replaced.
- Always make sure that the water you add to the tank is the same temperature as the water in the tank and that has been treated with water conditioner to remove chlorine.
Cleaning filters – filter inserts (floss etc) should be cleaned or changed at least every 4 weeks.
- You might find that if you have a lot of fish in your tank you will need to do this more often.
Vacuum the gravel – your gravel will collect debris from the fish waste, uneaten food and plants so you will need to vacuum it on a regular basis to stop these deposits building up and poisoning the fish.
- Syphoning sets are available and are useful not only for sucking up deposits but also for syphoning water from the tank during your water changing routine.
Remove algae – algae will build up on the sides of your tank and this can easily be removed by scraping the walls of your tank when changing the water. There are a variety of tools available to help you do this.
- Algae magnets allow you to clean off algae without getting your hands wet – they have non abrasive cleaning pads that can be pulled up and down the sides of your tank by magnetic attraction. Alternatively you can introduce fish that eat algae that will help to clean your tank such as sucker mouthed catfish or mollies.
Cycling your tank
Once you have your fish tank set up you need to start the Nitrogen cycle going in the tank. All new tanks need to establish a cycle to be able to provide a healthy living environment for the fish.
What is the Nitrogen cycle?
Fish excrete Ammonia into the water and this is toxic. Nitrifying bacteria need to build up in the tank to convert the Ammonia into Nitrite (which is also toxic to fish). As different sorts of bacteria begin to grow in the tank the Nitrite is then converted to more harmless Nitrates.
We recommend Fishless Cycling which is done with the aid of products that help you to start the Nitrogen cycle without adding fish:
- Filter Boost Water Treatments which encourage the growth of bacteria
- Ammonia Removers which combat excess ammonia
- You can check to see if your tank has cycled successfully with testing kits that measure the Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate levels in the water.
Once your tank has stabilised you can start building your community of fish gradually, adding a few at a time. This way the bacteria in the tank can adjust to the changes and the balance is not upset or overloaded. There are a few hardy fish which we can recommend to start off with that will tolerate higher amounts of toxins in the tank such as Danios and Mollies. Our staff will be able to give you accurate advice tailored to your needs in store.