Setting up a freshwater aquarium for the first time is a lengthy, albeit rewarding experience. I have set up a few freshwater aquariums of my own over the years and can offer up a few suggestions on how to get the job done. Here they are:
Cleaning the Tank
Start by thoroughly washing your hands and the fish tank to avoid the introduction of any unwanted materials into your new pet’s home. When washing your fish tank, I’d recommend that you avoid using detergent or other commercial cleaners that could leave an unseen residue behind. I have always had success washing my new fish tanks with rock salt. I find that it cleans the tank safely and efficiently.
For the first cleaning, I’d suggest creating a mixture of water and rock salt. Then dip a sponge or lint free cloth in the mixture and use it to wipe down the inside of the tank. You can also use the rock salt as a gentle abrasive if you need to remove a price sticker from the tank. Once you are done wiping the inside of the tank down with the salt water, make sure that you rinse and dry it thoroughly as well.
Installing the Background
Some of you may have purchased a background decal or crystal paint to coat the back of the tank in the hopes that it will make the tank more visually pleasing. Personally, I tend to avoid such things. I like the natural look better. If you did purchase such an item, now is the time to apply it.
Setting Up the Fish Stand
Once that’s done, it’s time to set-up the fish stand. Make sure that you are happy with the location before you go ahead and add the water to the tank. Otherwise it will be a big hassle to move it. You’ll also want to make sure that everything is level by using a carpenter’s level. I have never had much luck leveling fish tank stands without one.
Adding the Gravel
Before you add the water, you’ll need to complete a few more tasks. Open the bags of gravel that you purchased for your tank and rinse off any residue. I have found that using a kitchen colander is helpful in such applications. If you decided to go with an under-gravel filter, go ahead and install it into the fish tank now.
After the gravel has been rinsed off, place it at the bottom of the fish tank. If you are using an under-gravel filter, make sure that you read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and situate the gravel as directed. Those that are not using such a filter should allow a gravel depth of two to three inches. In my experience, the gravel should also be graded so that it has a slight slope. The top of the slope should be at the rear of the tank.
Adding the Ornamentals
Keeping your fish tank’s size and lighting capacity in mind, proceed by adding your ornamental items. I have found that when it comes to fish tank ornaments, less is more. Once everything is in place, carefully add the water a little at a time so as not to disturb your set-up. I’d recommend only filling the tank up half way because you still have more work to complete. You’ll also need to let any sediment that rises during the filling process to settle. If there is too much sediment, you may need to empty the tank and start again.
Installing the Heater, Filter, Aerator and Plants
Continue by installing your fish tank’s heater, filter and aerator according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then turn your attention to any plants you may have purchased for your fish tank. Go ahead and plant them into the gravel using a pair of planting tongs. Try to keep your hands out of the water so you do not accidently introduce foreign materials into the fish tank. Afterward, finish filling the tank with water.
Preparing the Water and Adding the Fish
Next, get the heater and filter running. You’ll also want to add chlorine neutralizer and some coarse salt to the water. I typically add two teaspoons of salt to a 10-gallon tank. I’d also recommend checking the water’s pH level with a test kit to make sure that it is appropriate for the fish you purchased. Allow the fish tank to sit unoccupied for 48 hours to give everything a chance to settle down.
After the 48 hours have past, you can usually start to add the fish to the tank. I would recommend that you discuss with your local pet shop owner how to add the fish to the tank. In most instances the water will need to be at a certain temperature before the fish can be added safely. Different species of fish require certain water temperatures and pH levels, that’s why it best to talk it over with the store owner. He or she can generally provide proper guidance in such matters.
Over the course of her lifetime, Killeen Gonzalez has maintained both fresh and saltwater, home aquarium set-ups.
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