Setting Up Your Aquarium
1. Put your aquarium in the place you want it to be. The location of your fish tank should be on a piece of furniture that can support its weight once filled with water (1 gallon of water = around 10 pounds). You should choose a place that is near an electrical outlet (for the filter, light, etc.) and receives some natural light (but not direct sunlight because it is too hot and bright and might create problems). It should be a place which ensures that you have easy access of viewing and cleaning, out of the way of heavy foot traffic, out of reach of small children, and away from other household pets that might harm your fish.
2. Then fill a bucket (one that has never been used with soaps or detergents, a new bucket is best I think) with water. Pour it in your aquarium. Watch to see if any water comes out of the sides or bottom of the tank. You do this to make sure there are no leaks. If there are leaks, this can be fixed by getting some aquarium sealent which can be found in most pet-stores and using this to repair the seals. If there are no leaks then take a paper towel that will not degrade in water, and rub it along the aquarium walls and corners again and again. Now remove the water by using a gravel siphon to suck it out. To start your siphon, pump it up and down quickly in the tank with the other end in a bucket.
3. Now you want to be near a sink or tub to wash your gravel. You want to have a bucket, your gravel, and a strainer at hand. Put some gravel into the strainer and place over the bucket in the sink. Run the water over the gravel, moving the gravel with your hands. Look at the bucket beneath the strainer - it should be dirty, empty it out. Repeat this with the same gravel until the water in the bucket comes out clear. Then do it again with some more gravel. If you are planning to use a under gravel filter this is the time to put it in. Put your gravel in your aquarium gently so as not to break the bottom. If you place your gravel at an angle, sloping downwards towards the front, some of the debris will float down and it will accumulate there and make your job of maintenance easier.
4. Fill a bucket with water, it doesn't matter if it is cold. Pour it into the tank until it is about 3/4 full. If you don't want to disturb the gravel then you can put a clean plate or bowl in there and direct the water at that.
See Picture 1 (below).
5. Clean your plants (if they are plastic or silk) and decorations by rubbing them with your hands all over under warm water. To sterilize them you can soak them in hot water and salt (6 tablespoons per gallon of water - it should be UN-iodised salt/sea salt : iodine can kill your fish). Then rinse them thoroughly and place them in the tank. (For live plants, you just have to rinse them gently. If they come in a pot then take them out, take off the 'rock-wool' the roots are are wrapped in, dig a hole in your gravel, place them in and cover them with gravel). Place your plants and ornaments in the tank.
6. Fill your aquarium up the rest of the way.
7. Rinse your filter media before placing it in your filter. Set up your heater if you're using one (goldfish don't usually need heaters as they thrive best at 65-75F but if the environment is very cold it can be useful to warm the water a little), and set up your filter. Place your light cover on and start up your filter and set the heater to the right temperature. Place your thermometer, if you have one, inside the tank. Check all the equipment is functioning properly.
See Picture 2 (below)
8. You have to wait at least 24 hours for your aquarium to settle down, ideally a few days, before you bring home your fish. Be sure to keep the filter (and heater if using one) running during this time. Your aquarium water should have equalized by now to room temperature and should be clear, not cloudy.
9. Now you can go buy your fish. Find a pet store that is well kept - the fish tanks should not look dirty and there should be no sick or dead fish.
Do not buy a fish:
- that has just arrived in the shop, let it adjust to their surroundings first.
- that looks sick or injured
Do buy a fish that:
- has clear eyes (not cloudy)
- has no cuts, no tears or damaged fins
- has no scales sticking outward with red blotchy parts on the body
- is active, swimming normally and lively
- has no white cottony growths on the fins or body
- show no sign of disease
- has gills that are moving and red inside
- is feeding actively
- and before you buy your fish find out what size it is going to reach when it grows up, and what water conditions it requires.
10. Some people quarantine their fish before putting them in the main tank.
This is generally done if they already have fish in their tank and want to put more in, as it avoids introducing diseases into the main tank. If you are going to quarantine your fish, have an appropriate-size tank all ready before you return home with your fish. Follow the steps below to transport your fish to the quarantine tank. After two to four weeks time, you may net your fish (if there is no sign of sickness) and move it to the main aquarium.
11. If you are placing a fish into a brand new tank however, there is no need to quarantine. When you get home, turn the tank lights off and place the bag into the tank. Wait 20 minutes then open the bag and let a little of the aquarium water inside; after 10 minutes do this again, and after 10 minutes repeat once more. This acclimatises the fish to your tank water and avoids stressing it. Then net the fish from the bag and put it in your aquarium. Do not pour any of the bag water in though - this is often full of diseases.
12. For the first day, keep the tank lights off and do not feed the fish. Let it gradually get used to its new home. On the second day you can turn the lights on and give it a small feed.
13. The final step is to cycle the tank. For details on cycling, check this page: LINK
See Picture 3 (below)
PIC 1: FILLING THE TANK