This tropical freshwater aquarium setup article explains how to set up a basic freshwater fish tank.  We will begin with a short list of the equipment you will need, and then give you a step by step guide on setting up your first fish tank.

Equipment you will need:

· Aquarium

· Aquarium gravel

· Aquarium Filter

· Other decorations (such as fake or real plants)

· Aquarium test kits to test water parameters for PH and others

· Fish food

· Heater

· Gravel Cleaner

· Fish net

· Magnet Cleaner

-Your Fish Tank Volume

STEP 1: Realize the responsibility involved

Learning how to set up a fish tank is not all that difficult, but there are some steps you should follow.  Firstly, you must realize a few things about an aquarium setup.  A fish tank is just like having a dog or a cat when it comes to the amount of effort on your part.

In order to have a successful tropical freshwater fish tank, you will have to work at it.  Once a week, or at most, once every two weeks, you will need to perform some kind of maintenance on the tank.  Most of the time you will be performing water changes.  You will also have to feed your fish at least once a day.

Setting up and running a fish tank does cost money.  There are recurring expenses such as replacing filter pads, buying food, etc.  If you are up to the challenge, please proceed!

STEP 2: Decide on an aquarium size

It is a good idea to have in mind what type of fish you would like to keep before you purchase an aquarium.  Some fish only grow to be an inch or two, whereas other types of tropical fish can grow 20 to 30 centimetres, or more in length! Knowing what type of fish you would like will help you in deciding the size of tank they will need.

If this is your first time with an aquarium, it may be a good idea to start with a 40 to 100 litre aquarium setup, (for now) and stock it with some smaller and hardier species.  The larger the water volume, the more stable water conditions will be.

STEP 3: Decide on the aquarium's location

Place your aquarium in an area where the light and temperature of the tank will not be affected by external sources, such as windows and heater vents.  Sunlight that enters a room through an un-shaded window could affect the temperature of your tank, which can also lead to green algae problems for your tank down the track.   You will need to place your aquarium on a stand that will be able to hold the total weight.  You will also want to be sure that the floor is able to support the total weight of the aquarium and stand.  A good rule of thumb for determining the total weight of a full aquarium is 1kg to 1 litre of water.  For example, a 100 litre tank will weigh approximately 100kg. 

STEP 4: Buying your aquarium and equipment

Now is a good time to decide on the type of aquarium filter you will want to use.  Aquarium heaters are usually rated at 1watt per litre.  Use this as a guide as to which size heater is suitable for you.  A good rule of thumb for the amount of gravel that you will need is 1kg to 5 litres of water. 

STEP 5: Set up your aquarium and stand

Wash your tank out with water only!  Do not use soap or detergents.  Soap residue left behind will be harmful for your tropical fish.  Make sure you have foam between your tank and cabinet/stand.  If you are going to use an under gravel filter (not recommended) now would be the time to set it up as well.

STEP 6: Wash Gravel, plants and decorations

Be sure to wash the gravel thoroughly before adding it to your tank.  An easy way to do this is to put some of the rocks in a kitchen strainer and rinse it in thoroughly in your bath tub.  Place the clean gravel in a clean 5 litre bucket for transport to the aquarium.  After adding the gravel, you can place your plants and decorations.

STEP 7: Adding water conditioners

We recommend some tropical/cold GH conditional saltsKH powder and some Aqua Plus as the basic water conditioning for your new aquarium.  These conditioners should be added initially for the total volume of your tank, only then added with the equivalent amount of water replaced when doing water changes.

STEP 8: Add water to the aquarium

To avoid messing up your gravel and plants, you can place a plate or saucer in the middle of your aquarium and direct the water flow onto the plate.  To remove the chlorine and chloramine, use something like Aqua Plus for Aquariums.  Don't completely fill up the aquarium until you are sure of the layout of your decorations.  Otherwise, when you place your arm in to move things around, your water is going to spill over.

STEP 9: Set up equipment

Hook up your filter and any other equipment you have, then top up the aquarium water to just under the tank bracing lip.  25celsius is the recommended temperature for most tropical fish.  Place your hood and tank light on the aquarium and then check any power cords to be sure that they are free of water.

STEP 10: Adding fish

Start off with only a few fish and then give your tank 3-4 weeks to cycle .  After this period, adding a few fish at a time gives your filtration system the time needed to take on the increased biological load that the new fish introduce.  When you bring your fish home, allow the bag to float in the tank for about 15 minute, this will allow your fish to become acclimatised to the temperature and pH of the aquarium water.

After 5 minutes of floating the bag, you should add some of the aquarium water to the bag so that the fish can become acclimated to the pH level in your aquarium.  This will help to reduce the amount of stress imposed on the fish.  Stressed fish often leads to death or disease incurring!  Do not feed your fish on the first day, you will find they probably wouldn't eat anyway on day one.  Allow them to get acquainted with their new home.

STEP 11: Get ready for regular maintenance

Be prepared to spend time once or twice a week to clean your tank. It depends on the size and stock levels of your tank, but 25% water change every 2 weeks is a good general guide.  Performing regular water changes will reduce the nitrate levels, and keep your tropical fish happy and healthy.  

As you can see, the steps for how to set up a fish tank are not that complex and hopefully you now have your aquarium setup and running! Have fun, take care of the aquarium, and enjoy your fish!

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