Aquarium Basics

Starting an aquarium is a lot easier than you might think. In fact, here at Tetra® and TetraCare® we’ve helped thousands of beginners get started the right way and stay on the right path. And like any hobby, the more you know about it, the more enjoyment you’ll get from it. So here are just a few aquarium basics to get you started.

AQUARIUM

The bigger, the better.

Believe it or not, larger aquariums are actually easier to care for. The more water you have, the easier it is to maintain “balance” in your environment. That’s why we recommend starting with a 20-gallon aquarium or larger.

A Beginner’s Guide To Aquarium Maintenance

Daily Bi-Weekly Monthly
  • Feed once or twice, in small doses
  • Keep your aquarium light on for 8-12 hours; 10 is ideal
  • Check water temp; 78º F is optimal
  • Change filter cartridge
  • Clean tank, use water only
  • Clean glass (inside and out)
  • Clean decorations (plants, rocks, etc.)
  • Clean gravel, siphon up waste
Daily
  • Feed once or twice, in small doses
  • Keep your aquarium light on for 8-12 hours; 10 is ideal
  • Check water temp; 78º F is optimal
Bi‑Weekly
Monthly
  • Change filter cartridge
  • Clean tank, use water only
  • Clean glass (inside and out)
  • Clean decorations (plants, rocks, etc.)
  • Clean gravel, siphon up waste

LOCATION

It matters more than you think.

Pick a spot away from direct sunlight, windows, heating or air vents, and high-traffic areas.

EQUIPMENT

Meet the tools of the hobby.

  • Filter: The heart of your tank that provides clean, healthy water.

  • Air Pump: Adds an extra boost of oxygen.

  • Heater: Fish can’t produce their own body heat, so they rely on the temperature of the water. That’s why a heater is essential.

  • Thermometer: The average ideal temp for freshwater tropical fish is 78º F.

  • Lighting: On average, you should leave an aquarium light on for 8-12 hours; 10 is ideal.

  • Gravel: Besides adding natural beauty, gravel gives beneficial bacteria a place to live. This bacteria help break down the wastes your fish create.

WATER

Make it livable, breathable and healthy.

Condition: Always add a conditioner when adding tap water to your aquarium to de-chlorinate it.

Cycle: “Cycling” a fish tank means growing healthy bacteria on a new filtration system so it filters out dangerous toxins. Tetra® SafeStart® Solution cycles your aquarium immediately, so you can add fish right away.

Replenish: Adding a water treatment, like Tetra® EasyBalance® Solution, replenishes essential trace elements and minerals between water changes. This helps prevent the water in your aquarium from getting “stale."

FISH

Start with one, preferably inexpensive. Here’s why.

When setting up an aquarium for the first time, you want to make sure your tank is cycled properly and the equipment is working. That’s why it’s best to start with one inexpensive “test” fish from your local fish retailer.

Not all fish play well together. Different fish have different personalities. Community Fish are good tank mates, while Aggressive Fish need special mates, or none at all. It’s always good to confer with your local fish retailer as to the best mix of species. And specifically, tropical fish and goldfish should not mix.

  • Betta

    Lifespan of more than 2 years

  • Goldfish

    Can live for decades

  • Mollies

    Lifespan of less than 2 years

  • Platys

    Lifespan of less than 5 years

  • Swordtails

    Lifespan of less than 5 years

  • Cichlids

    Lifespan of 20 years

ACCESSORIES

Ready, set, decorate.

Creating a beautiful aquarium is one of the most enjoyable aspects of owning an aquarium. Here are a few simple tips to get you started.

  • Use a variety of small, medium and large plants.
  • Create a dramatic focal point using a single item, such as a white anemone or mushroom.
  • Decorative caves and tunnels give the fish a place to hide and make them feel safe.

Artificial plants look real and are easy to maintain. But real plants help balance certain biochemicals and nutrients. Keep in mind, live plants do require some maintenance, such as trimming and additional fertilizers.

Choose TetraCare for aquarium and reptile support whenever you need it!
Tetra SafeStart – Add fish right away without the need for cycling.
TetraMin – The world's favorite fish food
When your fish needs help, rely on Lifeguard aquarium fish disease treatment.