Aquarium Set up: Step By Step

Now that you have selected your equipment, follow these simple steps for on how to set up a fish tank:

  1. Aquarium and Aquarium Materials
    Thoroughly wash the aquarium gravel, rocks, and ornaments. Do not use soap or detergents--they are highly toxic to fish. To wash the gravel, put it in a colander over a plastic pan or bucket and add water. The gravel should be stirred and then drained. When the water stays clear after stirring and is free of debris, the gravel is clean.

  2. Adding Water
    Fill the aquarium approximately one-third full with room temperature water from a clean bucket. Pouring the water onto a plate or saucer sitting on the gravel will help keep the gravel in place. Always add Tetra AquaSafe® (one teaspoon per 10 gallons of water) when adding water to your aquarium to de-chlorinate your water. Chlorine is fine for you – not for fish!

  3. Connecting Air Lines
    Connect the air line tubing from the air pump to any air outlets located inside the aquarium, such as air stones or decorations. By using a CheckValve, you can safely locate your air pump underneath your aquarium. (A CheckValve is a small valve that is placed in the air tubing outside of your tank. It acts as a stop, preventing water from backing up and out of your aquarium if the power is turned off.)

  4. Decoration and Plants
    Aquascape your aquarium with live and/or plastic plants, rocks, and ornaments.  These should be arranged in such a way that the equipment will be concealed or at least will not detract from the appearance of the aquarium. If you are adding live plants, make sure that the water is warm enough for them. Remember to keep them moist from the time you buy them until they are planted. Wet newspaper works well. Plant the roots gently below the surface of the gravel, leaving the crown (if the plant has one) exposed, or they will not grow properly. For optimum plant growth and root development, use Tetra FloraPride®.

  5. Add Balance of Water
    Fill the aquarium to near the top. Leave some air space between the water and the cover. Again, pour the water in such a way that you do not disturb your aquascaping and gravel.

  6. Filter, Heater and Thermometer
    If you are using any outside filters, fill them with filter materials or filter cartridge. Position them according to instructions and make certain their siphon is free of air. If you have a “hang on tank” filter that has a pickup tube, extend the tube as close to the bottom of the tank without being in the gravel. If it is too long, you can cut it to length and reattach the intake cage. Be sure to open the filter lid and fill the filter with water in order to “prime” the pump. Secure the heater as directed and place the thermometer as far away from the heater as possible. Make sure you can easily read the thermometer. Most retailers sell an adhesive thermometer that adheres to the outside surface of the glass, making it a quick and easy read.

  7. Starting Your Aquarium Equipment
    Plug in your air pump, power filter and heater. Check the air outlets and adjust the settings. Make certain that water is flowing properly through your power filter. Adjust the thermostatic heater to the proper temperature, checking periodically. It will take some time for the temperature to stabilize and you may have to adjust your setting. Important: Do not switch on the heater when it is not immersed in water in the tank. The heating element can malfunction and overheat and the glass tube can shatter if placed in water while hot.

  8. Check the Conditions and Temperature After a Few Hours
    Water in new aquariums will often turn cloudy for a day or two. This is caused by a harmless bacterial growth and should disappear naturally. Check the pH and hardness of your water using a Tetra Test Kit.

  9. Adding Fish to the Aquarium
    You'll be bringing your fish home from the store in plastic bags. Please be sure to come straight home after you purchase the fish, as you don't want to leave the fish in the bags any longer than necessary. When you get home, immediately float the bags in your aquarium for 15 minutes. This allows the water temperature in the bag to slowly match the water temperature in the aquarium. DO NOT pour the water from the bag into your aquarium, as the water may contain some contaminants that you don't want in your tank. Rather, over a bucket or a sink, pour the fish into a net.

    Then immediately place the fish into your aquarium. Also, be sure to add Tetra SafeStart® before you add fish to your aquarium. It is a one-of-a-kind product developed to create the perfect water for your fish. You can also check out our online video for a demonstration of adding fish to your aquarium.

  10. Cover the Aquarium
    Place the hood securely on top of the aquarium to protect the fish and prevent them from jumping out. Turn on the aquarium light.

  11. First Feeding and Control
    It is advisable not to feed your fish until they have adapted themselves to their new environment (one to two days). Watch your fish closely. If they are hiding in corners, "standing around," or showing pale colors, it is possible that something is out of order. Recheck the equipment and water temperature.
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