Aquarium Set up: Step By Step

A step-by-step guide to assembling and installing your new aquarium properly.

Now that you have all your equipment, you’re just a few simple steps away from officially becoming a fishkeeper and joining the hundreds of thousands of fish owners around the world who are already enjoying this wonderful and rewarding hobby! So what do you say? Ready to get set up?

STEPS
  1. Thoroughly wash aquarium gravel, rocks, and ornaments with warm water, then add them to your tank.
    • 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. Stir the gravel, drain, and repeat until the water stays clear and is free of debris.
  2. Fill your tank 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.
    • Add a water conditioner, like Tetra AquaSafe®, to de-chlorinate the water. Chlorine is fine for you, not your fish!

  3. Connect the airline tubing from the air pump to any air outlets inside your tank, such as air stones or decorations.
    By using an aquarium check valve, you can safely locate your air pump underneath your aquarium. (A check value 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. Aquascape with live and/or plastic plants.
    • Ideally, these should be arranged to hide your equipment.
    • If you’re adding live plants, make sure the water is warm enough for them. Plant the roots gently below the surface of the gravel, leaving the crown (if the plant has one) exposed.
    • Remember to keep live plants moist until they’re planted––wet newspaper works well.
    • For optimum growth and root development, use an aquatic plant fertilizer such as Tetra FloraPride® and the proper lighting.

  5. Add the rest of the water.
    Fill your tank to the bottom of the top frame –– leaving some air space between the water and the cover.

  6. Set up your filter and “cycle” your new tank If you are using…
    …any outside filters:
    • Fill them with filter materials or filter cartridge.
    • Position them according to instructions.
    • Make sure it is primed (filled) with water.

    ”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 to “prime” the pump.

    Important: “Cycling” your tank means growing the correct, healthy bacteria on a new filtration system to remove dangerous toxins. Add SafeStart®, and you can quickly cycle your tank and add fish right away.


  7. Secure the submersible heater near your water flow and place the thermometer as far away from the heater as possible.
    Make sure you have a thermometer that’s easy to read. Most retailers sell an adhesive thermometer that adheres to the outside surface of the glass. Plug it in only after it is in the water.

  8. Plug in your air pump, power filter, and heater and start them up.

    Important:
    Do not switch on the heater when it’s not immersed in water––the heating element can malfunction and overheat, and the glass tube can shatter if placed in water while hot.

    • Check the air outlets and adjust the settings.
    • Make sure water is flowing properly through your power filter.
    • Adjust the heater to the proper temperature. It will take 24 hours for the temp to stabilize and you may have to adjust your setting.
    • Wait 24 hours to ensure all equipment is working properly before adding fish.
  9. 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 and our convenient Water Care App.

  10. Congratulations!
    Your new aquarium is fish-safe, fish-ready, and fully equipped. The final step? Introducing your new pets to their new home, which you can see how to do here.

If you have any setup questions or need any help or support, feel free to contact one of our friendly TetraCare experts. We’re always happy to help.

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.