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. 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.


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


It matters more than you think.

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


Meet the tools of the hobby.

The heart of your tank that provides clean, healthy water. The Whisper® EX Series Filtration Systems take the ease of maintaining an aquarium to a whole new level for beginners to hobbyists alike. From its innovative use of Timestrip technology to the new-patented carbon filter carrier, every new feature in this system had been designed with simplicity and convenience in mind. This is truly the intuitive filtration system that keeps your water clean and your fish and plants healthy. With four models available, you will be sure to find one that accommodates your aquarium size.
Air Pump:
Adds an extra boost of oxygen. The Whisper 10 Aquarium pump has a unique dome shape and sound dampening chambers to minimize turbulence and produce a smooth, quiet stream of air. Its overall design works to eliminate sound producing vibrations.
Fish can’t produce their own body heat, so they rely on the temperature of the water. That’s why a heater is essential. All Tetra HT heaters have red/green indicator lights to let you know when the heater is heating(red) or on standby(green). The low voltage thermostat maintains water at 78°F without any adjustment required. Be sure purchase the correct heater for your tank size. Buying a heater too small for your tank can cause under heating. It is critical to ensure your tank is equipped with a hood or glass canopy to contain the heat inside the aquarium. All Tetra HT Heaters will shut off if an electrical short is detected for your safety.
The average ideal temp for freshwater tropical fish is 78º F.
On average, you should leave an aquarium light on for 8-12 hours; 10 is ideal.
Besides adding natural beauty, gravel gives beneficial bacteria a place to live. This bacteria help break down the wastes your fish create.


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.

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."


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.

Lifespan of more than 2 years
Can live for decades
Lifespan of less than 2 years

Lifespan of less than 5 years
Lifespan of less than 5 years
Lifespan of 20 years


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.
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