Setting up a new aquarium is exciting; it means you're getting a new pet. There are so many decisions to make about the tank, supplies and fish themselves. Your decor should be attractive and utilitarian. Choosing a tank can be as simple as purchasing a 10 gallon rectangular tank and finding a space for it, or as complicated as deciding how feng shui plays into the placement of your tank.
The most important element you need for your new aquarium is water. Setting up the tank requires more effort than simply turning on the tap and hoping for the best. You can use tap water as long as you add the right chemicals to balance out the various particles in the water. You must remove the chlorine, phosphates and nitrates, and find the right pH levels before adding fish. To ensure your water is ready, add a product that makes the water safe for fish according to label directions, and then use a test strip to ensure the water is ready. If you prefer not to buy a water test set or strips, take a sample of the water with you when you go to purchase your fish and have someone at the pet store test it for you. Always set up the aquarium and allow the water to cycle through the filter for 24 hours before adding fish.
So many different types of filtration devices are offered it's hard to know which one to choose for your specific aquarium. Under-gravel filters use a biological filtering system, while filters that rest on the tank's rim use a filter that catches detritus before adding the water back in. With the under-gravel filters, you don't need to change the filter pad routinely. Some new tanks come with the filter included in the set, but if yours didn't, purchase the right size filter, motor and filter pads for your tank as one size does not fit all. Choose a quiet motor, as some of them can be quite loud.
Lid and Temperature Control
Fish jump. It may be hard to imagine waking up one morning and finding your tank missing a fish, but unfortunately this happens all too often. Some species of fish, like bettas, are more jump-happy than others, but just to be safe, secure the top or you may find your fish on the floor. Most lids come with built-in recessed lighting. Lighting is a good idea not only for aesthetics but for keeping the water comfortably warm. LED lighting does not raise the water temperature, but they do eliminate that yellowish look caused by florescent lights . Some fish require warmer water, so if you choose a species of fish originally from tropical waters, you also will need to purchase a tank heater and floating thermometer.
Gravel and decor are necessities for blissful fish. Fish like to hide, so adding a small cave and silk plants will keep your fish mentally healthy. Gravel or stones help keep the debris contained until it can be filtered and they come in lots of pretty colors. Toys, such as floating mirrors, hammocks that stick on the side of the tank with suction cups, and floating logs and rings, all are things you can add a few at a time. Depending on how much sunlight your tank gets, you may need an algae scraper or additive to prevent algae to keep the water crystal clear. Purchase a fish food suitable for your species and never overfeed your fish, a common beginner's mistake. A small net completes your checklist and is necessary in case you need to remove the fish or something that has fallen in the tank.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.