Although aquarium requirements vary from fish to fish, there are some nearly universal norms for setting up a freshwater tank. Proper tank setup makes cleaning easy, keeps fish warm, prevents escape and makes it easy for you to see your fish.
Check the care instructions for your fish to ensure that a 10-gallon tank is sufficiently large. One or two goldfish, one or two guppies and water turtle hatchlings -- 1-inch or smaller -- can be housed in 10-gallon tanks, but for many animals, 10 gallons is too small. Most animals would quickly outgrow 10-gallon tanks.
Remove any visible debris from the 10-gallon aquarium, then rinse it thoroughly with warm water to remove any dust or dirt.
Add gravel or river rocks to your aquarium. Use only substrate purchased at pet stores, as substrate purchased elsewhere or gathered from the wild can harbor disease. Rinse the substrate thoroughly with hot water before placing in the tank. Some fish tend to eat gravel, so avoid choosing small gravel that your fish could easily choke on.
Fill your 10-gallon aquarium with water. Add a water dechlorinator to the water to remove harmful chlorine. Follow the package instructions.
Measure the water temperature using a floating thermometer. The aquariums for most tropical fish require a heater to maintain water temperature. If your water is too cold, add a heater and check the temperature again before putting your fish in the tank. If your aquarium is too hot, add cold tap water. Remember to dechlorinate the water before adding it to your tank.
Place a hood on top of the 10-gallon aquarium. This will provide your fish with light and prevent escapes.
Put your fish in the tank.
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.