Starting a Fish Tank: 10 Simple Tips for Beginners

Fishkeeping is a fun and rewarding experience. Beginners may find it difficult at first, but it can be a fascinating adventure. When starting a fish tank, there are things you have to consider. Although setting up and maintaining a fish tank is easy, it is necessary to do it properly. So, before you choose your first fish tank and the fish you want to keep, check on some simple tips below to guide you.

10 Simple Tips for Beginners in Starting a Fish Tank

The following tips will be your guide to help you in starting your first fish tank. Once you start, you may want to set up and maintain more aquariums in the future where you can keep various types of fish.

      1. Conduct Research

Beginners without any experience setting up and maintaining a fish tank can do additional research and interview some experts. Ask everything you want to know, including their advice regarding the best fish tank to use and the type of fish to keep. It will help you become a successful future aquarist for sure.


      2. Prepare a Checklist

When you make a checklist, make sure to write all the equipment and essential accessories for your fish tank. Decide on what type and size of fish tank you will purchase. Below is a list of the equipment you will need.

  • Aquarium (at least 20 gallons)
  • Water test kit (of good quality)
  • Aquarium vacuum
  • Aquarium filter (higher flow rate is ideal)
  • Replacement filter cartridges
  • Heater
  • Fishnet
  • Fish food
  • Glass scrubber
  • Bucket (at least 5-gallon)
  • Glass gravel (should be coarse or fine)
  • Creek stones
  • Coarse sands
  • Fake or real plants

fish in a glass

     3. Decide What Fish to Keep

Different types and sizes of fish are available on the market. Before you choose the right aquarium or fish tank, it is best to choose your first fish. Beginners can start from one up to three fish. You have many options, but some of the best aquarium fish for beginners include rasboras, common goldfish, tetras, Corydoras, and platies.

     4. Choose the Best Fish Tank

After you decide what fish to keep, you can now look for the best fish tank available. Make sure the size of the tank is suitable for the fish to live. Also, consider the location where you will set it up. An all-in-one model, which is easy to set up, is the ideal option for beginners.

     5. Place the Fish Tank on the Right Location

Once you purchase a fish tank and prepare to set it up, choose the best location. Place it on a flat surface, and the room should be of average temperature. Also, avoid setting it up on a spot that receives direct sunlight.

     6. Prepare to Setup your Fish Tank

Before adding the fish to the fish tank, make sure to set it up properly. Prepare the necessary equipment such as a heater, quality water, filtration system, and other accessories mentioned above. If you choose to keep a tropical fish, prepare warm water. You may use a water conditioner to ensure the water is safe for the fish. Additionally, make sure the gravel, stones, and other decorations are clean before placing them on the fish tank.

     7. Stabilize the Fish Tank

After setting up the fish tank, stabilize it within 24 hours or a week before adding fish. Note that it is essential to allow the water to undergo the nitrogen cycle to make it safe. You can also start with a fish that can help create a well-balanced environment, such as white clouds, damsels, and danios.

     8. Test the Overall Quality of Water

Many beginners often overlook testing the quality of water they use in their fish tank. But keep in mind that this is essential to ensure the health and safety of your fish. The process of doing it is simple, and you can even do it yourself. You also have the option to let a professional do it.

To ensure that the water is safe, you can use a testing kit. It can provide you with precise results. When natural chemical compounds are left unchecked, it can lead to a disaster. So, whenever you start monitoring the water parameters, read and follow the instructions carefully.

     9. Choose the Right Food for your Fish

Among the responsibilities of aquarists is to ensure the proper nutrition of every fish under their care. When you feed your fish with the right food and supplement it with frozen food, it will be satisfied and stay healthy. Fish need a complete and balanced diet to survive, especially those who need to eat food regularly.

As a responsible fish keeper, you have to feed your fish. However, some beginners are doing it in the wrong way by overfeeding the fish. Keep in mind that there are different types of fish. Some have short hunger tolerance, while others can survive without food for several days.

     10. Check the Fish Tank Regularly

Always make sure that the level of ammonia is not high and the water is clear. Also, ensure that the pH and temperature of the water are suitable for the fish to survive. You may use water additives when you notice some changes and other problems. Avoid overcrowding your fish tank, which is the most common cause of issues. Additionally, changing the water at least once a month can keep your fish safe.

empty aquarium

How to Properly Set Up Your Fish Tank?

Setting up a fish tank for the first time can be stressful, especially if you have no idea how to start. But you can keep it simple and make sure there are fewer electrical wires. As long as you have the necessary equipment, you are now ready to set up. Below are tips on how to do the proper setup of a fish tank.

  • Clean the Gravel

Prepare to clean the gravel by pouring it into a clean container. Note that proper washing of the substrate is essential. When you place it directly into the fish tank without cleaning, the water will become cloudy. So, wash it properly to get rid of dust until the container’s water becomes clear before placing it into the fish tank.

  • Be Careful in Placing the Substrate 

After cleaning the gravel, you can now place it into the fish tank. When doing it, you have to be careful to avoid any damage. The base should be even, but you can form a slight slant for a better perspective.

  • Fill the Fish Tank with Clean Water

You can use a hose pipe or bucket, depending on the fish tank’s size and a tap’s availability. After filling the tank with water, use a high-quality dechlorinator. It is among the best investment you can have as a beginner aquarist to keep your fish healthy. You have a lot of popular choices that perform an excellent job.

  • Gently Clean the Filter Material

When you clean the filter material, be careful not to rip its carbon packet open. Use a container with clean water to wash it, including rocks and other decorations you want to put in the fish tank. If the material is already free from dust, place it back into the filter. 

  • Place a Heater and Light in your Fish Tank

If you have a small fish tank, you can place one heater that fits perfectly inside the tank. A heater with a higher wattage saves power, making it an ideal option. The spot where the flow of water is right is the best location to place the heater. Note that the ideal temperature is between 23 to 27 Celsius. 

To manage algae in your fish tank, you will need the light that will also allow you to gaze at your fish all night long. Additionally, make sure that the light you want to use for the fish tank is appropriate. The proper location for the light is either on or above the fish tank. You can also set a timer.

  • Cycle the Tank before Buying a Fish

Cycling your fish tank is also essential when setting it up. During and after this process, make sure to monitor the fish tank. You can do the monitoring by using a test kit of high quality. The use of test kits will help you know when something’s wrong.

Moreover, apply the cycling process before adding fish to the tank. You have to wait until healthy microorganisms grow, which protects your fish. So, before you buy a fish, make sure the tank is a stable and safe habitat.

Final Words

Anyone with a plan to set up a fish tank for the first time should not expect to keep a fish on the same day. Note that you have to let the tank run for at least a week before adding your favorite fish. The process is quite long but a fun experience at the same time. Apply the simple tips above when you start setting up your fish tank. Remember that every tip is essential to have a healthy fish and a haven for your tiny friend.



Rita Wagener
Rita is a resident paw expert at Pet Keepers. A registered & licensed dog trainer, she also has a degree in animal nutrition, and runs her own dog training course.

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