Setting up your Tropical Fish Aquarium

Before you ever bring fish home, they need to have a place to stay. The aquarium will be their new home so it needs all of the amenities of their previous digs. Here is a guide to help you set up a tropical fish aquarium.


Aquarium Size

Hopefully, you have purchased the biggest aquarium that your money will buy. A thirty-gallon tank may seem large for one small fish but it will grow and so will your fish family. Fish need lots of room to swim so that they can get plenty of oxygen.


In general, tropical fishes can be housed in smaller tanks than cold-water fishes. This is because they are usually smaller and are also better able to withstand a relative deficiency of oxygen in the water.


Aquarium Position

Positioning your aquarium – It is important that you find the right spot to showcase your fish. Windows are bad because the sunlight can heat up your tank beyond what the fish can bear and they will go belly up. Also, placing the tank near an air conditioner or under a ceiling fan can cool it off too much. Be sure there is an outlet nearby for running your filters and lights easily.


Water Selection

Fill and de-chlorinate your tank water – Tap water is easy to use for freshwater aquariums, but the chlorine will kill helpful bacteria and your fish. Use an approved kit to remove the chlorine before your fish take up residence.


Filtering System

Set up your filtering system – If you use an under-gravel filtering system, be sure to cover it with about an inch of gravel to aid in filtration. A filter on the side of the tank needs at least two cartridges so that you don’t disrupt the aquatic cycle when replacing one.


Tank Surrounding background

Tricking out your tank – Most people use an aquascape in the back of their tank. It is colourful and can remind fish of more tropical surroundings. It also limits the outside stimulation for your fish. Choose something colourful.


Water Testing

Test the water – Pet stores stock test kits to test the chemical levels in the tank. For instance, fish don’t thrive in tanks with a lot of ammonia build up. You can test to make sure that these levels are within normal limits. As your tank goes through its nitrogen cycle, the environment will rid itself of excess ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. You can still keep an eye on these levels before and after tank changes.



Fish like to swim through things. Some like to find places to hide like caves or dense plant life. Using artificial plants means more cleaning for you so invest in live plants and rocks (coral). Follow all instructions so that plants take root well. You can choose rocks with openings for makeshift caves.


Want to know more about setting up your aquarium? Go to your local bookstore and check out the magazines and manuals about how to care for your tropical fish.