Sunday,21 January 2018, 6 : 37 AM    
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Setting up a new Tank
Andinoacara stalsbergi
Image Credit: Alf Stalsberg







  1. Introduction
  2. Steps before buying an aquarium.
  3. Components of a common aquarium.
  4. Setting up an aquarium.
  5. Nitrogen cycle.
  6. Feeding
  7. Regular maintenance
  8. Diseases & cure.
  9. Enjoy.



Having a pet is very pleasing to the senses, relaxes the mind, and provides a companion who is not very demanding and very faithful to the owner. Besides this, caring for pets give children a sense of responsibility and pride.
Although there are a number of pets, fishes stand out because,

  • They are very colorful.
  • Some are so fancy that it is almost hard to believe.
  • They are not noisy.
  • They are very graceful and one can simply spend hours looking at them.
  • Once properly setup aquariums require very little maintenance

An aquarium is not just a glass tank it is a little world of its own, decorations are limited only by a person’s creativity.


  1. DECIDE THE FISH One of the most important steps before buying an aquarium is to decide which fish you want to keep. There are nearly 65000 species of fresh water fish, plus their variants and we have a bewildering array of fishes.
    Go to the nearest LFS (local fish store), look at their tanks for a while, decide which fish is up to your taste, and note the name of that fish.
    Visit other stores and make a rough list of those fish, ask the store owner about the fish.
    However do not blindly believe what the store owner tells you, cross check it other aquarium owners.
    If you do not know any other aquarium owner, log on to Internet and check it up with a hobbyist group.
  2. DECIDE THE SIZE OF TANK The size of tank would depend upon fish you have decided. Large fish like Oscars, goldfish etc. need large tanks.
    It is very important to decide the tank size on ADULT size of fish, it is no use setting up a small tank for juvenile of a large fish and hoping to upgrade at a later date, or hoping that the fish will not grow.
    In most of such circumstances the fish falls ill or gets stunted.
    However at least a tank size of 24x12x12 inch should be purchased.
  3. Some suggested tank sizes & commonly kept fish. (These are species for the size of the tank, but does not mean they can be kept together names of fish; however their compatibility is to be kept in mind)
    Tank Size 24x12x12- Small tetras, barbs, mollies, platy, guppy etc.
    Tank Size36x18x18- Larger barbs, angels, small Chic lids. Goldfish.
    Tank Size 60x20x18- Discus, Oscar, Flower horn, Frontosa etc.
    It is always a good idea to purchase to equipment without fishes. This way tank can be setup and cycled, fish are introduced after a week or so. More details are given below in setting up the tank.



  1. Tank: Tank can be made of glass & acrylic. They can be custom built or purchased of the shelf.
  2. Stand: Aquariums weigh a lot and good sturdy stand is essential.
    Normal home furniture is rarely capable of taking the load of a fully furnished aquarium. Even a small 2 ft tank will weigh more than 60-70 kg. Hence a proper stand is required, so that the top of stand does not sag. This creates pressure on bottom of tank and the tank may crack.
  3. Substrate: Although bare bottoms can be kept, having some substrate is a good idea.
    Apart from looking good it performs another very important task, it provides a surface for nitrifying bacteria to grow.
    The particles of gravel should not be too small like fine sand because over a period of time fine sand tends to compact down and oxygen is not able to reach lower parts of substrate.
    This creates anaerobic zones where dangerous gases like H2s (hydrogen sulphide) can build up, this is dangerous for aquarium.
    On the other hand very large gravel pieces will will allow the mulm to go below the substrate and will not be easy to clean.
    A gravel of size between 2-4 mm is good for aquariums.
    The color of gravel can be as per choice; however it should be as close to natural colors.
  1. Filters: In nature fish live in large bodies of water and their waste are dispersed over a wide area. However in aquariums we keep them in closed confines hence the responsibility of giving them clean water lies with the aquarists.
    Filters not only clean the water of impurities and also serve as base of good bacteria. There are many types of filter, however an ideal setup would be which can clean and filter the water in aquarium at least 4 times the volume of tank.
  2. Heaters/Chillers: Fish are cold blooded animals, which mean that they are unable to maintain the temperature of body and their body temperature changes with the temp of water.
    Normally the required temperature in an aquarium should be in the range 23-28 C. Hence heaters and chillers are required in the tank. As chillers can be expensive, other methods of cooling water like fans on hoods can also be used.


  1. Air pumps: Oxygen which is dissolved in aquarium water is a prime requirement in aquariums and any deficiency can kill a fish. Oxygen mixes in water at the surface of water column, hence any disruptions in water surface mixes the air.
    This can be performed by having dedicated air pumps which make the bubbles in water. Also if the filter is itself agitating the water surface, the air pump can be dispensed with.
  2. Lights: Fish do not need very high lights, in their natural surroundings the light is diffused by water. Hence we should keep light which are not very harsh, just enough so that we can enjoy our pets.
  3. Other Decorations: Decorations in aquarium are limited only by our imagination.
    However they should have blunt edges and should not hurt the fish. Decorations with pointed edges, or with moving parts like windmills are not good idea as they can hurt fish.

Setting up an aquarium


  • Wash the glass tank carefully with hot water & salt. This will remove any dirt and chemicals. DO NOT use soap etc. Soap is poisonous to fish.
  • Put a sheet of thermocol between the tank and the table/stand.
  • Wash Substrate with hot water, again do not use any soap. Simply swirl the gravel till the water runs clear.
  • Place a layer of approx 2-3 inch at the bottom of the tank
  • Plant plastic or real plants
  • Prepare water for filling. Ordinary tap water can be used but should be left standing for 24 hours so that chlorine which is dissolved by municipal authorities gets out.
    As an alternative, declorinators which are available cheaply at all fish shops can be used. Please make sure that chlorine is removed as above.
    Put this prepared water in the tank very gently so that sand or gravel is not disturbed.
  • Place air stone in the tank
  • Place filter in the tank.
  • Start prep ration for Nitrogen cycle completion.

Nitrogen cycle.


Before fish are introduced, a new tank should be able to support the fish. A tank should be fully “cycled” before fishes are introduced.
This term cycling is explained below.
Fishes excrete waste into the water. In rivers and ponds this waste is spread over a very large area and does not harm the fishes.
However in an aquarium this waste produces lots of ammonia gas which dissolves in water.
Ammonia is highly toxic, levels above 0.25 ppm can kill fish.
As soon as ammonia is generated a group of bacteria called nitrifying bacteria start multiplying. They convert ammonia into a compound called Nitrite.
Nitrite is also toxic to fish, even more more toxic than ammonia.
This is first stage of Nitrogen cycle.

As soon as nitrites are present in water another group of bacteria start multiplying,they convert Nitrites into Nitrate which is relatively harmless. There is no complicated procedure to culture these bacteria; they develop by themselves in water. However they will not grow unless there is some ammonia in water.
Therefore when we have only one or two small fishes in the beginning in our aquarium, the amount of ammonia will be just sufficient to breed bacteria and low enough not to harm the fish.
After some time all ammonia produced by fishes will be converted into nitrate.
This process of converting ammonia into nitrate is called cycling the tank.
These nitrates are absorbed by live plants in your tank or can be removed by partially changing the water every week/15 days or so. You can be sure that your tank is ready when the test for ammonia and nitrite & nitrate are negative.
After a month or so slowly increase the fish if you want. Take care that you do not have many fishes.


A good diet for fish depends upon the fish, some are carnivorous, some algae eaters, however a large majority are omnivorous, i.e need both Vegetable based and animal protein mixed diets.

Many multi purpose food are available at most fish stores. Fishes can be fed prepared food pellets/flakes which can be easily & cheaply be purchased from any fish shop.

In case you are using pellets, soak them first for few mixtures in water. Pellets tend to expand when wet, and if dry pellets are fed to fish, they tend to expand inside the stomach of fish, this is dangerous for fish.

Drop some food in the water and observe how much fish eat in 5 minutes. Remove excess food from the tank otherwise it will rot & pollute the water.
Never over feed the fish, they will always be demanding more food and can go sick very easily if overfed.

Regular maintenance

Change 25-30% of the water every week after the tank is fully cycled. Use a water symphony available at most aquarium stores for taking out water from aquariums.
Scrape algae from the sides of aquarium, it can be done by using ,magnetic algae scrubbers, even a old credit card can be used.

Large water changes are not a good idea, it changes the parameters of water very fast.

A simple maintenance regime of weekly water changes, cleaning of filter every 15 days, is more than enough to maintain a healthy tank.





  Sandeep Raghuvanshi
Picture Credits   Alf stalsberg