Choosing a location for your aquarium
If you plan on using electrical equipment, e.g. airstones, heaters etcetera in your aquarium it must naturally be placed where you have access to electricity. Placing an aquarium where it will be exposed to sunlight is not a good idea since this will promote excessive algae growth. It is also important to keep in mind that a filled aquarium is really empty and normal your normal furniture may be not be strong enough to keep it up. Getting an aquarium stand or special aquarium furniture is therefore recommended for mid-sized aquariums and bigger.
Everything that will go into your aquarium should be thoroughly washed to prevent disease and pollution from entering your aquarium. Use hot water and bleach rather than detergents, and meticulously wash away all traces of bleach afterwards. Gravel must be carefully rinsed unless you want the water to get really cloudy. Living things such as plants and fish can be dipped in saltwater to kill of external parasites and bacteria.
If you use chlorinated tap water you must add a dechlorinator before you use it for your aquarium since chlorine and chloramines damage the gills of your fish and kills of beneficial bacteria. You can purchase a dechlorinator intended for aquarium use in your local fish store. A less expensive way of treating the water is to mix a lot of air into it when you pour it into a bucket (e.g. by tilting the bucket) and then leave it to rest for 24 hours.
Filling the aquarium
Do not begin filling your aquarium anywhere else than in its intended place because it will become really heavy. When you have added the gravel, place a dish or similar on top of it and pour the water onto the dish instead of directly onto the gravel. This will divert the water and stir up less debris. Fill the aquarium half way up, plant any plants and add aquarium decoration, and then proceed to fill it all the way up.
Connect all your equipment and leave the gadgets running for 24 hours. This will give you time to make sure that everything works as it should.
Setting up the aquarium
By spending some time reading up on the subject you can save yourself a lot of problems (and money!) in the long run. A lot of new aquarists lose interest in the hobby when all the fish in their newly set up aquarium suddenly goes belly up, and this is sad because in most cases, this type of sudden fish death can be easily prevented.
Before you acquire any fish you should set up the aquarium and make sure that everything works according to plan. Once you have filled the aquarium with gravel, water and plants and installed all the gadgets, you should keep it running for at least 24 hours before you add anything else to the water.
Cycling (maturing the aquarium)
Many aquarists skip this stage, but if you devote some time to cycling your aquarium you increase your chances of keeping your fish alive dramatically. During cycling, colonies of beneficial bacteria will grow strong enough to handle a lot of the nitrogenous waste that your fish will produce. If you simply toss all your fish into a non-cycled aquarium, the levels of nitrogenous waste will sky rocket and this will injure as well as potentially kill your fish. Cycling the aquarium is certainly not difficult, but it will take at least two weeks.
One easy method is to purchase a group of small and sturdy schooling fish from the fish store (e.g. Danios) together with a bottle of nitrogen converting bacteria. Add the fishes and the bacteria to the aquarium and make sure that there are suitable media for the bacteria to colonize in the aquarium, e.g. bushy plant leaves, gravel and a sponge filter that you never wash with detergents or hot water. Use your test kit and regularly check the levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. They will spike after a while, but sooner or later they will hopefully decrease down to lower levels again. You need to carry out frequent water changes during the cycling process and only give your fish small servings of food. Do not loose heart if the water gets a little foggy during cycling; it is perfectly normal. When your aquarium is stable, gradually start adding more and more fish. Do not overload the bacteria by suddenly tossing ten big fishes into the aquarium. Once you have added a few fishes, wait a few weeks before adding any new ones. Yes, it is boring to wait, but your fish will stay happy and healthy and you being patient will prevent a lot of potential problems.
Acclimatizing your new fishes
Start by introducing a small number of fish during the cycling process (unless you opt for a fishless cycle) and then gradually introduce more and more fish over the course of several weeks. This will prevent the water quality in your aquarium to drop sharply. When you arrive home with a bag of fish, leave the bag floating in the aquarium to prevent sharp changes in temperature. After roughly 15 minutes, open the bag and pour some aquarium water into it. DO NOT allow any water from the bag to escape into your aquarium water since it can carry disease. After an additional 15 minutes, open the bag again and add some more water. This process will give the fish a chance to gradually grow accustomed to the water chemistry in your aquarium. Wait for 15 more minutes before you use a net to catch the fish and let it into the aquarium. Discard the bag with the pet shop water.
Feed your fish 2-3 times a day.
Remove uneaten food, dead fish and plant debris.
Check the thermometer and make sure that temperature is stable.
For a basic freshwater set up with sturdy tropical fish species, changing roughly 25% of the water each week is recommended. The replacement water must not be cold, since this will chock your fish. If you use chlorinated tap water, use a dechlorinator to treat the water before you pour it into your aquarium. Changing the water can be a little messy and take a long time at first, but you will soon get the hang of it.
Keep the glass clean and remove any algae from it.
Vacuum the substrate.
The filter media in your mechanical filter (if you use one) will need to be washed. Only remove half of the filter media since this will allow the remaining population of bacteria to continue their work. They will also be able to repopulate the other half of the filter media if something goes bad during cleaning. Rinse out the filter media in water of the same (or slightly lower) temperature as the water in the aquarium. Hot water will instantly kill the bacteria. Never use any type of detergent. Carryout water tests, PH, ammonia, nitrate and nitrite.
Unplug the electrical equipment before you carry out maintenance work. The combination of water and electricity is dangerous, and unplugging your equipment is therefore recommended. You can also chose install an RCD (Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker) to make it safer to place your hands into the water while equipment is still plugged in. It should also be noted that if a running heater is exposed to air during a water change, it can crack and become useless. Unplugging it is therefore a very good idea.
Oakview aquatic services can help you set up your cold water or tropical aquarium aswell as help you maintain it on a regular basis. Contact Oakview today for more information
Setting up a aquarium
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