Knowledge of aquarium basics helps you achieve your lifelong dream of owning a flourishing aquarium. Without the basics, you’d struggle with your aquarium setup and wind up frustrated.

To help, we have curated information about setting up aquariums, the equipment you need, and tips on navigating water chemistry.

Aquariums for Beginners

In aquarium 101, you learn the basics of setting up an aquarium and how to take care of your fish. Let’s take a closer look at what setting up an aquarium entails.

– Size of the Aquarium

Your starter fish tank can be as small as 10 gallons or as much as 60 gallons, depending on your preference. If you live in a rented apartment, you’d have to check with the building manager to ensure you are not faulting any laws. Water can be heavy; one gallon weighs eight pounds, so if you want a 50-gallon tank, you are looking at over 400 pounds.

– Where to Place the Aquarium

Once you’ve settled on the size of tank you want, it’s time to move to the next question. Where to set the tank? It is always best to choose an indoor location that gives you easy access to the tank and allows you to relax and watch your fish do their thing.

Remember, you want to keep the tank far from windows, doors, air conditioning units, and heat registers so that the temperature fluctuations don’t affect your fish.

– Aquarium Display

After choosing your preferred location for your aquarium, you also have to decide where you want to keep it. If you choose to set it up on furniture, you must ensure that it is sturdy enough to bear the aquarium’s weight.

Alternatively, you can get an aquarium stand that is capable of bearing the weight of your tank. Your aquarium warranty becomes void if the tank is not placed on the appropriate stand.

Now that you have an idea of how to position your aquarium, let’s move on to what you will need to ensure it provides your fish with favorable conditions to grow.

What You Need To Set Up Your Aquarium

As a beginner, here are the tools you will need to set up a conducive aquarium for your finned friends. You can get most of them from the stores around you or on Amazon.

– Aquarium Heater

An aquarium heater is a must for your tank because it helps you maintain the temperatures within the accepted range. There are two main models of heaters: the hang-on-the-tank heaters and the submersible heaters. We always advise that you go for the submersible models regardless of their cost.

The number of heaters your aquarium needs is dependent on its size and room temperatures. Small aquariums can get away with only one heater, but if you have an aquarium capable of holding more than 40 gallons, you will need at least two heaters. The heaters ensure that heat is distributed evenly throughout the aquarium.

– Thermometer

A good tank thermometer helps you measure the temperature in your aquarium. That way, you immediately know whether to increase the heater or drop the temperatures. You can go for a liquid crystal hang-on-the-tank thermometer for starters since it is both cheap and accurate.

– Water Conditioner

The water conditioner is an essential piece of equipment that allows you to ensure water chemistry. It dechlorinates the water and ensures that it is fit to house your fish. To save time and cost, go for one that takes care of chlorine, heavy metals, and ammonia.

– Test Kits

It is critical to ensure that your tank conditions are optimum before you introduce your fish. So you should get a water test kit to check the ammonia, nitrite, hardness, alkalinity, and chlorine in your tank.

An option is to get an in-tank testing monitor to monitor the tank conditions round the clock. These test kits are affixed to the outside of the tank walls and can last for as long as two months, after which they will need to be changed.

– Siphon

Siphons are tools used to vacuum the substrate at the bottom of your tank and carry out water changes. There are various types available, the simple ones that use gravity to clean up the tank and the sophisticated ones that work with water pressure.

If you can, afford the sophisticated siphons, go for them because they are much easier to use. Remember to change your tank water monthly to avoid the growth of bacteria.

– Substrate

The substrate is the substance that lines the base of your aquarium. Different fishes have their preferred tank substrate, but the majority of them do well with smooth-surfaced gravel. These small gravels do not injure the fish’s abdomen but remember to disinfect them before adding them to the tank.

– Filter

Every aquarium needs a filtration system to help maintain the water quality. There are many styles and options of these tank filters available so choose wisely. When selecting a tank filter, consider the size of your aquarium and the filter’s flow rate.

We always recommend that you choose a large enough filter to service your aquarium. The filter should have a very high flow rate. If your aquarium is large, then opt for canister filters.

– Fish Net

Every aquarist knows that fishnet is an essential tool that helps you catch the fish. Go for a medium-sized net with excellent quality or, if you can, get two nets. The handle of the net should be proportionate to the size of your aquarium so that you don’t have to immerse your whole hand in the water.

– Lid

Most aquariums are sold separately from their covers or hood. The lid is essential because it reduces evaporation and keeps your fish from jumping out. We recommend glass lids because they are easier to clean, allow more light penetration, and offer a tight fit for your aquarium.

– Aquarium Lights

If you are lucky, your aquarium lid will come fitted with lights. If not, you will have to buy the tank lights separately. There are various light options for your tank ranging from halogen, mercury vapor, fluorescent, and LED. However, we recommend fluorescent lights for beginners because they are cheaper and cooler than the other options.

– Algae Scrubber

At some point, algae will grow in your tank. When that happens, you’ll want to have an algae scrubber or magnet. These tools, especially the algae magnet, help you rid your tank of the growing algae quickly.

– Aquarium Decoration (Optional)

You can get decorative items for your aquarium from the local pet store. Try out wood, rocks, mermaids, coral, reefs, and caves to give your fish tank a homey look.

Remember to disinfect all the items first before adding them to your established aquarium so that you do not introduce bacteria and viruses.

Rocks and reefs aside, you can also spice up your tank with some natural or artificial plants. We recommend live plants because they help control the water’s nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia content while still giving your fish room to hide.

Alternatively, you can opt for plastic plants. That way, you get the natural look, no stress, and care that live plants need.

How To Set Up Your Aquarium

Now that you have the fish tank basics, let’s move on to establishing your aquarium. Remember that the first step is to choose a suitable aquarium, its stand, and a convenient position. After that, continue with these steps.

1. Add the Gravel to the Tank

The simple rule is that for every gallon of water you plan to add to your tank, you add two pounds of gravel. But first, rinse the gravel thoroughly so you don’t introduce bacteria to the tank. Add the gravel slowly to your tank so that it forms a slight slope at the front.

2. Add Water

Cover the gravel with a clean dish, then add preconditioned water to the tank gradually. If you add untreated tap water to your tank, your fish will die. Lastly, the water should be at room temperature and have the recommended pH, salinity, and hardness values.

3. Water Heater

Add the water heater to your tank to ensure that the temperature in your tank is between 72-80 F. Following this temperature range ensures that your fish is not stressed and that its immune system remains strong. Before you plug in the tank heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you do it correctly.

4. Add Plants and Tank Decorations

Spice up your tank with plants and tank decorations. The plants take ammonia from the tank water, while decorations like reefs and rocks help provide your fish a spot to hide.

5. Lighting

Set your aquarium lighting to suit your fish’ needs. Sometimes, your lid may come with built-in lighting. If it doesn’t, then get aquarium lighting from your dealer.

How To Add Fish to Your Aquarium

With your aquarium correctly set up, it is time to add fish to your tank. First, isolate your fish to ensure it is not carrying any disease.

Then, make sure your tank has been adequately cycled and that the temperature in your tank is similar to that of the fish’s present location. Leave the fish inside the transport container and place it in the tank to acclimate to the tank conditions.

Every five minutes, pour a little of the tank water into the plastic and let the fish swim in it. At the end of 15 minutes, release the fish from the net.

How To Maintain Your Aquarium

Basic aquarium maintenance is essential for the health of your fish. So, we have compiled tips on how to take care of your fish tank.

  • Use a siphon to clean the tank substrate and remove uneaten food from the aquarium
  • Change the water regularly to maintain water quality
  • Carry out water tests regularly to ensure the parameters are within range
  • Avoid overstocking your tank with food and fish
  • Don’t overclean your aquarium


Setting up an aquarium is pretty easy:

  • Choose the right aquarium size and the stand to go with it
  • You need to cycle the water in your aquarium before adding fish to it
  • Placing the aquarium in a location that isn’t easily affected by temperature
  • When choosing the filter system for your aquarium, you have to consider its size

We have covered the aquarium care basics for beginners. Follow the guide and leave us a comment on how it goes.

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