What You’ll Need

  • Aquarium size of your choice
  • Aquarium gravel
  • Aquarium filter
  • Replacement filter media
  • Heater
  • Decorations such as plants
  • Chemical test kits
  • Fish Food
  • Aquarium vacuum
  • Fish net
  • Glass scrubber
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Pasta strainer

Step One

Accept the responsibility involved in having any pet. Although having fish may not require as much work as having cats or dogs, there are still things you will need to do to have a successful fish tank. You will need to perform some type of maintenance once a week or at the very least once every 2 weeks. Most of the time you will just need to change out the water. Of course, you will need to feed your tropical fish at least once a day. Providing none of this is a problem for you, let’s get started!

Step Two

Decide how large you want your aquarium to be. To help you decide, consider what type of tropical fish you want to keep. Some tropical fish only grow to be an inch or two long, whereas others can grow up to a foot or longer! Be sure to ask your local pet store how large you can expect the fish to get. Should this be your first time with an aquarium, you should probably go with a 10 or 20 gallon aquarium.

Step Three

Decide where you are going to keep your aquarium. Keep your aquarium in an area where the light and temperature of the tank won’t be affected by things such as windows or heater vents. You will need to place the aquarium on a stand that is capable of holding its total weight. To give you an idea of how much an aquarium weighs, you can count on 10 pounds of weight for every gallon of water. Do the math and get a stand sturdy enough to hold your tank.

Step Four

Purchase your aquarium and equipment. Now it is time to decide on what type of filtration you want to use. You will also need to purchase a heater that is capable of heating the size of tank you have. Purchase your gravel, plants, a power strip and other decorations. You should buy about 1 ½ pounds of gravel for every gallon of water you will have.

Step Five

Set up your aquarium and stand. Be sure to wash out your tank with water only. Using soap or detergents can leave behind soap residue that can harm your tropical fish. If you chose an under gravel filter, place it at the bottom of your tank.

Step Six

Wash the gravel, plants and other decorations. Be certain to thoroughly wash the gravel before you add it to your tank. You can easily do this by pouring some of the rocks into a pasta strainer and washing them out in your bathtub. Each time you do this, pour the clean gravel into the 5-gallon bucket so you can easily bring it to your aquarium. After the gravel has been added, position your plants and decorations.

Step Seven

Time to add the water to the aquarium. So that you won’t mess up your gravel and plants, put a saucer into the middle of your aquarium and pour the water onto the plate. Water that is room temperature is ideal. Use something like Tetra Aqua Safe for Aquariums to remove the chlorine and chloramine from the water. Don’t completely fill up the aquarium until you are certain that your decorations are exactly where you want them to be. Otherwise, when you reach in to move them around the water could spill out.

Step Eight

Set up the equipment. Install your heater but don’t plug it in until the thermostat in the heater adjusts to the temperature of the water. This should take about 15 minutes. Hook up your filter and any other equipment you may have and then top off the aquarium water to just under the hood lip. Place your hood and light on the aquarium and then check your power cords to make sure they are free of water. You should also use a drip loop on all of the power cords to be extra careful. Plug all of the equipment into a power strip and then turn the aquarium on.

Step Nine

Wait and then wait some more. Resist the temptation to add your tropical fish right away. But just so this is done right, you should wait until your aquarium has cycled before you add any fish.

Step Ten

Add your tropical fish. But before you do this, allow the bag to float in the tank for about 15 minutes so that the fish can get used to the temperature of the aquarium water. After 5 minutes has passed, add some of the aquarium water to the bag so the fish can get used to the pH of the water. This will help reduce the amount of stress imposed on the fish. Tropical fish that become too stressed out from the changes risk death. Only add a few fish at a time. Adding only a few at a time allows your filtration system the time it needs to take on the increased biological load that the new fish introduce.

Now that your fish have been acclimated to their new home, be prepared to spend some time every week or so to clean your tank. Performing regular water changes will reduce the nitrate levels and keep your tropical fish healthy and happy.