Setting Up a New Aquarium
1. First, you will need to rinse out your tank and all equipment that will come in contact with the inside of the tank with clean tap water. Don't forget to rinse your gravel, rocks, plants, and decorations! Do not use soap or other cleaning products - they can harm and even kill your fish!
2. Place your tank on an aquarium stand or other sturdy surface that can handle the weight of the tank when filled with water. Keep in mind that 1 gallon of water weighs approximately 8.3 lbs, and a 20 gallon aquarium weighs approximately 200 lbs when in full operation. NEVER move an aquarium with water in it, the glass will most likely crack.
3. Pour the rinsed-off gravel into your tank.
4. Fill your tank 1/3 of the way with water.
5. Arrange decorations & plants in place. Remember that shells and corals are for saltwater aquariums ONLY and should never be used in a freshwater aquarium. Landscape your aquarium with safe rocks and plants purchased from an aquarium store. Never use rocks or plants from rivers, lakes, or any other source as the rocks can contain unsafe minerals that can cause many problems with water quality in your tank and can be deadly to your fish.
6. If you are using an air pump, connect the airline tubing and check valve and bury any air stones in the gravel (do not plug in the air pump until you have filled your tank at least halfway).
7. Fill the tank slowly (to avoid disturbing decorations and plants) the rest of the way with water. You will need to then treat the aquarium water with a water conditioner.
8. Place your heater WITHOUT plugging it in and set up and place your filter on the tank. Be sure to let your heater sit in the aquarium water for at least 30 minutes before plugging it in and adjusting the temperature or it will crack! Set up your filter according to the instructions in the package.
9. Place your thermometer (hanging or outside type) on the front or side of the tank towards the bottom for easy viewing and at the opposite end of where your heater is placed.
10. Place the hood with lights on top of the tank and plug it in. An incandescent hood is less expensive initially but a fluorescent bulb lasts longer, uses less electricity, and makes fish look brighter.
11. Run your filter, heater, and air pump for 24-48 hours to stabilize the temperature and condition of the water. Your water will probably be cloudy during this time, but your filter will soon remove floating impurities. Be patient! You are almost ready to start adding fish to your new aquarium!
12. You most likely purchased a pH test kit with your new aquarium. You will need to test your aquarium's pH before adding your new fish. In a community tank, your pH should ideally read 7.0. Your aquarium temperature should be 74-78 degrees F. When you have accomplished this, you are ready to add fish!
13. Research and select the types of freshwater fish you want to keep in your new tank. We recommend a community tank for aquarium beginners. Any of our staff can help you pick out some great starter fish for your new tank, putting your fish in plastic bags for temporary transport.
14. You will need to float the plastic bag(s) on top of the water in your tank for 10-15 minutes. This will allow the water temperature in the bag to acclimate to the same temperature as the water in the tank and prevent shock to your new fish upon release.
15. Gently break open the bags and allow your fish to swim into their new home.
16. After approximately 1 week, you may notice "cloudiness" in your aquarium water. This is a natural and common occurrence known as "new tank syndrome". The cloudiness should disappear within a week, once your tank is starting to become established. After approximately 3-4 weeks, begin introducing additional fish at the rate of 1-2 fish per week. Introducing fish at this rate will allow your tank's ecosystem to establish itself fully and become a healthy home for your fish. For the healthiest of fish, only keep one inch of fish per 5 gallons of water. Remember to always consider the fully-grown, adult size of your fish when selecting them at the store.