Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part series of articles. In Part 1 we discussed choosing the right-size tank for a beginner. Today we begin discussing beginner aquarium setup.
The most common mistake beginners make is to buy their aquarium, fill it up, and just add fish. This is how Mother Nature “works” in our minds, right? However, this will actually kill most fish that aren’t super hardy and strong.
Without getting too scientific, what a new aquarium setup needs is “beneficial bacteria.” These are a good bacteria that help feed on necessary toxins in the water that are harmful to fish. These bacteria take time to grow in your tank of water, or can be added from a different tank.
To save yourself from having to learn a lot of scientific parameters on water, I highly advise to just ask your pet store for some “good bacteria.”
I’ve spent countless hours testing water and researching different specs but wish I would have just kept things more simple. That’s what I do now. Before buying any fish, make sure you have that good bacteria from another aquarium that is already set up. The bacteria grow on decorations and weeds but build up very heavily in the filter media (filter pads).
Having the store cut an older tank’s filter pad in half and giving it to you works perfectly fine. Keep the filter in a plastic baggie so it continues to stay wet. This might seem gross, but it’s actually bypassing a scientific cycle — and is super smart to do.
(Note: Beneficial bacteria is the most misunderstood topic of fish keeping. Take it seriously when setting up your tank.)
To learn more about bacteria levels and “blooms,” view this video:
Don’t rush into buying your fish quite yet. Add that piece of filter you got from the fish store to your filter setup. Let’s give that beneficial bacteria some time to naturally work. Just set it next to your filter or use only the “used” piece (not a big deal right now).
Decorating your tank is one of the funnest aspects to this hobby. There is such a wide range of plants and decor you can use. There really isn’t a wrong way to decorate your tank, either.
The only aspect I can preach about is the natural habitat of what your specific fish might need. Example: Some species of fish are insecure without certain decorations to hide behind or inside. Research your fish and make sure you suit their needs before your needs.
Some plants are also known to be sharp and hazardous to certain fish, but that will come with more exotic and fancy breeds of fish.
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The argument of “gravel or sand versus no tank substrate” lingers. All I have to say is that I personally do not use any tank substrate or liners. I find this much easier to keep my tanks cleaner. I do have multiple tanks, though, so reducing cleaning time is a big deal.
Sand and gravel are awesome aspects of a tank and add cosmetic value along with natural value if you have live plants. The only downfall is maintenance to keep it clean. Fish waste and uneaten food fall right into the bottom liner and sit and decay. If you don’t get rid of that decay fast, your oxygen levels start to drop very fast. You can see where this is going.
Your tank should have a light, and I advise it to be a natural sunlight style. They are cheap enough to where it’s almost a waste not to go ultraviolet (UV) style. This gives the fish the real aspect of sunlight that they deserve.
Special LED lights look really cool and others do fancy tricks, but whatever you do, always make sure your fish are getting natural sunlight somehow (though not direct sunlight). Think of it this way, what if I told you that you’ll never get to see sunlight again? Understand my point now?
Need a Heater?
Last but not least, figure out if your tank needs a heater.
How you will know is whether your fish are tropical or not. Most likely you will need a heater because most of the popular aquarium fish aside from goldfish live in a tropical habitat. Even the Betta fish is a tropical fish, but people don’t use heaters because they are unaware.
Research your fish types and figure out what temperature your water needs to be. There is an average for most tropical fish that are schooled together.
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Continue Reading: In Part 3 of this article, we discuss the cool part of aquarium setup: adding your fish for the first time! This guest series was written by Chris from FishinnPost.com.
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