Check List for Setting up a Fish Tank
- Pick tank wanted
–Verify tank has no leaks, cracks, or any other faults that could cause tank failure.
–Verify tank is clean and disease-/toxin-free (previously washed, sterilized with bleach, and rinsed).
Set up tank in display location. Position tank with water, electricity, air, and drain nearby.
–Verify tank stand will support weight of tank plus contents (substrate, water, etc).
–Verify tank is level.
–Verify nothing is under tank that will crack it or cause tank stress when substrate and water are
- Choose substrate.
–Choose particle size, particle shape, type, and amount (to give wanted depth) of substrate.
–Thoroughly wash substrate (until wash water is relatively clear).
- Choose aquascaping.
–Thoroughly soak, and wash any aquascaping materials to leach toxins.
–Remove organics that will quickly decay; slowly-decaying organics as driftwood, etc may require
fairly frequent water changes, depending on tank volume and rate of decay.
- Choose live plants (if to be employed) and determine lighting (duration, intensity, wavelength) needed
to maintain plants.
- Add under gravel filter, if using this type of filter, or another filter type.
- Add substrate, and level (if not level the water circulation will go through thinnest parts, or paths of least resistance, and you will have “dead zones” in an under gravel filter system).
- Add tank water to be used, and adjust to the salinity (or freshwater) desired.
- Turn on air/filters and circulate tank water until clear.
- Connect up any UV light sterilizers, ozone units, diatomaceous earth or sand filters, and protein skimmers, and verify working correctly.
- Add lighting desired, and set lighting cycle.
- Add live test organism (guppy, etc) and note its survival to verify no toxins in tank.
- Seed tank. Seeding is done before addition of plants and aquascaping so that seeding material does not
get on plants and aquascaping and cause more cleaning work. Turn off sterilizers, ozone, and skimmers
(leave air and filters running) until bacteria from seeding are drawn into filters (1-2 days). Seeding can
be done before or after the small test organism, which produces little ammonia, is used.
- Add aquascaping.
- Add plants; verify plants contain no predatory insect larvae (dragonfly, damselfly, etc).
- Verify all tank support systems are working.
- Add tank occupants (after healed from collection/transport damage, and after verifying they appear to
be disease-free) shortly after seeding so biological filter bacteria are fed fish wastes and thus are
- Add light-transmitting tank cover to keep fish from jumping out of tank, to decrease aerosols from
escaping tank, and to decrease air-borne toxins from settling in tank.
After tank is set up:
- Monitor ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, etc levels until satisfied tank biological filter is well established, then do periodic water quality testing.
- Adjust air flow, water flow, and lighting cycle to get display effects desired.
- Observe animals and plants closely for problems.
- Do periodic water changes.
- Do not feed animals for a few days, or do light feeding for first week.
- Never overfeed animals.
- Remove any excess food, and dead animals or plants as soon as possible to avoid fouling and disease.
- Adjust lights (duration, intensity, wavelength) and light cycle to lessen algae growth.
- Remove overly aggressive animals.
- Do a daily tank check to verify all is going well.