Setting Up Your New Aquarium




To provide a healthy, happy atmosphere for your fish, Petland recommends the following necessary equipment and accessories for your new aquarium.
Starting Out Right!
  1. Before you start setting anything up, take an inventory of your supplies. Rinse all your equipment (including the aquarium) in clear tap water to remove any contaminants.
  2. Place the aquarium on an appropriate aquarium stand, away from direct sunlight, as well as heating and cooling vents. Be sure the tank is sitting level. Fill the aquarium with 4 cm (1 ½ in) of water. Rinse the substrate (gravel/sand) thoroughly. The gravel should be sloped higher in the back to allow for better decoration anchorage.
  3. Fill the tank half full of water. Pouring the water into a temporary container (2 cups), placed inside the aquarium, will prevent the gravel from being disturbed and reduce a cloudy appearance. Next, add plants, rocks and driftwood to create an environment your fish will thrive in. The decorations should be arranged in a horseshoe-shaped diorama to provide adequate hiding places for your “wet pets.” Oddly enough, the more decorations you have, the more visible your fish will become. The centre of the aquarium should be mainly open to allow for a free swimming area.
  4. Finish filling the tank with water and then remove the temporary container. Place the aquarium heater in the tank but do not turn it on at this time. Allow the heater glass to acclimate to the water temperature in the aquarium for one hour before plugging it in. You can camouflage the heater behind the decorations. Put the thermometer in a place opposite of the heater.
  5. Equip the aquarium with a filter system. If using an internal filter, place it in the tank toward the back and hide the filter using plants or driftwood. If you are using an external filter, place it at the back of the tank or underneath. Hide the intake tube, which draws water from the tank to the filter, with decorations, but still allow for circulation. Add water conditioner to the aquarium, and turn on the filtration system. Be sure to prime any pumps with water, prior to starting.
  6. Test the pH and water hardness of your aquarium using an aquarium test kit. Make any necessary adjustments to the water using the proper water condition supplements to recreate an environment specific for your fish. Creating a similar pH and hardness to your fish’s natural habitat will help to alleviate stress and produce brighter colours in your fish.
  7. Now place the aquarium canopy in position and make any adjustments (cut outs in the back) to accommodate the heater, filter and cords. Plug the canopy light into an automatic light timer and set the timer for 10 to 12 hours a day.
  8. Plug in the aquarium heater and make any final adjustments to the heater in order to stabilize a temperature between 24°–25°C (76°–78°F) depending on the fish you have chosen. Make adjustments every half hour until the desired temperature is achieved.
  9. Wait one to two days before adding fish, to ensure the correct water temperature and everything is running properly. Adding fish too soon after the initial set up can be unsafe for them. Constantly fluctuating temperatures or too much suspended debris dangerously increases their stress level.
Testing the Water
All new aquarium set ups need to develop beneficial bacteria to create a biological cycle in the aquarium. This filter conditioning process is referred to as “New Tank Syndrome.” This takes approximately five to seven weeks to develop, depending on the specifics of each aquarium. We recommend using a bacteria supplement to assist in developing a biological cycle in the aquarium.
Over the next several weeks, we recommend weekly water quality testing. When the water tests of ammonia and nitrite reach zero, more fish species can be added. For your convenience, we recommend the appropriate water test kits which will allow you to accurately test your aquarium water at home. We also offer free water testing for new hobbyists who sign-up for a Club Pet Membership.
Water Exchanges
Partial water changes are the single most important procedure you will perform on your aquarium. For the first two months, remove 20 – 25% of the water every week using a gravel cleaning siphon. Replace it with freshwater that has been treated with a water conditioner. As the aquarium matures (two – three months), the period between water changes can be increased to every three to four weeks. Periodic water testing will help to determine a water change schedule that is right for your aquarium. Adding water (due to evaporation) weekly will reduce fluctuations in water chemistry (see our New Tank Syndrome tip sheet).
How to Feed Your Fish
Improper feeding techniques are the number one cause of fish health problems. Uneaten fish foods quickly spoil. If your fish eats spoiled food, they could become sick or disinterested at feeding time. As fish food decays in the aquarium, it can create dangerously high levels of ammonia.
Fish become excited at feeding time, quite often missing the opportunity to eat all the food before it sinks to the bottom or gets drawn into the filter. Having a fish net is very handy to remove any excess food your fish may have missed. Offer very small amounts of food at a time. Once the food is consumed, repeat the same procedure and continue to watch them eat. You can repeat this feeding method three to four times to ensure that even shy fish can participate at feeding time (see our Do Your Fish Look Hungry? tip sheet).
Oh Yes, The Fish!
In the beginning, only a small number of fish can be added to the tank. Our pet counsellors will help guide you in selecting the appropriate first fish for your aquarium. As a guideline, we recommend one 3 cm (1") length of fish to 38 L (10 US gal.) of tank water to safely start your new aquarium.
Introducing New Fish into Your Aquarium
Travelling from one aquarium to another can be very stressful for fish. Extreme temperature changes (hot or cold) can adversely affect your fish’s health. Try to avoid exposing your new fish to these hot or cold conditions when taking them home.
During this period fish may be unable to produce or repair their slime coat. A fish’s slime coat is their natural protection against injury to skin, scales and parasitic infestations such as Ich (which can be present in established aquariums). To help minimize the stress on your fish and protect its slime coat, please consider the following:
  • Wrapping up your fish bag in paper or keep them inside your warm jacket. Go directly home to lessen the transport time.
  • When you arrive at home, float the sealed bag of fish in your aquarium for 10 – 15 minutes to allow the water temperature in the fish bag to adjust to the aquarium’s temperature.
  • While you are waiting, add new decorations or rearrange the decorations in your aquarium to create new hiding places for all your fish.
  • Use an aquarium fish net to transfer only the fish from the fish bag into your aquarium. Discard the water and the bag. Then add a bacterial supplement to boost the biological filtration in your aquarium, which will benefit all your fish.
  • To help reduce health problems, we recommend adding a full dose of water conditioner as a slime coat additive, and aquarium salt (if permitted) as an electrolyte booster.
Monitor your new arrivals, along with your other fish, for the first 48 hours. Look for signs of stress, such as loss of colour, clamped or frayed fins, unusual grey patches or white spots and a lack of appetite. Contact your local Petland store immediately if you have any concerns.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets must be kept in a clean environment to avoid the spread of dirt and contaminants to yourself and others. Always keep your pet’s home clean, and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home.
  • Aquarium
  • Aquarium stand
  • Substrate (gravel or sand)
  • Plants (live or artificial plants)
  • Decorations – driftwood, rocks or artificial resin-based decorations (you should create at least one hiding spot per fish)
  • Aquarium heater and thermometer
  • Water conditioner (chlorine remover)
  • Aquarium filter (submersible, hang-on style and canister models available)
  • Bacteria supplement (for biological filtration)
  • Water test kits
  • Mineral and pH supplements
  • Aquarium canopy, lights and programmable timer
  • A variety of fish food
  • Gravel cleaning siphon
  • Fish net
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your particular fish’s needs.
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