Setting up your new Aquarium

HOW DO I PROPERLY SET UP MY NEW AQUARIUM?

how to begin a new aquarium

So you have all the gear but no idea? Before you start anything It is important that you carefully choose where you want to place the tank, make sure it is even ground and will support the tank's filled weight. Slanted floors can result in undue stress and crack the aquarium glass.

Hard, flat surfaces are ideal. Cabinets are popular and are a requirement for larger, heavy aquariums. For smaller aquariums (30 gallons or less) any sturdy, reinforced furniture with a flat surface can suffice.

Be sure that the chosen aquarium location can support the electrical requirement (lights, filter, and heaters). Is there a PowerPoint nearby? If not, is it possible to conceal an extension cord? The less electrical wires, the better. Water and electricity do not mix well together. Keeping your setup simple with a single power board and powerpoint is ideal.

Below is an aquarium equipment check list. You may have purchased none or all of the items below. We will cover each of the items in further detail down the page, including recommended products.

Equipment Check List


  • Aquarium

    An aquarium of at least 20 Gallons is recommended for beginners. Larger aquariums are generally more stable.

  • Aquarium gravel

    Gravel should be course enough to allow water flow but fine enough to encourage nitrifying bacteria. Creek Stones, coarse sands, and glass gravel are excellent choices. Avoid calcium & limestone based substrates.

  • Aquarium filter

    Your aquarium filter should be rated to turn over at least 3-5x the aquarium volume every hour. Use the Volume Calculator below to work out the required GPH. For smaller aquariums, Hang-on-back filters are perfect. I recommend the Marineland Penguin Power Filters for their higher flow rate, reliability & ease of use.

  • Replacement filter media

    Ensure you have plenty of replacement filter cartridges. They will be replaced more frequently in the early stages of your aquarium. They will keep your water clear and debris free.

  • Heater

    A heater is essential to limiting disease. It also allows the keeping of tropical fish. EHEIM Jager heaters are widely regarded as reliable heaters at an affordable price point. Use the calculator to determine your required wattage and read down the page for more information.

  • Other decorations (such as fake or real plants)
  • Aquarium Water Test Kit

    A good quality test kit is very important. It will allow you to test for cycling before introducing fish. It will also alert you to toxic aquarium conditions and save your tanks inhabitants. Your LFS can test your water but not if they are closed or a distance from your house.

  • Fish food

    A quality fish food will result in brilliant, brightly colored fish. Fish should be fed at least twice a day, purchasing in bulk will provide the best value. Use a mixture of color enhancing flakes and frozen foods for more variety.

  • Aquarium Vacuum

    The vacuum is the heart of your maintenance team. It will clear faeces and debris from the gravel. This will reduce nitrates & stress on your fish. If you are like me and hate spilling water over the floor & carpet get the Python No Spill Vacuum and never look back.

  • Fish net

    Fish nets are useful for removing dead plant matter, excess food and moving your live fish.

  • Aquarium Glass Scrubber

    The aquarium glass scrubber is essential. Always give your glass a quick clean before showing off your aquarium to friends and family.

  • 5-gallon bucket

Cleaning the Gravel

Placing the Substrate

Filling up the Aquarium

Choosing the Right Heater & Filter

Filter Material

Heating and Lighting

Cycling