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Creating a Whole New World – Setting Up Your New Aquarium

Creating a Whole New World – Setting Up Your New Aquarium

An aquarium with a variety of different fish can be a beautiful addition to your home. Fish make wonderful, colourful pets and are relatively easy to care for as long as their pet parents are knowledgeable and diligent. With a little preparation, the right supplies and regular maintenance, your fish can live happy, healthy lives.

Getting Started

Where Do I Start?

Creating your own aquarium can seem like a daunting task. Just start with these basics and you’ll be well on your way.

The Right Tank:

Aquariums come in all shapes and sizes to fit any budget or skill level. A 30-gallon tank is a great place to start.

A Solid Stand:

A 30-gallon tank is heavier than it sounds, weighing over 250 pounds and even more after you’ve added water and decorated with rocks or gravel. Your aquarium needs a sturdy stand and should sit at eye level for you and your family to admire.

A Secure Cover and Cozy Light:

Fish love to explore. A cover for your tank will keep them safe and secure. There are a variety of lighting options that are specifically designed to illuminate your tank and help any plants you may have growing. Be sure to turn the light off at night so your fish can rest when you head to bed.

A Filter to Keep Your Aquarium Clean:

Filters sift debris and give good bacteria a home to break down waste. Be sure to clean your filter regularly with lukewarm water, never with soap or chemicals, to unclog any lingering debris. With so many different types of filters available in the market, it might make your head spin trying to find the right one. Consult a Petco aquatics specialist to find the right one for your aquarium.

A (relatively) Quiet Air Pump:

Air pumps circulate the water in your aquarium to provide much-needed oxygen for your fish. To prevent water from siphoning back when the pump is off, try installing an anti-siphon device inside your pump's tubing and place the pump near the top of your aquarium, above the water level. Before you buy, check the air pump for noise and make sure it is the right size for your tank.

A Heater to Keep your Fish Comfy:

Fish like to be cozy just like us. Depending on the species of the fish in your aquarium, a consistent water temperature close to that of the natural habitat of your fish will reduce stress for your aquarium. If you have any questions regarding your aquarium’s ideal water temperature, consult a Petco aquatics specialist.

Filling Your New Aquarium

After purchasing your new aquarium, make sure to set it up, add water, gravel and plants and allow it to cycle for at least 48 hours before adding fish.

Once you've got your aquarium set up, you'll be ready to choose which fish will populate your tank. Choosing the right type of water and fish will be the key to a harmonious aquarium.

Freshwater:

If this is your first aquarium, freshwater is the way to go. Freshwater fish are less expensive and generally easier to care for.

Saltwater:

Also known as marine or seawater, maintaining a saltwater tank tends to be more of a challenge as saltwater is less forgiving of mistakes. Before starting a saltwater tank, consult a Petco aquatic specialist with any questions you may have.

Varieties of Aquarium Life:

Coldwater

Coldwater fish varieties are usually low maintenance and inexpensive.

Tropical fish

Tropical fish are beautiful and come in many varieties and colors.

Brackish fish

Combining the benefits of freshwater and saltwater aquariums, brackish fish offer the lower cost of freshwater species with a multitude of colorful fish varieties.

Goldfish

A classic favorite, goldfish are a hardy bunch coming in many different shapes, sizes and colors. Be careful not to mix goldfish with tropical fish as the two varieties need very different environments.

Underwater plants

Underwater plants can add natural decoration to your aquarium. Aquarium plants need nutrients and depending on the species, between 8 to 10 hours of adequate lighting.

Acclimating Fish

Items you'll need to acclimate freshwater fish:

  • Scissors
  • Bucket
  • Watch or timer
  • Towel (for spills)

Introducing Life to Your Aquarium

You've chosen the types of fish and plants you want to live in your aquarium and now it's time to introduce them to their new home. Fish are sensitive to rapid changes in environment, pH, salinity levels and temperature so you will want to acclimate a new fish to the water in your aquarium as soon as you bring your new pet home from the store.

Acclimating a New Fish to Your Freshwater Aquarium:

We all know just how stressful moving can be. Acclimation to a new tank can put physical and mental strain on new fish. Follow these steps to ensure a healthy, stress-free transition for your freshwater fish.

  • Turn off any aquarium lights to reduce stress on your new fish.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly to prevent contaminating your tank's water.
  • Allow the sealed bag with your new fish to float in your aquarium for at least 15 minutes but no longer than an hour. Make sure the water in the bag is the same temperature as your tank before moving on to the next step. (If the bag has torn or the water inside smells foul, do not pour any of the remaining water in the bag into your tank).
  • After the temperature in your fish's bag has acclimated, carefully cut it open as close to the top as possible.
  • Slowly pour out as much water as possible into a bucket without harming your aquatic life.
  • Grasping the bottom corner, lower the bag into your aquarium.
  • Lifting the bottom corner of the bag, let your new fish swim out of the bag.
  • Be sure not to pour any remaining water in the bag into the tank.

Acclimating a New Fish to Your Saltwater Aquarium

Follow these steps to ensure a healthy, stress-free transition for your saltwater fish.

  1. Turn off any aquarium lights to reduce stress on your new fish.
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly to prevent contaminating your tank's water.
  3. Allow the sealed bag with your new fish to float in your aquarium for at least 15 minutes but no longer than an hour. Make sure the water in the bag is the same temperature as your tank before moving on to the next step. (If the bag has torn or the water inside smells foul, skip immediately to step 8).
  4. After the temperature in your fish's bag has acclimated, carefully cut it open as close to the top as possible. Fold the top edge of the bag down one inch to create an air pocket within the lip of the bag. This air pocket will allow the bag to float on the surface of the water. if possible, secure the bag to the side of your aquarium with an algae or lettuce clip.
  5. Slowly add aquarium water to the bag. use a quarter cup for small bags and half a cup for large bags. Repeat every five minutes until the bag is filled.
  6. Once it is full, remove the bag from the aquarium and discard half of the water in the bag into a bucket. Be careful not to harm your aquatic life.
  7. Let the bag float again in the aquarium and repeat steps 5 and 6. This step allows further acclimation and will eliminate most of the original water in the bag.
  8. Once the bag is full, remove it from the aquarium and slowly pour out as much water as possible into a bucket without harming your aquatic life (see step 6).
  9. Grasping the bottom corner, lower the bag into your aquarium.
  10. Lifting the bottom corner of the bag, let your new fish swim out of the bag. If you are introducing an invertebrate, submerse the bag and carefully remove the invertebrate. For corals, be careful to handle only by the base.
  11. Be sure not to pour any remaining water in the bag into the tank.

Items you'll need to acclimate saltwater fish:

  • Scissors
  • Bucket
  • Algae or lettuce clip
  • Measuring cup
  • Watch or timer
  • Towel (for spills)

Important things to remember

  • Never rush the acclimation process. Following the steps patiently can even help revive a new fish that appears listless or inactive.
  • Always let your fish swim out of the bag on their own. Trying to handle the fish with your hands or pouring them into a net may remove the protective slime coating making your fish vulnerable to disease.
  • Do not use an airstone in the bag when acclimating a new life to your tank. Airstones increase pH much too quickly and expose fish to lethal levels of ammonia.
  • Keep your aquarium lights off for several hours after introducing a new fish to reduce stress.

Acclimating invertebrates to your aquarium:

Stable water quality, temperature, pH levels and specific gravity of 1.021-1.026 are crucial to avoid severe stress and trauma to invertebrates and marine plants. If you are unsure of the water quality or pH levels of your tank, Petco provides free water testing.

Introducing a live coral to your aquarium:

After you've acclimated a new coral to your tank, you may need to remove excess slime that some live corals produce. Taking care not to touch the "flesh" part of a live coral and using powder-free latex gloves, hold the coral by the rock or skeletal base and shake it gently in the shipping bag before placing in aquarium. It may take a few days for the coral to open up after it has been introduced to your tank.

Maintaining a flourishing aquarium:

  • Fish, like people, have very distinct personalities. as a pet parent, you'll want to consider the different temperaments of your fish when socializing your tank. Keep these tips in mind to make sure your aquarium is a happy, peaceful place.
  • When planning the amount of fish you want in your aquarium, follow the fish per square inch ratio and take into account your fish's adult size to avoid overcrowding.
  • Make sure that the species in your tank are compatible before introducing them to each other. Some fish just don't get along.
  • Depending on the species and size of the fish in your aquarium, you may want to separate aggressive carnivores from other fish that are not the same size and temperament. You don't want a new addition to wind up a snack for an old friend.
  • Different fish prefer specific areas in the aquarium. Some fish eat at the top while others prefer the mid-level of the tank and some choose to lay low at the bottom of the tank. Balance the levels to reduce competition for space.
  • Decorating the landscape inside your tank is not only fun, it provides hiding places and shelters for your fish to explore.

Socializing the New Guy

An aquarium can be like a playground. Sometimes the new kid on the block can have a hard time fitting in. If your new fish is being harassed by one of the older ones, try these options:

  • Feed your fish before introducing a new fish to the aquarium to alleviate any aggressive behaviour.
  • Change or move decorations around to reduce territorial disputes.
  • Floating plastic holding tanks can confine aggressive fish for several hours while the new arrival adjusts to the new surroundings.

Adding Plant Life to Your Aquarium

Adding plants to your tank can really liven up your aquarium. Plants offer beautiful decoration and fun hiding places for your fish. However, just like other living things in your aquarium, plants need specific attention to thrive.

Plants to avoid:

  • Dead or dying plants: decomposing plants will affect the water quality in your aquarium.
  • Duckweed: although not hazardous, this floating aquatic plant tends to be a nuisance, blocking out light entering your tank. We would advise avoiding duckweed altogether but, if you do decide to introduce this plant, prune regularly.
  • Newly fallen branches: driftwood is a common addition to aquariums. However, branches that have fallen recently from trees may contain harmful resins or compounds.
  • Pine branches: this wood is dangerous for your aquarium and may be home to organisms you do not want living in your tank.

Purchase plants and wood specifically meant for aquarium use. Never put decorations in your aquarium that were not intended for aquarium use.