Setting up a tropical fish tank


DIY and how-to

Clownfish with white and orange stripes swimming near purple coral.

Things you will need to setup your Tropical fish tank

  • Fish tank
  • Power strip (optional)
  • Tank stand
  • Filter
  • Heater
  • Thermometer
  • Hood
  • Air pump (optional)
  • Gravel
  • Decorations
  • Water testing kit


  • Choose a location for your tropical fish tank that is far away from windows, direct sunlight, heating and cooling vents and/or units and electrical appliances such as televisions. Make sure that an electrical socket is located nearby and that it can accommodate the required number of plugs without requiring an extension cord. Also check the condition of the flooring – large aquariums can weigh 90kg or more.
  • Measure the size of the chosen location to determine the maximum size aquarium you are able to purchase. Place a piece of furniture or table in this location to support the fish tank. Examine the condition and durability of the chosen surface to ensure it will not buckle under the weight. Consider purchasing a stand if you are unable to find a suitable piece of furniture or other surface.
  • Purchase a fish tank and all the required supplies. Starting supplies include the aquarium, hood, filter, heater, water testing kit, thermometer, gravel and decorations.
  • Rinse all purchased items with cool running water only. This will remove any residue and potential hazards from the items. You must rinse the gravel very well before adding this to your aquarium. If this is not done properly you will soon have very cloudy water.
  • Place the aquarium in the selected location. Put 1-2cm of gravel in the base of the tropical fish tank and place the decorations.
  • Test a sample of the water being used in your new fish tank. If the tests indicate your tap water cannot provide a stable living environment for fish consider using distilled or bottled water.
  • Place a clean bowl in the aquarium. Fill the bowl with water and allow it to spill over the sides. This will prevent the gravel and decorations from being disturbed. Once the fish tank is half full with water, check that the decorations are secured to the bottom. Finish filling the remainder of the tank.
  • Install the filter, heater and air pump according to the directions. Once properly installed turn the items on and set the temperature between 24-27°C. Check the thermometer to verify that the temperature remains constant.
  • Allow the water to cure for at least 48 hours. Adding a dechlorinator will remove any elements and chlorine. Retest the water for stability before purchasing and adding fish.
  • Choose the tropical fish for your aquarium. Only purchase one type at a time. Adding too many species and too many fish at once can upset the pH balance of the tank. Ask the sales representative at the aquarium store any questions about size, type and personality of fish before purchasing them. Some species of tropical fish can grow to be very large in size and/or be aggressive.
  • Place the bag in the fish tank and allow it to stand for 15 minutes to allow the fish to adjust to the water temperature. Open the bag and add 1 cup of aquarium water to the bag, allow it to stand for another 15minutes. Do not add the bag water to the tank.
  • Catch the fish with a net and place in your newly established tropical fish tank. Check the temperature and pH of the water on a regular basis. Feed your new fish every day or every other day. Do not overfeed.

If you have any queries, or are unsure of the information supplied, please contact your nearest Stodels Fish and Pet Centre for expert advice.

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