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Setting up your Aquarium

Below are the items need to set up your aquarium depending on whether you choose tropical or coldwater fish:

   Coldwater  Tropical fresh water
 Heater  No  Yes
 Filter  Yes  Yes
 Background  Yes  Yes
 gravel/Sand/Pebbles  Gravel/Pebbles  Gravel/Sand/Pebbles
 Dechlorinator  Yes  Yes
 Waste destroyer liquid  Yes  Yes
 Polystyrene for base of tank  Yes  Yes
 Plants  Yes  Yes
 Lighting  Yes  Yes


Should be set at 24C-26C depeding on the type of fish you are keeping


There are many types of filters to chose from the main ones being an internal and external filter. The type you choose varies depending on the size of your tank. Smaller tanks need only a internal filter that wholey sits in the water. Large tanks external filters sit in a cabinet under the tank with only a few tubes resting in the tank withdrawing and pumping in water to filter the tank. The instructions on what filter size you need will be on the filter box.


There are many backgrounds that you can choose from to set different themes for you aquarium. It also helps reflect the light back into the tank and reduces stress for the fish.Certain backgrounds reflect the fishes colour making them look more vibrant


Gravel is ideal for Cold water fish but can be damaging to some bottom dwellers in tropical tanks causing skin abraisions and infection. Catfish like Plecostomus damage their barbles and mouths on sharp stones so therefore need smooth pebbles or sand to lay on and feed off. I find sand easier to syphon personally.


This is an important liquid that you must add to your tank to prevent chlorine from damaging the fish. It must be added at the beginnig of setting up your aquarium and when ever you do a water change.

Waste destroyer Liquid

This is another important liquid that must be added like the Dechlorinator to prevent high levels of waste poisoning your fish. Being added when setting your tank up and at every water change will evenually break down the wate making it harmless to the fish


It is important to put poystyrene under your tank to support the weight of the aquarium and stop cracking glass.


Live plants are not only there to make the tank look good. Fish eat plants, and the algae that grows on them and also need plants for security/hiding in. The plants you choose depend on the type of tank you have, some thrive in better conditions than others. Also you must have the right lighting for plants to grow and phtosynthisise. This means they can absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Without light the plants do the opposite affecting the oxygen in the aquarium.

Table abbreviations:

G = Grass, W = Wideleaf, F = Feathered, T = Thin leafed

Some plants come in various varieties and grow to different lengths make sure you get the right plant for your tank. Some plants when lacking in iron will turn yellow and die. it is therefore essential to put aquatic plant liquid in your tank to make sure they have the right nutrients to survive. Blow are the Plants for beginners to the aquarium


Water type

 Tropical or Coldwater

 Growth height

 Temp c)

 lighting needs







Acorus (G)


 coldwater, calmus = pond weed

 dwarf 10cm giant 30cm calamus 1m

 below 22


Bacopa (T)




above 20 but below 25 


Cabomba (F )

non hard 





Ceratophyllum (F) 


both and ponds 




Elodea/Egeria (T)

 Alkaline Hard

coldwater and ponds 




Eleocharis (G) 

Alkaline Hard 

Pond-semi surface swamp plant





 Alkaline moderately hard





Hygrophila (W, F,T)

Acid or Neutral 






soft to slightly acidic 





Ludwigia repens (T)

 various as very tollerant





Myriophyllum (F)

 Aquaticum=soft,acid Spicatum= alkaline





Rotala (T)

 Soft Acidic




Sagittaria (G)

 Soft to hard

 Cold,tropical and pond




Vallisneria (G)

 Slightly soft and acidic

 Cold, tropical and pond for gigantica

 Asiatica/spiralis 40-50cm Gigantica 1m


 good gigantica needs Intense

There are other varieties of plants but they are slower growing and harder to care for.


Lighting for your tank varies depending on the fish you and plants you are keeping in there and the depth of yuor tank. Too little lighting in deep tanks can mean that light is not reaching the bottom and can affect bottom dwellers and plants.

Blue Lights - can be used with nocturnal species like Elephant nosed fish and deep water dwellers

Rose - Helps plant growth combined with a normal beauty light

Beauty light standard - for general coldwater and tropical fish tanks which can be combined with rose lights

Bright Beauty light(daylight plus) - intense light for plants requiring intense light in deep tanks 18" or more.

Setting up your aquarium

This is roughly what  your Tropical aquarium should look like when set up.


Add Dechlorinator, waste control and a starter enzyme like Interpets Tri-Zyme to start the nitrogen cycle. Turn your pump on and lighting and leave your tank to cycle for at least a week before testing the water to make sure the nitrogen cycle has so far established enough to add a few fish.

The Nitrogen Cycle

This is important to understand to successfully keep fish.

waste from fish → converts to Ammonia  → Oxygen and bacteria converts ammonia to Nitrites  which is also very toxic → Good bacteria in high levels, which in the case of an aquarium is added in liquid form along with Oxygen converte the Nitrites in to less harmful Nitrates the palnts use th Nitrates as Nutrients but must be at low levels to be harmless tothe fish. 


The conclusion is to have plenty of good bacteria and a good Oxygen supply in your tank to help maintain good water quality and fish survival


Now you understand the cycle and the conditions in which fish have to be kept in an Aquarium, your tank has also at this point been runnig for 2 weeks, you are ready to get your first fish.

There are a bigger variety of Tropical fish than Coldwater fish the choice is yours in what you want to buy. However do not mix Tropical with Coldwater fish asinfections infecting Coldwater fish can kill Tropical and vica versa. also water conditions vary from other fish and some fish are solitary or can only be kept in individual species due to aggression, therefore search around on differnet varietites of fish along with compatability before adding anything to your Aquarium.

When you add your fish do not add more than 3-4 1" fish at one time as you do not want the nitrogen cycle to get way out of control.


  • For the first 12 weeks at least you will have sudden changes in water quality and will need to do water tests/changes for Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates along with the ph level to make sure you tank is safe for your fish.
  • Syphon the water out into a bucket going through the gravel/sand to remove waste and silt.
  • When doing changes take no more than 25% out once a day for Tropical fish and up to 40% for Coldwater fish. Any more you will get nowhere with improving the cycle and the temperture will decrease rapidly with tropical fish sending them into shock.
  • If you have experienced bad waste results from test and you have done a water change, do another test the next day to check the water quality again and if it is still bad do another water change. Repeat until the water returns to a healthy state and do not add fish until this is the case.
  • Make sure you add tri-zyme, dechlorinator and waste control to your bucket of water before putting it back into the tank and make sure the water temperature is the same as in the tank
  • When you do a water change turn the tank light off to keep the fish from stressing over the change.
  • Adding fish to a tank with bad water quality will mean sudden death to the fish.


  • Fish tanks should be cleaned out once a week to once afortnight depending on how good the nitrogen cycle is.
  • Get into a habit of testing the tank once a week to see how often you should be changing the water.
  • Once you have finished using the tri-zyme up just use dechlorinator and waste control to the bucket everytime you do a water change.
  • QTY TO CHANGE AT ONE TIME: 25% max for Tropical and 40% max for Coldwater fish
  • Repeat test the following day to see if water quality has stabilised, if not do another water change.
  • Never add fish to bad water conditions.


  • When you buy your fish make sure that they are put in a suitable bag with plenty of oxygen in for the journey.
  • Make sure they are covered up preferably in a paper bag to stop the stress of a moving vehicle
  • Put them in a box or bucket firmly on the floor of the vehicle so they do not get thrown around.
  • If you have other shopping to do go back to the aquatics later
  • As with any animal never leave it in a car else it will over heat. Also the oxygen supply in the bad will desperse and the fish will suffercate.



  • Turn the lights off on the tank but keep the filter and heating(if Tropical) working.
  • Rest the bag un opened in the water and float for 20 minutes so the water temperature stabilises
  • After 20 minutes, add a little of the tank water to the bag and leave for another 5 minutes
  • With a net, lift the fish out of t he bag and place into the tank.
  • Leave the light off for at least an hour for the fish to settle in their new home.
  • It is advisable to set up a second quarantine tank to put your new fish in before adding them to your stock. This way if there are any infections you will have iscolated them and will be able to treat them without affecting the other fish.
  • Always disinfect you nets in methylene blue and to not cross contaminate by using a quarantine net in your main fish tank unless disinfected first.



I have added a few handy links into diagnosing your fish illness, they also show the treatments.

there are so many illnesses i could write a book and the sites i have chosen are pretty accurate. Some treatments may require veterinary advice first so please be aware these are only guides.

Your aquatics store should stock a range of effective treatments the ones i use are by Interpet.





The following fish are OK to keep in a coldwater Aquarium:

  • Blackmoors
  • Orandas
  • Lionheads
  • Bubble eyes
  • Japanese Veiltails
  • twin tailed fancies

 The following are no good in Aquariums only in ponds, due to the size they can get to and the depth of water  they need to survive. In the case of these large fish they do also have habbits of damaging themselves in Aquariums.

  • Koi
  • Albino grass Carp
  • Tench
  • Sarasa Comets
  • Shubunkins
  • Goldfish
  • siberian sturgeon
  • sterlet
  • mirror carp


There are many diiferent typs of tropical fish catagories to chose from please choose carefully though. As well as there being community and solitary species they also have to be compatible with the same water hardness/ph conditions. Some species are especially weak to the conditions being changed too.

Buy a book on species or visit this site http://www.tropicalfish4u.co.uk/ and look on the tropical fish pages for information on each fish.