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Locating and starting your new aquarium

So, you’ve just got your new aquarium and you’re itching to get it set up. Here is our best advice to help get off to a swimming start!

Our top ten tips for starting a new freshwater aquarium

1. Positioning your aquarium in your home, office, bedroom, or classroom

Ensure your fish tank is placed on a level surface suitable for bearing the weight of your full aquarium –  we recommend you purchase the specific model cabinet for the aquarium (one litre of water weighs exactly one kilogram, so calculate the weight of your aquarium including the weight of the glass tank itself).

Position the aquarium so you can get the maximum enjoyment from it however avoiding:

• Direct sunlight
• Extreme temperature variations (next to a radiator)
• Areas subject to loud noise, vibrations or movement

2. Adding Substrate

Once you’ve picked your chosen substrate (gravel/sand) make sure to give it a good wash to remove any dirt or dust which will cloud the water.

Then pack the substrate in to the bottom of the aquarium.

3. Adding Décor

Soak any rocks, wood, plastic plants or ornaments before adding them to the tank to remove anything that may colour the water or affect the chemical balance of the aquarium (do not use anything other than plain water to clean these items).

Décor should always be purchased from a reputable aquatic store who can advise on the best conditions for your chosen set up.

You can then position these as you like throughout the tank leaving open areas and hiding spaces for your fish to explore. It is important to ensure décor is embedded into the substrate and stable to ensure it is not easily dug up by your livestock. 

4. Installing a heater

If your aquarium fish or shrimp require heated water (tropical freshwater) it is now time to install your heater following the manufacturer’s instructions.


We advise you add an aquarium thermometer to the aquarium so you can monitor the temperature ongoing.

5. Installing your filter

Install your filter following the instructions. Bear in mind that some aquariums come with built in filters and therefore may only need media adding to it whilst others come with a separate filter which must be installed.

Remember – When installing your aquarium or electricals like filters, heating or lighting make sure you create a drip loop in any cables to ensure drops of water cannot reach the mains electricity.

6. Filling your aquarium

Once all of your hardware is installed and you are happy with the positioning of your décor you can begin to fill your aquarium.

Place a plate or small bowl on to the aquarium substrate and carefully pour the water on it. This will help to prevent your substrate being disrupted and clouding.

7. Adding live plants

If you want to have live plants in your aquarium now is the time to add them.

Once your aquarium is roughly half full, stop filling and start to arrange your plants and begin to embed the roots into the substrate.

It’s important to plan ahead with your plants. Speak to your aquatic retailer to discuss favourable plants for the fish you intend to keep and get a good range of plant heights, spreading from the back of the tank to the front to create a balanced and easily viewable environment.

Once all of your plants are in place, carefully fill up the rest of the aquarium.

8. Make the water safe

Once your aquarium is full you can switch on your filter and heater to start preparing the tank for your aquatic friends.

You should always treat new water with a dechlorinator – like Bioactive Tapsafe Plus – to remove harmful chemicals from the water and introduce aloe vera to help protect your fish’s delicate skin and gills.

Tapsafe also has the benefit of adding a kick-start of bacteria for the filter. 

9. Leave your aquarium to settle

Although you will probably be excited to start adding fish into your aquarium, you need to let it settle and temperature stabilise to the recommended level before adding any livestock; usually overnight.

10. Adding fish

Once your tank has settled, and the temperature correct (use an aquarium thermometer for this) you can now add fish.

Speak to your aquatic retailer to get the right fish for your set up. Make sure you’re not going to be overstocking, it’s better to introduce a few fish to start with whilst your filter is still maturing, then add more fish gradually over time.

To better understand what goes on in a new aquarium, watch the video below.

And remember…

Seek the advice of your specialist aquatic retailer when purchasing fish; they will be able to help you select a variety of fish which will create a calm and balanced community.

Ensure your retailer knows you have a new aquarium, as it is essential to add fish gradually to a new aquarium over a period of weeks, starting with hardier varieties, and gradually building up to the aquarium’s full complement of fish.

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