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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

So You Got A Fish Tank For Christmas, Huh?

I’m assuming you’re reading this right now because you got an aquarium for Christmas, and you aren’t exactly sure where to start, or just need a bit of information.

Whether you are totally inexperienced or just need a little information there is plenty of help available for you here! Let’s start with the first consideration: Did you get your fish tank with fish in it pre set-up, or is the tank and its components still waiting to be assembled? I’m going to hope for the latter but I'm assuming that it was still in the box when you received it. If this is the case, you are in luck! You have the chance to do things right from the beginning while at the same time having a successful and rewarding experience in the aquarium hobby.

If this is not the case, and you have received an already set-up tank with fish in it, skip ahead to the last two paragraphs.

The first thing you are going to need to do is to learn the basic principles of the aquarium system, the basic aquarium equipment, and basic aquarium maintenance. Don’t rush out to the pet store just yet, you won’t be ready for fish for a little while. It is pivotal that you understand the basic aquarium equipment before adding fish.

Your typical aquarium setup will consist of a tank with a hood or lid of some type and light, filter, heater, thermometer, air pump and stone (optional), some kits may come with more or less, but these are the basic components of a tank; to read a bit more about basic tank components and what you need to start your freshwater aquarium go here: What You Need To Start Your Freshwater Aquarium .

Your first step will be to unpack everything from its packaging, check for damage to the parts and the aquarium, and read the directions to make sure you understand them.

After washing out the tank and determining where to put it (If you need help determining where the aquarium needs to go, check out the article:Choosing The Best Location For Your Aquarium)

Once you have placed the tank, you can begin filling it and assembling the components as you choose.

This is really up to you as far as the order you wish to do it in, but a good order to follow could be this:
1. Place substrate in tank (i.e gravel or sand).
2. Slowly fill tank, using a plate or other object to slow water flow and disturb substrate as little as possible.
3. Place filter, heater, plants, and airstone.
4. Double check all components before plugging in. Make drip loops in all cords, ensure filter is primed, and all components are assembled and installed correctly.
5. Plug in your components.
6. Be excited that you’re on your way to having a beautiful fish tank of your own.
7. Read this page so that you can learn how to begin cycling your tank and prepare it for fish.

Once all this is completed you will be ready to begin researching fish for your tank. It will take a few weeks or up to a month to cycle your tank and prepare it for fish unless you have access to filter medium from an already established tank.

The process of instantly cycling a tank by using medium from an existing tank is called seeding. By seeding a tank you borrow beneficial nitrosomonas and nitrobacter bacteria from an existing tank to start a colony in your new tank. This is, in my opinion, the most desirable way to start a new tank under most conditions.

If you’ve been given a tank with fish already in it and set up, chances are someone was trying to do something nice for you, but has given you a slightly difficult situation to fully succeed in. If the tank has not been properly prepared and aged, then some extra precautions must be taken to keep the water quality high enough to safely support its inhabitants. An uncycled tank does not contain nitrosomonas and nitrobacter bacteria to convert and break down ammonia into nitrites and then nitrates, rendering it less toxic to the fish. Ammonia is constantly being produced in the aquarium by fish wastes, and rotting excess food.

To compensate for the lack of bacteria to process this ammonia a higher level and frequency of water changes must be done while cycling a tank with fish in it. This is typically not recommended because of the stress it puts on the fish, and the high occurrence of losses. This is why, if you did receive a tank with fish already in it, it may be in your and the fishes’ best interest to attempt to return them to the store they were purchased at. At this point you can begin fishlessly cycling your tank, and researching its possible inhabitants.

It may not sound like fun to have a tank with no fish in it for a couple of weeks, but it will be a much more rewarding (and cheaper) experience for you if you have the patience to do it right; anything worth doing is worth doing right, and having an aquarium in the home is definitely something that is worth doing.