How to Prepare a New Aquarium

Once the decision to purchase a fish tank has been made, it is easy to get carried away by the excitement, and completely disregard advance planning; and we must stress once again that planning is essential at every stage, not least when it comes to setting up, i.e. installing the tank, equipment and decor chosen earlier. It should be clear by now that buying a complete aquarium set-up and fish/plants on the same day is a recipe for disaster. The equipment will, of course, survive, but the fish will not!

This article is designed to lead you through setting up a basic aquarium, although everyone’s set-up will be different and procedures may have to be altered to accommodate the individual. It is strongly recommended that a specific plan of action, based on these general principles, is drawn up to suit every new aquarium. Your plan should include a timetable, especially if there are glues and paints needing time to dry and/or you need to organize outside help.

aquarium planning How to Prepare a New Aquarium

Before you start, it is worth reviewing once again the suitability of your chosen site as regards viewing potential, accessibility, safety, access to electricity, water, light levels and drainage. Once the tank is installed it will be too late for second thoughts!

Making preparations

It is essential, before you start, to make sure you have all the necessary aquarium equipment and all the tools required at the ready, plus any assistants you may need. Not everyone is fully conversant with electrical wiring, although most aquarium procedures are straightforward, so the help of an electrician or experienced hobbyist may be necessary, if only to demonstrate so that you can do the same job should it be necessary at a later date. Tanks are heavy items and many will require the assistance of one or more fit adults to lift them. All other surplus members of the family (especially excited young children and pets) are best encouraged to go to the park, or otherwise excluded until the majority of the work is completed.

As we are dealing with water, gravel and rocks, a certain amount of mess is to be expected. Make sure carpets are protected with plastic sheeting or several layers of newspaper. That way any spillage can be quickly and effectively cleared up without permanent damage.

Dress for the occasion – glass is very dangerous stuff, so wear stout gloves and shoes when moving your aquarium, and make sure arms and legs are covered, even in hot weather.

Fitting the background

It is generally best to measure up and fix the background when the tank is empty and before positioning it, as the task becomes increasingly difficult when the tank is against a wall, full, or you are fighting electric wires.

Plasticized ‘backgrounds on a roll’ are easily attached using adhesive tape. If you wish to paint the back, the glass must first be thoroughly de-greased with methylated spirits (or other ‘cleaning’ alcohol), otherwise the paint will soon peel off. Cork tiles and other buoyant materials mounted inside the tank should be stuck into place using silicone sealant if they are not to pop up to the surface within a few days! At least 24 hours will generally be needed for paints and glues to dry, before you can proceed.

Preparing the interior decor

Meanwhile, the substrate and rockwork can be washed. This is a time-consuming job, but is essential if murky, polluted water is to be avoided. It also provides an opportunity to check for ‘foreign bodies’ that might pollute the water, ‘faking a few handfuls at a time, put the substrate into a sieve or bucket and wash under a running tap until clean, stirring with tt wooden or plastic spoon, or hands, until the water runs clear. Rocks are best scrubbed in hot water (without soap) to get them scrupulously clean.

At this stage, decorative structures that require glueing can be constructed. Silicone sealant or underwater epoxy resin is ideal for attaching rock to rock, wood to wood, or rock to wood. Ensure that the components are completely clean and dry, otherwise they will fall apart very quickly once under water, and allow at least 24 hours’ drying time before use.


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