How to Setup a New Aquarium

Carefully lift the tank into position on top of the styrofoam, making sure it is square with the base. If undergravel filtration has been chosen, the bottom of the tank should be completely covered with UG plates, assembled according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on the size of the tank, one or more uplifts should be fitted at this stage. As a general rule, a 60cm (24in) or smaller aquarium will require only one uplift, while a 90cm (36in) one should have an uplift in each rear corner. The larger the tank, the more uplifts are needed.

 How to Setup a New Aquarium

Creating the underwater scene

Once the foundation rocks and substrate have been positioned, other forms of decorative material can be arranged, e.g. bogwood, flowerpots, slate, ceramic drainpipes, aquarium superman rhodactis mushroom and cork bark.

If digging fish are to be housed, everything must be secured to prevent rockfalls or other toppling items falling against the glass and cracking it! Silicone sealant or underwater epoxy resin can be used to secure pieces that are a potential risk. Avoid making unstable piles of rocks from small left-over pieces – they always fall over, perhaps trapping fish, damaging plants, or even shattering the aquarium.

Bogwood and cork bark have a tendency to float until they become thoroughly waterlogged, which, under normal circumstances, may take several weeks. To enable such materials to be used immediately, they can be weighted down by attaching them to rocks using nylon fishing line or strong cotton. This sort of arrangement is etisily camouflaged using plants and the like.

Room to manoeuvre

At this stage do not overwhelm the aquarium with roekwork and other decorations. Space must be left for the addition of heaters, in-tank filters and other devices.

Plants will also appreciate room to grow and develop, and fish must have space to swim about in!


Immersion heaters are normally provided with a ‘holder’ – a clip with suckers – to attach them to the glass, so that water can circulate freely around them. Heaters in contact with, for example, the substrate, or which are not fully submerged, may overheat and crack their tubes. Heater/stats are best positioned at an angle of about 45 degrees and in a good flow of water. Heat rises, so this prevents the thermostat from detecting the heat from the element too soon and prematurely disconnecting, with the result that the aquarium fails to be maintained at the preset temperature. Likewise, if using ‘separates’, do not position in-tank heaters close to thermostat sensors. Heater/stats and external thermostats are best wired into a circuit without a switch, either to a cable tidy or straight to the mains. In this way, the heating cannot be switched off accidentally.

The heating system can be installed once the aquarium has been filled with water, but should not be switched on yet. Don’t forget the thermometer!

Installing an air pump

Air pumps are commonly sited beneath the tank and the tubing run up to the top of the aquarium.

Unfortunately, when the power is off (intentionally or because of a power cut), the airline can act as a siphon, drawing water from the tank, through the air pump, and onto the floor! Avoid this by fitting an anti-siphon device between the pump outlet(s) and the device(s) supplied. If there are several of the latter, a set of gang valves will distribute the air as required, you may want to consider using stainless steel valves for this project. Wire the air pump and any other electrical equipment operating biological filtration to an unswitched terminal to avoid accidental disconnection.

Starting up

The hood, complete with fluorescent tubes, can now be positioned and the control unit connected to the cable tidy or multisocket.

Check the wiring one last time, and if all is in order, connect the cable tidy or multisocket to the main electrical supply and switch on. As the water will be cold, the heater should now be operating and its ‘on’ indicator light illuminated. If not, then disconnect everything from the mains and feel the heater: it should be warm. If not, recheck the wiring. If it is correct, you should suspect a faulty piece of equipment (another good reason why livestock are not introduced at this stage!). If you have a professional electrician assisting, he will be able to test all the electric circuitry and equipment electronically, locating any problems quickly and easily.

The filtration should also be switched on to test that it works. Many aquarists, however, prefer to start their filters running permanently a day or two after the tank has been planted, to allow the plants a chance to start rooting before subjecting them to a current. The lighting can also be tested, but it is unnecessary to leave it on until the plants have been introduced.

Over the next 24 hours, the aquarium water will reach approximate operating temperature, although some fine adjustment may be necessary. Expect a range of 1 to 1.5ˇăC (2 to 3ˇăF) between on and off -this is perfectly acceptable. Pump and/or air flow adjustments may also prove inevitable before a perfect balance is achieved.

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