Tag Archives: aquarium set up

How to Choose a Fish Tank for Aquarium Fish

A fish tank is the first item on the list when it comes to set up a home aquarium. Many first-time fish owners just buy a random fish tank without thinking about it. It can’t be more wrong.

The following are the major things to consider when it comes to buying the right fish tank.

Fish Tank Size Matters

The size of a fish tank is more important than most people think. For the well-being of aquarium fish, a bigger tank is better with good reasons.

1. Swimming Room
For obvious reasons, if a fish tank is too small, the fish will have a hard time to swim. No one should live in a room where movement is restricted. It is very uncomfortable and unhealthy even for a fish.

2. The amount of dissolved oxygen
Fish needs oxygen just like us. However, they can only use the dissolved oxygen in the water which is less readily available in a fish tank than in the open water. The more water you have, the more dissolved oxygen the water holds.

3. Stable Water Conditions
More water means more stable water conditions. If the water conditions such as water temperature, hardness, PH, etc. become unstable, it will make fish uncomfortable and even become sick and die. When there is more water, the changes will be more gradual instead of a sudden massive swing.

Imagine if you dump a half cup of boiling water into another half cup of cold water, the result will be a full cup of hot water. But if you dump the same half cup of boiling water into a large 5-gallon bucket full of water, the change will be tiny in overall temperature.

The same goes for water hardness, PH, and water pollution as well. The more water there is, the smaller and slower the change will be if something happens.

In conclusion, we recommend getting the biggest fish tank you can afford, with other cost included in consideration of course.

There is also a minimum recommended fish tank size. Nothing less than a 5-gallon tank should be used for long term. A 10-gallon is much better, and it is almost the same price as a 5-gallon ($12 vs. $14 from most local stores).

Fish Tank dimensions/shape Matters

1. Fish tanks come In different shapes. Even for the fish tanks of the same capacity, they might not have the same dimensions. For example, There is a 20-gallon long tank, and a 20-gallon high tank. As the names suggest, the long one is longer, while the high one is taller. But they are both 20-gallon.

If the tank is longer and wider, it must have bigger surface area. Bigger surface area means more contact with the air. As a result, it is easier for the water get more dissolved oxygen. In such tanks with larger surface areas, you can have more fish than the taller tanks of the same capacity.  Though it won’t be a problem if you only plan to stock your fish tank lightly.

If you plan to have live plants, we recommend a high tank as the water might not be deep enough for some tall aquatic plants.

2. In the case of having some species of catfish, they must go to the surface for air from time to time. They do better in long tanks instead of high tanks.

3. Some beginners also keep fish in fish bowls. Fish bowls are not ideal for fish due to their shapes. The more water you fill a fishbowl, the smaller the surface area is. It means less oxygen in the water. Fishbowl is also terrible for installing other equipment. Stay away from fishbowls if you are serious about keeping aquarium fish.

Glass vs. Acrylic

While most fish tanks are made of glass, there are also other types of fish tanks such as acrylic.

Glass tanks are relatively cheap. However, they are heavy and easy to break.

Acrylic is half the weight of glass, and it is a lot stronger. With an acrylic tank, breaking it by accident is highly unlikely, and it is a lot easier to move it. However, the acrylic tank has two downsides. They are expensive. They cost 3~5 times the price of a glass fish tank of the same capacity. And they can be scratched easily. I found out first hand even a regular paper towel can scratch an acrylic fish tank when I tried to clean the outside of it. Paper tissue and 100% cotton cloth are fine though.

If you just want something cheap and do not care about anything else, a glass tank is the one for you.

If you have the budget and want something light and unbreakable, go for acrylic fish tanks. Just be careful not to use any random material to clean them.

Your actual plan for the fish

If you plan to get only a handful of small fish, then anything meets the minimal 5-gallon requirement should do just fine. If you want bigger fish and a lot of them, then you need a big fish tank. Plan ahead is a good idea. Bigger tanks come with more options down the road.

Are you up for the task?

While a bigger fish tank means easier to maintain the water quality and happier fish, it can also mean more work for you when it comes to doing partial water changes.

Partial water changes are mandatory as a part of regular aquarium maintenance. We recommend doing 30~50% partial water change once every week.

Just to think about it.
If you have a 10-gallon fish tank, a partial water change of 30~50% means you only need to replace 3~5 gallon of water.

If you have a 100-gallon fish tank, then a 30~50% partial water change means you have to replace 30~50 gallon of water. Not a problem if you have an aquarium water change system or if you are up for some workouts every time to carry all the water. Otherwise, you might want to keep the size under control as long as it is above the minimum required size.

Get nothing less than a 5-gallon when buying a fish tank. Double to 10-gallon is better. If the budget is not a problem, and you are up for the challenge, then get the biggest fish tank you can afford. It is a one-time investment. In the long run, you can have a lot more options with a bigger fish tank.

Aquarium Heater (How it works; Why we need it)

Aquarium Heater is mandatory equipment for all tropical aquariums. No tropical fish should be in a fish tank without a heater.

In the following, we will discuss everything about aquarium heaters from what it is; how it works; which one to buy; and tips to use them.

What is an aquarium heater?

An aquarium heater is a small and simple electrical equipment that heats the water in a fish tank.

Why do we need an aquarium heater?

Since most aquarium fish in the market are tropical, an aquarium heater becomes necessary for the majority of the home aquariums. Unless you live in a tropical area, you must get an aquarium heater for your fish. Otherwise, they will die eventually either directly to freeze to death, or from the weakened immune system.

Even if the fish do not die right away, it will become less active when the water temperature is too cold. Very uncomfortable for the fish, and less fun for the fish owner.

How does the aquarium heater work?

An aquarium heater converts electricity to heat. As water absorbs heat quickly, a heater heats the water around it. So to have a heater working, it must be in the water with good circulation. All aquarium heaters will turn itself off once they have reached the temperature of the setting. No need to worry if the water will overheat. If the water gets colder than the set temperature, the heater will automatically turn itself on.

Are Aquarium Heaters waterproof?

Most of the aquarium heaters in the market are fully submersible. It means they are fully waterproof. You can have them completely submerged in the fish tank without a problem. In fact, all of them have a “minimal water line”. If they do not submerge deep enough, the heater will damage itself once it gets too hot. For these full submersible heaters, you might as well position them entirely in the water.

However, there are a few heaters on the market not fully submersible. These heaters have a “max water line” on them. You might not want to keep the water above this line. It can cause an electrical leak. I would not recommend getting these heaters. Not worth the trouble and potential danger.

How to choose an Aquarium Heater?

1. Fully submersible
Yes, I have mentioned this before. Save yourself some trouble and potential harm by getting a full submersible aquarium heater instead of a half submersible heater.

2. Adjustable
Some aquarium heaters are adjustable when it comes to the temperature setting. Some others are non-adjustable. Adjustable heaters are more useful as you can set the temperature at where you want it to be. However, if you are on a budget, the nonadjustable heaters might be a good choice as they are cheaper.

3. Brands
I’d just go for one of the better-known brands. The following are some good examples.
EHEIM Jager heater,
Fluval Electrical Heater
Tetra Heater
Rena Smart Heater used to be on my list as well since I have had good experience with it. Go for it if you can still find them.

4. Wattage
All heaters should have the manufacturer rated wattage and recommended fish tank size on them. Choose the right wattage for your fish tank is essential. By following the manufacturer rated tank size, you can’t go wrong, but neither it is wrong by not following their advice.

The generally accepted rule is to have 2~5 watts for every gallon of water. You may not need that much wattage if you live in a fairly warm place. We will go over this later.

Due to the automated nature of the aquarium heater, we already know the heater won’t overheat the water. So getting a heater rated too high for your fish tank won’t be a problem as it will just turn itself off more quickly. It won’t cost you more electricity at all.

However, you can save money on the heater itself by getting a lower wattage heater. The higher wattage the heater is, the more expensive it is.

The heater’s useful lifespan can also be shorter if it turns itself on and off too frequently. A lower wattage heater has less problem with that since it has to be turned on for a more extended period to sustain the same water temperature.

5. The room temperature matters when it comes to choosing an aquarium heater.
The one thing you might need to pay attention to is if the wattage is way too low. Generally speaking, the manufacturer rated recommended fish tank size is not very accurate. For example, according to most manufacturers, a 50w heater is only good for a 10-gallon fish tank. I have personally used a 50w aquarium heater for a 40-gallon fish tank no problem. The water temperature can be anywhere I want it to be. I have set it at 80F, and it could go to 90F when I needed it to be.

However, there is one crucial factor comes into the play. It is your room temperature. My 40-gallon fish tank always sat in a room where the temperature had never gone below 73F or 22C.

When I moved to a different house, a 50w heater had trouble to keep the water temperature at even 70C in the water. When the room temperature went to below 50F (10C), the water temperature in the fish tank went down to below 70F even as the setting on it had kept it at 80F a month earlier.

So it is important to know the room temperature all year around. If it is a cold room, you might want to get a higher wattage heater to make sure it can heat the water to your target temperature.

Tips for using an aquarium heater

1. Water Circulation
Once again, water circulation is essential in the fish tank. You can position the aquarium heater near the intake of the filter. Or place an air stone directly below it to make bubbles around the heater. Both will increase the water flow around the heater for better distribution of the heat. We do not want hot pockets and cold pockets of water in different parts of the fish tank.

2. Cover up the top of the fish tank
By using a canopy on the top of the fish tank, less heat will be wasted. It also slows the evaporation of the aquarium water.

3. Place the aquarium in a warmer room
As I have talked about my first-hand experience, the air temperature made the 50w heater insufficient for a small 10-gallon fish tank when it is in a cold room. In this scenario, I have to either use a higher wattage heater or move the aquarium to a warmer room. I prefer the latter since it saves me on the electrical bill.

4. Use a separated thermometer
Even the same model heater will have different temperatures at the same setting. You need to use a thermometer for the more accurate temperature reading, and to manually adjust the heater setting accordingly. Yes, even if the heater has a built-in thermostat. Since it is too close to the heat source, it won’t be accurate.

5. Unplug the heater if you plan to move it out of the water
While the aquarium heater keeps the aquarium water warm, the aquarium water also keeps the aquarium heater cool. If you remove the heater from the water without turning it off first, it will burn itself out. Ideally, you might want to turn it off a few minutes before taking it out of the water.

6. Unplug the heater first if you plan to put your hand in the water
As with all electrical equipment, there is always the possibility of electricity leak. Even if the heater is fully submersible. You just never know if it decides to leak and shock you. Better safe than sorry, unplug it before you put your hands in the water.

An aquarium heater keeps your tropical fish alive and happy. Do not skip it as long as your fish are tropical. Do not mix up tropical fish and nontropical fish in the same aquarium. Buy a good heater can last you many years as they do not break down quickly. None of my heaters has broken down since I started to keep tropical fish a decade ago.

The Real Purpose of Aquarium Air Pump and How to set it up

An aquarium air pump is a primary equipment necessary to create the bubbles we see in fish tanks. And the primary purpose of making bubbles is to sustain the oxygen level in the water.

Why do we need bubbles in the aquarium?

Although watching the bubbles rising to the top might be pleasing to the eyes, it is not the reason why we need it. Fish require dissolved oxygen (O2) in the water to live. They take in the dissolved oxygen through their gills and at the same time they produce carbon dioxide (CO2). When we have more than just a few fish in a closed system, there is not enough oxygen to go around. Sooner or later the water will run out of oxygen, and the fish will die.

The simple solution to prevent fish dying from the lack of oxygen is to increase the dissolved oxygen level in the water. At the same time, we must drive out the dissolved carbon dioxide from the water. It requires to speed up the gas exchange between water and the atmosphere.

The one way to promote the gas exchange is to have a lot of surface water movement. Since you can’t just stand there and splash the water all day, you will need something to do the job for you. A long time ago, someone had noticed that when the air bubbles burst at the water surface, they create a lot of surface movement. As a result, it is just what we need to promote the gas exchange.

Now we know the real purpose of making bubbles in a fish tank. Time to move onto the next topic.

How to make bubbles in a fish tank?

First, we need the right equipment. The main equipment to pump the air is the aquarium air pump. However, on its own, the air pump can’t do the job by itself. We will also need additional accessories including an air tubing and an air stone.

How to install an aquarium air pump?

1. Find a suitable location for the air pump.
First, the air pump must be near the aquarium but not too close. Since the aquarium air pump is an electrical device, and it is not waterproof. We must be careful not to let it fall into the water or get wet.

So find a place where the air pump can be higher than the aquarium, yet it is not directly above. In case it falls, it will not fall into the water. It also needs to reach an electrical outlet.

2. Connect air tubing to the air pump.
Not much to say about this step. It is quite simple. Just make sure the air tubing is long enough to reach inside of the aquarium.

3. Connect the air tubing to an air stone.
The air stone needs to be under the water inside the fish tank.

4. For safety reason, we need to add a check valve.
Somewhere outside the fish tank, we need to cut the air tubing. Then place the check valve in between. It will connect both sides nicely. The air check valve allows the air to go through while preventing the water go back to the air pump in the case there is a power outage.

Once everything is connected, plug the air pump into an electrical outlet and turn it on. The air pump will push the air through the air tubing all the way to the air stone. Once the air gets there, the pressure will squeeze the air through the many tiny holes in the air stone to create bubbles.
As the bubbles rise to the water surface, they burst and thus creating the much-needed surface movement to promote the gas exchange.

Things to pay attention when it comes to the aquarium air pump.

Once again, make sure not to let the air pump get wet or anywhere near the water. The funny thing is, almost every air pump manual has a diagram saying do not put it in the fish tank. I guess it must have happened before. It could be dangerous. Just like throwing a TV into the water.

Aquarium air pumps make noises. Since some air pumps make less noise than others, to pick a model makes the least noise might be in your best interest.
The following a few of the better air pumps from top brands.
1. EHEIM Air Pump 400
2. Tetra Whisper Aquarium Air Pump

You can also hide the air pump in a closet behind the door if your air tubing is long enough to reach the fish tank. This way you can distance yourself from the source of the noise while you enjoy yourself watching the fish.

On a side note, there are a few scenarios where this “bubbler” set up is not needed.
1. If you have a hang on the back power filter which creates a waterfall from its outflow, there is already enough surface water movement. No need for the bubbles unless you really want to see them.

2. If you use an air powered sponge filter for your aquarium, it already makes the bubbles you need. No need for a separate set of air stone.

Finally, for people who have multiple fish tanks or wish to have multiple air stones at different locations in the same aquarium, a single aquarium air pump is sufficient if it has enough power. (Check the manufactured rating for each device). All you need is to have some extra air tubing and air stones, along with a Y valve or T valve, or a gang valve (air flow control). These valves will divide one air tubing into multiple. You just need to cut and connect them in the right place. Also, a gang valve can act as a regulator. So you can control the air pressure goes to each air stone by adjusting the gang valve.

Aquarium Filter 101 (Function; Purpose; Types; and How to Pick one)

Aquarium filter is just as important as the fish tank for having an aquarium at home. We can’t skip either of them as long as we want to keep fish alive.  A lot of people started their first fish tank without even have a filter. It is no wonder why most fish die within the first a few weeks.

Just to be straightforward, fish will die if there is no filter in the fish tank.

To understand the importance of aquarium filters, we first must know what they do.

The Function and Purpose of an Aquarium Filter.

There are three primary functions of a filter system in an aquarium.
1. Biological Filtration
Biological filtration is the most critical function of an aquarium filter. First, we must understand what an aquarium nitrogen cycle is. The one of the most critical knowledge we must process before getting any fish. The aquarium nitrogen cycle is very much relying on the filter.

Since fish produce toxic ammonia which is harmful enough to kill them, the ammonia must constantly be kept at 0ppm. The aquarium nitrogen cycle is the only way to keep ammonia at 0ppm constantly.

Multiple species of beneficial bacteria will feed on ammonia and nitrite and convert them to the relative safe nitrate. Because these bacteria have to colonize surface areas on objects, the more surface area you have in the aquarium, the more beneficial bacteria you will have. Heck, the only place with enough surface area is the filter media inside the aquarium filter. It is the reason why we need the filter in the first place. It is to provide enough surface area for the beneficial bacteria to colonize on in order to neutralize the toxic ammonia produced by the fish.

Without constant biological filtration taking place, the fish will eventually die of ammonia poisoning in a closed system.

2. Physical filtration
Physical filtration is to have the aquarium filter physically remove the debris such as fish poop, leftover fish food, or any small and floating stuff in the water.

It is not as important as the biological filtration. Actually, we do not even need it in most cases. While some types of filter system are strong enough to suck in and filter out the debris, they do not actually remove the trash from the system. Because the aquarium water constantly goes through the filter, anything rotting inside the filter will still pollute the water. Suck in too much debris will also slow down the water flow and affect the efficiency of the filter. Also, it will increase the maintenance need.

Therefore, we do not rely on the physical filtration to remove the debris. Instead, we should use the fishnet and gravel vacuum to remove debris from the fish tank.

Many aquarium hobbyists even use a piece of sponge as pre-filter to prevent the debris to get into the filter to lower the maintenance need for the filter.

3. Chemical filtration
Some filters have the activated carbon pads inside in addition to other types of filter media. Activated carbon can absorb chemicals from the water. It is useful if you need to remove something such as fish medication from the water. Otherwise, we do not need it either.

Activated carbon has its limit. It can only absorb a finite amount of chemicals. Once it is full, it will start leaking the chemicals back into the water slowly. So even if you prefer to use carbon pads in the filter, you have to replace them every month or so. Unnecessary additional cost and labor in my opinion. Besides, it does not even remove toxic such as ammonia and nitrite.

Conclusion, we only absolutely need the biological filtration. Therefore, the priority is to find a filter good at biological filtration.

Now we know the function of an aquarium filter system.

The next step is to know which filter to pick.

Different types of Aquarium Filter Systems

There are at least six types of different aquarium filter system.
1. Power Filter
A power filter is the most used type of all aquarium filter systems. They are the type of filters which some people call “hang on the back filter”. Because they are usually hanging on the back of the fish tank. And they create a waterfall as the water come out of the outflow.

Pros: Available almost everywhere that sells aquarium stuff. Fairly cheap.  Easy to install.  Not to hard to maintain. With a power filter and its waterfall, you do not have to get an air pump.

Con: Noise from the waterfall and possibility the motor as well. Not efficient enough for large aquariums. It takes also takes space on the top of the aquarium.

Example: AquarClear Power Filter. It is one of the best power filters available. Highly recommended for a small to medium sized aquarium on a budget.

2. Canister Filter
A canister filter is usually aimed at the bigger aquariums of over 40-gallon. Because they are a lot more efficient when it comes to biological filtration. They come in the shape of a canister. The canister part usually sits somewhere below the aquarium with only the intake out outflow tubes visible.

Pros: Highly efficient biological filtration since a canister filter holds a lot more filter media which provides tons of surface area for beneficial bacteria to reside on. It is very quiet. Usually, you can’t hear anything at all without putting your ears against the canister.

Con: More expensive. The price ranged from $80 to hundreds of dollars depending on the brand and model, as well as the capacity.
Harder to install compare to a power filter. But nothing is impossible with a manual and a determined fish lover.

Harder to maintain. While the frequency of maintenance can be as long as once a month or two, to clean the canister filter require to open the canister and take out the filter media. Not that hard if you know what you are doing, but it indeed takes longer maintenance time.

Example: EHEIM Canister Filter. My favorite, since mine served me for years. Some people I know have used it for decades.

3. Sponge Filter
It is just a piece of sponge usually in the shape of a cylinder, with an open tunnel goes through in the middle. The sponge filter works when it is fully under the water. It can be powered by either an air stone or a water pump. The idea is to use the air pump or water pump to pull the water through the sponge filter, and thus starting a biological filtration.

Cheap. It is the most affordable of all if you already have an air pump. The filter itself usually goes for only around $10 if not cheaper.
Easy to install.
Easy to maintain.

Con: Since it must be put entirely under the water, it takes space inside the fish tank.
It is not good looking. Although you can hide it behind some decorations.

Hydro Sponge Filter. I have used it in multiple fish tanks with good results. It is also great for fry and shrimp tanks since a sponge filter will not suck them in.

4. Internal Filter
Internal Filter is a type of mechanical filter which is fully submersible when doing its job. Thus, it is also called underwater filter. It is not as widely used as the other type of filters.

Pro: Easy to install. Cheap.

Con: Takes space from the fish tank.

Example: Fluval Underwater Filter.

5. Wet/Dry Filter, or Trickle Filter
A wet/dry filter is another external filter with high efficiency and high price tag. They remove the water from intake tube and let it go through filter media before it gets into a sump. The water is then sprayed back into the fish tank.

Pro: Highly efficient filtration.

Con: Very expensive.

Example: Eshopps Wet/Dry Filter

6. Diatom Filter
Technically a diatom filter not in the same category of other aquarium filters. It is only for physical filtration of special purpose. Since it can even filter out micro-sized particles, it can even remove unseen parasites from the water. A great feat to keep the widely spread fish parasites in check. Some advanced aquarium hobbyists run it for only a few hours each week and swear by it that it contributes to their parasite-free aquarium.

Pro: Excellent physical filtration for removing even parasites from the aquarium water.

Con: Expensive.
Hard to find since it is a special niche item for a limited market.

Conclusion: An aquarium filter system is required to run any home aquarium if you do not want the fish to die. Choose the right filter for your aquarium is more than just to look at the prices. All filters have the manufacturer rated “recommended fish tank size”, as well as GPH “Gallon Per Hour” on them. We want to use one level higher of recommendation by the manufacturers just to make sure the biological filtration is sufficient enough.

The more GPH, the more efficient the filter is. The more filter media, the more efficient the biological filtration is. Canister filters and wet/dry filters will always be far superior to other types of filters at the same GPH when it comes to biological filtration due to their filter media size. However, there is no need to spend that much money if your aquarium is less than 40-gallon. If the budget is not a problem, then go for it for a better experience.

You can certainly use multiple aquarium filter systems in the same aquarium at the same time. Because their filtration will add up. In a large aquarium (90-gallon or above), placing one filter on each side is an excellent way to keep the filtration run throughout the whole tank. Doing maintenance one at a time can also minimize the damage to the beneficial bacteria colony.

15 Easy Steps to set up an Aquarium at Home

Set up an aquarium is the first step you need to start your aquarium fish keeping hobby. While there are more than just one way to set up a fish tank, depends on the type of aquarium you plan to have. The general idea is the same. Since some procedures can’t be reversed. To make things simpler, we will simplify the process to a list of 15 steps.

First of all, please make sure you have all the necessary equipment and supplies ready. To see the complete list of what you need, refer to the article of Aquarium Equipment and Supplies.

Now we get back at how to set up an aquarium.

15 Easy Steps to Set up an Aquarium

1. Find the ideal location for your home aquarium.
The location of an aquarium is quite important. Just like where to buy your house. Fish can live happily after only if the aquarium is set up at an excellent location.

2. Place your aquarium stand.
Since your fish tank can’t just sit on the floor, you need to put it on the top of something. An aquarium stand is the first choice. However, if you have a strong furniture with a leveled, smooth top, and ideal height, then, by all means, use it. I have used a dresser for my 40-gallon fish tank for years without a problem.

Put a piece of foam on the top of the aquarium stand. (optional)
In the case the top surface of your aquarium stand is not smooth enough, a piece of foam will help to absorb the pressure directed at the bottom of the fish tank to prevent it from cracking.

3. Put your fish tank on the top of the aquarium stand.

Gently place your fish tank on the top of the aquarium stand. We do not want to break anything. Make sure it is at the center of the aquarium stand to evenly distribute the weight since a fully installed aquarium can be very heavy.

4. Put aquarium substrate/gravel into the fish tank.
Without the water, it is easier to arrange the substrate in a way you like. Therefore, we need to add the substrate before we add the water.

5. Place a plate on the top of the substrate.
It is to prevent the substrate being pushed away when we add the water to the fish tank later on.

6. Fill the fish tank to no more than ½ of the water from the top by dumping it on the top of the plate.
With the plate in place, the water will not push away the substrate when we add it. Otherwise, you might see the bare bottom of the fish tank after you are done.

The reason not to fill the fish tank all the way to the top is for easier placement of the decorations. This step is even more important if you have live aquatic plants to plant.

7. Place your aquarium decorations into the fish tank.

Let it be artificial caves, rocks, tree logs, driftwood, castle, artificial plants, use anything you like as long as they are made for aquarium use. With only less than half the water, you do not have to get your entire arm wet by placing the decorations at the bottom of the fish tank.

8. Fill the fish tank all the way to near the top.
If you can, aim the water at the plate or one of the large, solid decoration. Add the water more slowly than before in order not to affect the substrate or any other objects in the fish tank.

9. Place the aquarium equipment (such as filter, heater, thermometer), into the fish tank.
Setting up the aquarium heater and thermometer are the easy part. All you need to do is to make sure they are in the water. Make sure read the instruction of the heater. Some of them are not fully submersible (which is not recommended). For fully submersible heaters, you have to place them entirely under the water, or they might burn out once it is on.

The installation of the filter could be a little more tricky. It depends on the type of filter. Read the manual carefully and follow it exactly.

The air pump is optional. You do not need it if you have a hang on the back power filter which creates a waterfall. Otherwise, you will need to set up a “bubbler” with an air stone, air tubing, and connect them to an air pump (make sure the air pump is outside the fish tank from a safe distance).

Do not yet turn them on, or even plug them in just yet. It is for your own safety since the water is conduct.

10. Use the aquarium water conditioner.
Since the aquarium water conditioner is for neutralizing the chlorine and chloramine in the tap water, you need to use it. Follow the instruction on the bottle. The ration could be different with different brand/type of water conditioners.

11. Place the canopy or hood on the top of the fish tank.
Easy, right?

12. Plug everything electrical in.
The filter, the heater all need electricity. From this point on, we no longer need to put our hands in the water anymore. So now we can safely plug all the electrical equipment in.

13. Turn everything on.
We have to make sure everything works. There is no better way to make sure of it than turn them all on and observe. Make sure the water is going through the filter continuously. The heater has its light on. Air stone is creating bubbles. Finally, the water circulation is not too strong or too slow. The heater needs to distribute the heater evenly throughout the fish tank. As a result, it must be at where the water circulation is.

Furthermore, check back in a few hours. Check the water temperature, and adjust the heater settings accordingly.

14. Use your aquarium live bacteria seeder. (Extremely Important)
It is to jump-start the aquarium nitrogen cycle. All the commercially available live bacteria products make it so much easier. Tetra SafeStart, Dr. Tim’s One and Only, are known working live bacteria products with great feedback.

If you plan to get the fish within a day or two, go ahead dump the whole bottle of live bacteria into the fish tank at once. Make sure the filter is running 24/7.

Note: If you plan to fully cycle the new aquarium first, then you need a source of ammonia to keep the live bacteria alive and growing. The best source of ammonia is to use a pure ammonia product. Dr. Tim’s Ammonia Chlorine works well for this very purpose.

If you simply plan to add the fish at a later date (later than two days), do not use the live bacteria until within two days of introducing new fish to the aquarium. Because the live bacteria will starve and decrease in number if there is no food source.

15. Add the fish
24 hours after you have added the live bacteria, you may add fish to their new home. Please do not go overboard with too many fish. Even with heavy seeding from a live bacteria product, a new aquarium is not yet well established. Therefore, it might cause ammonia and nitrite spike if you add too many fish at once. Start with a small number, and work up from there.

In conclusion, set up a new aquarium is not rocket science. Since there is the first time for everything, just follow the basic steps will make things easier. If you have any question or concern, feel free to ask.

The Best Water for Fish in a Home Aquarium

To start a home aquarium, we must choose a source of water for fish. Since fish are live animals, they are just like us requiring a clean and ideal environment to stay healthy. Unlike us, the fish are much more fragile creatures. They can die easily if we give them the wrong water.

Most people will agree on fish need clean water, but what is the definition of clean? Some people will think if the water looks clean and smells good it must be clean. The fact is that many of the chemical substances can’t be seen or even be detected by the smell. The number one fish killer in home aquariums is ammonia, followed by nitrite and chlorine/chloramine. They are all colorless, and you can’t smell them at low concentration.

Let’s get to the point.
What are the choices of water for fish?

#1 – Tap Water
In most cases, the water from your tap is the perfect choice for freshwater aquarium fish as long as you use an aquarium water conditioner with it.

Tap water is available at home to most of us, and it is the easiest and one of the cheapest sources of water you can use for home aquariums. If you are starting a freshwater aquarium, tap water will be perfectly fine unless you are certain the tap water in your area is of horrible quality.

One thing the beginner fish owners must pay attention to is that the tap water has chlorine and in some cases chloramine in it. These two substances can kill the fish.  We must and neutralize both elements before the tap water is safe to use in an aquarium. While chlorine can be easily removed by just letting the water sit for a day or two, chloramine is much more stable.  You must use an aquarium water conditioner to get rid of it.

#2 – Well Water
For some people who have access to well water, it is another choice for using in a home aquarium. However, one thing you must pay attention to is the water hardness. Due to the underground nature of the well water, it has a lot of dissolved minerals.  The minerals make the water quite hard. Although most fish can adapt to a wide range of water perimeters if given time, water hardness is one of the things the fish has the hardest time to get used to. Research well on the fish species you plan to get. If they are from soft water environment, it is advised not to use well water for them.

#3 – Lake or River Water
The water from a lake or a river is indeed a source of water. It seems natural to use it since there are fish in them. However, most aquarium hobbyists are against the use of such water. Not only you run the risk of having industrial pollution in the water, but there are also potential fish parasites and diseases of the wild.  We do not recommend this source of water.

#4 – Rainwater
Some of the people might think rainwater is clean when they live far away from the cities. The truth is that the pollution can affect a much more significant area than you think. It is not a good or even safe source of water at all for aquarium fish.

#5 – Bottled Water For Fish
If you are certain your tap water quality is horrible, the bottled drinking water is another choice. It will cost a lot more, and you will have to pay attention to the ingredient on what is in the bottled water. Some of them might not be just H2O, and they can have additives which can be deadly to the fish.

#6– Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water For Fish
The processes of creating RO water got rid of all the substances, which make it 100% pure H2O. You can obtain RO water by getting an RO unit. Some of the marine fish stores also sell RO water for reasonably low prices.

RO water is pure, which means it has absolutely nothing else in it besides H2O. It can be potentially dangerous in an aquarium where the slightest change can cause the PH to crash due to no dissolved minerals is acting as a buffer.

Important: If you decide to use RO water for a freshwater aquarium, you must add buffer back into the water before using it for an aquarium. It can be done easily by using commercially available aquarium water buffer products such as SeaChem Replenish.

The advantage of using RO water is that it is truly clean with nothing harmful in it for the fish. More importantly, you can choose your water hardness by adding a different amount of water buffer. It enables you the option to create an ideal environment for your specific fish species.

The best water for aquarium fish is tap water
While the best water of choice in term of quality and for fish health might be RO water if you are willing to take the extra cost and trouble, it does have its downside. Since you have to add buffer back into the water every time before using it, you have to make sure you rebuff the water with the same hardness every time or your fish will be in shock or even die because of the sudden change.

Tap water is the most recommended aquarium water of choice for freshwater fish. It is also cheaper than RO water. The benefits from RO water is not necessary unless you have a saltwater aquarium, or if your tap water is of terrible quality. There are other scenarios when it is a good idea to use RO water for a freshwater aquarium. It is when the tap water in your area has extreme PH (too high or too low), or when the tap water is too hard, or when there is an excessive amount of nitrate right out of the tap. Otherwise, the tap water and a bottle of aquarium water conditioner are good enough.

Top 10 Places (Not) to Put a Fish Tank

Everyone has to decide where to put an aquarium before setting it up. It might seem simple.  In reality, there is more to it than just setting up an aquarium at where you want to see the fish. The location of where to put a fish tank is vital for the overall health of the aquarium system. It is not just for the pet fish, but it is also for your own good too.

Top ten places where you should not put a fish tank

1. A fish tank should never be where it can receive direct sunlight or excessive strong daylight.

All new aquarium hobbyists will run into algae problem one way or another. One of the leading causes of annoying algae growth in a fish tank is excessive lighting. An extended period of light or too high brightness can both be the problem. Having a fish aquarium under direct sunlight is asking for an algae boom. You are also risking overheating and temperature fluctuations.  Both can be lethal to the aquarium fish.

2. A fish aquarium should not be too close to an air conditioning, radiator, or a fireplace.
The fish tank requires stable water temperature for the health of pet fish. Being too close to an air conditioning or a radiator can cool off or heat up the water temperature too quickly. It is very unhealthy for the fish, and it can even kill them if the temperature change is too much too quickly.

3. You should not put a fish tank near a door.
Water transmits shockwave much stronger than air. If an aquarium is near a door where it is frequently opened and shut, the fish can be scared quite often. It is not good for their health if they are always scared.

4. Do not put a fish tank larger than 10 gallons on the top of a desk or on other furniture not designed for holding an aquarium.
Water is very heavy. A small 10-gallon fish tank can hold as much as over 70 pounds of water. Combined with the weight of the fish tank, equipment, gravels, it can be well over 100 pounds. It is a good idea to use a strong aquarium stand instead of other furniture.

5. Do not to put an aquarium in the center of a large room.
It is the best to put an aquarium near a wall or in a corner where the floor is better supported. Unless you are sure the floor is strong enough, or if the fish tank is small and light.  It should not be in the middle of a room where the walls are far away. Even the small to medium sized fish tank can be hundreds of pounds in total weight. Having the floor collapsing is not funny.

6. Do not set up a fish tank on the floor.
Even if you are okay with observing the fish in a top-down position, it is still not recommended to have the aquarium on the floor level. It is very easy for someone accidentally kicks the fish tank or have something falls into it. It is also harder for water change with gravel vacuum.

7. Do not set up an aquarium too close to a TV or speakers.
The flashing of a TV screen and the loud sound from the speakers might be such a bother to some fish. Stressed fish won’t be healthy fish.

8. Do not set up an aquarium directly above an electrical outlet or power strip.
Better safe than sorry.  Aquarium holds so much water.  You do not want water get too close to the electricity. Although you will need access to power for the filter, heater, and other electrical equipment.  It is a good idea to have the fish tank set up at least a foot away from a wall outlet, and any power strip should not be on the floor level near the tank.

9. Do not set up a fish tank too far away from where you can access clean water.
Regular maintenance of a healthy aquarium requires a weekly partial water change. To be close to a water tap can mean less stress on you to carry all the heavy water back and forth.

10. Do not set up an aquarium where nobody can see.
Despite the best care, accidents and unexpected can happen. You want to be the first one to notice if there is anything wrong with your precious aquarium fish. It is a good idea to set up the aquarium where you can frequently see without going there specifically for this purpose. So you can do something about it on the first sign of trouble.


It requires careful considerations to choose a perfect spot for both you and the pet fish to enjoy for the long term. For large sized home aquariums, their locations can be relatively permanent since it is troublesome to move them around later on. Think carefully before you act!

So where should you put the fish aquarium anyway?

Anywhere but the ten places from above.  Personally, I enjoy having my aquarium beside my couch.  So I can watch them while sitting comfortably.  Then again, it is up to you where your favorite spot is.  Just avoid the places where it can produce a negative impact.