Aquarium setup – tips and tricks

What do you need to consider when setting up?

maxmann / Pixabay

If you want to buy an aquarium, you should find out in advance how you want to furnish it. This begins with the interior design, such as the choice of flooring, the plants and fish, the technology for the aquarium and the decoration. If you find it too difficult and expensive to get started, there are also very good starter sets for beginners. But the better you furnish the aquarium, the more fun it will be and the more comfortable the inhabitants will feel.

So there are many points to watch out for. In any case it is certain that you will pay more for the setup than the aquarium itself has cost. Of course you can save a lot of money, but you can also create beautiful designs. The aim is usually to make the aquarium look as good as possible, but at the same time to make it easy to maintain. Our guide will certainly help you and give you a good overview. We assume here that the aquarium is set up for plants and ornamental fish. If you want to set up an aquarium for the turtle, for example, you will find the appropriate blog article.

We will not go into topics such as which location is the right one for the aquarium and how to change the water, for example.

The substrate – the foundation

When it comes to the bottom, opinions in aquaristics differ widely. Some swear by sand, others by gravel. Whether sand or gravel is the better choice, you can read in our blog. It is important that the bottom gravel is suitable for the organisms that will live there. For example, there are fish that absolutely need sand, otherwise they will get sick – like the dwarf cichlid.

Of course, you can also create a sand island for him, but this is rather cumbersome, as it is then often used and all the sand mixes with the gravel. I think a clear line helps more here. The choice of ground is a question of faith. And it has to be said that sand is not the same as sand, there are many different kinds of sand. Again, we have more information in the guide. Please do not think about keeping your favourite fish in a simple glass or container without a bottom – that is not appropriate for the species and in our opinion cruelty to animals.

The technique for the aquarium

The technology can be selected with few means or on a huge scale. I will first list what is available and then what you absolutely need. In a further guide we will also deal with this in more detail.

  • Lighting
  • Filter
  • Air Pump
  • Water pump
  • Flow system
  • Fizzy drinker
  • Hoses
  • Thermometer
  • Heating element
  • Measuring instruments
  • Automatic chucking machine
  • Cleaning accessories
  • Care accessories

Lighting – Function & Design

Aquarium lighting is not only useful, it is a must. It ensures that the habitat you create has a rhythm and that plants can grow. A good lighting does not even have to be expensive. It is important that it is also suitable for the aquarium by providing splash protection and that it helps the plants grow. In former times you had bulky huge fluorescent tubes, which were usually placed in a glass box.

Nowadays there is an overwhelming variety of different illuminants and designs. Often for little money you can get a slim design that is energy-efficient and can also illuminate the pool in different colours. But that’s not all: either you control the lamps via an external timer or it is already integrated. In the more expensive models there is even a time-related dimming function, so you can imitate different times of day and seasons. Whether LED or a fluorescent tube is better and where the advantages and disadvantages are, we will clarify another time.

Here it is important to inform yourself in advance and not only to have the price of the lamp in mind, but also the later electricity costs and the warranty period of the manufacturer.

Filters – External filter or internal filter

There is probably no way around the filter either. It guarantees a hygienically perfect aquarium and healthy fish. If you don’t have a filter, you will quickly notice that the water quality is tilting and the fish and plants become sick or die. Apart from the many models and manufacturers that you can choose from, you basically have to consider the following basic aspects:

Mounted inside or outside?

There are filters that are integrated into the pool. These not only take up space, but are also more difficult to maintain. The trend, and in my opinion better, is an external filter for the aquarium. It is easy to use, very reliable, does not interfere with the design and can easily be placed in a cabinet. If you want to know more about internal or external filters, follow the link. Here we explain when to use an external filter and what the advantages and disadvantages are.

The filter strength and properties

Not all filters are the same. Most filters can be filled with a filter material of choice and thus control different properties. But not only the filling material is decisive, but also the performance. Manufacturers are obliged to specify how much water is cleaned in which period of time. You can check this by running a bathtub in and pumping it empty. Another important factor is the volume. My advice here is not to listen to the manufacturer’s advertising, but to either test it, watch it on site or get a recommendation from friends. It should be said that a good filter that performs well in all points does not necessarily have to cost a fortune. Also consider how laborious the cleaning is afterwards and how expensive the spare parts are.

Air pump and bubble stone

I have read that some guidebooks and also manufacturers claim that for small pools and many plants this is not absolutely necessary. I haven’t tried it, but I strongly advise to use one or in case of very large tanks several. They are not expensive and if you watch your fish carefully you will see how popular the air supply is.

With the air pump – connected with hose and bubble stone – you ensure the right oxygen supply and health of your fish. By the way, with a good pump you can regulate the amount of air. A good tip is also to use a check valve, otherwise water could run into the pump (if it is lower).

Water pump and hose

This accessory is optional but can be very practical when cleaning. If you don’t want to carry buckets, but want to transport waste water directly to its destination, a water pump makes life easier.

Flow system

Most inhabitants of the aquarium do not need a current system. But there are also many fish species that depend on a light to strong current. Here it is important to inform yourself exactly. Especially in seawater tanks you need a constant movement of the water. However, I can say from experience that with ornamental fish that do not need a current, the activation of the current pump is always a popular highlight and everyone “gets into the fun”.

Thermometer and heating rod

Every living creature, be it plant or fish, has a temperature value that best mimics the natural habitat and not only creates well-being, but in some cases also provides an important basis for life. But also mating season and offspring can be induced by temperature. Therefore, one should not only measure how many degrees the water has, but be able to control the temperature with a heating rod or a heater. With most brands this starts when the temperature falls below a certain value.

Measuring devices

Not only the temperature needs to be measured, but also the water hardness and the PH value. For this purpose there are either test strips or electronic devices. The quality of these devices is quite different. Higher quality electronic measuring aids are much more accurate than test strips, but have the disadvantage that they have to be calibrated regularly. In this case, I do not recommend a cheap purchase, as the devices are not only inaccurate, but also have to be calibrated very often.

Automatic feeder

Some of you will probably already suspect that not all products are absolutely necessary and some, such as automatic feeding, are rather luxury products. Nevertheless, you can save yourself a lot of work and have the freedom to go on holiday for a weekend without a substitute.

Automatic feeders are available in various price ranges. The cheap devices are not bad at all, but they often have the disadvantage that they have a very small chamber, offer inaccurate portioning and are partly not even suitable for dry flakes, but only for granules. If you fill in flakes here and they are big, the food accumulates and almost nothing comes out. If you then rub the flakes smaller, the opposite happens and a much too large load enters the tank.

Cleaning accessories

Even if the aquarium with a good filter looks very clean for a long time when you buy a new one, there comes a time when it needs to be cleaned. If you put the right creatures in the tank, you will have to clean less often and less. Standard are two magnets on the disc, which can be moved back and forth. This way you can remove light dirt and also free the disc from algae.

Here there are also various differences in the magnets. The probably most used ones are the green weak ones, which grandpa already had 🙂 These have the advantage that they are floatable and if the contact breaks off, you can quickly retrieve the detached counterpart from the water surface. But most of the time they are really weak and not very nice to handle. I use a strong magnet (depends on the glass thickness of the aquarium), which not only offers an ergonomically shaped handle, but also has a scraper and brush integrated. This works very well and usually even saves additional cleaning tools. Otherwise, scrapers, blades and brushes can of course also be purchased separately.

If you don’t already have it in your household, you should buy a bucket or a washtub. You need these often. Make sure that there are no detergent residues or other soiling. It is best to use the bucket exclusively for the aquarium. There are electronic vacuum cleaners or mulch suction bells for cleaning, which whirl up the floor with a hose and remove the lighter residues such as excrement and plant remains. However, it is also possible to work with only one hose and suck it in. The advantage is that you can also get into hard-to-reach cracks and corners – the disadvantage is that a lot of water and sand or gravel is carried away.

Cleaning the aquarium can be made easy with our instructions.

Care accessories

As for cleaning, you can buy a lot of accessories for the maintenance of the pool and its inhabitants. Not every accessory is really useful or good. A plant care set is nice and useful but not absolutely necessary. Also a fish trap is not absolutely necessary. What is always needed in any case is the landing net.

Decoration and aquascaping

Aquascaping © coffmancmu

When setting up the aquarium you have a free hand. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some like it kitschy, others swear by pure natural products such as stones, branches and roots. The important thing about decoration is that it is also functional. In other words, you should offer the inhabitants hiding places and not create any risk of injury. Toxic smelling plastic decoration has no place in the pool. You should also avoid shining plastic jellyfish, which have thin plastic threads that are often swallowed by the fish. If plastic decoration smells of chemicals, then leave it in the water bucket for a few days. After that it should not smell any more, otherwise leave it out.

Besides the usual furnishings and millions of possibilities, there is a special form of furnishing. It is almost a philosophy and looks very good. The name is Aquascaping. This type of furnishing is becoming more and more popular and can be used by professionals as well as beginners. Basically it is a form of expression for creating underwater landscapes that are amazingly similar to large landscapes. Through various materials such as stones, wood, earth and plants, it is possible to reproduce landscapes of nature with a little creativity or templates. The results are often breathtaking designs that are an eye-catcher in any living room. With Google, you can get an incredible amount of ideas and also a desire for this topic in the image search.

Fish choice

Fish can be bought at the DIY store, from a specialist dealer or online. The variety of species is incredibly large and you quickly think you have found your favourites. But many beginners make the mistake of not paying enough attention to the living conditions of the individual species and groups. Every fish has preferences and basic needs:

  • pH value
  • Water hardness
  • Temperature
  • Pool size
  • Establishment
  • Group housing, individual housing, social housing
  • Features
]If you don't pay attention to these important factors, you will quickly become unhappy or even risk sick and dead fish. Each dealer offers exact information about the available fish and names. Don't choose them only by appearance, but also by compatibility and usefulness.

It is best to ask yourself beforehand what exactly you want to achieve. For example, there are inhabitants who help to improve the water quality and keep the tank clean. How aggressive is a fish, does it need a shoal or group, does it get along with other species in a community tank? Do all selected fishes agree with the above mentioned requirements?

Make a list with species you like. Read about these species and see what region they come from and how they harmonize with each other. Then you make a matrix. Here you write down the pH, water hardness and temperature. If they all stay within the recommended range, then you have not only found the right mixture, but also the right values for the heating rod and pH measurement.

Plant selection

As with the choice of fish, the same applies to the choice of plants. Do a matrix and see if you can get them all under one roof. Also look at your residents, they have preferences. You should also pay attention to the CO2 requirement. Some plants need an additional supply of CO2. This means further effort. But also the light factor plays a decisive role. Also look how big the plant grows, how fast it grows and where it is best placed.

Chemicals and preparations

You should be careful with chemical products. Sure, in some situations there is a reason to use chemicals, but the less you use them, the better. I often experience with friends and acquaintances who are in the new acquisition and who are proud like Bolle in the typical buying frenzy, everything that is produced is put into the shopping basket. Among other things also algae destroyers, although there are no algae at all yet, and other means. We will tell you what to look out for with algae in your aquarium, but please do not buy anything for problems that do not yet occur - preferably never.

Useful products, admittedly one or the other is also controversial, are:

  • PH plus or minus (depending on the tap water you use)
  • Water starter with vital substances against stress in new water
  • Plant fertilizer
  • Pool cleaner
]And don't buy the big bottle for all products as a cheap fox, but test the product, then you can still change

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