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How to Set Up a Tropical Fish Tank

Follow these steps to ensure your tropical fish tank is set up correctly so your fish thrive.


  • Step 1: Clean the tank Clean the tank with tap water and a clean cloth. Do not use soap or cleanser.
  • Step 2: Rinse the gravel and decorations Rinse the gravel under the tap until the water runs clear. Also rinse any decorations you plan to use, such as rocks, driftwood, or plastic plants.
  • TIP: Only use gravel and decorations sold specifically for aquariums. Driftwood may need to be specially treated before use in an aquarium.
  • Step 3: Set up the filter and air pump Follow the manufacturer's instructions to install the filter and air pump. Filters remove harmful bacteria and waste, and air pumps circulate and oxygenate the water.
  • TIP: Ask your pet shop for recommendations on filters and air pumps. Some filters must have an air pump connected, while others work independently.
  • Step 4: Add the gravel and decorations Spread the gravel evenly over the bottom. Then anchor decorations and plastic plants in the gravel.
  • Step 5: Add water Fill the tank with fresh, clean water. If you're adding live plants, fill the tank halfway and then add the plants.
  • TIP: To avoid displacing gravel and decorations, place a clean, shallow bowl in the tank and pour the water into it.
  • Step 6: Cycle your tank Run the heater and filter for several days and then cycle the tank to get a healthy balance of ammonia and nitrate. Check the temperature on the thermometer and adjust the heater.
  • Step 7: Test and add fish Test the water daily with the kit until you have achieved an optimal balance of ammonia and nitrate. Now you can add less hardy species.
  • FACT: A goldfish can grow longer than 8 inches and live 20 years or more.

You Will Need

  • A fish tank
  • Aquarium gravel
  • Tank decorations
  • An aquarium filter
  • An air pump
  • Plants
  • An aquarium heater
  • A cycling aid
  • A thermometer
  • A water test kit
  • Fish
  • A clean
  • shallow bowl (optional)

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