and Setting Up An Aquarium
Purchase the largest aquarium that your budget and floor space
will permit. The larger the aquarium, the easier it is to maintain
proper water quality. Further, a larger aquarium will provide more
versatility and allow a greater species selection.
We do not recommend anything smaller than 55 gallons for marine
aquaria other than for true reef tanks,
Surface area is of primary importance. A tall aquarium, lacking in
proportional length and width, regardless of total gallonage, does
not provide an adequate volume to surface area ratio for oxygen,
carbon dioxide exchange.
An aquarium, regardless of the filtration involved, is not
entirely self sustaining. You will have to devote twenty to thirty
minutes per week to maintain your aquarium. It is more time
consuming to maintain a larger
aquarium, but not proportionately.
- If you are unwilling or unable to devote this time, you will
inevitably experience problems.
- It is essential for the aquarist to understand the properties of
water and the importance of testing and maintaining water quality.
Tropical fishes are highly intolerant of poor water conditions and
of sudden changes brought about by the hobbyist. Any alteration to
the quality and condition of the water must be made as gradually as
possible to avoid stressing the fish. Stability is as important as
- In addition to periodically measuring pH, there are other tests
that you can and should perform to ensure that water quality remains
at its optimum. Once water has been "lived in," the
resultant effect of the waste products of fish respiration, fish
digestion and the decomposition of uneaten food can be measured.
The main component of waste products is ammonia, together with two
other nitrogenous compounds, nitrite and nitrate. All three are toxic
to fishes and invertebrates to varying degrees. By using the relevant
test kit, you can measure the buildup of these unwanted by-products
and evaluate the efficiency of your filtration system and regular
partial water changes in keeping them at a minimum.
- Poor water quality will result in stress, disease and probable
If you do not have an aquarium stand, be sure that the surface on
which the aquarium will be placed is sturdy (water weighs 8.3 pounds
per gallon), level and supports the entire bottom frame of the
aquarium. An unlevel surface can cause stress on the aquarium joints
causing them to separate.
Place the aquarium away from direct sunlight which can cause
overheating, excessive algae growth and inaccurate temperature
readings on external digital thermometers.
Do not place an aquarium above or near a heat source, heating vent
or stove. Similarly, avoid the sudden drops in temperature found
near a window or air conditioning outlet.
Avoid high traffic areas as the constant movement and noise will
tend to stress the fish.
Convenient and plentiful electrical outlets are required and a
water source, inclusive of drain, within fifty feet of the aquarium
is an added convenience.
There are certain areas in an aquarium set up where "corners
can be cut" and a few dollars saved. The filtration system,
however, is the very heart of your simulated aquatic world and
should be given first priority.
Successfully maintaining aquatic animals in the home aquarium is
dependent on the proper installation and maintenance of a COMPLETE
water filtration system. Filtration is divided into three distinct
processes, mechanical, chemical and biological, each of which serves
its own specific purpose and all of which are necessary.
The size and capability of the filtration system must be
appropriate both for the aquarium gallonage and the number and size
of the fish therein.
There are power filters now available which effectively combine
biological, chemical and mechanical filtration into their design.
Generally these are proficient through 55 gallon capacity, will out
perform undergravel filters, and are less expensive than purchasing
separate biological, chemical and mechanical filters. On smaller
aquariums (55 gallons and less) the power filter should have a flow
rate of 4 to 5 times the tank volume per hour. On larger systems a
flow rate of twice the aquariums volume per hour is generally
Eheim canister filters provide excellent biological, chemical and
mechanical filtration combined with minimal maintenance both in
terms of frequency and expense. Models are available for aquariums
up to 250 gallons with wet/dry versions up to 160 gallon capacity
Trickle (wet/dry) filters currently provide the MOST EFFICIENT
mode of biological filtration. They are available in varying sizes
to accommodate aquariums up to 400 gallons. Manufacturer
specifications will define individual model capacity and pump
requirements. Ideally, aquariums utilizing trickle filters should
also be equipped with an appropriately sized, mechanical filter to
provide more efficient particulate removal. For some reason, trickle
filters have become singularly associated with saltwater aquaria.
This is a misconception; they are equally as efficient and
advantageous to fresh water applications.
We do not recommend using undergravel filters in saltwater
aquariums, cichlid aquariums or those extensively adorned with live
Your aquarium lighting system must accomplish two distinct tasks.
First, your lighting system must have the ability to sustain life
and the life functions of each of your aquarium inhabitants. Second,
the artificial light in your system must make your aquarium
appealing and visually enjoyable to you, the viewer.
For fish only, smaller aquariums (55 gallons and less) a single
strip, full spectrum fluorescent tube is sufficient. For larger
aquaria, particularly those wider than 13 inches, twin tube strip
lights are recommended.
Heavily planted aquariums, regardless of size, should have twin
tube fluorescent lighting. This will allow the aquarium to be
equipped with a full spectrum bulb to properly enhance the
coloration of the fish, and a plant oriented bulb providing light in
the red part of the spectrum promoting photosynthesis.
With the exception of saltwater and/or African cichlid set ups,
the gravel should have no buffering affect on aquarium pH. It should
also have no sharp edges and should be of sufficiently small enough
diameter so as not to harbor uneaten food particulate. If live
plants are to be part of the aquarium decor, do not use sand as a
substrate as it will compact too tightly around the root structure.
Conversely, too coarse a gravel will not provide sufficient
anchorage. Darker gravels generally do a better job of displaying
- Wash the aquarium inside and out
with warm tap water. Do not use detergents or glass cleaners.
- Wash the aquarium gravel by placing
small quantities (approximately 10-15 pounds) in a clean bucket.
Using a hose which has been pushed to the bottom of the bucket,
vigorously stir the gravel with your hand, flushing the dirty water
over the rim until the overflow water is clear and free of debris.
The more thorough the preliminary cleaning, the fewer the problems
with cloudy water later.
- Decorative rock or wood should be thoroughly rinsed under
- Wild collected driftwood MUST be boiled in several changes
of water and immersed in water for several weeks before it is
safe to use. It is best not to use driftwood in saltwater
aquariums as it tends to acidify the water.
- Do not use seashells or coral in a freshwater aquarium.
Synthetic substitutes are available.
- Place the undergravel filter plate(s) in the empty aquarium.
- If utilizing air driven filtration, use the outermost left
and right water return tubes on each filter plate.
- Trim the return tubes so that the top of the cartridge
receptacle will be approximately ¼ inch below the surface of
- Positioning the air pump above the aquarium will prevent
back siphoning during power failures. If this is not
possible or desirable, an in-line check valve placed between
the air pump and the aquarium will prevent back siphoning.
- A gang valve with one outlet per point of airline connection
is required to properly balance aeration as air will seek the
path of least resistance.
- If utilizing powerheads, use one of the inner water return
tubes on each filter plate. A mini- mum of one powerhead per
undergravel filter plate is required. The powerhead should be
completely submersed and the flow diffuser positioned to
provide maximum surface agitation.
- Air bubbles provided by the powerhead are more decorative
than beneficial and you need not be concerned if the bubbling
is interrupted or ceases altogether. Surface agitation, as
controlled by the flow diffuser, provides for gaseous
- Backgrounds are available to conceal electrical cords, outside
filters, airline tubing, etc. When applying these to the aquarium,
use vinylized tape such as black electricians or Scotch plastic
tape. Apply the background before filling the aquarium with gravel
- Cover the assembled undergravel filter plate(s) with 3-4 inches
of washed aquarium gravel (Lesser depth required without
- Add dechlorinator according to manufacturers directions. We
recommend using a dechlorinator even if you have a home water
purification system. The filter media becomes depleted through use
and there may be sufficient chlorine present to be lethal to the
fish. Chlorine is lethal at levels as low as .2 - .3 ppm (parts
- Fill the aquarium approximately 2/3 full of temperature
regulated water. If you are using tap water, allow the water to
run for a few minutes before filling the aquarium so as to
minimize the introduction of contaminants. Placing a saucer or
flat rock in the aquarium and pouring the water onto it will
prevent the gravel from being scattered.
Nashville tap water is of sufficient quality to sustain
most FRESH WATER species with only the addition of a
dechlorinator. Certain tap water qualities may have to be
altered to support specific species and/or to stimulate
spawning. Usually Nashville tap water will have a pH of 7.0 -
7.3, hardness ranging from soft to medium hard and phosphates
of 1 ppm. Nitrate will be present at levels which are undetectable
with aquarium test kits, but which exceed levels found in a
natural reef. Summer months will provide the period of greatest
and most frequent deviations from the norm. Check tap water pH
before filling the aquarium, and adjust accordingly.
the external and/or internal power filter(s). Partially fill external
filters with water. DO NOT turn the filter(s) on.
the aquarium heater(s) in the aquarium above the gravel to ensure
adequate water circulation around them. DO NOT plug in the heater(s).
requirement for conventional aquarium heaters is 4-5 watts per
gallon assuming controlled, temperate room conditions.
heaters are easier to conceal and provide a more even heat
distribution, particularly if placed horizontally in the
- For larger aquariums,
generally 55 gallons and above, the use of two smaller
wattage heaters is recommended. This prevents temperature
differentials within the aquarium and provides a backup
system should one of the heaters fail.
- There are a few species of
fish (goldfish being the most common example) that do not
require heat; room temperature being adequate. However, they
do require the low temperature protection and temperature
stability that a heater provides.
- If you are planning on an
aquarium heavily stocked with live plants, heating cables
are an excellent alternative to a conventional aquarium
heater. Installed under the gravel, these cables will warm
the gravel bottom above the water temperature. The warmed
water rises to the top, which causes colder water to be
pulled down from the upper part of the aquarium. In this way
a constant supply of nutrients and fresh water is carried to
the roots of the plants.
- Position plants and decorations
in the aquarium. Try to minimize areas where uneaten food may
accumulate and do not impede free water flow into the power
- With the exception of not
using toxic materials or materials which inadvertently alter
the pH, there is no right or wrong in aquarium decorating.
The aquariums intent is to be visually pleasing to you
and, perhaps, to match an existing decor.
- In a heavily live planted
aquarium it is generally advisable to place some tall plants
toward the rear of the tank to hide heaters, siphons and the
like. Next, rocks or driftwood will hide the lesser
attractive lower plant sections as well as offer both a
contrast and feeling of depth. Then, midrange plants are
placed with another level of rocks or other decorations.
Lastly, small foreground plants in the very front complete
the descending motif and further hide the bottoms of the
plants immediately to their rear. This arrangement works as
well with artificial plants.
- As you become more
knowledgeable of the hobby, you might want to alter your
decorating scheme to accommodate certain species
requirements/preferences. i.e., open swimming space,
shelter/security, spawning sites, etc.
- Add aquarium
salt depending upon application: (Aquarium salt
reduces fish stress, adds natural
electrolytes and improves gill function.)
- Freshwater - one tablespoon per
5 gallons of water (½ that amount if live plants are part of
the aquarium decoration.)
- Brackish - 1-3 teaspoons per gallon
of water. (Marine salt is preferable)
- Marine - estimated amount
required for net gallonage; to be adjusted in 48-72 hours.
SALT DOES NOT
Replenish salt ONLY when
you have physically removed water from the aquarium.
- Finish filling the aquarium
until the water line is hidden by the decorative aquarium trim. Do
not overfill as this can create a siphon action around the upper rim.
(Not with Oceanic/Natures
View aquariums. They are sealed to prevent capillary leak and salt
- Plug in the heater(s), turn on the filter(s) and balance the
- Ideally wait 24 hours before introducing fish into freshwater
aquariums. This is primarily to insure that the aquarium temperature
is correct and STABLE: 75° - 80° for most tropicals.
- Marine aquariums should be left operating for 72 hours before
introducing fish. This is to allow for accurate, stable measurements
of pH, specific gravity and temperature. Acceptable parameters for
the introduction of fish are:
- Temperature 75-80°F;
- pH 8.1-8.3;
- Specific Gravity 1.022-1.027;
Fresh water aquarium salt
Battery operated air pump
Marine pH buffer
VHO/metal halide lighting