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Freshwater Aquarium Set Up Checklist

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Are you thinking of setting up a freshwater aquarium and you don’t know how to go about it? Then all you have to do is keep reading! In this article, I’ll be giving you a detailed freshwater aquarium setup checklist.


Besides giving you a checklist, I’ll also be giving you a step-by-step guide on how to set up your freshwater aquarium!

Let’s go!

The Checklist

Below are the things you need to put in place for your freshwater aquarium to be set up.

There you have it, a well-detailed checklist!

Now that you’ve put your checklist in order, you can proceed to set up your freshwater aquarium.

If you don’t know how to set up the aquarium I’ll show you how.

9 Steps to Set Up An Aquarium

Follow these nine steps when setting up your aquarium.

1. Be Ready to Be Responsible for The Tank

Drawing up a checklist and setting up a freshwater aquarium isn’t rocket science, anyone can do it. Being responsible for it is a whole different ball game.

Owning a freshwater aquarium is like owning a pet dog, you have to train him, feed him, clean the poop, and so on.

The same applies to an aquarium. You have to be prepared to clean it regularly (at least once a week), and you are also going to be responsible for feeding the fish (once a day is recommended).

Also keep in mind that there will be maintenance costs, like changing the filters, etc.

If you’re not prepared to be responsible for the aquarium and the fish, then don’t bother setting it up.

Accepting responsibility is the very first step!

2. Decide on What Type of Fish You Will Have in Your Aquarium

This is another important aspect of a freshwater aquarium setup. There are different types of freshwater fish, and they come in different sizes.

Some freshwater fish grow to a maximum of 2 inches, while others can grow to as much as 12 inches.

The size of the tank you have would determine the size of fish you should get. You don’t want larger fish in a small-sized tank.

Since this is your first time setting up an aquarium, I suggest you get a 20-gallon tank and have some smaller-sized fish in it. This will help you understand the perfect ratio between tank and fish size.

3. Choose A Location for The Aquarium

You can’t just place the aquarium anywhere. You have to position it in an area where the aquarium’s light and temperature won’t be affected by external light and heat sources.

If the sunlight from your windows penetrates your tank, it will affect its temperature and can lead to unwanted algae growth.

Keep in mind that you will also have to place the aquarium on a stand that can hold its weight (weight of tank + water).

Ten pounds per gallon of water is a good rule of thumb in determining the total weight your aquarium will have when filled with water. This means a 20-gallon tank will weigh 200 pounds when filled with water.

Since freshwater aquariums aren’t supposed to be placed in the range of external light, it means the heater you buy should be able to provide adequate heat for the tank independently.

4. Wash Your Tank and Stand

Before you position your tank, be sure to wash it thoroughly. Make sure you use only water to wash the tank, DO NOT USE SOAP OR DETERGENTS!!! Residue from soap will harm or kill your fish!

5. Wash the Gravel And The Decorations

The next step is to wash the gravel and the aquarium decorations. Once again, do not wash with soap or detergents, they are harmful to freshwater fish!

An easy way to wash your gravel is to put them in a strainer and rinse off in your bathtub.

After this, place the clean gravel in your clean 5-gallon bucket and take it to the aquarium. When you’re done adding the gravel to the tank, you can proceed to add the plants and decorations.

6. Add Water to The Aquarium

Now it’s time to add water to your tank. Be sure to use room-temperature water, not cold or warm water!

Also, don’t fill up the tank to the brim, just so you avoid spillovers.

7. Set Up the Equipment

You can proceed to install the heater but don’t plug it in just yet. Wait a while so the thermostat can adjust to the water temperature. This will take about 15 minutes.

Install your filter and any other equipment you have, then top off the aquarium water to a level just below the hood lip.

Install the hood and tank lights but check the power cords to make sure they are not soaked in water. If they are then dry them off with a dry hand towel.

For the sake of caution, you can use a drip loop on the power cords.

8. Wait for The Aquarium to Cycle

I know, you can’t wait to add your fish, but you have to wait some more so the aquarium can cycle.

Cycling is the process of producing beneficial bacteria which will process the harmful waste from the fish.

9. Add the Fish

Add them one at a time so the filtration system has time to handle the biological load each of the fish brings in.


There you have it, your aquarium is all setup!

I hope this freshwater aquarium setup checklist and setup guide have been of great help.


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Pet Aquariums

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