If you’re a new fishkeeper, this is probably your first time setting up a tropical fish tank. But fear not. We’re here to show you how to set up your aquarium successfully and help you avoid any disasters involving polluted water, dying plants, and sick fish.
Follow these easy steps to help your tropical fish live their best lives.
1) Find the best place to put a fish tank
First thing’s first – you’ll need a fish tank to get started. But before you shop around for an aquarium, you’ll need to work out where you’ll put your tank. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to finding the best place to put a fish tank, so it’s worth reading our blog post on this before you go any further.
2) Choose a fish tank
Once you’ve decided where to put your fish – and you know exactly how much space you have – it’s time to choose your aquarium. 50–60L is often a good starter aquarium size. There’s a common misconception that smaller tanks are easier to handle. But these tanks have less water capacity and may need more regular cleaning. So, choose your tank based on the space you have available instead of automatically opting for the smallest.
The difference between coldwater and tropical fish tanks
The only difference between coldwater and tropical fish tanks is that you need a heater for a tropical aquarium. This means you don’t need to buy a tank designed specifically for tropical or coldwater fish. You can simply add a heater if you’ll be purchasing tropical fish.
In this case, it can be easiest to buy an aquarium that includes a heater, along with a filter and LED light unit. These aquarium kits include everything you need to set up a tank, and you can insert all parts using the instructions in the box. This will save you having to purchase each tank component separately.
Here are some aquarium kit recommendations that include heaters to start you off.
3) Add gravel to your tropical fish tank
Once you’ve chosen your fish tank, you can add gravel, substrate, or sand to the bottom of your aquarium. You can get gravel in all sorts of types and colours to match your aquarium colour scheme. We sell a huge range of around 75 substrates.
When your gravel arrives in the post, rinse it and use a scoop or small trowel to line your tank. Don’t pour the gravel straight out of the bag and into your tank, as this can scratch or weaken the aquarium glass.
4) Dechlorinate your tank water
When you’ve lined your fish tank with gravel, it’ll be time to add your aquarium water. You’ll need to fill a large bucket with tap water and add a dechlorinator. This will get rid of any chlorine, which is harmful to both fish and the bacteria that live in filters.
For example, this 100ml Tetra dechlorinator will treat 200L of water, which will cover your initial fill and several water changes. Of course, you can buy bigger or smaller containers depending on your needs. Our top recommended dechlorinator brand is Seachem, which is more concentrated than alternatives, so a little goes a long way.
You should add dechlorinator to your water every time you carry out a water change.
5) Add a bacteria booster to your tank water
Dechlorinator aside, you should also add a bacteria booster to your aquarium water. Your fish need certain bacteria to thrive, so a good bacteria booster will make your water safe for your fish.
We sell a range of bacteria boosters. As a starting point, you can add fish to your tank after a day or two if using API Quick Start or Tetra Safe Start. But you should wait up to a couple of weeks if using Stress Zyme.
6) Fill your tank and allow time for water cycling
When it comes to filling your fish tank, you should use a hose or jug to add the prepared water to your aquarium. In most cases, you should leave around 5cm of space at the top of the aquarium to stop the water from overflowing when you add plants and decorations. Some tanks have a fill marker or advice in the instructions, so check before filling your tank.
Before you add tropical fish, the water needs to cycle and build up fish-friendly bacteria using your bacteria booster. So, run your tank full of water with the filter pump on for a few days before you go fish shopping.
You’ll also need to turn your heater on so the water reaches 24–28°C before you introduce your tropical fish.
We recommend regularly testing the quality of your aquarium water with a testing kit. This is typically the best way to catch any water-quality problems before your fish fall ill.
7) Decorate your tropical fish tank
Decorating your aquarium is one of the most fun parts of the process. And there’s loads of choice when it comes to aquarium accessories. Let’s start with plants.
While live plants can help oxygenate your water and give your tank a more natural look, you can also get your hands on some beautiful artificial plants, which can be especially ideal if you want to create a tropical look. We recommend putting your larger plants at the back of the tank and introducing smaller plants near the front.
Once you’ve window-shopped plants, you might also like to look at aquarium ornaments. You could add a shipwreck, bridge, or cave. And what about coral, shells, or rocks? Or something a bit different – perhaps a vintage Beetle or a space dog?
Alternatively, children love our Finding Nemo, Frozen, SpongeBob Squarepants, and Spiderman ranges.
It’s easy to find loads of decorations for your tank. But remember to leave around one third of the space empty so your fish have room to swim. They’ll enjoy interacting with decorations, but they won’t appreciate being overcrowded.
We love to see our customers’ aquarium designs, so do share photos of how you’ve decorated your fish tank with us on social media.
8) Stock up on tropical fish food
It’s best to have food ready before you purchase your fish, so it’s a good idea to bolt this onto your order when you buy your aquarium supplies. We sell mountains of food types for tropical fish.
9) Add your tropical fish
When you’ve followed all the steps above, you’ll be ready to welcome your tropical fish to their new home. Your fish will come in a plastic bag and will need to acclimate to the water, so float the plastic bag in your tank to equalise the temperatures. After around 20 minutes, add water from your tank to the bag. Wait another 20 minutes and then allow the fish to swim out of the bag into your tank.
Don’t feed your fish on their first day in your tank. Fish are usually too stressed to eat when they move to a new environment. It’s also a good idea to turn the tank light off when you first introduce your fish. Bright light can stress new fish even more. They’ll get used to your tank quicker if you give them a few hours to adjust in a darker environment.
Shop tropical fish tank essentials
So, to summarise, these are the essentials you need to buy before choosing your tropical aquarium fish.
- A fish tank with an LED light, filter, and heater
- Gravel or substrate
- A bacteria booster
- Fish tank plants and/or ornaments
- Tropical fish food
- Water testing kit
About Warehouse Aquatics
The Warehouse Aquatics mission is to offer the most choice at the best prices when it comes to your fishes’ wellbeing. We use the products on our website ourselves and are well-versed in all things fish, so we can give you all the advice you need. We’re not just here to sell aquatic supplies. We’re also here to guide you through your journey as a fish owner and enthusiast.
As a small team, we love to hear from our customers, so please do join the Warehouse Aquatics social media community. We’re always up for a chat, and we’d love to share your aquarium photos with our followers.