Setting up a fish tank isn’t as simple as just adding water to your tank, it actually takes weeks to get your tank established prior to adding any fish. This is because we need to cultivate good bacteria in the tank, which will turn the ammonia in your fish’s waste into harmless nitrates.
Here are the steps you should follow to set up your tank before adding any fish:
- Rinse your substrate, ornaments and plants before adding them to your tank.
- Once rinsed, decorate your tank then add the dechlorinated water.
- Make sure your filter contains good filter media (such as bio balls) to house the good bacteria you are going to establish. Then set your filter up and turn it on.
- Get the good bacteria going in your tank. This can be done a few ways:
- The ‘Imaginary Fish’ method. In this method, you simply pretend that you have a fish to feed for a minimum of 10 days. Add a pinch of food to the tank each day to create ammonia. The beneficial bacteria will eventually grow and eat the ammonia created by the food.
- Add a ‘Quick Start’ bacteria solution to your tank. This can be purchased from most pet stores. Adding Quick Start will immediately start the natural aquarium cycle with beneficial bacteria. Once the bacteria is added it will need to be ‘fed’ with ammonia. To do this, simply add a pinch of fish food to your tank each day for between 5-10 days.
- Add filter media from an already established tank. If you already have a tank, or know someone with an established tank, you can take some of the media from their filter and add it to yours. You then want to grow the beneficial bacteria from this media by adding a pinch of fish food to your tank each day for between 5-10 days.
- Check that your tank is cycled before adding fish. To do this you will need an ammonia test kit, which can be purchased at most pet stores. Test your water to ensure you have no ammonia or nitrites. The process of cycling your tank turns ammonia (harmful) into nitrites (harmful) and then nitrates (harmless). You can therefore know your tank is cycled if your test kit shows no ammonia, no nitrites but does have nitrates.
- Once your ammonia, PH and temperature are all optimal you can add your fish to the tank. Be careful not to add too many fish at once as the good bacteria will need time to adjust and increase.