Brought to you by our friends at Aquasonic and Aquamate


An ideal beginner aquarium is one of the new ‘all in one’ aquariums. These come with lights and filters built into the aquarium and are easy to set up. If you are going to keep tropical fish then you will need to purchase a heater as well.


Basic Equipment List

Here is what is needed to set up a freshwater Aquarium:

  • Gravel
  • Background if desired
  • Filter system and pump
  • Light
  • Heater for tropical fish
  • Air stone
  • Plants (natural or imitation)
  • Decorations such as rocks, driftwood, or ornaments
  • Water conditioner, pH Test Kit, Ammonia Test Kit
  • Fish food

Buy your fish last—you need to allow time for your tank to “cycle” before you can introduce your first fish.


Setting up

  1. Clean out your new tank with tap water only. Do not use any sort of chemicals or soaps. Using soaps can leave residues on the glass and harm fish once they go into the tank.
  2. Wash the gravel thoroughly with tap water in a bucket. Rinse it until all the dust is rinsed off. Place into the aquarium to a depth of 1 to 2 cm.
  3. Rinse ornaments (rocks, driftwood) with tap water and place carefully into aquarium.
  4. Install all of your electrical equipment, for instance heater, filter and air pumps. CAUTION: Do not turn on your equipment until there is water in the tank and your hands are out.
  5. Now you can fill your tank with water. An easy way to do this while avoiding messing up your ornaments, is by placing a plate into the bottom of the tank and pouring water over the top. Add water conditioner to remove toxins in the tap water and adjust pH and water hardness to suit your fish’s needs.
  6. You can then plug all electrical elements into the power points and turn them on. Allow the aquarium time to heat up, before adding plants and cycling your tank for fish.
  7. Use a live bacteria supplement, such as Prodibio, to allow fish to be added on the first day.


Before introducing your fish, test your water conditions using your pH and Ammonia Test Kits. Make sure that your Ammonia is 0. Remember to keep the pH slightly acid (6.8-7.0) while cycling your tank as it reduces the toxicity of Ammonia. You can also bring a water sample into your nearest Pets Domain store for free testing.

Do not introduce fish until the water conditions are correct.


Cycling a new tank

No matter what type of filter you use, ‘good’ bacteria will need to colonise your tank, in order to remove toxic waste products such as Ammonia from the water. This process is called nitrification or biological filtration. New aquariums and filters will not have these bacteria and it can take
several weeks to establish a fully functioning biological filter. During this time Ammonia or Nitrite can build up to toxic levels causing stress, disease or death. Therefore, it is important that you do not overstock the tank with fish.

Use a live bacteria supplement, such as Prodibio, to allow fish to be added on the first day.


Problems can be reduced by:

  • Gradually building up the population of fish over 4 to 5 weeks
  • Use live plants – these can absorb some of the toxic products directly from the water
  • Only feed the fish sparingly – once every second day to reduce the amount of Ammonia produced
  • Test Ammonia and Nitrite levels – water change as needed
  • Keep pH slightly acid 6.8-7.0 as it reduces the toxicity of Ammonia


Why put plants in my tank?

Did you know that many freshwater fish will actually feel happier, and look better, in a planted aquarium? Shy fish such as Tetras will feel more comfortable when they have a planted area to hide in, especially if there are larger, more aggressive fish in a tank with them.

In addition, plants are the recycling system of the aquarium. They use the waste products from the fish as fertiliser, which powers their growth. As they grow, they generate oxygen, which the fish then breathe. A perfect combination! So, when you choose to decorate your tank with plants, you will not only add interest and colour to your aquarium, but you will ensure that your fish are happy, healthy, and vibrant.