New Aquarium: Everything You Need to Know

A lot of time passes between the decision to buy an aquarium and the arrival of the fish. But this phase is also very exciting for many new aquarists, after all, there is now a lot to organize. Here you can find out exactly how you should proceed when preparing and setting up the aquarium.

Planning and shopping

Before you go out and get a new aquarium, you should consider a few things in advance. Because good planning is crucial for the later success of your project.

Among other things, you have to think about which and how many animals you want to add to your aquarium later. This is so important because you should definitely match the necessary aquarium technology, equipment, and tank size to your aquarium inhabitants. It would be ideal if you also decide in advance about the fish species. In the socialization of different species, not only the environmental requirements of the fish should harmonize, but also the character and way of life.

After all open questions have been answered, you can finally go shopping. On the shopping list here is the basic technical equipment such as basin, lighting, filter, and heating, possibly also additional technology such as CO2 systems or skimmers. Various complete sets are also available in stores. Especially for beginners in the aquarium hobby, they make it easier to get started with coordinated technology. Of course, you can also get the furnishings now, i.e. the substrate, stones, roots, wood, and plants. However, fish do not follow until some time later. You will need a little patience for this. More on this later.

Set up and set up

When you’ve got everything you need, you can get started right away and start setting up the pool. After unpacking, you should first clean it with tap water and a soft sponge, avoiding detergents and cleaning agents. To be on the safe side, you should now also check the seams: The silicone joints must not have any irregularities. If you want to be absolutely sure, you have to use a more complicated measure: Bring the new basin into a tiled room as possible and place it on a surface that compensates for unevenness. Fill the aquarium completely with water and check the following day to see if any water has leaked. If not, empty it and start positioning and setting up.

Appropriate choice of place

The place where your new aquarium should be is also crucial. The place should be level and be able to bear the heavyweight of the aquarium. This applies not only to the supporting piece of furniture such as the table or base cabinet but also to the entire statics of the house. Because a full, medium-sized aquarium can quickly weigh around 400 kg. The aquarium must also not be exposed to direct sunlight, as this leads to stronger and undesirable algae growth.

Our tip: When setting up, place a thin Styrofoam sheet or foam mat between the pool and the furniture: This evens out unevenness, prevents tension, and ensures that not too much heat is lost below.

The substrate

Once everything is in place, it’s time to set up – now it’s getting creative! First, you should apply a long-term substrate fertilizer to the empty and dry tank, which primarily supplies those plants that absorb the nutrients via their roots. The next layer then consists of a substrate, mostly gravel or sand. Here you should make sure that you lay the foundation for your later aquarium layout with the substrate. The professional tip: Let the substrate flatten towards the front and emphasize certain areas (put them higher or lower).

Matching decoration

After the necessary technology has been placed in the (still dry) aquarium, it is time to equip the tank with roots and stones, the so-called “hardscape”. Be careful here not to scratch the panes of the aquarium; Cardboard stuck to the inside of the panes can be very helpful.

You should now position your hard decorative materials as you like and press them into the substrate so that they do not slip in the further course. A few more tips from aquascaping professionals: position the largest decorative element in the center and use an uneven number of stones and roots to make the decoration look more harmonious. In addition, you shouldn’t mix too many different materials.

It turns green

Next up is the “Softscape”, the aquarium plants. Before these are used, you should wash them under running, lukewarm tap water and remove rotten roots, leaves, and shoots.

It is advisable to make a brief overview sketch in advance with the positioning of the aquarium plants and decorative objects. So you keep track of things. The easiest way to insert it is to start at the back of your aquarium and slowly work your way forward. You should also anchor the plants well in the ground (either press in or dig holes, insert plants and fill in roots). Tweezers are very helpful for small plants. Whether you do the whole thing in the dry basin or only later, when the water has already been poured in, is entirely up to you. Our recommendation for this is to fill in about 10 cm of water and then to plant.

Install technology

Now let’s turn to the technology that keeps your aquarium running. This is attached when setting up the pool, we want to go into more detail here.


The filter ensures that the aquarium water is cleaned and thus helps to maintain the optimal water values. It is the heart of your aquarium. You have the choice between internal and external filters. The filter should primarily be selected according to the size of the pool. But the fish stocking density also plays a role. If you want to keep a lot of fish, you should equip your tank with a strong filter. It is better to choose a model that is also suitable for a larger pool volume. And of course, you shouldn’t turn it on until you’ve filled the basin with water.


Of course, whether you need heating depends on your animals; Most ornamental fish, however, are used to warmer water and therefore need aquarium heating. Mostly heating rods are used, which are easily hung on the pool wall. It is important here that it is located in a place where the water circulates well so that all of the water is heated and not just at a certain point. Alternatively, floor wash lights or filters with integrated heating can also be used. At the same time, floor heating also fulfills a certain filter function with the help of the substrate. Warmed water rises through the substrate and is filtered in this way. They must be laid before the substrate is filled. So, if necessary, plan them in good time!


The lighting to be installed also depends heavily on the needs of your animals and plants because it is not only there to put your pool in the right light; it contributes greatly to the well-being of the aquarium inhabitants. T8 or T5 fluorescent tubes are a comparatively inexpensive solution to purchase. However, they have to be replaced 3/4-year because the quality of light then decreases. This is not visible, but it promotes unwanted algae growth. High-quality LED lights are an alternative. They save electricity and are more durable, but also a little more expensive to buy.

Water march!

After the technology, the water finally comes. At this point, however, you should be very sure that you no longer want to move the pelvis. You should be careful when filling so that your previous work is not completely ruined and the substrate is stirred up too much. A good tip here is to put a shallow bowl or plate on the floor and slowly pour the 24 to 26 ° C warm water into it until the water level rises above the plate. From now on, the water can be slowly poured in using a bucket over the plate. To make the running-in process faster, it is worth treating the filter and tank contents with filter starter cultures. A suitable water conditioner is also recommended.

Retract the aquarium and insert the fish

When you are done with everything, your aquarium is officially set up, but that does not mean that the fish are already on the move: the aquarium has to “break-in” first. This means that certain beneficial bacteria settle in the water and in the filter, which is responsible for maintaining the water values. You can control this process by measuring the nitrite value in the water. If you measure daily, you will notice a sudden sharp increase and then a decrease in this value. One speaks here of the “nitrite peak”. Wait until this value is in a range that is harmless to fish. This is usually the case after two weeks at the earliest. By then, any cloudiness that has occurred has subsided and parts of the plant have regenerated. Now you can finally put in the first few fish!

These should be used carefully because they first have to get used to the temperature in the tank: Simply hang the opened fish bag in the aquarium and after about a quarter of an hour move the fish into the pool water. To be on the safe side, you should make sure that as little “bag water” as possible gets into the pool water – a net is helpful.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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