Starting your first fresh-water aquarium is an exciting, yet sometimes daunting task. The first think you need to do is purchase a tank. Many first time aquarium owners think that choosing a small tank to start with is a good idea, but this is not true. Start with the largest aquarium you can afford, because the larger the aquarium, the easier it is to care for. Normally, a 20 gallon, rectangle shaped aquarium is the best for first time owners.
Once you have your aquarium, you need to find a place to put it. First, make sure your location is near an electric outlet. You will need to plug in at least three items for your tank—your filter, light hood, and heater. Second, make sure the location will not be exposed to any sunlight, because sunlight encourages algae growth. Finally, make sure your stand is sturdy enough to support the weight of your aquarium when it is filled. (Keep in mind that each gallon of water weighs about eight pounds.)
After you have selected your location, it is time to make sure you have all your equipment and decorations. You will need: the tank, a light and hood, a heater, a thermometer, a filter, and rocks or gravel. Most people like to add plants to their tank as well. Start filling your tank with the rocks or gravel. Rinse them first to eliminate any dust, and put them into the tank. There should be about two inches of gravel in the bottom of the tank. Next, add any large decorations you have. Then add the water. Be sure to add a chemical to remove the chlorine from the water to make it safe for your fish. After adding the water, add the plants. Finally, attach the heater, thermometer, light, and filter. Plug in all attachments. You will need to adjust the heater throughout the first day to get the temperature in the correct range, which should be around 75 degrees.
For most new aquarium owners it is tempting to rush right out and buy fish the first day they have their tank up. This is a very bad idea, because it takes a fish tank a while to stabilize, both in the temperature and the chemical balance. Let your tank run empty for at least a week. Then start by adding just a few hardy fish. If you want to raise delicate fish, like Neons, wait a while, because the tank’s chemical balance will continue to fluctuate for the first few months. Good starter fish include most tetras and danios. Also, do not buy an algae eater right away—the tank will not have any algae for it to eat!
If your first fish do well in your new tank, than you probably did everything correctly! Gradually add more fish. Remember, it is important to not overfill your tank—only put one inch of fish per gallon of water. And keep in mind the fish you buy in your local pet store are not full-grown. Think about how big they will be when they are full-grown. The pet store associates should be able to tell you how big the fish will be likely to grow. Grow your tank slowly, and you will learn much about the art of caring for fish!