Steps 1 to 5 in a ten step system for setting up a tropical fish tank are outlined in detail; tank decisions, heating system, lighting system, aeration and filtration and aquascaping.
1. Tank Decisions
Decide on the size of tank you want and the material its made of. Choose from glass or acrylic, with and without metal frames. Acrylic will be lighter but tends to scratch. You will not want a tank less than 45 cm long, 30 cm wide and 30 cm deep unless you are buying it as a hospital, quarantine or breeding tank.
Because the numbers of fish you can have in a tank is based on the surface area of your aquarium (width x length) the depth is irrelevant. As a rule, divide the surface area by 12 to get the length in fish you can accommodate. For example a 24 x 12 x 12 (inches) tank has a surface area of 288 square inches and will accommodate 24 inches of fish; 24 x 1 inch or 12 x 2 inch fish etc etc.
But bear in mind that you should use the adult length of the fish in your calculations. Otherwise your aquarium will become overcrowded as the your fish grow and there will probably not be enough oxygen to sustain them.
2. Heating System
Unless you are planning to stock cold water fish only, then you will need to install a heater and thermostat (separate or combined). Often a glass tube with both of them in will be used with temperature control on the top of it and a separate thermometer installed.
You may need to fit two heaters in larger tanks to ensure the heat is distributed evenly. Allowing 10 watts per gallon of water would mean a 150 watt heater for a 12 gallon tank.
3. Lighting System
Lighting is necessary for plant growth and also shows off the fish at their colorful best. Fluorescent tubes are available for this purpose and give off less heat than other types of bulb. The lights are usually installed into your tank cover. And remember that fish do not want a tank lit up for 24 hours.
Mimic nature by subduing the light or turning it off in the evenings. Your ventilated cover will not only hold the lighting system but also protect the fish from household pollutants (sprays, dust, dirt etc) but keep them from jumping out and prevent loss of water by evaporation.
4. Aeration and Filtration
An air pump is not essential and if it used to get more oxygen (and therefore more fish) into your tank and it fails then your fish will die! But it can be used in combination with a filter to clean up the water. For example a filter may have a combination of a physical layer of material to collect fine solids and a layer of charcoal to chemically adsorb organic pollutants and maintain the water quality.
Air can be passed into the tank via air stones on the end of the tubing. Ensure you have a n anti-siphon valve for the air pump. Use of an under gravel filter (a biological filter) system involves a flat plate with outlets that goes under the gravel substrate and is powered by an air pump pushing air and water through the substrate which encourages bacteria to develop in it that will break down the toxic waste products from the fish, dead plants etc.
5. Tank Aquascaping
Decorations cover real rocks, synthetic rocks, real wood, synthetic wood and background panorama. They act as areas for the fish to hide and for shelter if they feel like it. Also as a resting area at night or in the day for nocturnal species. Look out for rocks with a high calcium content (limestone) as that will make your water hard and unless a specific requirement will not do any good. And do not use any that appear to have metallic content in them.
Caves can be set up for cave-dwelling species by joining a few rocks together with silicone sealant or you could buy a purpose made one. Rocks can be built up to form the background or you could employ a photographic underwater scene wrapped around the back and sides of the tank to great effect. Use your rocks and logs etc to hide your equipment from view.
Remember to wash not only your decorations but also your substrate gravel which will slope from about 2 inches deep at the front to 3 inches deep at the back. Run water through the gravel until it becomes clear.
You are only restricted by your imagination when developing your aquascape. But bear in mind that you want to maintain a balance and keep a realistic amount of free swimming area for both the fish and you to see them enjoying themselves.
The remaining five steps in setting up your tropical fish tank can be accessed below covering water quality, aquarium plants,fitting out your aquarium, selecting healthy fish and adding fish to your tank.
Paul Curran is webmaster at Fresh-Water-Aquariums-Guide.com and provides a care information system for fresh water aquariums [http://www.fresh-water-aquariums-guide.com/fsa-sales.html]. Get your FREE E-Course on how to set up and maintain a beautiful aquarium, have the healthiest, happiest fish around AND learn more about setting up a tropical fish tank [http://www.fresh-water-aquariums-guide.com/setting-up-tropical-fish-tank/].
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