Rinse your tropical fish aquarium in clean water. Never use soap or detergents as any residue left on the tank is toxic to fish. Dry the tropical fish aquarium with a clean cloth then place in position. Standing the tropical fish aquarium on a layer of polystyrene will help to ensure it is level, however new types of tropical fish aquariums do not need to be, has they have a plastic boarder around the base for support.
Wash the gravel using a bucket and running water, until the water runs clear. Any décor such as plastic or silk plants, ornaments, rocks and all accessories should also be washed in clean water, once again do not use any soap or detergents. Bogwood or Mopani wood may have to be soaked in water for a number of hours before use.
Add a 6-8cm depth of gravel, sloping it gently up towards the back of the tank. If an undergravel filter which is powered by an air pump is being used it should be positioned in the bottom of the tropical fish aquarium, before the gravel is added, where it can be hidden from view using gravel.
You may choose not to use a undergravel type filter and wish to use a self powered internal filter, or a powered external filter which will give more movement of water in the tank. Fluval Filters and Aqua One Filters are both good choices. Fill the tropical fish aquarium to about one third full, using water from the cold tap. Pour the water carefully over a plate so that it doesn’t disturb the display.
Position the heater horizontally near the bottom of the aquarium, setting the thermostat to 26ºC, although most are pre-set when purchased, also put a thermometer inside the tank, this will monitor the temperature of the water. Do not switch on the heater until the aquarium is filled with water. All aquariums need a set size heater, if you buy a complete setup it should come with the right size for that tank. Interpet offer a good range.
Position plants, rocks and bogwood. Arrange them to hide the filter and give a feeling of height and depth to your display. Do not block the filter inlets or outlet. Allow an open swimming space at the front so you can see your fish.
Complete filling the aquarium with water. Although tap water usually contains the correct minerals for fish, it also contains chlorine which is not healthy for fish. You therefore need to use a water De-Chlorinator, this not only removes chlorine, it also removes chloramines, toxic heavy metals and contains soothing aloe Vera, either King British De- Chlorinator, Tetra Aquasafe or Api Stess Coat are ideal to use.
Once the tropical fish aquarium is full of water the equipment should be switched on. Any cloudiness, or bubbles on the aquarium decorations will disappear within a short period of time. The Aquarium Heater and Aquarium Filter can be left switched on to allow the water to warm up and the filter to start its maturation process.
Add some filter starter to your tropical aquarium. This will help to get your filter going if one has been fitted, and contains a unique blend of good filter bacteria that will ensure that the filter is effective in de-toxifying the waste. If using live plants add some Plant Food such as Flora Boost Plant Food or you can even add a CO2 unit to the tank which will help feed you plants and keep them healthy.
After a few hours the water temperature should be stable and the water clear. Ideally you should run your tropical aquarium for a week or so without fish. However if you carefully monitor the water chemistry you can introduce 1 or 2 hardy fish. Take your retailer’s advice on which species to choose. (Allow a 2-3 week interval before adding any more fish). Never add large numbers of fish at a time, otherwise the filter and tropical aquarium will be overwhelmed by the amount of waste, and fish may die from ammonia or nitrite toxicity. It is better to allow the good bacteria to build up at a steady pace in the filter.
In the first few days the fish are unlikely to eat. Try to give them a small amount of tropical fish Food, but if they do not eat it within a few minutes, scoop the food out with a net. If left it will clog up the filter and cause water quality problems. There are many types of tropical fish foods available for different types of tropical fish, such as tropical flake food, tropical sinking/adhesive tablets which can be stuck to the glass enabling you to watch the fish feed. Catfish pellets, Plecostumus tablets/wafers, Algae wafers, Sticks, various frozen and freeze dried foods. There are also hatching devices that enable you to breed your own live food, such as a Brine Shrimp hatchery.
Depending on the type of tropical fish you wish to keep your local supplier should be able to advise you on their specific requirements like hardness, ph and weather they are brackish water fish which require an element of salt added to the water, and sometimes lighting and heating conditions.