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How To Set Up A Fishtank

Oct 12, 2007
Certain important factors need to be taken into consideration when setting up a fish tank. They are the selection of aquarium location, use of sand stones and ornaments, and the important addition of appropriate plants.

Tank Location

In general a tank should have at least 8 to 10 hours of illumination a day (12 to 14 hours is not too long) and should not receive more than about 2 hours of direct natural sunlight, less with a small tank in summer, which may otherwise seriously overheat. Drafty locations must be avoided, and so must the tops of radiators, which heat the sand and cause the plants to wilt and can overheat the tank far too easily. Thus, the popular window location over a radiator is not to be commended.

Use of Sand

The purpose of the sand is to hold down rooted plants and to provide decoration. If it is too fine, it packs tightly and prevents the roots from penetrating; it also promotes the growth of anaerobic bacteria - those that thrive in oxygen-free surroundings and turn the sand gray or black. If it is too coarse, the plants get little grip and ride free, and unconsumed food and other detritus get down into the sand and are not easily removed.

Thus, coarse river sand, preferably with a variable grain size for pleasant appearance, is the best. It should be deep enough to provide adequate root space for the plants provided, which will vary from 1 to 3 inches.

In all but the smallest tanks, 2 inches of sand at the back and less in front is about right, but it may be banked up much more than this if desired, for decorative effects. However, a great depth of sand tends sooner or later to become foul, and it is best to avoid it, or to pack the deeper areas with rock beneath the sand.

The placing of deep sand at the back automatically provides for three things. First, it looks pleasant, giving the aquarium base a gentle forward slope which best exhibits the content. Second, it provides for the largest plants to be sited at the back, where they are usually required. Third, it encourages the mulm to collect toward the front of the tank, whence it is easily removed.

Before use, sand must be very thoroughly washed. Even if supplied as "washed," it will normally require some further washing. Really dirty sand may need 20 or 30 swirlings in fresh buckets of water, or half an hour's thorough hosing in a shallow container. Failure to do this may cause cloudy water for weeks, or more serious trouble.

Stones, Rockwork, and Ornaments

These items are almost purely a matter of personal taste. There are occasions when stones are needed by the fishes, as in spawning some of the cichlids, but they have usually no essential function in other tanks, except to look nice. Judges in shows have various theories about the relationship between stones and the sand they lie in, and about the direction of rock strata. These are mostly highly debatable and of little interest, one feels, to the serious aquarist.

It must be recalled that large rocks take up water volume, but the tank would have to be extraordinarily full of them before this would be likely to matter except when judging the amount of chemicals to add in the treatment of disease.

Ornaments, such as treasure chests, divers, sea shells, and mermaids are best forgotten. Fortunately they usually become covered by algae in a flourishing tank and mellowed into a more acceptable state - i.e., unnoticeable.


Select young, healthy-looking plants for setting up a tank, and, unless they come from an impeccable source, disinfect them or quarantine them. If you wish to use them immediately, a rapid wash in salt water is best followed by a thorough wash in fresh water is good.

As can be seen, an aquarium is easily set up and maintained. Following the above simple instruction should give you hours of pleasure. Good luck!
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