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Setting Up an Aquarium Part 3 - Adding Water to Your Aquarium

Nov 30, 2007
When adding water to a new aquarium you can't leave anything to chance, this job has to be carried out correctly or your fishes will suffer for it. Preparation is everything, if you carry out this task correctly you will benefit by getting it right first time and without getting stressed. And if you think this hobby can't stress you out, believe me it can.

A new bucket specifically kept for your hobby is essential; you must not risk contaminating your aquarium water with any pollutant residues that might be in an old bucket. Prepare your water in the bucket, by adding an appropriate amount of tap water conditioner/dechlorinator to water that is approximately 76F (25C), this can then be added to your aquarium.

Ideally water should be siphoned into the aquarium through a tube of about half an inch (13mm) diameter, various diameters of tubing will be available at aquatic shops, or if you are extremely careful you could pour the water in from the bucket, either way use an up-turned saucer or something similar to pour the water onto, this will avoid disturbing the gravel. Continue until the aquarium is approximately one third full.

If you are using live plants rinse them in water of about 76F (25C) to remove any unwanted pests. Don't let plants dry out, and when planting avoid damaging the roots. Potted plants are worth the extra expense as they are already established and less likely to be uprooted by any boisterous fishes.

You can also use artificial plants; they look quite natural and don't need regular pruning. In both cases try to position your plants so that the taller ones are at the back and the shorter ones towards the front, this will create a pleasing effect and will help to hide equipment, as well as being a natural feature for your fish.

Now you can finish filling the aquarium, in same way as before, remembering to add dechlorinator. You can also add a biological culture to the water, or directly into your filter, biological cultures are available at your aquarist shop, and they will help speed up your filters maturation (follow the instructions on the bottle).

If you are using a condensation cover between the surface of the water and the hood, you can place that in your aquarium now, and then having fitted the fluorescent light fitting and tube into the hood, place the hood on top of the aquarium. Site the control unit close to the aquarium but not where it can get splashed by aquarium water.

It's now time to switch on, make sure everything is working, and then leave it all to settle down for 24 hours before checking the water conditions and temperature. Don't worry if the water becomes cloudy, it's quite normal for this to happen and will settle after a few days, this is due to harmless bacteria and will disappear naturally.

Prepare for your Fish:

You must leave your aquarium and its filters to mature for at least two to three weeks. Leave all the equipment running as though there were fish in the aquarium, and get into the habit of switching the light on and off, lighting should be on for about 8 to 10 hours a day, keep it regular, your fishes will become accustomed to a routine.

Check the water temperature after 24 hours, and adjust the heater as necessary, keep checking daily until a stable reading of 76F (25C) is observed (unless you need a different temperature for any specific species you want to keep, then adjust accordingly).

You must not add any fishes until there are enough beneficial bacteria to cope with the waste that they will produce, the bacteria will colonise your filters and anything else that they can cling to, and multiply (adding a bacterial culture will kick-start this process).

Use your test kits according to their instructions within this minimum period, to ensure you have correct readings before introducing any fish.

Ammonia: 0 ppm (mg/l)
Nitrite: 0 ppm (mg/l)
Nitrate: 50 ppm (mg/l) or less
pH: 6.5 to7.5 (for tolerant species)

After a couple of days you may be fooled into thinking everything is OK to introduce your fishes, because your test results indicate low or even zero readings, remember, there are no fishes in at the moment to produce waste to give high readings, what you have to realise is that you are actually waiting for the bacteria in your filter to multiply, ready for the introduction of a fish or two.

Fish waste is high in ammonia, even in small amounts it can kill. Bacteria feed on the ammonia and produce nitrites, which are also toxic to fish; these in turn are converted into nitrates, which are harmless at low levels, this process is known as the nitrogen cycle. If you introduce fishes to soon there will not be enough bacteria to break down the fishes' poisonous waste.

Check your water's pH every three or four days to ensure it is remaining stable. For a tolerant species community aquarium you should have a reading of pH 6.5 to pH 7.5 After two weeks or so, if your test results indicate that your aquarium has stabilised, you can add one or two (no more) small hardy fishes, this will further help to feed your filters bacteria colonies and give the nitrogen cycle a further boost.
About the Author
For more information about freshwater tropical fishkeeping please visit my site at www.freshwatertropicalfishkeeping.com for 30 years or more of fishkeeping experience. Or watch out for more fishkeeping articles from me, Kevin Yates at FWTFK
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