How to Set Up an Aquarium

Aquarium Setup: Filters and Gravel

When aquascaping your aquarium, keep in mind the look you want to achieve as well as the needs of each fish.
When aquascaping your aquarium, keep in mind the look you want to achieve as well as the needs of each fish.
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The mechanical aquarium filtration system is the next step in the process. You have a great variety of filters to choose from, and each has its own particular requirements for preparation. Some may need assembly and others may not. Read the instructions that came with the filter and follow them carefully.

If you still have trouble fitting everything together, check with your dealer. This is part of the service that the store you bought the filter from should offer.

Set the filter up but don't plug it in yet. Set up the temperature control system for your tank. As with the mechanical filters, you have many heaters and thermometers to choose from. Follow the specific instructions provided with your equipment. Put everything in place but don't plug the heater in yet.

With the filters in place and the thermometer set up, you are now ready to begin aquascaping. For biological filtration, an inch of gravel would be adequate, but for stability and aesthetics, two to three inches is better. As an estimate, two pounds of gravel per gallon of water is probably the minimum amount to purchase.

All gravel should be rinsed in small quantities in a bucket under running water before it goes into the aquarium. Stir the gravel in the bucket and continue rinsing until the water is no longer cloudy and has no solid matter floating in it.

As you add gravel to the tank, place more toward the back so that when you are finished, the gravel slopes down to the front of the tank. The visual effect of the sloping tends to make the tank look deeper.

Also, the slope will tend to cause the various bits and pieces of organic matter that accumulate on the gravel to work their way to the front of the tank, where they can be more easily removed. The slope will also even the flow of water through the undergravel filter.

The lift tube that draws the water through the filter plate is at the back of the tank, so it has less of an effect on the water at the front of the tank. If the gravel at the front isn't as deep, though, it creates less resistance for the water to overcome, and the flow of water through the gravel will be roughly the same near the lift tube as it is away from the lift tube.

After the gravel has been laid down, you can add any other aquascaping materials. Remember to think about the arrangement. You're creating a terrain of sorts for your fish, and you must consider them.

They'll want caves and crevices for hiding, and any territorial species will want bounded areas they can claim as their own.

Also remember that you should like the way it looks. The backdrop you're creating can have a big impact on the aquarium's overall look, so it pays to get it right. Don't add any plants yet; they will go in after the tank has been partially filled.

Go to the next page to find out how to prepare water for your aquarium.

To learn more about freshwater aquariums, see: