How to Set Up A Small Fish Tank Step By Step for Beginner

How to set up a small fish tank

How to set up a small fish tank? Having a fish tank may be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby. Tanks, equipment, and, most importantly, tropical fish come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors. However, how do you pick the best fish for your setup? The answer is mostly determined by the size of your tank, small saltwater fish tank setup is almost similar (not the same). In this article, let’s discuss how to set up a small fish tank.

How to set up a small fish tank

Make careful to set up your new aquarium, add water, substrate, and plants, and let it settle for at least 24 to 48 hours before adding fish. After you’ve built up your aquarium, you’ll be able to choose the fish you want to put in it.

The lowest recommended tank size for a beginner is 5 gallons, however, a 20-gallon tank or bigger is preferable.

When your ammonia levels are rapidly declining over the course of a day and your nitrite level has increased and then plummeted to 0ppm, your tank is ready to add fish. When you get to this phase, it’s time to add your first fish.

Aquarium Dimensions

You’ll notice that tank sizes are listed in gallons while shopping for a fish tank (sometimes liters in Europe and other metric system countries). A little fish tank is one that is less than 20 gallons in size.

In the 5 to 20 gallon range, there are a variety of aquarium systems to choose from, and your decision should be based on your specific arrangement.

It’s typically easier for a new fish owner to opt for an aquarium system – a package that includes all of the necessary equipment – rather than individual accessories.

A 30-gallon aquarium is the least size advised, yet in saltwater, more is usually better. A big marine ecosystem can sustain daily changes in water quality better than a small one. We’ve discovered that 55 gallons are the ideal size for a starter aquarium.

Accessories Needed

Here’s a list of items you’ll need to get started, in addition to your tank, filter, and lighting:

A gravel that has been coated or washed is great.

Only aquarium-specific decorations are permitted (e.g., live or artificial plants and ornaments).

Water Conditioner: Makes tap water fish-safe by de-chlorinating it.

A net is used to transport fish.

Gravel Washer: For cleaning and changing the water.

Consult your dealer for a recommendation on fish food.

Aquarium Fish for Small Tanks

Once you’ve decided on a fish tank arrangement, remember to properly condition your water by cycling it with one of the many products on the market today that aid in the development of the required bacteria in your aquarium. If you’re not confident about water cycling, you should look into the Nitrogen Cycle before buying any tropical fish.

You’re ready to catch your first fish after preparing your water. There are a few varieties of fish that are better for fish tanks smaller than 20 gallons, assuming you’ve chosen a smaller aquarium layout. Below, we’ll look at some suggestions for giving your tank the best chance of success.

1. Bettas

Bettas are the subject of numerous urban legends. Because of the males’ proclivity to fight other males, these fish are also referred to as Siamese Fighting Fish.

You’ll commonly find these fish in incredibly small bowls in your local pet store. While the fish thrive in smaller tanks, anything less than three gallons is not suggested.

Bettas are a terrific starting fish for a small aquarium, but there are a couple of things to bear in mind when maintaining them. First and foremost, never keep two males in the same fish tank without using a plastic tank side box or some other form of separation. Males will fight, and your tank should not be used to pit fish against one another.

The temperature of the water should be warm enough for your Bettas, which is the second most crucial consideration. Bettas are native to Southeast Asia, where river water is typically very warm. The temperature of the water can be found in the table below.

Minimum tank size: 3 gallons

Water Temp: 75 – 86 F (24 – 30 C)

Aquarium Level: Top

Size: Approximately 3 inches

Care Level: Beginner to Intermediate

pH: 6.8 – 7.4

Food: Flakes, Frozen and Live

2. Dwarf/Honey Gouramis

The names Dwarf and Honey Gouramis come from their diminutive adult size and honey color, respectively. Adults can grow up to 2 inches in length. Both varieties of gouramis are excellent first-time owners because they are peaceful and social fish.

As a result, they should not be maintained in a tank with other fish that are more aggressive. They favor dense vegetation. Because Dwarf and Honey Gouramis are native to India and Bangladesh, they enjoy the warm water.

Minimum tank size: 5 gallons

Water Temp: 72 – 82 F (22 – 28 C)

Aquarium Level: Mid-top

Size: Approximately 2 inches

Care Level: Beginner to Intermediate

pH: 6.0 – 7.5

Food: Omnivorous, will also eat algae

3. Harlequin/Red Rasbora

The Red Rasbora, often known as the Harlequin, is a popular freshwater fish. Harlequins enjoy tanks with dense vegetation, a dark substrate, and low lighting. Harlequins can survive in a wider variety of temperatures than some of the other tropical fish mentioned in this article.

Although the harlequin is native to Southeast Asia, it prefers warmer water. Because harlequins prefer to be in a school or small group, you’ll want to get at least three to four at a time.

Minimum tank size: 10 gallons

Water Temp: 73 – 82 F (23 – 28 C)

Aquarium Level: Mid – top

Size: Approximately 1.5 – 2 inches

Care Level: Beginner to Intermediate

pH: 6.0 – 7.5

Food: Omnivorous

4. Zebra Danio

The Zebra Danio is one of the most active aquarium fish, with a variety of species to choose from. Zebra Danios are brightly colored fish with bluish purple stripes that run down the sides of their bodies.

Zebra Danios are gentle and ideal community fish. Although Zebra Danios are cold-water fish, they can typically adjust to a slightly higher temperature if placed in an aquarium with a slightly higher temperature. They love slightly moving water and are usually found at the aquarium’s top.

Minimum tank size: 5 gallons

Water Temp: 64 – 74 F (18 – 24 C)

Aquarium Level: All levels

Size: Approximately 2 inches

Care Level: Beginner

pH: 6.5 – 7.0

Food: Omnivorous

5. Tetras

Tetras are excellent fish for beginning fish keepers that have a modest tank. Tetras are placid and easy to care for community fish, despite the fact that there are many different species.

As previously stated, there are numerous tetra species that are well-suited to tiny aquariums. Look around your local pet store for the color and variety that appeals to you the most.

Cardinal, Neon, Black Phantom, Black Neon, and Bleeding Heart Tetras are examples of species that thrive in small fish tanks. We’ll use the popular Cardinal Tetra for our fish facts part in this essay.

Minimum tank size: 5 gallons

Water Temp: 73 – 81 F (23 – 27 C)

Aquarium Level: Mid – top

Size: Approximately 2 inches

Care Level: Beginner – Intermediate

pH: 4.6 – 6.2

Food: Omnivorous

You should be able to choose your new pets if you have any of the above fish and a thorough awareness of the best circumstances for each type. Many people believe that tropical fish are easy to care for and that they can be kept with little or no effort.

Getting Your Aquarium Ready

Take Care When Handling
Never try to transport an aquarium that is completely or partially full.
Wet hands should never be used to lift an aquarium.
Never lift an aquarium by holding the upper borders or frame.
Always grab and carry an aquarium from the bottom, ensuring that the bottom is supported at all times.

Getting Your Tank Ready

Clean the inside and outside of your tank with a moist cloth before putting it together. Soap, detergents, and cleaning chemicals should never be used by learning how to set up a small fish tank.

Choosing The Right Location

Place an aquarium at a site that can sustain its entire weight. The weight of a gallon of water and gravel in an aquarium is around 10 to 12 pounds. Always situate an aquarium on a level, flat surface with an electrical outlet nearby.

An aquarium should never be kept near a heat source or an air conditioner. An aquarium should never be placed in direct sunlight. Excessive algal development can be caused by full or partial sunlight.

Add Gravel

For every gallon of aquarium water, add 1.5 to 2 pounds of gravel. Before adding the gravel, make sure to completely rinse it (the water should drain clear). The gravel bed in front of your aquarium should gradually slope down.

Adding Water to Your Aquarium

The gravel bed will be disturbed if you pour a stream of water directly into your tank. Before adding water, we recommend placing a clean dish on top of the pebbles and slowly pouring the water over it. Without displacing gravel, the stream is softly redirected.

Fill your aquarium with room temperature water at all times. Condensation occurs when cool water is used, giving the appearance of a leak. If condensation forms, gently wipe the surface with a clean towel until the temperature returns to normal.

Before putting water in your aquarium, be sure it’s been dechlorinated. It’s not a good idea to use untreated tap water because it can harm your fish.

Make a decoration

You can add aquatic plants (living or fake) and/or decorative pebbles or decorations once the aquarium is half full. Make careful to fully rinse all of these products before using them.

Larger plants should be placed at the back of the tank, while smaller plants should be placed near the front. Your fish will have an open swimming space as a result of this. Continue filling the aquarium to within an inch of the top rim once all ornaments and plants are in place.

Filtration in Three Stages

Filtration is essential for a healthy and thriving aquarium. There are three stages to the process. Solid trash such as uneaten food and fish feces are trapped by mechanical filtration. Filter cartridges are a great way to filter both mechanically and chemically.

Chemical filtration employs a medium (activated carbon) to soak (attract and hold) dissolved contaminants that can discolor and odorize water.

A poly-fiber pad traps dirt and debris for mechanical filtration. Each cartridge contains excellent activated carbon for chemical filtration.

The third type of filtration is biological filtration. To eliminate poisonous ammonia and nitrite that accumulate in aquarium water, it relies on a culture of beneficial oxygen-loving bacteria.

The bacteria culture converts ammonia and nitrite to nitrate, which is then eliminated with partial water changes once a month. Beneficial bacteria will naturally develop on a variety of aquarium surfaces (including gravel, decorative rock, and plastic plants) and provide biological filtration.

How to set up a small fish tank

Electricity, heat, and light

Your aquarium’s water temperature can be maintained with the help of a heater. A consistent water temperature of 75° to 80° F is required for most tropical species. The only exceptions are goldfish and a few other cold-water species. They can live without a heater pretty well by how to set up a small fish tank.

Illumination improves the appearance colors of your fish and is necessary for the growth of living plants. Aquarium light fixtures come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Your dealer can assist you in choosing the right light fixture for your needs. A hood or cover for your aquarium is always a smart option because it keeps fish in while keeping airborne pollutants out.

Keep your aquarium’s lights to 7 to 10 hours each day to avoid excessive algae growth. Connecting your lighting fixture to a normal timer is simple.

Read all stated safety instructions in your owner’s manual(s) before plugging in your heater, hood, or any other electrical equipment, and make sure to use a drip loop. When possible, use a GFCI-protected outlet.

Wait before adding fish

Patience is essential for success when setting up a new aquarium environment. Allow at least 24 hours for your system to run before adding fish.

Begin by discussing with your dealer which fish are best for your aquarium, which species are compatible with each other, and how many fish would be good.

Time for adding fish

Start with only a few of the recommended fish and progressively add more over the next four to six weeks. Only select fish that look to be active and in good health. Also, be careful not to overcrowd your tank. A smaller number of healthier fish is preferable to an overabundance of stressed-out fish.

Make sure the water your fish go into is around the same temperature as the water they come out of. Float the transport container (typically a plastic bag) in the tank for about 15 minutes to equalize the two temperatures. After that, open the bag every five minutes and add a small bit of aquarium water.

Finally, gently net the fish and place it in the tank after 15 minutes. Do not fill the aquarium with bag water. Allow the fish to swim into the tank from the net. It is preferable if the transport is as painless as possible.

Feed your fish only what they will consume in about five minutes twice a day by learning how to set up a small fish tank.


Cleaner water and healthier fish come from a well-maintained aquarium filter so that you can apply how to set up a small fish tank.

Every two to four weeks, you’ll need to replace your filter cartridge and perform a 25% water change.

You should also vacuum the gravel completely to eliminate any rubbish that has accumulated. A basic, siphon-operated gravel vacuum is the simplest and most effective way to perform both a water change and a gravel cleaning.

If the water in your aquarium is hazy, yellowish, or smells awful, it’s time to change the water and get a new filter cartridge. If the problem persists, it’s possible that you have too many fish or are overfeeding them. Bring in a sample of your water for testing to your dealer.

If you’re going to replace the water in your aquarium, make sure you treat it beforehand. The majority of tap water includes chlorine or chloramines, and putting untreated tap water in your aquarium could be fatal to your fish. Check with your dealer to see which water dechlorinator is suitable for your area’s tap water.

To avoid stunning your fish, always replace old water with new water that is close to the same temperature.

Allocate a collection of buckets, sponges, and towels that will only be used for your aquarium. This will help to prevent dangerous contaminants from entering the system.

Also, before completing any aquarium maintenance, make sure all electrical equipment is unplugged and learn how to set up a small fish tank.

Make sure you’re ready to commit before you go out and buy your fish. Keeping fish is not a no-maintenance hobby, but it can be low-maintenance. Choosing the correct setup and fish will go a long way toward ensuring that your fish live in a healthy environment by learning how to set up a small fish tank.

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