Set Up A Coldwater Fish Tank

Coldwater Aquariums are a great choice for beginning and more experienced fish keepers. Because they do not require a heater cold water aquariums are easier to maintain than tropical aquariums. Cold water fish are also generally more hardy than tropical fish so they are easier to care for and come in a wide variety of fantastic shapes, sizes and colours!

Before Buying your aquarium you need to decide on exactly what you want from your new hobby.


  • What kind of fish do you want to keep?. The first thing you should do when you decide to keep fish is determine what kind of fish you want to keep. Different kinds of fish will require different care, different conditions, different space, and different equipment. You should research the different needs and behaviors of different types of fish including for example how big they will grow to so that you can buy the right size of tank and how they will live with other types of fish.
  • Determine space. Now that you know a little more about the fish you wish to keep, you know how large of a tank you will need. Look through your home and select a location for your new aquarium. How much space can you allocate to the tank and accessories? Remember to account for space between the tank and the wall for filters, tubing, and/or cords.
  • Determine budget. How much can you afford to spend on your aquarium? If this is your first tank, how much can you afford to spend on a new hobby that you are not sure you will be pursuing long term?

Set Up

STEP 1: Decide on the aquarium’s location

Place your aquarium in an area where the light and temperature of the tank won't be affected by external sources such as windows and heater vents. Sunlight that enters the room through an unshaded window could affect the temperature of your tank. This could also lead to green algae problems for your tank down the road. You will want to place your aquarium on a stand that will be able to hold its total weight. You also want to be sure that the floor is able to support the total weight of the aquarium and stand. A good rule of thumb for determining the total weight of a full aquarium is 10 pounds per gallon of water. For example, a 250 litre tank will weigh approximately 250 kilograms when filled with water!

STEP 2: Buy aquarium and equipment

Now is a good time to decide on the type of aquarium filter you will want to use. You can buy an aquarium light but remember that light and heat go together, you don’t want to buy a light that over heats your tank. Buy the gravel, plants, a power strip and other decorations. A good rule of thumb for the amount of gravel that you will need is 1 to 1.5 pounds of gravel per gallon of water. Make sure that you purchase an air pump with your aquarium as Goldfish and other freshwater fish need well oxygenated water.

STEP 3: Set up your aquarium and stand

Wash out your tank with water only! Do not use soap or detergents. Soap residue left behind will be harmful for your fish. If you are going to use an under gravel filter (not recommended) now would be the time to set it up as well.

STEP 4: Wash aquarium, Gravel and plants

Be sure to wash the gravel thoroughly before adding it to your tank. An easy way to do this is to put some of the rocks in a pasta strainer and wash them out in your bath tub. Then place the clean gravel in a clean 5-gallon bucket for transport to the aquarium. After adding the gravel you can place your plants and decorations.

STEP 5: Add water and treatments

To avoid messing up your gravel and plants, you can place a plate or saucer in the middle of your aquarium and direct the water flow onto the plate. Use room temperature water when filling. To remove chlorine from your aquarium and aid the biological process add stress coat and stress zyme on day 1, day 7, and day 14. On day 14 you are ready to add fish. Some hardier species of fish can be added to help aid the cycling process however time is the best solution. Please note that there are other products on the market from companies such as tetra that proclaim to complete the cycle process in as little as three days. You want to be sure that your tank is prepared to process natural waste before adding fish.

STEP 6: Set up equipment

Hook up your filter and any other equipment you have, then top off the aquarium water to just under the hood lip. Place your hood and tank light on the aquarium and then check your power cords to be sure that they are free of water. Plug all of the equipment into a power strip and then "turn on" the aquarium.

STEP 7: Wait, wait, wait and then wait some more

I know, you want to add some fish. But, in order to do this right you must wait until your aquarium has cycled before adding any fish. If you have used stress coat and Stress zyme you will be ready to buy fish on day 14.

STEP 8: Add fish

Only add one or two fish at a time. Adding a couple fish at a time gives your filtration system the time needed to take on the increased biological load that the new fish introduce. When you bring the fish home let the bag float in the tank for about 15 minutes so that the fish can become acclimated to the temperature and pH of the aquarium water. After 5 minutes of floating the bag you should add some of the aquarium water to the bag so that the fish can become acclimated to the pH level in the aquarium. This will help reduce the amount of stress imposed on the fish. Stressed fish often leads to dead or diseased fish! Don't feed your fish on the first day. They probably wouldn't eat any food on the first day anyway. Let them get acquainted with their new home.

STEP 9: Get ready for regular maintenance

Be prepared to spend some time once every week or two to clean your tank. Performing regular water changes will reduce the nitrate levels and keep your fish happy and healthy.

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