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How to Set Up a Fish-Only Aquarium in 10 Simple Steps

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton


Fish-only aquariums are delightful to own, and watching an aquarium flourish is a rewarding experience. Owning a fish-dedicated tank allows you to get the best out of the aquarium hobby and start your journey to becoming a successful fish keeper.

To get your aquarium set up and ready for the fish, there is a lot of work to ensure you are providing the fish with an ideal environment. Fish must live in the environment we create. This makes it essential to do our best to mimic their natural environment, as well as meet all their needs.


The following items are essential to purchase before you set up the tank

Research the type of fish you want to keep. This will help you plan out how your aquarium should be set up.

Image Credit: rodimov, Shutterstock

Getting Started

Once you have all the equipment you need to set up the tank, it is finally time to set everything up.

Steps in Assembling Fish-Only Aquarium
  • Step One: Wash the aquarium with a diluted form of apple cider vinegar and warm water.
  • Step Two: Rinse the cleaning residue thoroughly until there is no longer the smell of apple cider vinegar.
  • Step Three: Place the aquarium on a steady surface that will be able to hold the equipment and water weight which will make the aquarium 10 times heavier.
  • Step Four: Rinse the substrate to make it free of dust particles that will cloud the water.
  • Step Five: Place a layer of the substrate at the bottom of the aquarium.
  • Step Six: Fill the tank via large buckets with dechlorinated water.
  • Step Seven: Install the filter and airstone into the nearest electrical outlet and position them in the tank.
  • Step Eight: If you plan to keep tropical fish, proceed to install the heater.
  • Step Nine: Add in the decorations and move every item to how you want the final product to look.
  • Step Ten: Cycle the aquarium for 3 weeks to encourage a system of beneficial bacteria. Do not place the fish into the aquarium until the parameters via a test kit resemble 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrites, and 5 ppm to 30 ppm nitrates.

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Watching your little ecosystem develop and host your favorite fish is the best part of the aquarium hobby. Although we should warn you…once you set up one aquarium, you will likely get another, and another! Fishkeeping is a joyful experience many hobbyists enjoy and dedicate their time towards.

Featured Image Credit: Maverick Ace, Shutterstock

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

Authored by

Lindsey discovered her passion for fish keeping after a junior high school field trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Prior to becoming Editor-in-Chief of It's a Fish Thing, Lindsey studied marine biology at the University of California-Santa Cruz. She loves goldfish, tetras, and mystery snails, and recently began experimenting with a saltwater aquarium.

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