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“The fish in the creek said nothing. Fish never do.

Few people know what fish think about injustice, or anything else.” 

― Ursula K. Le GuinCatwings

Be prepared

The most important thing to do before you start setting up your aquarium is to make sure that you're fully prepared. This means having all the equipment and tools you'll need to set up the tank, and knowing in detail exactly what you want the aquarium to look like when it's finished.

You should also test your tank to make sure that it's completely secure before you move it to its final location. To do this, cover a level surface with sheets of newspaper and place the tank on top. Carefully fill the tank to the rim and leave it for a couple of hours. If the newspaper is wet you know you have a problem with your tank, but generally if you buy a new, brand-name tank it won't leak. Once you know that there are no issues with your tank you can move it to its permanent location.

Choose the right location

The key to choosing the right location for your aquarium is to observe the following points:

  • Keep the tank away from sources of noise, such as TVs, radios and washing machines, as fish don't like to be exposed to loud noises.
  • Do not choose a location that is near items which could alter the temperature of the water in the tank, such as radiators or fireplaces. Fish need to be kept at a certain temperature and water that is too warm could make them unwell.
  • Avoid placing the tank directly under strong natural light sources such as windows or skylights. Strong light can have an influence on the algae in the aquarium, and too much light will cause problems with your water quality.
  • Make sure that the floor beneath the aquarium is perfectly level as otherwise water could leak from the top of your aquarium, and in the long term, the strain could make the glass crack.

Fill the tank

Once you have placed the tank in its final location, fill it with clean tap water and test the water pH. Most pet stores sell pH testing kits, or you can bring a sample into a Pets at Home store where we'll test it for you. The majority of fish prefer a balanced pH (7), but some don't, so make sure to find out what pH the fish you want are suited to. Once you've set up your tank, you'll need to leave it for at least three days before adding fish, to allow time for any impurities to dissipate.

At this stage you'll also need to set up a filtration system, in order to keep the water in your aquarium clean. In terms of which filter to choose, buy the highest quality possible and one that is either sized for your specific tank or larger, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation. If the water ever looks cloudy or has dirt floating in it, then you'll need to filter or change the water.


Now for the fun bit! Most fish-owners love decorating their aquarium with ornaments and toys for their fish, and there are plenty of types to choose from. You could use resin ornaments, natural stones, tree roots or plants, but the important thing is that you give them a quick wash to take off any dirt before placing them in the tank. If you like, you can also apply a background material to the back of the tank. This is optional, but fish tend to feel more secure if the back and sides of their tank are covered.