There are several things to consider when buying an aquarium. Available space, type of fish you want to keep, and budgets are a few. Generally speaking, the greater the volume of water the better, so, it is recommended to start with the largest aquarium you can. A larger volume of water is easier to maintain, and you can keep more or larger fish.
Before filling the aquarium with water, make sure you have chosen a spot where the aquarium will be easily viewed, so you will be able to enjoy it. It should be out of direct sunlight and away from windows and doors to avoid drafts. You will also need access to electrical outlets for plugging in lights and filters, and you might want to consider how far you are from the nearest water source.
There are a great number of filters on the market ranging in price from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. There are filters that sit inside the aquarium, hang on the back of the tank, or sit in the aquarium cabinet with tubing that runs in and out of the tank. The main thing to remember is that the filter should be rated for the size aquarium you have. In fact it is usually better to go up one size. If you have a 30 gallon aquarium, buy a filter that is rated for at least 40 gallons. The filter you choose should provide mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. This is true no matter what type of fish you intend to keep.
Mechanical filtration is a media that traps suspended debris.
Chemical Filtration is used to remove dissolved compounds from the water. Carbon is an example of chemical filter media.
Biological Filtration is performed by beneficial bacteria. These bacteria break down ammonia and nitrite from fish waste and uneaten food. Even though the bacteria grow on many surfaces in the aquarium it is recommended to provide a growth space in the filter
Tropical fish can be sensitive to rapid changes in water temperature. These changes can lead to stress, illness, even death. You can help maintain a steady temperature in the tank by using an aquarium heater.
Air pumps do more than make the little ornaments in the tank move. The bubbles they produce help agitate the surface of the water which increases the oxygen level. Low dissolved oxygen is most easily corrected by an immediate partial water change and an increase in the aeration of the water. Aeration creates gas exchange at the water’s surface. Any water surface agitation increases aeration. Often signs of oxygen starvation are not observed; instead, dead fish are found. This is because during night when the aquarium is dark is the time that the oxygen levels are the lowest. When in the dark the plants (including algae) consume dissolved oxygen and lower its concentration in the water. If the level gets low enough the fish will suffocate.
Gravel should be added to the aquarium at about 1 pound per gallon of water. This should give you at least 1 inch of depth. If you are going to add live plants you should increase the depth to about 3 inches. Aside from adding an attractive bed to the aquarium and giving you a media for plants, the gravel provides a place for beneficial bacteria to grow.
Water Treatment (Freshwater & Cichlid)
Salt should also be added to the water. All fish benefit from low levels of aquarium salt. The salt adds electrolytes, helps protect fish against nitrite toxicity, and acts like a general tonic. For African Cichlids, there are various salt blends available designed to duplicate conditions where the different varieties originate.
You should test your pH to make certain it is in the proper range for the fish you plan to keep.
pH is the measure of acidity of water. A pH reading of 7.0 is neutral. A pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline, and a pH lower than 7.0 is acidic.
Most freshwater aquarium fish will live in a pH range from 6.5 to 8.2. A pH of 7.0 is ideal when keeping a community aquarium containing a variety of tropical fish. Goldfish prefer a pH of 7.5 and should not be kept with tropical fish. Angelfish, tetras, and other fish from the Amazon prefer a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. Livebearers thrive at pH 7.2 to 7.5. African cichlids prefer water with high pH around 8.2.
The mineral content of the water in the aquarium greatly affects the pH. Water with a low carbonate hardness (KH), the concentration of bicarbonate (HCO3-) and carbonate (CO3–) dissolved in water, will tend to be acidic. Water with a high KH will usually have a high pH and be difficult to adjust.
General Hardness (GH) is the measure of calcium (Ca++) and magnesium ions (Mg++) dissolved in water.
KH is important in relation to pH. KH, also known as alkalinity or buffering capacity helps stabilize the pH in the aquarium. Carbonate and bicarbonate ions give water its ability to resist changes in pH. Water with very low KH may experience wide fluctuations in pH because the buffering capacity is low. The pH in water with a high KH will be very stable. Water with a high KH almost always has a high pH.
Adjusting the pH is much easier after the KH has been reduced. Maintaining the pH once adjusted can be difficult with tap water having a high KH level. Microbe Lift Buffers can be used to help accomplish this.
Tap water can contain chlorine or chloramines (a mixture of chlorine and ammonia) as well as heavy metals that need to be removed or detoxified. Even well water can contain heavy metals that can be toxic to your fish. Using a good water conditioner will make the water safe for your fish.
You can use Microbe-lift Dechlorinator + water conditioner or Microbe-Lift Extreme to treat the water before adding fish. If your water contains chloramines you will probably want to use Extreme to remove the associated ammonia left after the chlorine has been removed.
Water Treatment (Saltwater)
You should start with R/O, DI, or distilled water and a top quality salt mix. Use a Hydrometer, an instrument used for determining the specific gravity of liquids, to make sure you have added the correct amount of salt. A good salt mix together with a substrate of crushed coral or dolomite will usually help get the pH close to where it needs to be. You can then add ML pH Buffer/Stabilizer to set and hold the pH at 8.2.