The first thing you must think about is location. Find a spot that will make the aquarium stand out in the room. Try to keep your aquarium away from windows that receive a lot of sunlight. Too much sunlight throughout the day may create an over abundance of algae in the aquarium. Once you find the right location set up the stand and make sure it is level. You also need to decide what purpose the aquarium is going to serve. Will it be for entertainment? Do you want it to be a living picture? Is it for educational purposes? You will need to know this for the type of fish and filtration system you will need.
Before you start to set-up the aquarium or do anything else, you must wash out the aquarium, gravel, and all other equipment being used in the aquarium with regular tap water. After washing place the aquarium on the stand and assemble the undergravel filter. If you look on the box that it came in, it will tell you how to put the filter together. Place the filter on the bottom of the tank and insert the enclosed lift tubes. Once that is done you are ready to start putting in the gravel. Try not to pour all of it in at once, take your time. After all the gravel is put in, smooth it out so that you can have a level surface to put decorations on later. The power heads will go in next. They will be used to direct the water flow in the aquarium by circulating the water through the gravel. Place the powerheads on top of the lift tubes. Make sure you put the suction cups on the powerheads and secure them to the glass on the side of the aquarium. Once all of this is done it is time to add the heater.
The heater should be placed in an area where the water will be circulating the most. I always place them in a corner; this is where most currents are the best. The temperature should be around 78-83o F for most fish. Ask your pet store what is the best temperature for the type of fish you will be buying. Do not plug in your heater for about an hour after you have filled up your aquarium with water. Doing so may cause the heater to shatter since the glass is not at the same temperature as the water.
Your set-up is almost complete. Now you may start adding water. Place a bowl on the gravel and pour the water into the bowl. This will stop the rock from being pushed around during fill up. Fill up your aquarium till the water level is around two inches from the top. The reason for stopping two inches short is if you add a large rock as a hiding place for the fish, it will take up a lot of the space. Too much space displaced will push the water level up over the sides. Now is the time you want to add any decorations. Now that the aquarium is full of water, plug in your powerheads and add some dechlorinating solution in the water. The rule for dechlorinating solution is one teaspoon for every 10 gallons of water. It is probably still not time to plug in your heater. The last thing you will do is place the aquarium hood on the aquarium.
Now you may add your fish. Do not go out and buy a dozen “fish” and throw them all in at once. Start off with two or three fish of a compatible type or same type of inexpensive fish. For now we must seed the aquarium with bacteria. Bacteria is what makes your undergravel filter work by disposing of all waste. After a month you will notice the tank getting cloudy. This is a sign that the bacteria are blooming, which is what we want. Some of the fish dying during this period is normal, remember we bought inexpensive fish. Replace the fish and continue. After another month has passed, you may start to add more fish, two or three fish a week is fine.
There are a lot of rules on how many fish you should place in your aquarium. Most people follow the one-inch fish per gallon rule, which is a good rule to follow. But I suggest you do your own research for the type of fish you have and see how they like to live.
If you take care of your aquarium and practice a good maintenance regimen, you will be able to enjoy your aquarium for many years to come. Good luck and I hope your aquarium brings you as much happiness as mine does.