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Ten steps to starting an aquarium

Step 1
Get the aquarium ready:

  • Clean the tank with freshwater and a soft cloth or sponge. Some like to use vinegar, because it is a more natural solution.
  • If you plan to cover the back of the tank, pain it with a color you like, (We typically like black, only because it gives a cleaner appearance). Or apply a piece of manufactured vinyl aquarium background covering.
  • Put the stand into place and level it, being sure to leave clearance for electrical connections and equipment. Also I might be a good idea to cover the surface with a sheet of glass to protect against water damage.
  • Place the tank on the stand, using an underpad for cushioning underneath if needed, and check to see that the tank is level.
  • Prepare all the equipment to be used and install it. Most equipment will come with detailed instructions, depending the size of the aquarium, and the filter, your aquarium might require custom plumbing.

Step 2 

Get the system running appropriately  
1 ) Fill the aquarium with a prepared saltwater solution, or make it up inside the tank itself. Only use reversed osmosis water, which has been filtered of chlorine, and other unwanted trace elements. See our ten most common aquarium mistakes.
Tip: If you choose to make-up the saltwater in the aquarium, once it is mixed and ready for use, be sure to allow the solution settle out, and then siphon out any white residue that might be present on the bottom of the tank. Measure salinity only after your desired temperature is reached. Do not mix salt with livestock in aquarium.
2 ) Start all the equipment, and let the system run for a day. During this wet test run time you can:

    • Check for leaks.
    • Set and adjust the heater(s) to the desired temperature.
    • Balance out the salinity of the water if needed.
    • Test all the equipment to insure it is operating correctly. If you are running a protein skimmer, there may be no waste produced, but you can check for bubble production, read the manual to ensure that .

      Step 3

      Based on how you have decided to set your aquarium up, here are your choices of what to do next:

      • If the tank is not yet aquascaped and you are going to be using live rock, live rock is ONLY used for saltwater aquariums:
        Go to Step 4 >> Prepare the Live Rock
      • If the tank is not yet aquascaped and you are not going to be using live rock:
        Go to Step 5 >> Aquascape the Tank
      • If you have already aquascaped the tank either with or without live rock and the system is now running:
        Go to Step 6 >> Let the Tank Cycle

      Tip: Some aquarists consider setting up a quarantine tank at this point, but you won’t need this until your aquarium is being stocked. When you need to set up the quarantine, follow these steps again, it’s a good idea to get started prior to adding livestock since your quarantine will need to cycle as well.

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