Zoom's Article 1- Starting your first tank

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Zoom, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2009
    Messages:
    8,459
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Jhb- Roodepoort
    So you’re new to the hobby? Wanna set up an amazing tank, but have had failures in the past? Or you just want to bypass the mistakes, and get it right the first time? Ok, well here’s an article that I’ve prepared from my own personal experience, and I trust you can learn from it, and hopefully get it right from the start. I will try keep it simple enough for you to understand... but give you enough knowledge and information to keep you busy for a while.

    First things first. You will need to have a look at your budget. The following is a rough guide to what you should be looking at buying for your initial set up. This is by no means comprehensive, and you will always find things you will want to add extra, but this is the fundamentals:
    * The tank.
    * Substrate.
    * A heater.
    * A filter. (With filter medium)
    * Lights (if your tank doesn’t come with light).
    * A thermometer
    * A vacuum (gravel vacuum for cleaning the substrate)
    * A fish net
    * A glass cleaner
    * Bacteria (I’ll get into this later).
    * Dechlorinator
    * Air pump (with necessary tubing and airstone)

    The tank is obviously the most important part. It is suggested that you should almost always go for the most expensive tank that your budget can afford, as well as knowing you will have space for it. I would disagree slightly, because what often happened is you buy the biggest tank you can afford, and you then find you have to purchase cheaper heaters, filters and other paraphernalia, and get substandard quality. I would always suggest you compare the prices of everything together, making sure you are getting good quality stuff, rather than always the biggest. The second hand market is also a great place to find tanks, and you will usually find good quality aquariums, (often with pumps etc) going for very good prices.

    Substrate is also important, as this forms the bottom of the tank. You have a very wide variety of substrate available to you, ranging from the normal gravel available at your Local Pet Store (LPS), river sand, silica sand and even commercially made sands for aquariums. It has been my experience that pool filter sand (silica sand) is the most commonly used one, as this provides a softer substrate for bottom feeding fish, as well as a good medium to plant plants.

    Most tropical fish come from areas where the waters are warmer than our tap water, and are also influenced by the sun. This is why a heater is almost always required in a tropical tank set up. Certain areas in South Africa don’t require a heater in the summer, as the environment allows the water to stay fairly warm, but in winter the heater would then be necessary. When purchasing a heater, the same principle applies- you get what you pay for. The more expensive heaters have better thermostats, and have “fail safe” devices built into them. The last thing you want to happen is the heater to fail in the on position, and land up boiling your water. Heaters consist of a glass tube, where the heating element is situated, and a thermostatically controlled dial at the top where you adjust the required temperature. You would need to investigate the fish you are going to keep in order to determine the temperature you want… but most tropical’s live in water between 24 and 27 degrees C. The heater, (unless otherwise stated) should be completely submerged, and it is recommended to have the heater lying at an angle, rather than upright. This is because water around the heater will get hot, and tends to rise. This hot water then passes over the thermostat. The thermostat then interprets that the water is at the right temp, and switches off. The problem is that the rest of the tank is still cool.

    In keeping an aquarium, you will find that there is a maintenance schedule that you will need to stick to. (I will cover this in a bit more detail in another article), and one of the items you will require in maintaining your tanks is a specially designed gravel vacuum. Fish waste, excess fish food, and plant matter sits on the bottom of the tank, and if left, this becomes dangerous to the fish (I will also explain this later). The vacuum is designed to suck up this “mulch” without removing excess amounts of gravel.

    Besides the tank, the filter is the next most important item you will require. There are a VAST number of different filters on the market. The main filters are: Sponge filter, internal canister filter, external canister filter, hang on back (HOB) filter, and a sump. Sponge filters are better suited for smaller tanks, where you are raising fry. (Baby fish). For the beginner aquarist, based on the size of the tank, I would suggest either an internal canister, a HOB, or an external canister. Basically there are 3 types of filtering; mechanical, biological, and chemical. (I will cover these in detail in another article as well). The 3 filters I recommended will cover all 3 types of filtration, and assuming the filter is rated for the size tank you have, will be more than sufficient. A sump is a completely separate tank that is usually situated below the display tank, and although this is considered one of the best filtering methods, I have not personally used one, so cannot provide any feedback on them. It has also been suggested that your filter should be turning your water over 5 times the volume of the tank. So if you have a 100litre tank, your filter should be rated at 500litres per hour. (Some people think you should go as high as 10 times, I have personally found on my tank that 5 times is sufficient… but I keep to a very strict maintenance routine.)

    If your tank did not come with lights you will need to purchase these separately. I am not going to go into the Kelvin rating, the type of lights, the intensity etc, as I am not qualified to give that kind of advice. I am hoping someone will make an article on this sometime soon. If you want to go with plants, the more light, the better. I have heard some people say that you should be aiming for at least 1 Watt of light per litre of water. So if you have a 100l tank, you should be putting in 100 watts of light. That being said, a 100W incandescent globe will not work, as it is producing the wrong spectrum of light. Most aquarists use fluorescent tubes of 10,000k or 6,500k rating, which will produce the correct spectrum of red and blue. Normal household fluorescent tubes tend to give the tank a yellowish tea stained appearance. Also ensure that your light fittings are water tight.

    A thermometer, glass cleaner, and fish net, are obviously needed without me having to go into too much detail. The thermometer is required to ensure that the tanks temp is at the right temperature. Just because the heater is set at 26 degrees, does not necessarily mean the water will be at 26 degrees. The more expensive heaters will be more accurate though. A glass cleaner is a magnet, with half of the cleaner going inside the tank, and the other half going outside. This cleans algae off the inside of the tank. A fish net is, well, self explanatory.

    Your fish need oxygen that is dissolved in the water for them to breath. Contrary to popular belief, the bubbles that are created in a tank by an air pump and air stone is actually not what introduces oxygen to the water. At the water surface, CO2 leaves the water, and oxygen enters the water. In order for this gaseous exchange to take place, the water surface tension needs to break. The bubbles that are created by the air pump pop on the surface of the water, and this breaking of the surface actually introduces the oxygen to the water.

    And finally, Dechlorinator and Bacteria is 2 chemicals that I would not go without when starting a new tank.

    Let’s get into a little bit more detail… You’ve bought the stuff, and are ready to put fish in. Hold up Cowboy… your tank is far from ready for your fish. Let’s get the tank set up first!

    First of all, the tank needs to be placed in an easily accessibly spot (for maintenance), preferably where it is light during the day, but no direct sunlight on the tank. The reason you want a light area is because you actually don’t want the aquarium lights permanently on. You ideally only want the lights on for 10 hours a day, but most of us are only at home in the evenings to enjoy. So my suggestion is to have the lights turn on around 11am, and then they can turn off around 9pm. (Obviously you would have to have a timer!) If the tank is in a light area, you would still be able to feed the fish in the mornings, and the fish are not in complete darkness for the morning. Direct sunlight will obviously stimulate algae growth, which is something you don’t want too much of.

    The tank needs to ideally be placed on a stand designed for your tank, or at best, a very sturdy table. You would be surprised how heavy a tank full of water is, and in order to spread out the weight, it is also suggested to put a sheet of polystyrene under the tank.

    If you are using LPS gravel, give is a good rinse, and then put it into the tank. If you have bought some silica sand, you will need to give it a thorough wash, as often the sand is carrying a LOT of dust, which will cloud up the tank.

    At this point I would suggest FIRST put the heater in, the filter in, and any rocks/ornament you might want… step back, and check that you are happy with everything. You do NOT want to fill the tank, discover that you don’t like the placement, and then try and move a full tank. Not advisable at all. At this point you could even leave the tank empty for a day or to if you still are not certain. I would also advice you sticking on your background if you want one. I personally prefer a plain blue background, as I like my plants and the fish to be the main feature. It also depends on the type of aquascaping you are going to do. Some set ups will look very good with a more detailed background. (Tip: Cut the background to the exact size of the glass panel, smear it with normal cooking oil, put it onto the glass, and use a credit card to push out the bubbles!)

    When you are happy with the placement of your tank, fill the tank with cold tap water. You may notice that the tank will turn cloudy at first, but this will disappear in time. It is more than likely just dust from the gravel. When the tank is 75% full, if you want to add any rocks, logs, plants, little diver men, then do so now. The water level will not be at 100%, so your underarms will stay dry, and you have a little bit of space for displacement. If you are going to pile rocks on top of each other, I would highly recommend you to silicon them together a day beforehand. A rock slide inside a tank could end with disastrous results. You could land up with a cracked tank, and a flooded room. I would also suggest putting a layer of polystyrene under the gravel if you plan on putting a lot of rocks in, as this will protect the bottom of the tank.

    Fill the tank to the top. Turn the filter on, turn the lights on, and admire your hard work.

    Ok… now a lot of guys are screaming and shouting at me already because I forgot something vital… this is the LAST TIME that you EVER put water into your tank straight from your tap. At this very moment in time, you have ZERO living organisms living in your tank, and that’s why I did it this way. Chlorine and Chloramines that your local municipality kindly put into our water is deadly for our fish and bacteria. So the next time you want to add water, you HAVE to “dechlor” it with your Dechlorinator chemical that you bought. At this point, you should add the Dechlorinator to your tank as per the bottle instructions.

    Ok, so the LPS sold you fish as well? Well, I would advise against this, and say take them back until next weekend, but hey… I can’t force you… only advise you.

    Your tank now needs to go through what is commonly termed as “cycling.” I will discuss this term in more detail in another article, as I feel all I want to achieve here is a well set up tank. What you want to do now is add the bacteria to the tank as per the bottles instructions. This bacterium is actually WANTED in the tank, and will colonize in the filter. Remember I mentioned biological filtration when talking about filters… well this is where that comes into play. Seachem make an amazing product called Stability that I have used with great success in the past. Nutrifin Cycle is also good, and I believe Microbelift’s product is one of the best on the market.

    The bacteria also need food, which they would usually get from left over fish food breaking down in the water, or fish waste. As you have no fish, you could add a pinch of fish food.

    One of the best ways of getting beneficial bacteria is to also get a handful of gravel from your LPS where you buy all your stuff from. I don’t advise this though, as you will also get any diseases that are in the LPS tank!

    You should now leave your tank running, with the lights on their 10 hour cycle, filters running, heater on, and air pump on for a period of 10-14 days.

    In the article on filtration I plan on writing, I will describe to you in detail what is actually going on in your tank, and why you should leave the tank for 10-14 days. I will explain to you what is happening biologically, and what you can expect to happen.

    For now, your tank is set up, you have the basics set up… and the rest is up to your own imagination.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2010
    Ladysphinx, Ortaega, Jimmy and 3 others like this.
  2. Guest




  3. CDK

    CDK

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2011
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Centurion, Pretoria.
    Hi there Zoom,

    I would like to know which method is being practiced, in preparing for the water that will be used in a water change?

    Do you have to have a extra tank to treat the water beforehand or do you simply refill the tank and use a dechlorinator the same, along with the fish (blush)?

    If the water have to be treated outside the aquarium, for how long should the water stand after treatment before the water change can occur?

    Many thanks for the great articles!

    Cheers!
     
  4. Tom

    Tom Angels

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2010
    Messages:
    68
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    JHB
    @ CDK - When u do a water change take a NEW CLEAN bucket, this should never be used for anything other that water changes for your fish, fill it up with water, try get it roughly the same temperature at your tank water, not vital if its a bit off, then add your declorinator to the water in the bucket and still it, leave it for about 2 - 5 mins to settle, then simply add it to the tank... Obviously you will use a syphon to "clean" the tank first so your water lever will have dropped... Depending on the circumstance you can do anywhere between a 10 and 50 percent water change... i wouldn't do more than 50% though...
     
  5. CDK

    CDK

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2011
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Centurion, Pretoria.
    Cool, thanks Tom!
     
  6. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2009
    Messages:
    8,459
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Jhb- Roodepoort
    As Tom suggested.

    Some people have seperate storage containers outside (JoJo's, bins etc) where water is stored and heated before being used. You would have a lot of buckets lying around if you needed to do a 50% WC on a 400litre tank... :p

    Idea is to let the water stand in the storage container with a pump circulating the water, or even an airpump. If the water stands for more than 24-48 hours no need for dechlor. Put heater into the storage container about 12-24 hours before you need it, thus water can reach temp.
     
  7. oscar freak

    oscar freak

    Joined:
    May 5, 2010
    Messages:
    3,612
    Likes Received:
    31
    Location:
    Kensington Jhb
    And the other baddies in the water dechlor helps to rid?
     
  8. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2009
    Messages:
    8,459
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Jhb- Roodepoort
    I'm actually not 100% sure on this. I fill with hosepipe and add dechlor to the tank.

    I believe the airpump system get's rid of Chlorine, and I've heard people claim that 24hours of water standing get's rids of chloramine too. (Those are the only 2 real baddies we need to concern ourselves with at present... unless you are using borehole and have high TDS)

    I know @Marco let's his water stand in bins with the water filtering through a trickle filter type set up through Peat and AC.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2016
  9. oscar freak

    oscar freak

    Joined:
    May 5, 2010
    Messages:
    3,612
    Likes Received:
    31
    Location:
    Kensington Jhb
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  10. TankMaster

    TankMaster Apistogramma

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2010
    Messages:
    1,765
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Durban
  11. Marco

    Marco Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    May 24, 2010
    Messages:
    2,010
    Likes Received:
    267
    Location:
    Waverley Pretoria
    Hi

    Dechlor gets rid of Chlorine, chloramine and some heavy metals.
    Letting the water stand will get rid of chlorine but not chloramine. You need Dechlor to clear that up, or filter the water through (GOOD) Activated charcoal.(I.O.W not the 'bone charcoal crap)

    Rgds

    Marco
     
  12. scotty

    scotty

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2010
    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    George
    It is funny how people are of the opinion that you should buy your fish the day you buy your tank. Get it set up and temperature right. Then and then only add the fish. Brilliant starting product is your Organic Aqua Step1 kit. Gives you the bacterial culture at introduction of fish. I would also advise people to run their water through a carbon, alone, filter as a means of removing the bad stuff. Thanks for the bit on air bubbles and the misconception that this adds oxyhge to the water. Funny how many people think this is also a filter system!!
     
  13. hein24

    hein24 Betta

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2011
    Messages:
    1,441
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Roodepoort
    A special thanks to @Zoom for this artical. Well done boet looking forward to the cycling artical..
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2016
  14. woerman

    woerman

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2012
    Messages:
    377
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Pretoria - Wonderboom
    Thanks Zoom, some good reading for any beginner
     
  15. butcherman

    butcherman Administrator

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2009
    Messages:
    1,583
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    Kempton Park
    Thanks Zoom Very informative
     
  16. thefishwife

    thefishwife

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2012
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Krugersdorp
    Thanks @Zoom. A great and easily understood article :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2016
  17. Gooner

    Gooner Gooner

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2010
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    East london, South africa
    Very nice article Zoom! I do have a question regarding water changes. I have heard differing opinions about whether to use tap water or R.O water. Some say tap water is better as it provides nutrients and other minerals the plants/fish need, and you can get rid of the bad chemicals eg chlorine etc that are harmful for your fish with dechlor. Whilst others have said R.O is better as there are no harmful chemicals in it and eventhough there are no nutrients either, you can purchase products that will help give your plants/fish the nutrients they need. Was interested to hear which is the best/preffered method?
     
  18. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2009
    Messages:
    8,459
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Jhb- Roodepoort
    Ro vs tap water is a very big topic. Theres quite a few threads on it so I would suggest you to search the forum for this.
     
  19. lloydfox

    lloydfox

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2015
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Cape Town
    Thanx so much @Zoom, just read this guide, and I am getting more to grips with what I need to start off.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2016
  20. Ortaega

    Ortaega

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2015
    Messages:
    1,021
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    Brenthurst, Brakpan
    Great Thread, Thanks!
     

Recent Posts

Loading...
Similar Threads - Zoom's Article Starting Forum Date
Zoom's Article 5- The Caution of CO2 Articles May 16, 2012
Zoom's Article 3- A practical guide to setting up your tank. Articles Mar 3, 2011
Zoom's Article 2- Water chemistry & how to maintain its clarity. Articles Apr 23, 2010
Zoom's plant propagation set up Members Systems Mar 14, 2011
Zoom's 38l Nano Members Systems May 10, 2010
Zoom's Ex Angels Spawning Breeding May 9, 2010
Zoom's Angel breeding set up Breeding Mar 6, 2010

Share This Page