A Basic Guide to Setting Up and Maintaining Your Fish Tank | Best Friends Pet SuperCentre

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A Basic Guide to Setting Up and Maintaining Your Fish Tank

Fish make wonderful pets, and a beautiful addition to any home.  They are quiet, won’t dig up or mess your garden, and much easier to care for than you might think!  

Try following our 6 steps to success, and you will enjoy many years of happy aquarium keeping.

  1. Choose the right fish
  2. Select your equipment
  3. Cycle your tank
  4. Unpack and release your fish
  5. Easy weekly and monthly maintenance
  6. Daily tasks

1. Choose the right fish
There are a wide range of hardy freshwater fish that are easy to look after.  If you have decided on a cold water tank, then Goldfish are ideal.  Fish such as Comets, Fantails and Shubunkins are all suited to these tanks, and very easy to care for.  Ask for our Best friends Guide to caring for Coldwater fish today!  At Best friends, we also stock a wide range of tropical species.  Our Best Friends Guide to Tropical fish will provide you with a basic introduction to these colourful varieties.  These fish require warm water all year around, so you will need to purchase a heater when you select your equipment.  Decide on the right location for your tank before you start, as this will help you to determine what size it should be.  Keep your fish tank out of draughts, and away from direct sunlight.

2. Select your equipment
The choice of equipment depends on the type of fish that you have chosen.  We carry a wide range, and are happy to help you with your selection.  A good reference point is that you will require

  • Tank
  • Tank stand if required
  • Gravel, and a Gravel Vacuum
  • Air pump
  • Filter (if not built in to your tank)
  • Heater (if you have chosen tropical fish)
  • Lights if required
  • Thermometer
  • Food
  • Water conditioner
  • Good water test kits (pH, Ammonia, GH, Nitrites and Nitrates)
  • A net
  • You may also want some plants—and you can have additional fun selecting some ornaments if desired too.


3. Cycle your tank
Once you have assembled your tank, and filled it with water, you will need to exercise some patience!  New tanks need to run for a while before you can start to add some fish.  This allows “good” bacteria to get started in your tank, making a healthy environment for the fish when they are introduced. 

Operating a filled tank with no fish in it is called “cycling” your tank.  Ideally, you will need to cycle your tank for at least 1 week before adding any fish.  After the first week, bring a sample of your water back to us, and we will test it for you.  If conditions are right, you can start to add fish!  We can give you the best advice about how many to add, depending on the size of your tank.  Add a small number of fish to your tank at first, and only feed them every second day for a while.  Add more fish slowly over the next 4—5 weeks.  (Ask us about how many fish can fit into your tank in total.)

Aquarium Industries has a detailed Care Sheet which talks about setting up and cycling your tanks in more detail.  It is called “Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium” and can be found at www.aquariumindustries.com.au.

4. Unpacking and releasing your fish

  • Before you bring your fish home, do one final test of the water to ensure that it is suitable for your new pets.
  • Bring your fish straight home from the store.  Don’t leave them in the car for long, especially on a hot day.
  • Once home, assemble your net and a bucket, before opening the fish bag.  While you are    assembling your equipment, float the unopened bag for 2—5 minutes (not longer) in your tank to equalize the temperatures.
  • Cut the bag open, and pour the contents of the bag through the net into the bucket.  Do not put the water from the bag into your tank!
  • Carefully release the fish from the net into your tank, and discard the waste water appropriately.


5. Easy weekly and monthly maintenance
You can care for your fish in just a few minutes every week, by following a few easy steps on a regular basis.  Like any other living creature (including us!) fish like to be in the right environment.  If their environment becomes unsuitable, then they may become stressed or sick.  So a small amount of preventative maintenance on a regular basis, will result in a happy tank and even happier fish.
Once a month:

  • Perform a 25% water change.  Don’t forget to add Water Conditioner when you top the water up again.
  • Test the GH (General Hardness) of the water.  Add Conditioning Salts if necessary.  (This is not normal salt, rock salt or pool salt.  You will be able to buy proper Aquarium Salts from Best friends – ask us for our recommendations.)


Once every two weeks:

  • Test pH
  • Test Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates if you want to be extra sure of tank health.

Once a week:

  • Remove any algae from the tank
  • Use your Gravel Vacuum to clean the bottom of the tank and remove waste.

6. Easy Daily Tasks

  • Feed 2 or 3 small feeds a day.  Feed no more than your fish can eat in 5 minutes, and quickly remove any uneaten food.  Feed a variety of foods to ensure good health, including frozen food as the occasional treat.
  • Visually check that your filters, airstones, lights etc are working.
  • Check water temperature, and ensure that your heater is functioning.
  • If one of your fish has died, remove it immediately.  Help care for our environment, and dispose of dead fish appropriately.  Do not dump them into the sewerage or stormwater.


It’s that easy!  Start your new tank today, and within a short while you will have a wonderful new addition to your home.  Have fun with your new pets.  
The above is intended as a guide only, and we recommend that you speak to the friendly team at your nearest Best Friends store to find out more information.

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