Beginner's guide to setting up your first aquarium


Before you buy your first fish tank you need to determine what fish and how many fish you would like to keep. This way, you can buy an appropriate sized tank and suitable substrate. Choose a tank with a lid if you want to keep Bettas as they are prone to accidental jumping. Acrylic tanks are preferred for children as they weigh less and don’t break.

Aquarium Substrate

is an important part of setting up an aquarium fish tank. It can certainly add to the aesthetic of the tank set-up but it is also gives beneficial bacteria a place to live. Gravel is probably the most popular substrate option for many fishkeepers. The variation in shapes, sizes and colours make it suitable for a variety of set-ups, however, goldfish should never have gravel in their tank because it can easily become stuck in their throats and cause them a lot of stress and even death if not removed in time.

Choose sand for easier maintenance, unlike gravel, dirt particles will not seep through into the sand; it will stay on top, making it easier to clean.


Tap water must be dechlorinated before fish can be safely added. Choose a dechlorinator to remove chlorine, phosphates and nitrates. Always set up the aquarium and allow the water to cycle through the filter for 24 hours before adding fish.

Aquarium Filter

to clean dirt, waste, remove harmful bacteria and maintain essential water flow in your tank. Make sure to choose a filter appropriate to the size of the tank and the number of livestock you’re planning on keeping otherwise your filter might struggle to handle the amount of waste efficiently.

Aquarium Pump

great for promoting water movement within your tank and to help keep it aerated so that your fish stay healthy in a cleaner environment.

Fish Food

A quality fish food will result in healthy and brightly coloured fish. Most fish will be more than happy to nibble on high-quality flake food with goldfish having their own special flakes. If you are planning to keep bottom feeding fish such as catfish you will need to get sinking pellets or algae wafers as they sink quickly to the bottom of the tank.

Water Test Kit

Testing water in a newly set up tank is critical. Use a water test kit before introducing fish. You will need to use it regularly to check for any chemical imbalance that could affect the health of your fish.


Fish do not produce their own body heat but instead must rely on the temperature of the water that surrounds them for survival. A heater is essential if you want to keep tropical fish but you won’t need it if your pet fish of choice is a coldwater fish such as a goldfish.


Essential to monitor and control water temperature in your fish tank. You can choose between a simple digital strip thermometer or a more traditional glass thermometer.

Aquarium Glass Scrubber

To remove algae from the side of your tank. Choose a scraper for glass aquariums and soft scrub pads for acrylic tanks to avoid scratches.

Aquarium Lighting

Lighting brings out the natural colours of your fish and is essential for live plant growth. LED Lights are a popular choice as they are extremely energy efficient. Most of the beginner’s fish tanks have the light integrated inside the lid, which makes them a fantastic option if you don’t want the hassle of choosing the right light.


some fish love to hide as it makes them feel safe therefore it’s important to add a few caves and plants to keep them mentally healthy. Live plants are great as they help to inhibit the growth of algae and oxygenate the water but do require regular maintenance. Plastic plants might be a better choice if you want to keep certain fish such as Silver Dollars as they tend to damage the plants.