Introduction: Begginer Fish Tank

Picture of Begginer Fish Tank

A simple step by step guide to setting up your first ten gallon tropical fish tank. If you enjoy it please digg it!

Step 1: Information to Know

Welcome to step one. I feel that before you go out and buy all the stuff, you should know a few things about keeping a fish tank.

1. If you want to have a fish tank, your going to have to put in time and commitment.
2. don't try to do something above your level.
3. you WILL have weekly chores.
4. fish are alive. treat them that way.
5. have lots of paper towels ready

Step 2: Scout Out a Location

Alright, it's time to find somewhere to put the thing. Find the room you want to put it in, perhaps the living room for all to see, or the bedroom for you and you alone to watch. Whene finding a spot you have to take a few things into consideration.

It should NOT be by any of the following:

places where peoplengo to and fro a lot.

Lets consider an area that it SHOULD be around:

close to sources of water
area with a fair amount of space
electrical outlets.

Step 3: Lets Buy! Main Equipment.

Picture of Lets Buy! Main Equipment.

Since its a bigginer tank, we won't get into any serious aquascaping (making it look like the natural inviroment of the fish you have) but if you have a fish store owner who knows his stuff and can help you, go for it!

We'll buy the fish later, first lets start with the equipment.

The tank. We are setting up a ten gallon tank, so you should buy a glass or acrylic ten gallon tank. If you can buy a ten gallon aquarium kit (usually contain chemicals, the tank, a filter system and a lid) thats great, but you will still need to buy more. Starting to sound exspensive!

Lets say you dont have a kit. You will need to buy a SNUG fitting lid to go on top of the tank. perferably one with a built in light (such a florescent) or you will have to set that up yourself later.

Alright! We have a tank! lets move on!
Say you dont have a kit, or it didnt come with a filter. Lets buy that next! There are many different filter types, all with many different ways of getting the job done. Lets start with a simple filter that hangs on the back of the tank called a power filter, which contains a sponge and activated carbon inserts.

Speaking of the filter, lets buy another carbon filter insert for your filter for when the other one should be changed. Also, buy a foam insert.

Heater. A very important peice of a tropical fish tank. Buy a heater thats rated for a ten gallon tank, and dont buy a cheap one thats going to break. You should buy one with a built in thermometer that keeps the temperature constant. another thing we have to buy is a thermometer. They come as stickers you can apply to the outside of the tank, or more expensive ones that stay in the water on the inside of the tank.

Air pump. why not? it provides your tank with vital airation and can be used in conjunction with a moving decoration. buy an airstone to go with it. Also, some airline tubing that will fir tightly around its nozzle.


We need two chemicals. Prime (chlorine, chloramine, ammonia cleaner, also detoxifies nitrite and nitrate, provides slime coat) and stress zyme biological filtration booster.

Buckets etc.

Buy a bucket to only be used for the fish tank. Do not clean with any chemical cleaners. just water. also, a few nets and a gravel cleaner.

Lastly, a power bar.

Step 4: Lets Buy! Gravel Etc.

Picture of Lets Buy! Gravel Etc.

Alright! Time for some cool stuff!

Gravel. So many different colors. Why not choose a combination of colors? Buy enough to cover about an inch of the bottom.

Plants. Lets go with plastic. Buy a few for your fish to hide around

Ornaments. Buy some for your fish to hide around.

Pnumatic? If you feel you must buy a clam, chest or something else that opens and bubbles, go ahead!

Background paper. Buy it by the mile.

Step 5: Setting Up the Tank

Picture of Setting Up the Tank

No, no fish yet.

Okay! Lets start. First, place your stand where you are going to set up your fish tank. Then, before you put the tank on it, put the tank on a counter, ad a LITTLE water, about and inch, and check for leaks. It's not very good if you fill it up and it leaks.

Now, place your tank on the stand. Take your gravel out of the packages and put it in the sink or the bucket you bought. Wash it with throughly water NO SOAP OR OTHER CLEANERS! Place your gravel at the bottom. Now, take any plants and ornaments and wash them, and place them in the tank. Set up any pnumatic parts now. Do not run them. Think about set up, and a good display. Fill your bucket with water, take it to the tank, fill and repeat until the water is an inch from the top. Put on the lid and the filter, and place the air pump wherever it wont move. Set up the heater in a corner of the tank. Plug the power bar into the wall, and place on the ground Put the heater on the lowest temperature, and plug it in. Then set it to about 76 F, or 24 C. Add the thermometer. Now, clean the activated carbon and sponge inserts for your filter, and put them in. Pour water into your filter until it pours into your tank, and plug it in. Plug in your air pump and light, and voila! The tank is set up.

Step 6: Chemicals

Picture of Chemicals

Argh. STILL no fish.

First, we have to add chemicals.

Add stress zyme and chlorine remover to the water, following the manufacturers instructions.

Wait. 24 hours. Once 24 hours is up, go get your water checked at the pet store. It should be ready.

Step 7: Fish!

Picture of Fish!

Fish! It's time for FISH!

Lets go get some fish.

To the pet store!

Try to go to a smaller fish store that specilizes in fish.

Lets start with some harlequin rasboras. three.

Bring em home, and float the bags they are in the water for ten minutes. Then add the bag of water to your aquarium.


From now on, do not add the water that comes with the fish to your fishtank. Instead, add some of your fishtank water to the bag, then, use a net to put them in your tank.

Step 8: Caring for Fish

Picture of Caring for Fish

Caring for fish.

Lets start with water.

For the first month, change about a pitcher of water a day.
When you add the new water, treat it with the chemicals

After a month, change your water twice weekly (about on 1/3rd of it)

Make sure to get your water checked WEEKLY, and follow any instructions from store owners to keep it clean.

Gravel. Use the gravel cleaner to clean the gravel. Once weekly.

Filter. Change the activated carbon insert according to the manufacturers instructions. DO NOT CHANGE THE SPONGE FILTER! It contains helpful bacteria that you need! Gently rinse with water if needed.

Feed your fish only what they completely eat in five minutes. No more.

Daily: Check the fish to see if they are acting strange or have disease. Ask a fish store owner on how to treat it. Check the water temperature, all of the equipment, and the clarity of the water. Feed.

Step 9: More Fish?

Before you get more fish, wait about a month, get your water checked, and ask a fish store owner what would go well with what you have!

Step 10: Enjoy.

Picture of Enjoy.

Enjoy your fish.

Do not use this instructable as your complete guide. Read books and ask fish store owners about different aspects of fishkeeping, and remember, have fun.

Tip: Try to find a fishstore owner who genuenly seems interested in your fishtank, and not just what you are buying, and doesnt try to up-sell you.


Vik525 (author)2017-09-15

i set up my fish tank about 4 weeks ago

i bought all equipment needed and i still cant add fish as the level of nitrite is high.

the fish store guy told me to buy waterlife test kit but so far results haven't changed even though i am adding waterlife bacterlife to digest ammonia and nitrite.

I even bought Prime Seachem but no effect

So far since i bought and set it up i haven't changed any water as i was told to keep it to build good bacteria only change after a week after fish is added.

I am desperate and do not know what to do rather than wait. PLEASE advice on what i am doing wrong

iim_LiSaRiVeRa (author)2017-08-31

would beach shells be a bad decision to put in a tank?

lynette.bost (author)2015-02-08

There was nothing said about the cycling of the tank, before adding fish?

meghu21 (author)2013-09-03

Choosing the right kind of fish for your aquarium is very important as there are different kind of fish which prefer different environment; read all about it here.

NVDevastator (author)2013-07-29

Insted of taking the water to a pet store,API has a liquid test kit that you take tour water and put it in a test tube with solution to check if everything is OK. Plus all i have by me is petsmart and petco. Those people dont know a thing about fish...

Dimitris10 (author)2012-05-29

What is the size of this fish tank??

harry88 (author)2012-05-15

What would you do if you're sponge filter has the carbon inside of it

juicymoose (author)2012-01-10

i dont know in gallons.. but will a 16-17 litre tank be alright?

BECKBERRY (author)2010-02-12


AmyLuthien (author)2009-09-27

Depends upon the water quality you have available how quickly you can add the fish. I'm lucky, I have well water that filters through about 300' of layered coal, sand and clay. It is absolutely pristine when I pump it out of the ground and into my house, so I literally can fill an aquarium with water and put the fish right in it without waiting. And yes, I've got everything from koi ponds to salt water aquariums, and I've been keeping fish for a good 30+ years now - all using this same water.

I will say, you should never ever add the water the fish came in to your aquarium. Buy a bottle of Cycle instead. The Cycle will add the bacteria you need, but not the chemicals etc. you will find in the water from the store.

minipancho94 (author)2009-09-04

just wondering what do you do if you use a fine substrate like live sand or something and what fine substrate would be best ora tropical freshwater tank

steblublu (author)2009-08-03

Thanks for the instructable - the info was good. i'm building my own aquarium and needed to know a little more about maintenance issues - so you helped alot. The only criticism I would offer is that after reading your PDF, I would suggest to the author that he may want to find an "English spelling" instructable..... :)

Running Wolf (author)2009-08-02

You can also do a 50% water swap out every other week, but make sure to check the water parameter, change sooner if the water is going bad. For your first tank you will most likely not want to go with a liquid test kit (about $35), the $10 strips should be good enough.

lego man 655 (author)2009-07-01

and it should not be by places that are affected by heat so don't put the tank near any windows or any places that are in the path of direct sunlight.

lego man 655 (author)2009-07-01

i disagree i started a 20 gallon tank and i waited for about 24 hours and put fish in and its been over 2 weeks and they are fine

kashell4crab (author)2009-06-09

Well said for the most part although I have two things that I would like to add: Decorations: chose decorations that are compatible with the type of fish that you will house. For instance I have Black Moors (bubble eye or telescope eye fish) these type of fish can injure themselves (eyes) on sharp reefs and or plastic rough or pointy plants. and number 2 is a safety feature place your electrical bar above the floor but below the socket on the wall as for the cord to form a "loop" in case of a water leak to prevent electrocution/fire. that's all great instructable.

bassmonkey (author)2009-04-21

dude, you wait two days to put any fish in, thats the most important thing

feeshy (author)2008-03-31

It would, however, be avoiding animal cruelty if instructions were given for a fishless cycle. I also would avoid taking 'advice' from retailers- as is often the case, if it makes them money, they'll sell it, whether it's a good idea or not.

bassmonkey (author)feeshy2009-04-21

you have no idea how much i agree to that

Mr. M (author)feeshy2008-03-31

Good point. If you find a reputal dealer that seems interested in you and your fishtank, and not just what you are buying, and also doesn't try to up-sell you, then you have a good dealer you can go to.

dudejetfighter (author)Mr. M 2009-04-21

ya my local mom-and-pop pet store is the best for questions.

MakerBreaker (author)2008-08-16

the best information is if you take time and search on google. In this instructable you never mentioned the diseases the fish might have. and itseems you have no real plants in the tank. your tank is not that healthy.

Mr. M (author)MakerBreaker2008-10-23

Ah, yes. Since then, I have changed the gravel color, chucked the bubbles, cannon and plastic plants, and replaced them with wood, an assortment of real plants and a darker gravel color. Oh, and a couple of coconuts for hiding places

oi (author)2008-09-14

The only responsible "fish" instructable I have seen so far although like said before you failed to mention anything about cycling the tank before adding fish, and nothing about quarantining the fish from the pet store before adding them in with your new fish.

Guppy8 (author)2008-04-15

you didn't cycle it...

Mr. M (author)Guppy82008-05-23

See my comment below "and that after a month (when the tank has cycled) to start adding a few more fish (one or two)."

iairj84 (author)2008-03-31

I think overall this is a pretty good recomendation... Although there's a few MAJOR things that stand out to me as I've been keeping fresh and saltwater fish for the better part of 10 years now... The first being when you're mentioning to add prime and stress zyme, both are very good products, but they don't make a tank safe for fish.. This is a process called "Cycling" and it can't really be done without adding a source of Ammonia. I.E. Pure ammonia... This is what fish put out when they poop and pee. The stress zyme doesn't break down this safely and it takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks before your tank is cycled. Once the filter has cycled you can start adding a FEW fish, not a lot but a few... This cycling process will no doubt save a lot of little fishies from ammonia poisoning and death. It makes no sense to check the water when nothing other than the water conditioners have been added, because of course the water is perfect as far as water quality goes.

Mr. M (author)iairj842008-04-01

You are correct, but I did mention to start out with a few fish, and after about a month of getting water tested once to twice a month (to check things such as ammonia etc.) and that after a month (when the tank has cycled) to start adding a few more fish (one or two). Thank you for the constructive criticism, I will be sure to keep it in mind for my next Instructable.

Mr. M (author)Mr. M 2008-04-01

Correction on my previous comment, it should say once to twice a week.

w00ty32 (author)2008-03-30

well written, good Instructable But:

you kept spelling thermometer like thermomiter
sorry to tell you this, as you used the word like 10 times.

better catch it early than have more of the grammer nazis of this site hound ya.

Mr. M (author)w00ty322008-03-31

thanks for that. I swear I pressed spell check...

w00ty32 (author)Mr. M 2008-03-31

eh, i think those things too.

TheScientist (author)2008-03-30

that was awesome. i'm going to be setting up a tank in the near-ish future, so this was a good read! well written and layed out too

Sergeant Crayon (author)2008-03-30

Good job! I like how you specified to wait a month before adding more fish (I find this important). My favorite set up for a 10-12g tank usually contains a small school of neon tetras (5), a otocinclus cat (or two), a small snail (zebra turbo?) and maybe a freshwater clam. (They're great fun to watch.) Also, if space allots, a cherry or ghost shrimp. (These are hands down my favorite.) I have had great success with this setup; the cats clean the plants, the snails clean the glass, and the scavenger cleans up the gravel. Fairly low maintenance community. Although may be slightly crowded for a 10 gallon. Anyways, you've covered the basics superbly!

LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-03-30

Cool! now if only someone would do a salt water one.....

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