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How to Start a Fish Tank Quick Guide
How to set up a tank


APR 01 2016/JORDAN HALL/Tank Setup Quick Guide

Thinking about starting a saltwater aquarium? We've all spent hours searching for information online or talking to the reps at our local fish store but wouldn't it be great if everything you need to know to get your tank started was all in one place? Allpets Emporium put together this guide that has everything to get your tank up and running.


First decide which type of aquarium you would like. There are two types. "Fish Only with Live Rock" and "Reef Tanks" (the latter housing live corals.)

Fish Only Tank
A fish only aquarium will only contain fish and invertebrates (such as snails and starfish,) and reef rock that you can buy by the pound here at Allpets Emporium. The reason why it's called "live rock" is because beneficial bacteria will live among the many porous holes in the rock and act as a natural biological filter. These typically will have a sand, gravel or a bare bottom.

Reef Tank
The only thing that separates a Reef setup from a FOWLR is the addition of Corals. If you've taken the time to learn about corals, you'll appreciate that they are not as simple as just putting in the tank. They have specific requirements, that can require the addition of supplements, specific food (phytoplanktons etc.), and more precision lighting.

Pros: They look absolutely magnificent. The ultimate in fish-keeping. Constantly evolving eco-system. Truly rewarding.

Cons: They cost more to setup and run, require more diligence with water conditions/parameters, specific feeding requirements. Can limit choice of fish and inverts.


Next pick out the aquarium you like. From a 14 gal Nuvo or BioCube up to a 300 gallon Marineland tank, we've got you covered. This should be determined by what fits your home or business. Bigger is always better in this case. The larger the tank, the easier it is to maintain the aquarium. The water parameters such as temperature, salinity, pH, will be more resistant to swings with a larger volume of water.


The animals in your tank will need to have a clean and healthy environment. The basic things you will need to filter your aquarium are:

Live Rock
Live rock houses the live bacteria that will de-nitrify waste and carry out the nitrogen cycle.

Protein Skimmer
This device uses a pump with a needle wheel impeller to create fine bubbles that will push up to the top of the chamber. As these bubbles burst at the top they will release dissolved organic waste — or for better terms "protein" into the collection cup. Every week you should empty this cup of waste or skimmate (that will look like brown tea) to allow the skimmer to keep cleaning the tank. What the protein skimmer does is help to remove the left over food and other organics from the water before they have a chance to decompose and add to your overall nitrate level. This would be akin to cleaning your cats litter box!

This will draw the water through your filtration system and return it to your tank in a constant loop. Your pump’s "Gallon Per Hour" or GPH rating should be 10x the volume of your tank. So a 20 gal tank needs at least a 200 GPH pump. Always add in another 100 GPH to compensate for any head loss pressure — and you know which pump is right for you. We have Mag drive pumps that would fit the bill.

Your sump such as one from Trigger systems will house your pump, skimmer and additional live rock. Your sump should have an area to attached mechanical filtration such as a filter sock. This will catch large waste, such as un-eaten food, and keep it from breaking down in your system. You should change this weekly or as you clean out the collection cup of your skimmer.


If your going with a FOWLR tank then LED lighting 1 watt or less will be just fine. Nano Box’s current LEDs are fully controllable and allow you to customize features such as moonlight, cloud cover, sunrise, sunset, and dimming. Even control the light with a remote control app on your smart phone. These lights also have great offerings that are power saving. Ask one of our staff to assist you with the lighting set-up you are looking for.


Once you have your tank planned out you can start to pick out fish that will live a happy and healthy life in their new aquarium home. There are lots of peaceful fish, if you want a community tank, and there are predator fish, if you want to see some of Mother Nature’s finest. Behind our 3,000 gal cylinder tank you will find our fish wall. Our fish room experts will be happy to let you know what fish, inverts and coral are compatible with your new tank.


Once you've picked your new fish and coral. You should acclimate them to you tank. This will involve two steps.

First floating the bag with the animal for 15 minutes to get the temperatures to match. Next, open the bag and put the fish and or coral in a clean bucket. This secondary fish acclimation method is basically the same as the floating bag method but instead of floating the bag in the tank, you're putting the bag inside a clean bucket instead. The bucket method is better than just the floating bag method because you don't have to worry about any of the bag water entering your tank, as you don't want dump any medications from the fish system into your home tank.

Open the top of the bag and remove about 25% of the water from the bag. Replace this water with the same amount of water from your tank. Every 10 minutes add about 1 measuring cup of water to the bag. Repeat this process for about an hour. After an hour has passed, use a small net to get the fish out of the bag and gently place it into your tank. Leave the lights off or dim for 12 hours to let your fish get used to their new home.

Now enjoy your tank!

Check back for our Fish Compatibility Guide and a Coral Testing Procedures!


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"Have you always wanted a home or business aquarium but don't know where to start? This quick guide will give you an overall idea of what is invloved with getting started."