Friday 25 September 2020

A Beginners Guide to Setting Up and Caring for a Freshwater Aquarium

**This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com on behalf of Mars Fishcare and the API brand.**

There is something very relaxing about watching a fish tank right? I don't know if it's the water or the beautiful movements of the fish gracefully swimming around but I could sit and watch them for hours! I remember my parents having a fish tank when I was growing up and it was always so calming to watch, so I was super excited when we decided as a family to get one for our own home! 

Since we are complete novices when it comes to setting up and owning a freshwater aquarium we were super excited to be able to join up with API Fishcare to learn the in's and out's of keeping and caring for fish. We took part in an amazing virtual live event with fish expert Gary for Mars Fishcare and hopefully with all the information we learnt we can bring you this handy guide to help you do the same too. 

The API brand is passionate about fishkeeping and been a pioneer in the aquatics industry for close to 60 years. Their knowledge and passion is clear to see and their products are designed to enable everyone to be able to enjoy having an aquarium safely. Over that time they have developed and manufactured hundreds of great quality products including water conditioners, testing kits, medications, food and even ornaments. Basically everything you need to have a happy and healthy aquarium can be found under the API brand. 

So after taking lots of time listening to advice, reading up on the API Fishcare website and our virtual live video call with Gary Jones the fish expert. We have successfully set up our tank, added fish and spent many hours admiring it. And today I am going to share with you exactly how you could do the same, what you will need, how to set it up and what fish are perfect for your new aquarium.


Choosing a Tank and Decorations/Plants

Just as important as the fish when it comes to having an aquarium is of course the tank to keep them all in! There are a wide variety of different tanks to choose from so it is worth shopping around before deciding. If you are looking at starting an aquarium for the first time something such as the 54 litre Leddy60 tank which we have above is a great size. It is large enough to keep a good selection of fish in but not too large that you have to much to clean/balance all at once. 

Once you have decided on your tank you will then need to add your gravel/sand and decorations. These all come down to personal taste and the look you wish to create. This is where is gets fun because you can really transform your tank into anything you want. Our kids loved being able to pick a few ornaments each, some funky coloured gravel and some live plants. You can of course also get artificial plants too but we were advised that live plants can be really beneficial to a tank and that fish love to hide within the plants (and eat them too!). 

Many fish will enjoy lots of places to hide or investigate so plenty of plants, ornaments, bridges, rocks caves and large pieces of bogwood make great decorations for your new tank. 

Setting Everything Up in Your New Tank 

Once you have everything ready to go you can begin setting up your tank. It is worth noting that most aquatic stores will advise setting up your tank and letting it sit without fish for a week or two to allow the tank to settle and begin its first "cycle". This makes it a lot safer for the fish to go into the tank as bacteria will have begun forming and you will have been able to test the water to check there are no issues with it before the fish are added. 

If you are setting up a tropical freshwater tank you will need a heat source such as a thermometer or tank heater. That is because to keep tropical fish most will need the temperature of the water to be around 24 - 26 degrees (this will of course vary for different fish so it is always worth checking when you purchase your fish). The tank will also need a filter to keep the water clean and moving around the tank as well as a light to allow your tank to flourish. Ideally your light should have a day and night cycle such as a white light in the daytime and a blue light in the night. Most fish need at least 8-12 hours of daylight everyday whilst the blue light helps to recreate the feeling of "night" for the fish.  

Once you have all of these essentials placed into your tank it is now time to add in your gravel and decorations/plants. It is always worth rinsing your gravel and decorations before adding to the new tank as they are likely to have some dust/debris on them from the shop. If you are choosing to add a wood such as bogwood it will need to be soaked for several days, even weeks to remove any tannins that it may contain. 

There is no right or wrong when it comes to decorating your tank so get stuck in and create your very own tropical tank paradise. Once everything is in place you can then slowly add your water. The key here is slowly as if you throw the water in it will displace all of your gravel and decorations! 

Adding Products to Make the Tank Safe

API Quick Start - 

Fish tanks and aquariums need bacteria to enable fish to survive and thrive. To help start this cycle in a new tank API® QUICK START nitrifying bacteria helps to immediately starts the natural aquarium cycle with beneficial bacteria into your tank. This then helps to convert toxic ammonia and nitrite (two chemicals which can be very dangerous for your fish), into harmless nitrate. This not only speeds up the amount of time you will need to have your tank running with no fish in it, but it helps build up bacteria that fish need to survive.

API Stress Coat - 

Whilst you may think a tank is simply full of water, tap water can actually be very dangerous for fish. It contains harmful chemicals and minerals that might be safe for us to drink, can actually kill fish. Using API® STRESS COAT water conditioner to treat your fish tanks water  makes tap water safe for fish. It does this by removing chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals from tap water. It also contains the healing power of Aloe Vera which all together helps to minimise fish stress which is especially important when moving your fish into a new tank after what was probably a stressful trip home for your fish. 

API Stress Zyme - 

Another great addition to your tank which helps create that much needed bacteria whilst protecting your fish is API® STRESS ZYME bacterial cleaner. Each teaspoonful contains over 300 million live bacteria which help to consume sludge and reduce aquarium maintenance. In turn this helps to keep your aquarium clean, keeping your task of keeping it clean down as well as improving the natural cycle of your aquarium too. 

API Aquarium Salt - 

When you add new water into your tank, or when you perform a partial water change to keep your tank fresh, your tank will be lacking in essential electrolytes. Electrolytes are very important for fish as they help to promote good fish health, gill function and most importantly they help fish to breath! API® AQUARIUM SALT is made from evaporated sea salt and provides essential electrolytes through the salt to your tank and fish giving your fish the optimal vitality and healthy conditions to live in.

Choosing Your Fish and Bringing Them Home

Walking in to an aquatic store can feel overwhelming when you see just how many fish varieties there are to choose from. Whilst it can be temping to go for the most colourful, biggest or most interesting looking fish it is always worth doing a little bit of research before or asking a member of staff in store. That's because not all fish are suitable for all tanks or suitable to be placed together. Some fish require different temperatures, diets or tank sizes so if you have your heart set on certain types of fish but may want to add more in the future it is worth checking what can be added in with them at a later date too. 
When you visit the aquatic store to buy fish it is always advisable to take a sample of your water with you and your tank measurements. Most aquatic stores and pet stores will be able to test the water for you and make sure it is safe for the fish and knowing your tank size will enable them to let you know how many fish will be right for your tank size. 

On advise given to us we opted to add 3 platys and 3 black phantoms to our tank to begin with. Adding your fish is a slow process and you will need to float the bag to begin with, then after around 30 minutes add a cup of your tank water into the bag and leave for another 20 minutes. After this you can slowly lower your fish into the tank. 

Once we knew our first 6 fish had settled in well we then added in 4 Cardinal Tetra's 2 Corydoras (bottom feeders) and 4 Amano shrimp! We were advised that this was around the right amount of fish for our 54 litre tank and that the fish we picked were good fish for beginners as they are all fairly laid back and mix well with the other fish we chose. Other fish species we were told are good for beginner tanks are guppies, mollies, swordtails and fish such as loaches. Other cool things you can add into your tank into dwarf frogs (although these do require a different diet so worth asking before purchasing) and snails. 

What Extra's Might You Need?

API 5-in-1 test strips - 

After you have your tank all set up checking the water regular is very important. Levels of aquarium water parameters – pH, KH, GH, nitrate, and nitrite can rise and fall regularly for various reasons. If this does happen it is important to make it right as soon as possible as this can effect the health of the fish in your tank. One easy way to check these parameters is using API® 5-IN-1 TEST STRIPS. They are designed to test the 5 most important measurements in one easy dip of the stick and can let you know the results in under 1 minute. The colours are easy to read and compare to the chart on the container and the handy leaflet that comes with the strips helps you interpret the results and know what you may need to do to correct the unsafe conditions.

Vacuum Gravel Cleaner and a Big Bucket

A partial water change is recommend to be done every 2-4 weeks. This entails removing roughly 25% of the water in your tank and topping it up with new, fresh water (and using the relevant chemicals shown above to make it safe). Whilst you can of course just use a jug and bucket to do this but using a vacuum gravel cleaner will help you get deep into the tank and remove debris caught up within the gravel during the water change too. 

Fish Food & Shrimp/Snail pellets

Your new fish will need feeding at least once a day although some will advise two smaller feeds a day instead of one larger feed. Using a food such as Aquarian tropical and temperate flake food is a good all round food that provides complete nutrition for tropical fish. 

It is worth noting though that is you plan on keeping shrimp or snails you can supplement their diet with some high algae content soft pellets to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need too. 

Taking Care of Your Aquarium For Years to Come

The great thing about choosing to bring an aquarium into your family home is that the whole family can get involved in the whole process. From choosing the tank and decorations, setting everything up and of course choosing and caring for the fish. They are also relatively easy to care for once you have everything set up and running so they are great kids for the kids to get involved with taking a role in caring for (with your supervision of course). 

Have you ever considered getting an aquarium for your home? 


**This is collaborative post.**


  1. How lovely does your tank look, I'm sure fish keeping has come a long way since I was a kid it is great people are more aware of what they need.

  2. Your tank looks so nice, you've picked some lovely things to put inside it. When I was a kid we had goldfish but there was hardly anything else in the tank with them x

  3. Your tank looks gorgeous. We have a smaller 30L and its taken me a while to get it running perfectly, but we love having fish. My tank vacuum was an eyeopener and so easy to use

  4. This is something we have definitely considered. We used to have one but only had a handful of fish. Once they sadly died, we passed it on. We would definitely like to have one again.

  5. My daughter has been asking to get a fish for a pet but I am totally clueless about it so your post has given some insight on hot to set up the tank for a novice like myself

  6. My husband had an aquarium when we were dating. It's something we considered doing after we moved, but so far no fish!

  7. Your fish tank is looking great. I used to have a fish tank years ago with my ex. I think it can teach children responsibility if they have to feed the fish and clean the tank and its nice and relaxing looking at the fish too

  8. Wow! I wouldn’t have a clue when it comes to fish! What a lovely set up you have .

  9. We have had fish before but not for awhile. Our fish kept having babies which was quite cute, seeing the tiny little fish swimming about. I really enjoyed reading your post, its very comprehensive and this sounds like a great tank setup!

  10. I have always wanted an aquarium until I learned I have to clean it every so often lol.

  11. This is such a helpful guide. It is definitely something we have considered after having fish in the past.

  12. I had a few aquariums years ago. I loved keeping fish they're so relaxing to watch. Great suggestions about chemicals to use.

  13. Your tank looks lovely. We had a fish tank a few years ago and it was a learning experience knowing how to look after fish, this post would have been very helpful especially on what chemicals to use.

  14. That's a great tank, I love the lights. Sadly my daughters fis Bobby died last week, so we are fishless again now, until Ilet her get another but she is rubbish at cleanign the tank and I end up having to do it! Mich x

  15. Your fish tank looks amazing. My Dad has a saltwater tank which he loves. It takes him a lot of looking after though.