If you have just bought a tank, or are planning to buy one, here you can find what to do next.
Buying a tank
The first thing you'll have to decide about is the size of the tank you'd like to have. If it is going to be your first tank I'd advise you not to buy a 200*50*50 tank, but rather to start with a smaller one. After practicing for a year you will have accumulated enough knowledge to start with a big(ger) tank. A 60 or better an 80*40*40 cm tank is a nice tank to start with. They don't require the amount of work large tanks do, and can be purchased quite cheap. Smaller tanks have other problems, since they don't have much buffering capacity a small mistake can be fatal.
The first chapter in older aquariumbooks usually is about the building of a tank. Nowadays, purchase is a much faster and sometimes even a cheaper method. For people that do want to build their own check out the page on how to do that.
There's an absolute need for accessories. A plain glass tank, filled with water is not sufficient for most fish. For a coldwatertank nature can provide you with all the accessories you need. Please check out the following page if your interest goes out to your local pondlife. Coldwatertanks. You may want to write down the accessories list, or just go to the checklist page and print it.
A glass tank is fragile. If you put it straight onto a table, chances are that the pressure isn't applied evenly to the bottom plate, which can cause it to break. A tiny piece of gravel can already cause this to happen. To prevent this the tank should be placed on a piece of styropoam, or something similar. Specially constructed black mats are also available at the aquariumstore, but more expensive.
All planted tanks need light. Sunlight can be used for this, but it's hard to regulate. Other options are to use lightbulbs, fluorescent light and HQI lighting. The last one is usually only used for large showtanks. The plain lightbulbs are useful, and plants can grow using this type of light. However, don't be surprised if some plants will die due to lack of light. Another point against using plain bulbs is the amount of energy they use, and the heat that's generated by them. Currently, fluorescent lighting is considered the best method. Low energy cost, combined with a high yield(Lumen).
Unless you want to turn on the tanks light every day, and in the evening turn it off again, you really need one. The cheap ones can be very noisy, but that up to you.
If you plan to keep tropical fish, a heater is a requirement. Subtropical fish(List under construction, for example Elassoma evergladei) can be kept in the livingroom without additional heat. Real tropical fish need temperatures of 22 degrees and higher, so(unless you live in the tropics)the tank needs to be heated. There are several types of heaters, but currently fully submersible heaters with an easy dial, to select the temperature you prefer, are available. Although a bit more expensive, they're probably the best ones you can buy. As for the wattage, as a rule of thumb, 1Watt per 2 liter is sufficient. A page about heating tanks from 1850 until now, and a review of different types of currently available heaters, is under construction.
Two types of filtration are currently available,
internal and external filtration. There are many options for each type,
but for a beginner I'll try to describe the readily available systems.
For small tanks up to 60 cm an internal filter is a better option, from
80cm and up an external filter used to be necessary. A rule of thumb
here is not so easy, it depends among other on how many fish you plan
to keep in a tank. In general a filter should be able to process all
the water in the tank once per hour.
NOTE: Many insurance companies do not cover damages caused by aquariums in the standard package. Check with your insurance agent!! A additional insurance is required, but usually quite cheap.
Don't ever believe that the temperature you once measured will remain the same, sometimes heaters stop functioning, sometimes it'll get really warm in a tank because it's partly in the sun. You'll need a thermometer to check how warm the water actually is. Do not buy the stick-on strips. Besides being inaccurate, hard to read and so on, they also break down quickly and are almost impossible to remove. The other ones you shouldn't buy are the quicksilver themometers, quicksilver is highly toxic, and if the thermometer breaks it may kill all of the fish in the tank. It's also very toxic to humans. Alcohol thermometers are the only safe ones to use, although a bit hard to read. They may be off a degree or so, so always check them against other thermometers. Get a suction cup with the thermometer, or else they will be hard to find in a tank, and always with the wrong side visible. A spare one is always handy, and can be used while doing waterchanges.
Gravel shouldn't be too small, nor too large for
a general community tank. Very small gravel will fill up fast with muck,
creating large areas without oxygen in the soil. Large gravel will retain
foodremains since the fish cannot get to it anymore. In general gravel
from 3-6mm diameter is good to use. Many fish show a lot better colors
if kept over dark gravel, and if for example corydoras catfish
are to be kept, the gravel shouldn't be sharp.
Three different types exist, white, green and
blue. White will filter out the smallest particles, green the medium,
and blue the largest pieces. For an external filter it's best to first
filter over green, then over a filtration medium(active charcoal), and
last over white. It's not necessary to use the blue cotton. Bubble filters
in small breeding tanks are usually filled with white cotton only.
This stuff is added to external filters. Through a special treatment it has millions of micropores, on which bacteria can grow. These bacteria will eat the pollutants that are dissolved in the water, and thus clean the water a little. Through the special stucture it can house much more bacteria than the white cotton mentioned above, and the more bacteria are present, the more pollutants they remove.Active charcoal also has a limited ability to adsorb heavy metals and other chemicals from the water.
You'll need a bucket, that hasn't been used for
cleaning, and a decent tube(2-3meters) to do waterchanges.
In some areas of the world tapwater is more or
less suitable for aquariumfish, but in most cases it isn't immediately
suitable for fish to swim in. Check with your local watersupplier about
the watervalues of the water they supply to you(pH and Hardness), and
what treatments they use to fight bacteria in the pipelines. Asking
your local fish stores and fellow hobbyists in the area may also help.
The other two things, pH and Hardness.
Now that you know what you need
You can now print the checklist, add stuff you need in addition to what's been written there(Testkit, Epsom salt, Active peat), and go to the store. You may want to check several stores for the prices, and you don't need to buy everything in the same store. Second hand stuff is also good to start with. If you plan on buying the tank and bringing it home yourself, dont forget a large thick blanket to place it underneath the tank, as well as a spacious car. Many tanks have broken on their first and only trip. It may also be wise to read a bit more than the stuff you see here, libraries are free to enter and to read a book, and there's much more information available on the net. This is just a opinion, not "the".
What you should NOT do now
Don't buy fish and plants yet!
After you bought everything you need check out the setting up a tank section.
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