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How do you start an aquarium?

Do you want to start an aquarium but are unsure what to consider? Since the abundance of information, especially online, can mean that you end up not knowing what you need for an aquarium, we have put together the most important cornerstones and questions for you here.

There are a few things to consider, but ultimately this beautiful hobby will give you a fascinating and unique glimpse into your own impressive underwater world.

The right location

Before you start setting up, you should first think about the future location of your new aquarium. A quiet location, away from sources of noise (e.g. loudspeakers) is ideal. You should also avoid placing the aquarium directly next to or in front of the heater. Furthermore, to prevent the water from heating up and algae growth, you should not expose it to strong sunlight. Apart from that, the aquarium should not be placed near doorways or passageways, as the constant traffic will frighten and stress the fish, which can lead to illness.

It is important to consider the heavy weight of the aquarium. One litre of water weighs one kilogram; and then you need to add the weight of the aquarium itself as well as the substrate and decoration. Make sure you choose a piece of furniture or a base cabinet that can handle the weight. A foam mat can be used as a base to compensate for minor unevenness and prevent stresses and cracks in the glass. For very large aquariums, you should consult a structural engineer beforehand.

Also, remember that it is best to have several electrical sockets near your aquarium.

The size of the aquarium

As a rule of thumb: The bigger an aquarium, the easier your life will be! Larger aquariums are more stable due to the higher water volume and are also more forgiving of a few beginner’s mistakes. With a small aquarium, even too much food or a dead fish can cause the water values to deteriorate drastically and become life-threatening for the fish. A larger aquarium is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations caused by room temperature changes and sunlight.

For beginners, a 60–100 cm aquarium with a volume of approx. 60–180 litres is ideal.


The right substrate

The substrate of an aquarium is not only intended for the visual design of an aquarium, but also fulfils several important tasks: It ensures a stable ecosystem, provides support for the plants and supplies them with nutrients.

The substrate usually consists of two layers. The first layer (approx. 2 cm high) consists of a special nutrient soil, which is topped with the actual substrate (approx. 4–6 cm high). Different types of substrate with different grain sizes are used here, e.g.:

Sand: passive substrate = water values are generally not impacted. Fine sand with round grains is well suited for bottom-dwelling fish such as the peppered cory catfish. However, it often starts to rot, causing putrefactive gases to form, which in extreme cases can also be toxic for fish. In this case, our MICROBE-LIFT Substrate Cleaner helps reduce the resulting putrefactive gases. However, sand can also only be used in a few places for burrowing fish and/or for decorative purposes.

Gravel: passive substrate = water values are generally not impacted. Coarse gravel ensures high water circulation, but is unsuitable for burrowing fish. Fine or medium gravel is better, as it promotes root growth in plants.

Soil: active substrate = can impact the pH value & water hardness. Soil is a substrate made of baked earth and contains a variety of nutrients and trace elements that are important for plant growth. Soil usually does not require any additional nutrient medium as it already contains nutrients. Soil should not be used, however, if a long-term stability is desired for the aquarium. The positive properties of soil will eventually be exhausted, at which point it must be replaced.

It is not possible to make a general statement about which substrate is best, as each type of substrate has its advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, you should consult a specialist retailer to find the best possible solution for your needs. In any case, the substrate should not be sharp-edged!

Selection of fish

Selecting the right fish depends on several factors, such as aquarium size and shape or the needs of the fish.

For larger fish (e.g. angelfish or surgeonfish) you should choose a correspondingly high or deep tank. Fish species that like to swim, on the other hand, need a longer aquarium. A distinction is also made as to which region of the tank a fish mainly spends time in (surface, middle, bottom). It therefore makes sense to stock the three layers correctly.

It is also important to pay attention to the individual requirements of the fish species. Some fish should be kept in schools, while others prefer to swim in pairs or even alone. Their needs in terms of light, water values or temperature are also often different. Of course, you should also avoid overstocking your aquarium with fish.

As a beginner, it is best to go to a retail store and ask for advice on how much space the individual animals need and whether the desired fish species can coexist in the same space to avoid stressful situations, territorial defence or attacks.


The decoration of the aquarium

There are (almost) no limits to your creativity! Use natural objects such as roots and stones to decorate your aquarium (e.g. our myScape Rocks for any freshwater aquarium or our myReef Rocks for any marine aquarium). They provide great hiding places and territorial boundaries for the animals, but also serve as perfect settlement areas for useful bacteria and plants.

To attach them, you can use an adhesive for aquariums, e.g. our Plantscaper for any freshwater aquarium or our Coralscaper for any marine aquarium.

To prevent toxins from dissolving and getting into the water, always use decorative items from aquarium retail stores only. Also avoid sharp edges or points so that your fish do not injure themselves.

Here you will find our instructions for the optimal aquarium start