How to Install an Aquarium or Fish Tank (Step by Step Tutorial, Guide, FAQs & More)

You’ll agree with us when we say that going out and buying an aquarium is only half the battle.

Which is why we’ve come up with this easy-to-follow guide for you to set up your fish tank in no time.

In today’s post, we’re going to help you make sure that you set up your fish tank efficiently so there’s no need to make any further changes or adjustments down the line.

Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Set up your Aquarium Stand and Fish Tank

Choose a good location for your tank that’s away from direct sunlight and has consistent temperature and humidity. Make sure to take your time when choosing the location as you’ll have to completely disassemble the entire setup in case you have to change it.

Set up your base/stand and make sure that it’s level. Allow a space of about 5 inches between the aquarium and the wall as this will be needed to accommodate the fish tank filter, heater or any other equipment you may need. 

Step 2:  Wash All Ornaments, Gravel and Rocks Thoroughly 

Wash all of your rocks and gravel with warm water. Be sure not to use detergents or soap as these can be highly toxic to your fish.

If you want to add rocks that you’ve found on your own, you can sterilize them by soaking or boiling them in a mild bleach solution.

In order to wash gravel, you can put it in a colander and add water. Sift the gravel and stir, drain it and repeat until the water comes out clear. 

Step 3: Add your Gravel, Rocks and Ornaments 

How to Install an Aquarium or Fish Tank (Step by Step Tutorial)

Before filling your tank with any water, add all the ornaments, rocks and gravel that you washed in the previous step. Make sure that all these ornaments are securely placed and won’t be displaced once water and fish are added.

Step 4: Fill One-Thirds of your Fish Tank with Room Temperature Water

Fill a clean bucket with water that will fill your tank about one-third of the way up. You can pour this water onto a saucer or plate sitting on top of the gravel in your tank. This will help keep the gravel in place.

Once the water has been added, you can add a water-conditioner or dechlorinating agent to make it suitable for your fish.

Step 5: Connect any Tubing you may have for Air Stones or Decorations Inside your Tank 

You can use an aquarium check valve to safely locate the air pump that is placed underneath your aquarium. An aquarium check valve is a valve that acts as a stop to prevent water from backing up in case of a power outage.

Once you’ve located the air pump, connect all the tubing your decorations and air stones need. 

Step 6: Insert Live or Plastic Plants 

install aquarium

Plastic plants aren’t much of a hassle. Just secure them nicely to make sure they don’t get dislodged once you’ve added all the water.

If you’re adding live plants, you need to be more mindful. Ideally, these should be placed in a way that they hide your equipment. Make sure the water is warm enough for your plants before adding them in. Plant the roots of your plants gently below the gravel.

You should always remember to keep the plants moist before they are planted in your aquarium. Wet newspaper works well for this purpose. 

Step 7: Add the Rest of the Water to Fill the Tank 

Fill the rest of the tank with water. Be sure to leave some space between the water and the cover of your aquarium.

Step 8: Set up your Filter and “Cycle” your Aquarium

Mount your filter to the side of your aquarium, add the filter cartridge and wait for it to fill with water.

Once it’s turned on, you have to “cycle” your aquarium. Cycling refers to the act of growing the correct, healthy number of bacteria in your aquarium that can stimulate growth and kill any dangerous toxins. You’ll need to do this before adding your fish into the tank. If you want to start adding fish right away, you might want to invest in cleaning solutions for aquariums that are available in the market. These kill any dangerous toxins that might be present and allow you to start adding fish right away.

Step 9: Mount your Heater (if you have one)

If you’ve invested in a heater, mount it on the side of your tank. Most heaters come with built-in thermometers but we still suggest that you get a separate one and place it as far away from where your heater is on your aquarium as possible. 

Step 10: Plug in your Air Pump, Filter and Heater and Start them up 

Check all the tubing and air pump outlets for any obstructions before turning your equipment on.

Set your heater to the appropriate temperature. It will take about 24 hours for your heater to stabilize the temperature within your aquarium. We strongly advise you not to add any fish before this 24-hour period.

Step 11: Add your Fish

You should add about 10 inches of fish initially in order to establish the nitrogen cycle within your aquarium. Acclimatize them properly before releasing them into the aquarium and allow them about four weeks before adding the rest of your fish in.

Alternatively, you can buy live Nitrifying Bacteria and add them to your tank if you wish to add all of your fish immediately though we recommend that the former approach is better as it is more natural and gives your aquarium time to breathe. 

Step 12: Check all important Conditions in your Fish Tank after a Few Hours 

It is very common for water in new aquariums to turn cloudy. This is often caused by a boom of harmless bacteria that disappears after a day or two.

Keep an eye on the pH, ammonia and oxygen levels in your fish tank and make sure they are stable.

And with all this, the final thing to do is to give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve successfully set up a beautiful home for your aquatic pets.


A lot of people hire people from their local pet store to set up their aquariums for them. We think that this is not preferable as you miss out on a very vital experience when it comes to bonding with your fish.

What could be a more affectionate gesture for your fish than building a home for them with your own bare hands? And more practically, if you’ve built the aquarium yourself, you’ll know all the ins-and-outs in case any equipment stops working.

We hope we’ve made it simple for you to set up an aquarium in your home.

Give us feedback and let us know what your aquarium setup experience was like.

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