What do I need to start a fish tank?

When its the first time having a fish tank, you might have this question – What do I need to start a fish tank?

This is a widespread question that comes into a beginner’s mind when thinking of having a fish tank.

This post is for those people who are beginners in the aquarium hobby. So read this article carefully to get a clear idea about the basic requirements you should have for an aquarium.

When considering essential this that needs to start a fish tank, there are some required equipment, materials, and fish types.

This article will try to go step by step to explain the required things for a basic fish tank setup.

1.  What kind of fish tank do you need?

When starting a fish tank, the first thing that needs to be considered “what kind of fish tank do I need.”

It could be build up in various shapes (square, rectangular, Hexa shape, etc.), the tank can be made using glass or fiber materials.

Depend on your interest, space you have, and with your budget, you can decide what kind of tank you need to have as your first fish tank.


The size of the fish tank is also very important to consider. Most of us are having rectangular-shaped fish tanks to set up a home aquarium.

Fish-Tank | flicker.com-Emilia Murray

The size can be various. But there are some recommended sizes that you can use to build up your tank.

If you are going to have a glass fish tank and if you know how blue glass (using silicon glue), you can build up your fish tank.

Also, there is another way that you can buy an utterly ready-made glass or fibre fish tank for an aquarium shop. It depends on your budget and skills.

2. Plan your fish tank

After finalizing the decision about what kind of fish tank your need to have, Then you should plan your fish tank.

Planning a fish tank can differ with the person’s interest. You should have an idea or image of what should your dream fish tank looks like.

Some people might like to have a hard rock tank, while some may wish to have a wild-looking tank with real plants.

So by depending on your interests, budget, knowledge, and the time you have to maintain your fish tank, you can think about what would be ideal for you.

In this planning step, you also need to plant is it freshwater fish tank or a saltwater (marine) aquarium.

The planning process also needs to consider what kind of fish you are about to add. It can be livebearers, Discuss tanks, Malawi cichlid tank, etc.

Based on the interesting fish types, the tank background also can get change. As an example, some fish are not suitable for live plants while some are best.

The fish species you are going to add will also depend on the size of the fish tank you already selected.

So take your time to study the basic tank sizes for the fish species you like to add into your tank and decide what will be your fish tank.

3. Make the tank ready

Now, this is an important point, and now you may have questions like “What supplies do I need for a fish tank?”, “what are the essential equipment and accessories I should have? “.

This heading will help you with that. To make the tank ready, First, you should clean it up. If it’s new, do not add fish into the tank state away.

It’s better to have some greywater in your fish tank for a few days. This will help you to remove the harmful effects that can get from the glue, etc. of the tank, and you can check for leaks.

fish-aquarium-tank planted
Planted tank

After that, clean up the tank before adding clean water into it. It would be nice if you can keep that water for a day or two to make sure the tank is thoroughly pure without the chemicals, etc.

If you are about, have a fibre tank no need to worry much because there will not glue effects, etc.

Also, make sure to place the tank in a correct position and in a flat surface. You can use a “rigifoam” layer under the tank. It will help to protect the bottom glass.

4. Add water, substrate, and plants

After your tank is placed in a correct position and surface, you should add substrates to it.

To the bottom of the fish tank, you can add sand or small stone substrate. Its also better to consider the weight you are to give in to the tank’s bottom.

Another important thing is, the substrate you are going to add in the tank will depend on the fish and plants that about to live in the tank.

Before adding the substrate, you should make it clean because they can have a lot of dust and harmful things to your fish.

Giving a think substrate bottom in the tank is good. So adding substrate into 1″ thickness will be ok for the tank.  But it also may be can thicker if its planted tank.

Around 1″ to 2″ will be enough as the substrate thickness in your fish tank. Also, you need to consider the weight of the substrate.

The optimal weight for the fish tank substrate will differ with the tank side. Heavyweight may harm your tank and its setup.

The next thing is adding water into the tank. Water can be different from your preference. It can be a freshwater tank or a saltwater tank.

When you are adding the water into the tank, make sure to add it in a small height. Otherwise, it can mess your tank setup.

It would be nice of you can place a plate inside the tank and fall water into it. That way, it will not mess your substrate setup.

After adding water first time by finishing “Make tank ready” steep. I would like to suggest you to to keep the water one or two days and remove it.

Fish tank setup

After removing the water, add clean water again to the tank into the correct level.

The reason for this is, even you clean the substrate, maybe it still contains harmful things and dust that mixed on to the water. So it will be good practice for the first time.

If you are going to add plants to the tank, now its time to plant your plants inside the tank. You should plant them correctly to grow nicely.

Before adding the plants, you should have a clear idea about aquarium plants. Some plants need to have particular environments and lighting conditions.

After all the required basic things are done, as the next process of the answer for ” what do I need to start a fish tank?”, you need to add a better filter system.

A filter system is a highly important factor in a fish tank. It will help you to maintain the water clean water condition in the tank, and that will improve the health of the fish tank.

There is various type of filters you can buy in aquarium shops for your fish tank. The main thing you should consider is, the filter system should be enough with the tank size of your fish tank.

Same as the writers, The aquarium lighting process is also highly important. Lighting conditions of your aquarium will affect the plants, color of the fish as well as the beauty of the tank.

Depend on the fish types you are going to add, and you also can use an aquarium heater if required. Heaters are not highly required. It will depend on the fish and the plants of your tank.

5. Adding Fish into the tank.

The last section of the article “What do I need to start a fish tank” and one of the most important section of the article is, adding the fish into your new aquarium setup.

This should be the most waited and interesting part for you. All of us are so excited about our fish tanks after adding the various fish types.

Even you are very excited, and this process needs to do slowly and patiently.

First, you must select which fish to add. It could be freshwater fish, and saltwater fish could be the best fish for planted tanks or predator fish types as you already decided in the planning process.

When adding them, it’s not good to add all the fish the same say. Just and a pair and look carefully if they are having any trouble.

If the fish show any unusual behavior, I should take them out immediately.  Then you have to change the water.

If they are staying nicely in the fish tank, you can slowly add some more fish after a few days. That will ensure that they can stay healthy in the tank.

Before releasing fish into the tank, keep them in their bags a few minutes by putting the bags into the tank water. That will help them to be ok with the new water temperature.

You should have an idea about how many fish you need to add based on your tank size. If its a planted tank, add fish that if a match for planted environments.


This article was written for an answer to the common question, “What do I need to start a fish tank?”

This is a common question every one of us having when about to start a new tank from scratch.  The blog site, aquariumfreaks.com, tried, provides an about how you can start a new tank through this post.

If you feel this useful, please share this with your fish tank lovers and add your though by a comment.

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