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Aquarium Info Aquarium Info

If your new to the hobby and you’re thinking of setting up an aquarium then the following pages should be of some use. Before you make your purchase you should have a good idea of what you want, and how much it will cost, If you feel we have missed anything out of this section please let us know via the contact us page and we will add the missing information.


You should have a rough idea of what its all going to cost, and how much you can afford to spend. If your budget is limited then think about buying second hand equipment. Your local pet shop will probably have some second hand equipment, and there will certainly be plenty of tanks for sale in your local newspaper. There is nothing wrong with buying second hand equipment as long as you inspect it closely before purchasing, and shop around a little , there are plenty of nearly new aquaria for sale, if you search hard enough. If you are buying second hand then take a friend who has some experience in the hobby, if purchasing a second hand tank, inspect the glass for scratches before purchasing.

Here is an example of how costs can mount up NEW VERSUS OLD:

Setting up a African Rift Lake Tank 400 litres (NEW SET UP)
Rio 400 Aquarium with accessories and stand   £600
Fluval 4 External filter   £100
Sand   £30
Ocean Rock / Tuffa Rock   £100
Selection of Malawi Cichlids   £250
  Total £1080


Setting up a African Rift Lake Tank 400 litres (SECOND HAND SET UP)
Second hand 18 month old Rio 400 tank and stand   £200
Second hand Fluval 4 External filter   £40
Sand   £30
Ocean Rock / Tuffa Rock   £100
Selection of Malawi Cichlids   £250
  Total £620

Fish Types

Fish Types
The type of fish you are going to keep, will basically dictate what type of equipment and aquarium you will need to purchase. It is worth looking through some books, magazines or checking out the internet to get an idea of what you fancy, and spending time at your local pet shop, or garden center. Most Aquatic outlets are owned by hobbyists and they should offer you plenty of advice and guidance. It may be worth asking them about there policy should you decide to return some fish, you may decide after keeping tetra’s and gourami’s for six months that you would like to keep something a little more challenging, and returning your fish will be your only option should you fancy a complete change.

Common Tropicals
There are a lot of common tropical fish which will thrive in a mixed community, you should choose young fish of similar sizes, and buy a pair, a trio or small group of fish. Think about were the fish will swim and how active they are, and pick a range of fish that will compliment one another.

Fish Types

Specialist Tropicals
Large cichlids, Angel fish and Discus should be avoided by the complete beginner, until they have grasped the basics of keeping a healthy community of fish, and have decided they would like more of a challenge. These fish are certainly more rewarding but require a lot more time and effort dedicated to their upkeep, to produce the right results. For example to sucessfully keep and grow young Discus to a good size, will require frequent feeding of high quality frozen foods, daily water changes, and close attention to water quality and ph.

African Rift Lake Cichlids
The cichlids of lake Malawi and Tanganikan are very active and colourfull fish and will always produce a stunning display, they require a water ph around 8-8.5, and are very teritorial and aggressive, Give Mbuna plenty of rocky caves to hide in and slightly over stock the tank, you should be looking to keep a community of 30-40 fish in a 4ft tank

Marine fish have fantastic colour, but you will need to have a large tank to keep a small community of fish, you will require additional equipment such as a protein skimmer. I would not recommend keeping Marine fish untill you at least 2-3 years experience in the hobby

Aquaria size / position

If you can’t decide between a 2 or 3 foot aquarium then buy the 3 foot. You will be able to keep more fish in a large aquaria, and you will have more scope if you decide to change and keep a different type of fish. When deciding were to position your aquarium, your first consideration should be sunlight, never place an aquarium in direct sunlight or in a conservatory, direct sunlight = Algae, a problem to avoid at all costs.

Consider electrical and water supply’s, you will need to provide power to run lights and filters etc, you will also need water to carry out frequent water changes, so consider how easily it will be to carry heavy buckets of water from your tap to your aquarium. You should also consider the aquarium’s weight, if your living room floor is concrete, then no problem, but if your placing a large aquarium, in an upstairs room, then you should try to spread the weight evenly, and consider the position of floor joists etc. Avoid placing the tank where it will be difficult to maintain the correct stable temperature, e.g. near radiators or draughts from windows and doors.

Finally fish can die through stress if they are repeatedly frightened or startled, you should consider this if placing your tank in a childrens playroom!

Where to Buy

If you have decided to buy new equipment then you will probably get the best deals buying on-line from a reputable aquatics website, your local aquatics shop, will sell you the same products and will be there to provide information and support, your choice, I would suggest combining both to get value for money, and help and advice when you need it. We can give you advice on this site, simply use the contact us page, giving us a full description of your problem/enquiry.

The following subjects are extensive, we will provide only basic advice on these pages:

Your fish will react to the conditions you provide for them, Your fish will thrive and provide you with full colour and rapid growth, if you give them enough room and feed them a good varied but balanced diet. For this reason buy an aquarium that offers volume and a large surface area, if your buying a smaller aquarium then reduce your stocking levels and buy smaller species! I own a Juwel Rio 400, the Juwel range offer cleverly designed beautifull aquaria and stands, that would compliment any room. If your considering a Juwel aquarium use the link on our links page to visit the Juwel site.


One of the most important parts of your set up will be your filter, the filter will contain media, offering a large surface area to allow a colony of bacteria to grow, by passing water through this media any harmfull ammonia and nitrite in your water will be removed, providing healthy clear water for your fish community. I would strongly recommend encorporating more than one filter system in your tank, I would definitely advise backing your internal filtration up with an external system, or running two internal systems alongside each other!

Internal systems

One of the best systems is the undergravel filter, water is drawn down through your aquarium substrate and up an uplift tube using a powerhead or an air pump, this system utilises the whole of your substrate as the filter media allowing a substantial bacteria colony to develop, it also has little impact on the interia of your aquarium, all you see is the uplift tube which can easily be hidden with some tank décor. Another benefit of this system is any small particles or debris in your aquarium will be drawn down onto the substrate surface which will improve the water clarity.

Internal cannister type filters are similar to undergravels, they contain their own media inside the body of the filter and propel water through it using an impellor, they are normally positioned onto the side or back glass, with their outlet an inch or so below the surface of the water, this is advantageous as it provides surface ripples, increasing surface area and allowing more O2 to enter the water. I would recommend a "fluval" internal if considering this option.

External systems

The main advantage of an external is that they do not reduce the space available to your fish inside your aquaria, and you can carry out cleaning / maintenance on them without disruption to your tank, you will however need to consider routes for piping in and out of your aquaria.
I run a large Fluval external on my tank and I have run the pipes through the wall, the filter is situated in a cupboard on the other side, everyones situation is different you will need to consider the best option for yourself.

Other Systems

As you advance and become more confident and knowledgeable, you may wish to consider a centralised system running a number of tanks, or a specialised sytem such as a trickle filter.

Tropical fish require a temperature between approx. 20-30oC (68-86oF), with many species being kept at a ’middle value’ of 24-25oC (75-77oF). Maintaining a stable temperature (and more importantly avoiding rapid changes) is vital to avoid stressing fish. The temperature of a tropical aquarium would normally be maintained using a combined heater/thermstat, placed inside the tank. These are available in a number of standard wattages between 25 watt and 300 watt. Some hobbyists will recommend, buying two heaters rather than one ie, instead of one 300 watt heater, use two 150 watt heaters, this is in case a heater sticks in the on position, it will have less of a heating effect on the tank. I would recommend buying one good quality heater such as a visitherm, these are extremely reliable and very rarely, do they give any problems, I would also recommend buying a thermometer to check water temperature, the ones that stick onto the outside glass are fine, check water temperature daily. Buy a heater with the smallest wattage rating for your size of tank, an increase in temperature has little impact on a fishes health, but a sudden fall in water temperature can cause harm. The table below gives examples of recommended heater wattages for various tank sizes. The modern combined heater-stats use very reliable thermocouples to maintain a stable temperature.

Aquaria Size
Imperial Gallons
Recommended Heater Size
400W (2x200W)



The lighting used in an aquarium is governed to a large extent by whether the tank is to contain live plants. If the tank will not contain plants (or only plastic plants) then the light need only provide a means to view the fish. The choice of lighting is then only governed by choosing a light which enhances the colours of fish. There are many different types of light tube available with varying spectrums, some give a strong blue light some give more of a yellow light. A light with more blue in its spectrum will bring out the blue colours in your fish, a light with more yellow in its spectrum will bring out the yellow colours in your fish. Think about the dominent colours in your fish selection and pick a light tube which will make the most of your fishes colours.

Planted tanks need more light than fish only tanks, and the type of lighting becomes more important. The light requirement of different plant species varies somewhat, but generally the light will need to be at least double that recommended for a fish only tank. A number of manufacturers produce fluorescent tubes designed to provide maximum plant growth. These include Arcadia’s Freshwater tube, Interpet’s Triton tube and Hagen’s Floraglo and Powerglo. 
For heavily planted tanks, some may opt for metal halide or mercury vapour lights, which are normally suspended above an open-top tank. These are able to punch light deeper than fluorescent tubing and are therefore useful for tanks 24" or more high. It should be remembered that when higher intensity lighting is employed to boost plant growth, it will be necessary to balance this with an adequate amount of nutrients and CO2.


Feed your fish "Little and Often" if this is possible, if not feed your fish twice daily, the food you give them should be consumed within a matter on minutes. Give your fish as much variety as possible, combine frozen, dry and live foods, and feed your fish nothing one day a week. Check out the protein levels of dry foods, some may not be suitable for the fish in your aquarium.

Tank Care
If your keeping common tropicals I would recommend a water change twice a month, and giving your aquarium glass a wipe inside with a soft cloth / or pair of old tights, a couple of times a week. When you carry out your water change use a gravel cleaner and siphon out approximately a third of the aquarium water, whilst cleaning the substrate at the same time. If your running an undergravel filter place the siphon tube down the uplift tube, to remove the sludge from under the undergravel filter plates, remove any dead plant leaves and generally give the tank a good stir up. When refilling the tank the new water needs to be dechlorinated and a similar or slightly higher temperature to that in the tank.

Water quality is the most important factor in sucessfully keeping fish, the more water changes you carry out the better the quality on your tank water.
Any uneaten food and fish waste decomposes in your tank to produce ammonia, high levels of ammonia will kill your fish. Your mature filter will convert the ammonia into nitrite, but nitrite is also posionous to your fish and high levels will have the same consequence. Your mature filter will convert nitrite to nitrate, this is harmless to your fish, but if you do not carry out regular water changes eventually nitrate levels will grow and have an adverse effect on your fishes growth rate. This is called the "nitrogen cycle" and needs to be monitored when your setting up a new aquarium, you must allow your filters to mature and your filter colonies to grow before you introduce fish to a new aquarium, I would recommend allowing a newly set up aquarium at least 10 days before introducing any fish, then only introduce a few fish at a time, you can purchase kits or get your local pet shop to carry out a test on your water should you experience any problems. Some tropical fish are more hardy than others, introduce the more hardy species first.

What you place in your tank is your choice. But you should be aware, some rocks can leach unwanted chemicals into your tank and new bogwood will have a staining effect on your tank water. Place rocks in your tank in such a way to prevent them falling onto the glass sides, be carefull not to scratch the insides of your tank when placing or removing rocks in the tank, and use them to create caves and hiding places in your tank. Some rocks can effect ph and are used for this reason, ie "tuffa" rock is used in a "malawi" set up to buffer the water to create a ph around 8.5, this is obviously not suitable for use in a tropical aquarium were the desirable ph range will be 6.0 - 7.0.

If your thinking of using plants as part of the tank décor consider using plastic plants, they do not die and decompose, large fish won’t damage them and they look nearly as good as the real thing!

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