1. cat
  2. cat food
  3. cat mate
  4. cat md
  5. cat sip
  6. cat stop
  7. catit
  8. catmouse
  9. catnip & grass
  10. catswell

LAST CHANCE! Save up to 50%

on thousands of items in stores & online ~ Dec. 19-24

Save 10% with buy online, pick up in store

now through 12/24 ~ see details

Buy Online, Pick Up In Store

You order it - we'll fetch it!

You are here: myPetSmart.com > Care Guides > Setting Up An Aquarium

Setting up an Aquarium

Experience Level: Beginner

Setting Up an Aquarium

Did you know? Fish sold at PetSmart are divided into five different communities of fish that can live with other fish in the same community. These compatibility groups are Goldfish, African Cichlids, South American Cichlids, Semi-Aggressive Fish, and Tropical Community Fish. Look at the label under each aquarium to identify the community of fish in that aquarium. Select fish from the same compatibility group to ensure they get along with the fish in your home aquarium. To create a beautiful environment, add some fish that swim along the bottom of the aquarium, in addition to the fish that swim in the middle of the aquarium. Ask a PetSmart associate to help you choose compatible species.

Step 1Setting up An Aquarium

The aquarium should be set up and filled with water at least one day before adding any fish.

Aquarium and Stand
• Determine the location of your aquarium. Be sure it’s near a power source, but out of direct sunlight and drafts.

• Place your rinsed-out tank on an aquarium stand designed to support the weight of a filled aquarium (aquariums weigh as much as 10 lbs. per gallon).

Substrate and Decor
• Rinse the gravel and decor in a clean container before adding it to the aquarium. Use 1.5 lbs. (680 g) of gravel for every gallon (4 L) of tank capacity to make a 2-3" (5-8 cm) layer on the bottom.

• If using an undergravel filter, place it in the bottom of the tank first and cover it with gravel.

• Fill ⅓ of the tank with water treated with dechlorinator or water conditioner.

• Place rocks, decorations, thermometer and plants in desired locations.

Filtration, Heat and Lights
• Position heater so the water flow from the filter will mix the heated water throughout the aquarium. Wait for 15 minutes after filling tank with water before plugging in heater.

• The general rule for aquarium heaters is five watts of power for each gallon. For large aquariums, it is best to divide this into two heaters, one at each end of the tank.

• Tropical fish require water temperatures ranging between 74-82º F (23-28º C).

• Fill remaining ⅔ of the aquarium with dechlorinated water.

• Follow manufacturer’s instructions to set up filtration. The filter should be able to process all of the water in the aquarium 3-5 times per hour. (e.g., A filter for a 20-gallon aquarium should filter 60-100 gallons of water per hour.)

• Place hood/light on tank and turn on for 8 to 12 hours per day.

• Run the filter for at least 24 hours and adjust the heater to the appropriate temperature.

 

Step 2Adding Fish

After you have properly set up your aquarium, follow these steps:

1. Determine how many fish your tank can handle.
Keep in mind the following:
• One gallon of water for every 1" of full-grown Tropical Fish.

• Two gallons of water for every 1" of full-grown Goldfish or large fish such as Cichlids.

• See the information on the aquariums or the individual fish Care Guide to determine the adult length of each fish.

2. Only add about three new fish at a time so they don’t overload the bio-filtration capacity.
• Take fish home immediately after purchasing.

• Float the sealed bag of fish in the tank for 15 minutes to allow water temperatures to equalize.

• Remove the bag and net the fish out of the bag.  Carefully add the fish to their new home. Avoid adding bag water to the aquarium.

3. Feed the new fish one to two hours after adding them to the aquarium.
• It is very important not to overfeed your fish, as this is one of the most common mistakes.

Step 3Aquarium Maintenance

Weekly
• Remove 10% of the water and replace with dechlorinated water.
• Test water quality in new aquariums.
• Scrub algae from tank and prune live plants, if necessary.

Monthly
• Vacuum gravel and replace 25% of water with dechlorinated water.
• Test water quality in established aquariums.
• Perform filter maintenance (i.e., replace filter cartridge, replace carbon, rinse pre-filter, etc.).

Aquarium Cycling

Aquarium Cycling
Your aquarium is a delicately balanced ecosystem dependent on the completion of the nitrogen cycle.
The good bacteria that grow in the gravel and filter of your aquarium break down the unhealthy fish waste (ammonia and nitrite) within the water, turning them into non-toxic nitrate.
1. Seed the aquarium with beneficial bacteria by using a cycling aid product.
• Biological supplements help grow the beneficial bacteria that break down fish wastes. The beneficial bacteria can make the water initially become cloudy.
2. Stock your aquarium with fish slowly; never add more than three fish to your aquarium per week.
3. Do not overcrowd your tank. This is sure to lead to toxic ammonia levels.
4. Frequently test levels of pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Perform a partial water change if the levels are abnormal.

Water Quality Testing
PetSmart offers free aquarium water testing. By bringing in a sample of your aquarium water, we can test the quality within minutes.
• Pets may transmit disease to humans; be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling your pet, their food or cleaning their home. Adults should assist children with hand washing.

• Persons at an increased risk for health concerns (children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, infirm or elderly), should use caution when in contact with the pet or its habitat.

• Do not clean aquariums in the kitchen or food preparation areas.

• Do not release pets into the wild as they most likely will not survive and may impact the native environment.

Safety & Cleanliness
Pets may transmit disease to humans; be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling your pet, their food or cleaning their home. Adults should assist children with hand washing.
• Persons at an increased risk for health concerns (children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, infirm or elderly), should use caution when in contact with the pet or its habitat.

• Do not clean aquariums in the kitchen or food preparation areas.

• Do not release pets into the wild as they most likely will not survive and may impact the native environment.
 

PetSmart Cares
Pets purchased at PetSmart are part of our exclusive Vet Assured™ program; a program designed by PetSmart veterinarians to help improve the health and well-being of our pets.
The program includes:
• Specific standards our vendors agree to meet in caring for and observing pets for common illnesses.

• Specific standards for in-store pet care.

• The PetSmart Promise: If your pet becomes ill during the initial 14-day period, or if you’re not satisfied for any reason, PetSmart will gladly replace the pet or refund the purchase price.