Setting Up a Large Aquarium

Nature has a great formula for taking care of itself.
In order to enjoy a healthy and beautiful Aquarium, the first rule is to understand life’s basic cycle and what keeps your fish happy and healthy. How To Set up a large Aquarium?

  • Assemble & level Stand & Tank
  • Fill tank with gravel & H20
  • Add Heater & Filter
  • Rinse Decorations & add to the tank
  • Cycle Tank (6-8 weeks) Using live Nitrifying Bacteria
    Establish Bacteria Population
  • Test for NH3 & No2 levels to be 0 & Ph 6.5-7.5
  • Introduce Fish
  • Add a proper amount of Food & Oxygen & Test weekly

Size up your equipment based on the amount and type of fish you are going to keep. The type filters, equipment, and buy a quality test kit. If you don’t know then the guy you bought the fish can help. Here’s how to start set-up.

How to Cycle a Large Aquarium


Aerating the tank will remove chlorine in the water. All tap water has forms of chlorine in it that are used by city and municipal water companies to treat drinking water. The only way around this is a home water filter that will remove the chlorine. If you have a faucet, countertop, or gravity water filter you can dechlorinate the Tap water instantly for your tank.

Fish aquariums are biological Ecosystems that cannot contain chlorine.  A carbon block inexpensive water treatment filter will remove the chlorine.  If you don’t have one then you need to pre-treat your tank water by aerating the contents with a pump that most likely came with your Aquarium. Do this for 24 hrs. and then test it. Buy a test kit from the Aquarium store. This will be a valuable tool for starting and operating your fish tank.

An Air Stone and Air Pump will knock the chlorine out of the water and add Oxygen at the same time.

Dissolved oxygen is very important for the health of your system. It is necessary to be available for the fish and the bacteria that will grow on your bio-filter in the tank. These bacteria are the workhorses in the Nitrification Cycle that will keep your water clean and your fish alive.

The air stone connected to the air pump is an important tool for delivering air bubbles to the tank. Make sure the air stone is at the very bottom of the Aquarium. The smaller the bubbles being diffused and the longer these tiny bubbles have contact with the water, the more oxygen will be dissolved into the water. This will make the fish and the environment for the fish a really healthy place for them to live.

A way to check your air stone is to make sure that the bubbles coming out of the stone are tiny and numerous. This shows proper aeration that will be sufficient for the tank. When the air starts to burp or the bubbles become large it’s time to get rid of it. This is a critical tool and indicator so pay attention to it. When your Aquarium is dechlorinated and has plenty of oxygen in the water. You will be able to start adding fish that will start this Nitrification cycle.


Fish Tank Cycling Chart


 Fish are introduced to the Tank—-Food introduced to Fish—-Fish secrete Ammonia(NH3)—-Nitrifying Bacteria convert Ammonia to Nitrites(NH2)——-Then Convert To Nitrates(NH3)—– Plants use Nitrates as Food Source

This is the Nitrogen Cycle used in nature. It is an ongoing life cycle. As Nitrifying Bacteria start to build a population they will grow in population as long as the food source which is Fish Waste and supply of dissolved oxygen is available. Thus creating a constant event. There are situations that you need to monitor and control to support this constant event.

So testing and caring for the filter system which is the lifeblood of the aquarium is very important for this biological miracle to maintain itself and the miniature Eco-system without major interruption. During the initial cycling process, it is recommended to start with a few fish and add more if you desire later after the biomass starts to build up a colony or population. This will take a little while. Good Equipment and a  quality Test Kit will keep this environment from crashing.

There are products to enhance the speed of this process in the tank by biologically adding nutrients and even some bacteria that are involved with the process. This is the easiest way to start cycling a tank.

If you are using the Test Kit that you bought from the Aquarium store. You will first see the Ammonia levels go up from the waste of the fish in your tank and as De-nitrification starts to happen. Then levels of Nitrites will pick up and Ammonia levels drop down.

This means that the bacteria are building and healthy. Once this happens, the Nitrites that were converted from Ammonia are then converted to Nitrates.  Ammonia and Nitrites are toxic but Nitrates are stable and even can be used in the tank for plant food. Buy a  good Test Kit.

You will be able to create and control a healthy ecosystem by monitoring the PH and Nitrogen levels. Eventually building a healthy population of nitrifying bacteria. You’ll be able to add more fish and even seed another tank by using some of the healthy biomass you grew and quickly start the procedure all over again.



The Timeline of The Aquarium

  • Ammonia Level  Rises after food is introduced to the tank.
  • As Ammonia Levels decrease-Nitrites levels pick up 
  • Nitrite Levels decrease-Nitrate Levels Pick up.
  • Ammonia disappears
  • Nitrite Levels disappear


If Ammonia(NH3) levels get high they starve oxygen from the water and eventually poison the fish in your tank. Your biomass is a Biological Filter that cleans the tank. There are Mechanical and Chemical Filters too. They all perform the same purpose which is to clean the water in your fish tank so that the fish will be to survive and thrive in a clean healthy environment.

Test with a reliable kit when you’re ready to start up your aquarium then every other week or so. The buildup of Ammonia is the alarm that will indicate a problem with your system. Most likely the result of the decomposition of waste from a live fish popping in the tank. Or it could be a malfunction in one of the components of the air and filter system.

The Nitrogen Cycle is the process that breaks down organic material and then converts that to other forms of energy. There could be other organic material sources in your tank besides the fish poop that you already know is there.

Plants can decompose in your tank too, so, look for anything that is going on in your Aquarium that is unusual besides testing and cleaning them out if you need to on a regular basis.

This cycle works well in nature but when in a small controlled area like an aquarium, the sequence of natural events can quickly go bad and rob important oxygen that will destroy the tank health along with the other fish.  Just as in nature, the Cycle is balanced and intricate. The chance of the balance becoming upset is always there. Keep on top of the water’s chemistry with testing and cleaning no matter how big or small your Aquarium is.


Best Type of Aquarium Filter


The Heart of the Aquarium is The Pump. There are Pumps for Every Application:

Biological filtration happens anywhere in the tank where the micro-organism make their home the movement of the water in the tank carries nutrients to that place. Bacteria can make their home on a plastic plant or a pump decoration that will accommodate the group of nitrifying bacteria that will grab onto the waste and act as a filter for the tank.

Live plants in the Aquarium are good for the cycle too by using the by-product Nitrate and giving off oxygen in return. This is a completely natural cycle that is only found in nature.

Internal filters pump air bubbles through the tank to mix the tank’s contents and add dissolved oxygen. The longer and slower the bubble of air stays in the tank before they reach the top surface, the better this works. The filters in the pumps should be cleaned and any bio-mass left in place to keep populating as long as the tank stays healthy.


Under Gravel Filter

pull the contents of the tank through the gravel then discharged at the top of the tank for a more complete mix. This mechanical type of filtration pulls and collects the dirt on top of the gravel. This collection of dirt that accumulates on the floor of the Aquarium needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. They have numerous problems. Mostly they are messier and less productive than the other filters.


Corner box filters

are typically shaped to fit into the corner of the aquarium. It is simply a box with slots in the top and bottom which allow water to flow through it. Placed on the gravel, the air is pumped into the bottom of the filter from a remote air pump.

The air draws the water through the filter from the bottom and exits the filter at the top. Bacteria that grow inside and out of the box do the work but are dependent on oxygen levels and the mixing of the tank. The Box normally contains a media of carbon for filtration along with the added benefit of Biological filtering combined.


A Sponge pump

  works as a mechanical and biological pump with microbes attaching themselves to the area and the sponge itself as a trap for dirt suspended in the tank. The Biofilters are dependent on the mix and oxygen levels that exist in the tank like the rest of the systems.

These types are the most natural setting types of filters and are environmentally proven for small populations of fish In a stream, the same exact thing happens when biological organisms attach themselves to rocks in algae or the crevices and cracks on the rock.

Food and oxygen are delivered to them by the movement of the stream itself. fast-moving streams in nature are usually the cleanest. It’s Mother Nature cleaning up

Power Filters

use all three types of filtration to clean the tank. These filters are enclosed and used a pump that draws water through the filter that usually contains a media or cartridge filled with activated carbon. They are efficient but require a lot of maintenance, as the filters tend to clog under positive pressure.

Biological filtration also occurs like the other as the biomass grows and develops throughout the area of the cartridge and filters inside the tank. When you change the cartridge you normally will lose the biomass. Rotating wagon wheels are used for homes of microbes to collect and mix the tank to constantly clean the are biological.




The drum wheel

does the same at the top of the tank and gives the nitrified bacteria a place to set shop and do their thing which is to break ammonia nitrogen into harmless Nitrates to provide protection for the environment of the fish tank.

The Drum has a material around it that gives the biomass a place to live and reproduce. The location is at the top of the tank which exposes the bacteria to air.

Levels of the tank have to be monitored or evaporation will lower the wheel to the point where it may dry out. This material on the drum is susceptible to clogging reducing the efficiency.

Cannister filters

that is attached beneath the aquarium are enclosed and siphon influent from the tank flows down through a pad or screen and then through another stage of a chemical media. After the chemical treatment is finished it flows through a compartment that handles the Nitrogen removal before returning to the tank.

This filter is of high quality and highly efficient. Different variations of media and resin can be added to the vessel appropriate to the problems that affect the tank water. The pressurized filter lacks any oxygen available but there are added stages after the water leaves the canister like a bio-wheel that will distribute air contact at an excellent rate. These filters, when used in conjunction with a bio-wheel, are popular with saltwater tanks and reef aquariums.



A Wet/Dry Filter

works below the aquarium and is used as an over-flow device that uses one box connected to the outside of one box on the inside of the tank. The boxes are connected by a siphon hose where water moves from the inside to the outside container.

The outside box can be adjusted for flow rate. After flowing into the outer box, the tank water goes through a sponge for pre-treatment to remove sentiment before entering the main treatment process under the aquarium. As the water falls to the lower boxes it mixes and picks up air and oxygen.

​The effluent is then dripped or sprayed over biological media. After this, it enters a sump compartment where it is collected and pumped back into the aquarium. The filter is notable because of the water being introduced to open air. This helps the overall working rating of the filter. Ideally suited for high stocked freshwater and saltwater applications.


Each filter has an ideal load rate and is applicable for different treatments. Talk to a professional on fish and aquariums for the best opinion. My input is always about the best water treatment process and method but certain fish need qualified expertise from Fish Experts. I have met some of these guys and gals and they really enjoy what they are doing which gives you a feeling in this day and age that people are knowledgeable in what they are doing.


Signs of Ammonia Poisoning


The signs of ammonia stress are usually pretty easy to detect, especially if you are paying attention to your fish regularly. Fish will tell you if something isn’t right.

*You will see changes in your test levels before you see changes in your fish. Just in case you don’t run a test or don’t have a test kit.

Pay Attention to These.

  1. Lethargy
  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Hovering at the bottom of the tank (especially for surface-dwelling fish)
  4. Gasping at the surface
  5. Inflamed gills
  6. Red streaks or inflammation in the fins
  7. Inflamed eyes or anus
  8. Rubbing their bodies against the bottom or other surfaces.

If you see some abnormal things, Check the Fish Tank Test and Kit-Compare Levels with the Freshwater Aquarium Testing Kit

*Change some water in the tank (15 to 20 % a week) This is a Fast Cure

  • Check for Overpopulation-too much fish
  • Check for filter operation
  • Stop feeding or overfeeding
  • Scoop out an organic matter in the tank
  • Increase aeration in the tank
  • Lower PH-The PH will always start to rise before you see the Ammonia Levels shoot up.
  • Increase or decrease the temperature in the tank.



This video is for most people just getting a handle on Fish Aquariums and Fishkeeping  The Post mixed with the Video can give you a basic understanding of how it all works and within no time you’ll be having the water and fish in a healthy situation ready to move on for the next size up. Don’t forget, Test! and don’t wait for things to happen.


How Often Do you Need to Clean a Fish Tank


Aquariums need to be cleaned at least 2x per month. If you don’t have the time or the capability to service your Aquariums, there is a solution.  You can now find small companies that provide the services. Normally Pet Shops-Malls and Aquarium Stores or even online.

That’s where I looked for these small companies that seem reputable and have good Customer References. Fish Tanks aren’t what they used to be. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Still, you don’t have to be a Marine Biologist to enjoy a Beautiful Live Aquarium either.

Set it up-create balance-keep tabs on water quality by Testing and you will have years of enjoyment with your new Aquarium filled with beautiful healthy fish. If you don’t have time to take care of these Aquariums you can get someone else to do it at pretty reasonable prices.


Proper pH For Freshwater Aquarium


JimGalloway Author/Editor




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