Starting and Cycling Your New Aquarium

New to the PetFlow pack is our selection of small animal products. For the first time ever, we are carrying small animal, reptile, bird, and fish products on our website. To celebrate the addition of our new selection, we wanted to take some time to go over how to start up your aquarium and list some products that you might need.

Let’s Talk Tanks

The first thing to do when starting out your own aquarium is to pick a tank. The rule to remember when stocking a fish tank is one inch of fish per gallon. That means that if you want to have a lot of fish, or larger fish, it is best to get a larger aquarium. However, if you want to start small and test the waters, we now carry some beginner aquariums on our website. When stocking this aquarium, we recommend researching some small fish that will not outgrow it so they are able to live comfortably. The idea that fish will only grow as large as their tank is an outdated and dangerous myth and can lead to discomfort or even death in many fish.

Everything Else

Along with getting your tank ready, you will want to make sure you have all the necessary equipment for your new tank

  • Filter: A vital part of a fish tank is the filtration system. The filter makes so that your fish aren’t perpetually swimming in a pile of their own yuck. For a beginner tank, a hang-on-back filter is a perfect way to go. Other filtration options include sponge filters and canister filters.
  • Water Conditioner: Water conditioner is a vital part of getting your fish tank ready. Water conditioner removes the chlorine from your water that can kill fish. There are a wide variety of conditioners out there. Some have some bonuses like Stress Coat +. This one not only will this dechlorify your water, it contains aloe vera which is great for protecting the slime coating of your fish.
  • Heater: For tropical fish, a heater is important to have as they like temperatures on the warmer side.
  • Gravel and Decorations: Decorations such as fake or live plants and hides are very important as sometimes your fish need to get away from the eyes of onlookers or other creatures in the tank. All gravel and decorations should specify that they are aquarium safe, as anything otherwise may leak paint and other unwanted chemicals into your tank.
  • Gravel Vacuum: A gravel vacuum is an important part of maintaining your tank’s cleanliness. You can use this device to do water changes and clean out any gunk that may have sunk beneath the gravel in your tank. It is very important to keep up on these water changes so the ammonia does not spike and harm your fish.

The Nitrogen Cycle

So, you’ve picked out your fish tank and have gotten it set up, decorated, and ready for fish. Instinct will make you want to fill that aquarium with fish right off of the bat, but sadly there are some steps that need to be taken before you can do so. In order for your fish to live in safe and comfortable conditions, a nitrogen cycle must be established. When your fish or the food they eat creates waste, the nitrogen cycle turns that waste into nitrite and then nitrate. For safe fishkeeping, you will want to make sure that these parameters are always at a good level. To check your water levels, this is our personal favorite liquid testing kit.

There are several different ways to cycle your tank, and we wanted to take some time to go over some of them.

Fish-In Cycling

Many people new to the fish hobby are eager to get their fish in the aquarium as soon as possible, and who could blame them? This method of fish tank cycling tends to be the most popular method, and if done correctly, there is little risk involved. When you first begin your tank, you should add as little fish as possible to it to make sure that there isn’t a dangerous spike in ammonia. Make sure the fish you select for this process is a hardy and durable fish. Along with that, you will also want to feed your fish as in small increments that you can gradually increase as your cycle gets established. If you overfeed your fish early on, there will not be enough bacteria to help remove the waste that your fish will produce. To speed up this process, we strongly recommend adding some beneficial bacteria to your tank water.

Fish-less Cycling

The option to do a fish-less cycle is less popular than the fish-in cycle for eager fish owners. However, this option is much safer, as you do not have the risk of having live fish in the tank in case of an ammonia spike. Many experienced fish keepers will cycle this way. You do have to check your water levels regularly and add your own source of ammonia, such as fish food to create waste. This process can take about 3-6 weeks. You will know that your water is ready for fish when your ammonia and nitrites are at 0ppm (parts per million). Once those levels are where they need to be, you are free to stock your tank.

(Disclaimer: The PetFlow team does not advise using a cat for cycling your fish tank.)

Cycling your fish tank and making sure that you have the necessary equipment are all important steps to starting up your fish tank. For any questions about fish, our different fish products, or other small animal products, you can always reach out to our PetFlow team by giving us a call at 1-888-316-7297. Many of our pet parents have experience keeping fish and other small animals, and are always here and happy to help.