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Starting A New Aquarium - What to Expect In The First 60 Days

Aqueon Blog Starting a New Aquarium

A new fish tank is exciting stuff! In the first two months after setting up your new aquarium you are likely to see your tank go through a lot of changes, most are natural but some changes may be signs of trouble. It's important to know which is which. It's going to take time for your new environment to find balance, but by knowing what to expect in the first 60 days you'll be able to help it along.

Aqueon Frameless 21 Aquarium

Your Aquarium: The First 5 Days After Setup:

  • You're going to be excited and anxious to fill your new aquarium with fish. Be patient! Let your aquarium "settle" for at least 48 hours before buying your first fish. This will give you time to make sure the temperature is set and make adjustments to decorations, etc.
  • Unless you've already decided on what fish you want to put in your new aquarium, check the list of suggested beginner fish below or consult your local aquatic expert.

    Zebra, Leopard & Pearl Danios
    Serpae Tetras
    Harlequin Rasboras
    White Cloud Minnows
    Bloodfin Tetras
    Cherry Barbs
    Black Skirt Tetras
    Brilliant Rasboras
    Corydoras Catfish
    Australian Rainbowfish
    Kuhli Loaches
  • Resist the temptation to add too many fish at once! Your filter won't be able to process a lot of waste at first and this could cause harmful ammonia and nitrite to rise to unsafe levels.
  • Occasionally the water in a new aquarium will turn cloudy after you introduce the first fish. This is caused by a bacterial "bloom" and will clear in a few days. These blooms are usually harmless to fish. Aqueon Water Clarifier will help speed up the process. Resist the desire to do a water change! Water changes, especially large ones will only prolong the bloom and may stress your fish.

Your Aquarium: 5 – 15 Days After Setup:

  • Your new fish may hide at first. They are likely stressed from being moved from the store and placed in a new environment. Make sure you have plenty of cover and hiding places to make them feel safe and secure. For especially shy fish, leave the aquarium light off for a few days (if you do not have live plants) until they start to come out and enjoy their new home.
  • Feed sparingly! A good rule of thumb is to feed only what the fish can consume in 2 minutes or less. Feed once daily for now, until your tank goes through its first cycle. Indications of overfeeding include food lying on the bottom after 5 minutes, cloudy water, foaming at the surface or an odor when you open the aquarium lid.
  • Test your aquarium water for ammonia and nitrite. Even if you do everything right, these levels may begin to rise until the nitrifying bacteria in your filter catch up. Use Aqueon Ammonia Neutralizer, water changes or chemical filtration media to prevent them from reaching dangerous levels. If in doubt, consult your local aquatic expert for assistance.
  • Once ammonia and nitrite levels return to zero your aquarium has completed its first cycle. You may now introduce additional fish.

Your Aquarium: 15 – 30 Days After Setup:

  • As ammonia is converted to nitrite and then nitrate, algae may begin to grow on the glass and other objects in the aquarium. This is normal and is an indication that the Nitrogen Cycle is established. Remove algae from the glass using a scrub pad or algae scraper. Never use a scrubber that has been used with soap or chemicals!
  • As long as ammonia and nitrite levels are at zero, you can continue adding fish to the aquarium during this period. If algae has started to appear, introduce algae eating fish such as plecostomus, otocinclus, snails and other scavengers. If you don't want to add more fish to your aquarium, try adding Aqueon Algae Remover to help keep algal blooms under control.
  • Always test water before purchasing new fish, and only buy a few fish at a time. Wait at least a week between new fish additions. Consider buying a plant or decoration with each fish purchase to give newcomers to the aquarium their own place to call home.
  • Occasionally, fish that have become established in the aquarium will act aggressively towards new fish because they consider the newcomers intruders to their "territory". This is especially true among cichlids. Rearranging the aquarium and adding new decorations will often calm this behavior by eliminating territorial boundaries.
  • Perform a 25% water change after 15 days. Remember to treat tap water with Aqueon Water Conditioner before adding it to your aquarium. There are different philosophies on how much and how often to change water, but 10% to 25% every 1 to 2 weeks is a good rule of thumb. Small frequent water changes are best. Don't vacuum the gravel yet, as you may disrupt the good bacteria that are just starting to colonize your aquarium.
  • Check the cartridge(s) in hang-on filters or mechanical filter media in canister filters and rinse solid waste off as needed. If the cartridge or fiber pads seem especially dirty, you might be overfeeding! Do not disturb biological media at this time.

Your Aquarium: 30 – 60 Days After Set Up:

  • Begin feeding twice daily, as long as ammonia and nitrite levels remain at zero. Feed only what your fish can consume in 2 minutes or less. It's okay to skip a feeding every few days. In fact, this is actually beneficial as it allows fish to clear their digestive systems.
  • Change the cartridge(s) on hang-on filters or mechanical and chemical media (carbon, ammo-chips, etc) in canister filters after the first 30 days and then once a month thereafter.
  • Observe your fish closely, especially at feeding time. Get to know their behavior as they interact with each other and swim around the aquarium. Watch for rapid breathing, gasping at the surface, clamped fins, white spots on fins or bodies, scratching against objects, unusual behavior, or external markings that weren't there before. Consult your local aquatic expert if you have questions or concerns.

You have now gone past the first 60 days of owning an aquarium, we hope you continue with this calming and enjoyable hobby for many years to come. Now it's time to set up your next aquarium!

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