Email Sign-Up Go to Shopping Cart (0)



Customer Service

Freshwater Aquariums: How to set up

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
Substrate: How Much Do You Need? 
New to the Aquarium Hobby? 12 Considerations 
Moving Your Aquarium, how to 
Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium

Adding an aquarium to your home is the perfect way to bring beautiful color and life to your surroundings. Observing and interacting with your aquatic pets can help lower your blood pressure and reduce the stress of everyday life.

If you would like to add a freshwater aquarium to your home, but aren't sure how to get started, the following component list and step-by-step guide will help you on your way to creating a beautiful attraction like the 55-gallon aquarium setup pictured here. As you will see, adding an aquarium to your home is easy to do and well worth the years of enjoyment you will experience.

You will need...

Suggested equipment:
  • 55-gallon aquarium
  • Aquarium stand
  • Aquarium canopy
  • Versa-Top
  • 5 bags Natural Gravel
  • 200W Marineland Precision Submersible Heater
  • Vertical Thermometer
  • Emperor 400 Filter
  • API Freshwater Master Test Kit
  • 16 oz. Chlorine Neutralizer
Suggested Aquarium Decorations:
  • 4 Mopani Driftwood pieces
  • 3 Foreground plants
  • 2 Variety Packs
  • 3 Marineland 6"-18" Artificial Plant Multi-Packs
Step One: Set up Aquarium and Stand Place aquarium out of direct sunlight.
  • Allow 5" between the wall and the aquarium to accommodate the filter, and ensure the stand is level. Be certain this is a good location for the aquarium, as you will have to completely disassemble the system if you want to move it later.
Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step Two: Add Gravel and Water Use a plate when adding water to prevent gravel displacement.
  • Rinse the gravel in clean water and add it to the aquarium, sloping it up towards the back.
  • Place clean plate on top of gravel and start to fill the aquarium with water. If your tap water contains chlorine, add our Chlorine Neutralizer.
Step Three: Install Filter and Heater Install equipment, but do not plug anything in yet.
  • Assemble and hang the power filter on back of aquarium.
  • Attach the thermometer in a place that is easy for you to monitor.
  • Assemble and install the heater under water level, near input to filter.
Step Four: Decorate Add decorations, but leave plenty of swimming room for fish.
  • Rinse all the plants with clear water.
  • Place all the background plants, arrange the driftwood, add accent and foreground plants, along with a few special stones.
  • Fill aquarium and filter with water.
  • Plug in filter and heater.
  • Wait 24 hours for water temperature to stabilize before adding fish.
Step Five: Add Fish! Add about 10" of fish initially to begin the nitrogen cycle.
  • After properly acclimating fish, release them into the aquarium (without adding the water they were shipped in).
  • Place canopy and light fixture.
  • Wait four weeks and test for ammonia and nitrite. When the levels return to zero, you can begin adding the rest of your fish a few at a time (up to 55 inches total). Or, use our Live Nitrifying Bacteria to quickly establish biological filtration and cycle your aquarium.
Suggested Fish: In general, a 55-gallon aquarium can house up to 55" of fish (adult sizes). We recommend the following:
  • 3-6 Bottom Dwellers
  • 3-5 Otocinclus Catfish (algae eaters)
  • Other peaceful community fish include: Danios, Rainbows, Tetras, Barbs, Rasboras, Angels, etc.
For More Information, See our Video How to set up a Freshwater Aquarium


Click here for a more printer-friendly version of this article.  
Click here for a pdf version of this article.  


Contact us

8 am - 7 pm CST
7 days a week

7 am-8 pm, CST
7 days a week