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Freshwater Aquarium Set Up

We show you how to set up and decorate the aquarium in 11 easy steps we have used a Jewel Aquarium as an example.

Safety tip: Don’t turn your heater on until it’s under water.

1. The 180 litre tank is a good sized tank for both tropicals or marines. The model we have chosen, in dark wood, comes with twin lighting, a 200 watt heater and a 600lph internal filter. The filter comes with a coarse sponge, fine sponges, a nitrate removal pad, a carbon pad and a fine poly pad.


2. We’ve added a background picture to the tank to complement the plants and fish. This 3D rocky background is reversible and can be simply stuck on the back with clear double-sided tape. Trim the edges for a neat fit. The filter media can be removed from packaging and fitted as directed. For good plant growth, replace the carbon pad with another sponge as carbon can remove plant food.


3.We want good results with live plants and that means adding a substrate fertiliser. This Tetra Complete Substrate should be poured over the base of the tank, before you add any gravel.


4.Choose a gravel that will not alter the water chemistry and is safe for use with plants. Wash it to remove any dust and cover the Tetra substrate completely, to a depth of 5cm/2”.


5.The “hardscape” is the next thing to be added. A combination of real bogwood and replica wood has been selected and two large pieces have been placed in the tank. The bogwood has been rinsed to remove any dust.


6. The hardscape is finished off by two pieces of carved lava rock. We have placed it in a pile, to the right of centre, where it will complement the bright green, low-growing plants. Again, rinse it before putting it in the tank.


7. Half-fill the tank ready for planting. Use a hosepipe or buckets – we’ve used the lid from the Tetra Complete Substrate to deflect the water so as not to disturb the gravel too much. Dechlorinate the water, making it safe to add the plants.


8.Plant the taller, background plants first. We’ve planted Vallisneria in one corner, and twisted Vallis in the other. We’ve used Cabomba as a space filler and some Amazon swords toward the mid ground to make a feature. Continue filling any gaps with other fast-growing plants. We’ve added some red Alternathera and some dark green Egeria. The Vallis, Egeria and Cabomba will grow quickly, taking up nutrients and helping to prevent algae.


9.Test water and mature the tank before adding any fi sh. Add a filter maturation fluid, a liquid plant food and how about a CO2 system for better plant growth? This simple CO2 device from Tetra is easy to use and suitable for beginners. You should notice the benefit within a few weeks of fitting it.


10.With everything in place, leave it for a week before adding any fish, then add a small number of hardy fish and continue to test while ammonia and nitrite peak, and then return to zero. More sensitive fish should be added later on.


11.The finished tank with community fish, clear water and growing plants. We’ve chosen a selection of fish to occupy all levels of the tank and live in harmony with each other. Add them in stages to allow the biological filter to catch up.



Setting up and aquascaping a new aquarium is a fun job and all the family will enjoy being involved. Give yourself plenty of time on the day and don’t rush it, just enjoy it!


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