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StarterTank > New Tank Set Up > Set Up Procedures > Article

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Start Up Your Tank in 8 Easy Steps

New Tank Syndrome describes the period in which ammonia and nitrite levels are dangerously high in a tank. When fish is added to the tank, the toxin is converted by the bacteria to relatively harmless nitrate. This Break-in Cycle usually takes about a month. Follow these simple procedures to minimize the cycling time of a new tank.

1. Find a good place for your tank. Do not place your fish tank in direct sunlight because it will cause over-heating and create major algae problem. Never lift your tank when it is filled with water.

2. Prepare a sketch showing the placement of rocks, driftwood, plants and other decorations.

3. Using an old cup or container, slowly fill the bottom of the tank with gravel until it is about 2” deep. For a 10 gallon tank, 15 lb of substrate should be sufficient. Gently push the gravel with a piece of cardboard or short ruler until level. The rear should be deeper than the front for optimal viewing.

4. If using plants, dip the individual stem in bleach-bath for 2-3 minutes. A solution of 1:19 chlorine-water should be used. Rinse the plant under tap water immediately and soak it in de-chlorinated water. Change soaking-water a few times before using. Rocks, driftwood and other decorations should be rinsed and soaked in de-chlorinated water as well. Add all to the tank according to the sketch.

5. Place a large measuring cup at the bottom of the tank and fill it with pre-treated water using a hose. Let the water overflow into the tank, minimizing the disturbance to the gravel and arrangement. When water is filled to the top, start the pump.

6. Select 1-2 fish that are inexpensive and hardy enough to withstand the temporarily toxic environment during the new tank’s cycling process. Examples of hardy fish include gourami, tiger barb and red eye tetra. The cycling time for most aquarium at 78 degree F. is about 30 days. A handful of gravel from a healthy, well-established tank will likely speed up the process. In the 2nd or 3rd week, there will be a build-up of ammonia, followed by a build-up of nitrites. When both ammonia and nitrites drop to zero and stay that way for several more weeks, the cycle is over and the tank is ready for additional fish. At that point, there will be a build-up of nitrates, which is less harmful and can be controlled by regular water change. If the starter fish does not match the style of the tank perfectly, the fish store maybe happy to take it back.

7. A photoperiod of 10--12 hours daily is recommended for a planted tank.

8. Closely monitor the pH level and conduct a 10-15% water change weekly or bi-weekly. The key to a healthy and happy tank is having patience and adding fish slowly over an extended amount of time.

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