Your First Aquarium

Your child’s first Aquarium


When choosing a pet for your child, a fish are always a great option, they are quiet, don’t make mess around the house or yard and can be so relaxing to watch! They can be an easy pet for mum and dad to help take care of because as we know….  us parent always end up doing the work!

Where to start?

-          Research the best fish option for you. If your kids are old enough they can do a lot of research online themselves. Keeping them part of the selection process will give them a sense of ownership of the tank. Feel free to contact us at – if you need assistance.

-          Select the tank and equipment to handle your fish choice, so ensure tank is large enough and you have the correct filtration and equipment. Again, we can help with that.

-          Cycle the tank, fill it with water and let the filter run for a week or so before adding any fish, Your filter will take a few weeks to get up to speed and be able to process the waste your fish will produce. So only ad a couple of fish in the first few weeks.

-          Routine is very important in the first 3 months. Your Ammonia will be building up fast in a new tank. Have a daily, weekly, fortnightly and monthly maintenance plan on your tank to ensure all your fishy friends stay healthy and happy.

-          Responsibility is important for kids to learn. Set out some rules and or tasks your child can do to help. This will give them a sense of responsibility and give them a sense of ownership. As they are now helping care for their new friends too. Depending on age it could be as simple as reminding you to feed them every morning. Or if they are old enough they could be doing weekly water tests for you.

Picking the right fish for you!

Ok so as we know, there are many fish available, and it can be overwhelming to decide on which fish to get.

First decide, do you want a cold water or a tropical Aquarium? Neither is easier to keep then the other, only difference is you either have a heater in the Aquarium or you don’t.

If you decide on Cold water you are more limited, as there are less Cold-Water ornamental fish available to choose from compared to Tropical or warm water species.

Do you want a few larger fish, or lots of smaller fish? I find people with young children prefer the larger fish as they are easier to see, but the waste produced by one big goldfish would be equal to a school of 20 or so little fish which would also be easy to see.

Fish like any animal need care and attention to survive. But for first time fish keepers we have the following suggestions on some more forgiving species to try.


Goldfish (many say the easiest fish to keep) but they are one of the messiest, so good filtration is required) as they grow quite fast and eat a lot.

Axolotls (Walking Fish) are a cool fish to keep. But they generally need to be kept on their own as little fish pick at their exposed gills.

White Clouds, Medaka’s and Murray River Rainbow Fish are other options. They are fine in unheated tanks still have good colours and are small, so you can get a nice school of them going.


A Male Fighting fish is bright and colourful. They only fight with other Male Fighter fish, so you could set up a tank with a fighter and some Neon Tetras, Ember Tetras, Kuhli loaches and a Corydoras Catfish to help keep the bottom clean. 

Or you could go down the road of Livebearers like Guppies, Platies and Swordtails and Mollies. They are all bright coloured fish and are quite Hardy. Like the name suggests they give birth to live babies which is quite exciting for the kids to discover. With a little partition or a second tank to keep the babies safe from being eaten they will have the enjoyment of growing the next generation of fish for your tank.

Danios and Barbs, are also quite hardy for first time fish keepers and they also come in many ranges of colours and sizes. They are both active fish and having a school of them with keep the tank busy and interesting to watch.

With any fish choices we still suggest that you do some research on the types you want to keep. Look at how big they get to ensure you have compatible with each other, google is a great help, but we can also help lead you in the right direction J

Select your Aquarium

So now you have a rough idea on what type of fish you want to get, now to pick them a good home with the equipment to make looking after them an easy painful free process.

You generally will need

-          The Aquarium must be a suitable size for the fish you wish to keep.

-          A stand for the Aquarium unless you’re putting it on a bench or something you already have at home. Remember tanks are quite heavy when picking a place to put them down.

-          A substrate, gravel or sand of your choice… now this can also depend on type of fish you have chosen, Axolotls love bigger rocks, most will like just standard gravel, but be careful not to get the painted rocks as they may flake or leech something into the water causing you all sorts of issues later.

-          Filtration, now this should be looked at as the life support of an Aquarium. The bigger and better the filter the happier the fish and less maintenance for you. This is very important to get right, you must have a filter if it is not built into your tank.

-          Heater if you have chosen tropical fish, they come in a range of sizes, so pick one that suites your size tank.

-          Test kits, you need to be able to test water yourself. There are dozens of tests you can do as you advance in the hobby. But to start with you must be able to test your Ammonia and PH.

-          A fish net Suitable for catching out uneaten food and anything that may accidentally fall into the tank.

-          A fish only Bucket. You will need a bucket for cleaning gravel, filters and acclimatising fish. This Bucket can only be used for your tank. That way you will know it has never had soap or any liquids that are harmful for fish in it.

-          Water conditioners for removing Chlorine out of your tap water. Plus, other conditioners that put vital trace elements and salts into the water. (Yes, fresh water fish still need a little salt)




Now other things you can get that are not absolutely essential right away but will definitely help.

-          Air pump, these are great to attach to moving ornaments which kids will love. But will also add Oxygen and break up the surface of the water allowing for gas to exchange. This could become essential if your filter does not create enough surface agitation on its own.

-          Lights if the tank didn’t come with a set built into it already. This is more for your own pleasure as a well-lit tank with brighten up any room it’s in, plus make the fish stand out. It is not recommended that you leave the lights on all the time. 8 hours a day is plenty, any more and you are just creating a algae problem for the future.

-            Gravel Vacuum if you have a deep gravel base, as this will help keep it clean.

-          Live Plants, real Aquatic plants can help with the overall wellness of the tank, Just be sure to stay away from plants that are not actually aquatic. They just rot in you tank adding to your maintenance keeping it clean.

-          Ornaments and Plastic Plants and normally bight and kids love them. That’s a decision for you to make. Just make sure you are picking out tank safe ornaments and never grab a sea shell or rock you find outdoors and put it in your tank.


Cycling your Aquarium,

So now, you have your Aquarium…. The fun begins!

Make sure you pick a spot for the tank that is not in direct sunlight as this will cause all sorts of Algae problems!

Once the tank is in position, if you have the substrate, give it a good rinse before putting it into the tank. Sometimes even new gravel with be a bit dusty.

Then fill with water…. It is that simple… right?.... J

This is now where your child is super excited and just wants their new fishy friends… but you will need to somehow explain they need to just wait a week or so. The filter needs to run for a week or so to allow the filter to build up bacteria that will be eating the waste your fish produce. You can help the bacteria grow by putting a TINY bit of food into the tank. There are bacteria starters you can get from us that will mean you can get fish into your tank right away or at least shave some time off the cycling process. Feel free to ask us about starter bacteria.

This is the boring part kids, we are sorry, but it is in the best interest of the fish. Just let the filter work its magic over the next few days….

During the cycling process you should have your heater on and be testing your water. Looking to see where the PH is sitting. The ammonia is always a problem in new tanks. You want it to be almost non-existent.

Once you are happy with the water parameters and it’s been stable for a week or so. You can start adding fish!


Adding fish to your Aquarium,

Fun and exciting times now!

When adding fish to a new Aquarium, best not to just put a heap of fish in at once, as this will cause the Ammonia to spike in the tank due to the Bio Load, which is a nice way to say the filter is not able to keep up with all the poo from your new fish.

To avoid this, ad fish to your aquarium in stages, just a few at a time.

Once your fish have arrived at your door, you can float the fish in the tank still sealed in their bags, to help them adjust to the water temperature in your tank, this will take only 3-4minutes roughly and it gives you time to get your bucket and fish net ready.

Now cut the bag open enough for fish to get out, so say 5cm roughly, and tip water through the net into the bucket so the fish falls into the net and you can move him straight into the tank.

If you have ordered though us you have another option. You can use the box they arrive in! Put some of your tank water in the box, open the fish bag and tip the water out and put the rest in the box with the fish, once all fish in the box together you can put them all in the tank at once.

Throw out the water in the bucket, your garden should love it J

Be sure to do water tests every 2-3 days for 2 weeks after adding fish so you can see if an ammonia spike does occur and if it does you can get onto it straight away by doing a water change, this threat of ammonia spike will settle once your tank system is all working properly.


Maintenance on your new Aquarium

After a month or so your fish should be happy and your tank parameters should have settled. It is a good idea to do a water test every 2 weeks. Mainly for PH and Ammonia, but can help to check the, Nitrites and Nitrates to be sure all is going along swimmingly inside the tank.

Over time you will have Algae growing on the glass of your aquarium. It’s a good idea to scrape it away right before you do a water change. That way you remove the algae that you have just knocked off the glass. It will stop it from spreading to other areas of the tank. Don’t forget to give the Gravel a Vacuum too. It’s one of the best ways to remove any unwanted waste (Poo).

So in total every 2 weeks should take you about 20 minutes at most worth of maintenance.

Once a month it is a good idea to do a water change, only about 20-25% of the water, and top up any water conditioners you may have used


Daily tasks the kids can do!

We have all heard the story, ‘Fish out of water’ by Dr Seuss …. So don’t over feed your fish J

Overfeeding can be harmful. Not so much as your fish will explode out of the tank because he got so big, but more so because it can cause issues with the water qualities, like Ammonia and it is very harmful for the fish.

If your child is young please make sure you supervise them.

You only need to feed the fish 2 small feeds a day, only feed them enough they eat it all say within 1 minute and be sure to take out any uneaten food. When working out how much food to feed. Imagine the size of the fishes stomach.

Make sure everything in the tank works well on a daily basis, heater, lights, filter etc and if you notice something not right attend to it as soon as you can to avoid things getting worse in the Aquarium.

Oh and kids… Try not to pat your fish, they will love you enough just watching them and feeding them daily J