[Ad | This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com on behalf of Mars Fishcare and the API brand.] We finally have our first family pets! I was recently fortunate enough to be sent an aquarium and other required equipment for tropical fish tank setup. I had many questions, such as what temperature should a tropical fish tank be, and how long do you have to wait to put fish in a new tank? So now I know, I’m going to answer those and all the necessary steps for setting up a tropical fish tank!

Setting Up a Tropical Fish Tank
Setting up a tropical fish tank…

But first, here’s why we’re so excited about having an aquarium!

Benefits of Owning An Aquarium

It’s well-documented that interacting with animals, and stroking them particularly, can reduce stress and improve mental health. Well, research carried out by Plymouth and Exeter universities provides robust evidence that keeping fish can also alleviate stress and anxiety, and improve wellbeing

Those aquariums you see in your GP surgery or dentist waiting room are not just for decoration – in studies assessing people’s physical and mental responses to watching fish, there were noticeable reductions in blood pressure and heart rate, and positive impact on overall wellbeing.

I can confirm that this is definitely true of my personal experience – I find watching fish very calming. And I also love the gentle bubbling sound of the water cascading back into the tank.

There’s something incredibly tranquil and mesmerising about sitting quietly watching fish. 

Fish Tank Decorations and Fish

Our family is not yet ready for what I deem a ‘proper’ pet – too much of a tie, and too much responsibility. So this is absolutely perfect for us.

It’s not something we’d properly considered, however, because it seemed like it could be a lot of work. The daily responsibility of walks and attention may not be relevant, but caring for any animal is a responsibility not to take lightly. And frankly as a busy working mum I just didn’t have the capacity to take on anything else taxing.

Thankfully we had an expert on hand for this exciting campaign to talk us through everything we needed to know about setting up an aquarium and how to properly care for it. Gary from API Fishcare is extremely knowledgeable and put my mind at ease in terms of the effort involved in keeping pet fish.

Common First Questions About Tropical Fish Tank Setup

What Temperature Should a Tropical Fish Tank Be?

A tropical fish tank should be between 24 – 27ºC, and heaters are designed containing a thermostat to adapt automatically to ensure the desirable temperature is maintained.

How Much Light Do Fish Need?

Fish should have around 8 – 12 hours of daylight. If your fish tank also has a blue light, this can be used in the evening to mimic moonlight. It may be switched off or left on overnight as it won’t disturb the fish or contribute to algae growth.

What Fish Can You Keep in a Tropical Freshwater Fish Tank?

Some of the most popular fish to keep in a small-ish aquarium include tetras, guppies, and mollies. You may also like to consider a bottom feeder such as a loach, catfish, or goby.

Tropical Fish Tank Setup

What Else Can You Keep?


I really wanted something different in our tank. At the time of writing we currently have three Amano shrimp. I’ve been advised not to introduce the smaller more colourful shrimp while we have danios, as they may not survive! (See below for why!)

Update: We relocated the danios to my mum’s tank and introduced six of these little guys!

Steps For Setting Up a Tropical Fish Tank

1. Fit Light, Filter, and Heater to Aquarium

These items are essential for creating the right environment for your tropical freshwater fish to thrive. Check with the manufacturer of your filter whether or not it should be fully submerged.

2. Purchase and Clean Decorations to Fill the Tank

Doing this now means you’re able to position items where you want them placed easily, without getting wet!

3. Fill the Tank With Water

Fill the tank with tap water. It’s recommended to first wash and add the gravel you’ll be using, otherwise you’ll find the water goes very cloudy, and it may take several hours to settle.

Floating New Fish in Tank

Tip: Place a dinner plate on top of the stones when filling, to help prevent residual gravel dust being kicked up into the water.

4. Switch on Filter and Heater

Depending on the size of your aquarium, the heater will probably take a few hours to bring the temperature of the fish tank up to 24ºC.

5. Treat the Water

Tap water is suitable for humans to drink because of the minerals etc we add to it, however those minerals make it toxic for an aquarium. API Fishcare products provide a solution so you can add fish the same day.

By adding API Quick Start, API Stress Coat and API Aquarium Salt, tap water becomes safe for fish.

API Stress Coat removes chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals from tap water, and also contains healing aloe vera to minimise fish stress; API Quick Start introduces nitrifying bacteria; and API Aquarium Salt, made from evaporate sea salt, provides electrolytes for your fish to improve gill function and respiration.

API Fishcare Products

Once you’ve treated the water, you can then use API 5-in-1 Test Strips to check water pH, nitrate levels and so on. Using these strips provides reassurance that your aquarium is now safe to add fish!

6. Research Fish

I skipped this step as we were al too excited and were confident we’d get good advice from our local aquatics store. Unfortunately, while the advice was good, the gaps in my knowledge were large and I was not made aware of everything I needed to know to make the best informed choices!

Tip: It’s important to consider how aggressive the fish you wish to purchase are, as they may limit what else you can keep in your community tank. Also be mindful of how many fish should be kept together, both in terms of individual species and the aquarium as a whole.

7. Buy Your New Pets!

If I’d stuck to the advice I was given, I’d have held off buying any fish that first day. However, Gary told us their API products made it safe immediately, and therefore I decided it was my job to test the theory…

I was recommended danios as a first fish since they’re relatively hardy, so are most likely to survive early introduction to a new tank. However, I’ve since discovered that they can also be semi-aggressive and may nip at some other/smaller species.

Had I known this prior to making a purchase, I may have made a different choice – I will do my own research in future!

Tips: Don’t forget you can always start off with just a few cheap fish and add to the community later.

What Temperature Should a Tropical Fish Tank Be

Additional Questions About Setting Up a Tropical Fish Tank

How Long Do You Have to Wait to Put Fish in a New Tank?

Some experts will suggest waiting a week to two weeks after setting up your fish tank, in order to allow a suitable biome to form. However, some of the products we were sent, specifically API Quick Start and API Stress Coat, can be used together to treat the new aquarium, enabling you to purchase fish the same day.

I decided to be brave and test the theory with a few cheap fish despite being advised against it by the local aquatics centre – and they’ve been totally fine! Phew.

You may prefer to start off with some more hardy fish to err on the side of caution, but if your kids are desperate as ours were, there’s no reason not to go for it if you’re using the right products.

How Often Do You Have to Clean a Tropical Freshwater Aquarium?

We were advised by onhand expert, Gary, to do a partial water exchange every couple of weeks. This involves draining around 25% of the tank before refilling and re-dosing it with API Stress Coat and API Aquarium Salt.

Tropical Fish Tank and API Products

You may also notice between partial water exchanges that the water becomes murky. API Fishcare also have products to combat this issue: API Stress Zyme, containing over 300 million live bacteria per teaspoon, to help keep your tank clean and your fish healthy; and API Accu Clear, to help clarify water by clumping together tiny particles, which can then be caught and removed by your filter.

It seems my prior apprehension around caring for fish, specifically the cleanliness of the aquarium, was unfounded!

Using API products makes setting up, keeping, and caring for tropical fish so straight forward. Had I realised how simple it can be, I’d have done it sooner for sure.

An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is a huge advocate of personal growth, focusing on journaling to increase positivity and facilitate mindful motherhood. With a wealth of experience in breastfeeding and CMPA, Kate is also an expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.

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