Natural Aquarium Setup For Beginners With Step by Step Guide

Often, beginners who have not been involved in aquarium keeping hobby before making a mistake: they think that it is enough to buy a container, fill it with water and start the fish. However, such actions most often lead to sad consequences. Living things start to get sick and then die.

To properly prepare a Natural Aquarium Setup, you need to take into account the characteristics of the fish: their size and demeanor. It is important to follow the general rules of arrangement, in particular, to ensure the optimal composition of the water.

natural aquarium setup for beginners with step by step guide

ABOUT STARTING Natural Aquarium Setup

To recreate the natural beauty of the underwater world, you need to carefully approach the first launch process. A natural aquarium usually means an average container with a length of at least 60-90 cm, rectangular and without convex glasses.

Equipment and materials should be prepared in advance:

  • lamp, it is better to install not in the cover, but separately. For example, hang. Optimum power is about 1 W / L;
  • equipment for the supply of carbon dioxide. It is important to use professional valve and balloon kits;
  • soil – natural is not used. Better to buy ready-made aquarium kits. The soil is laid out in several layers: bacteria with stimulants, charcoal, tourmaline, volcanic rock, soil;
  • decoration: stones and driftwood. Moss and various plants are attached to them. For fixing, you can use small stones, fishing line, and other materials.

A little water is poured into the aquarium, and the plants are planted with tweezers. To prevent the greens from drying out, they are lightly sprayed. Then the filters are installed, and the container is poured to the end.

The fish need to be started only after a month when colonies of bacteria appear in the aquarium. During this period, it is imperative to make a water change, since, with such soil, chemical processes take place very quickly.


In addition to H2O molecules, various organic and inorganic compounds are present in water. For example, minerals, dissolved gases from the environment. For fish, the presence of a sufficient amount of oxygen is important, without which no living creature can survive. What parameters of the water in the aquarium must be taken into account:

  • dissolved gases;
  • quality – the presence of impurities in it.
  • temperature.

You should also ensure the movement of water flows so that chemical compounds can be evenly distributed throughout the volume.

Hardness is a parameter that determines the presence of minerals in a liquid. In particular, calcium and magnesium salts. Special kits for testing and changing the composition of water are sold in stores.

A set of tests for NILPA water (8 tests pH, GH, kH, NO2, NO3, NH3/NH4, PO4, CO2) will allow you to accurately check the composition for PH – acidity, total and carbonate hardness, determine the presence and amount of nitrites, nitrates, phosphates, ammonium, and carbon dioxide.

  • To adjust the composition, you can use the corresponding reagents from the same company.
  • Testing can be done with the Aquayer pH + KH test kit or the Tetra WaterTest Set Plus. These manufacturers also produce reagents (conditioners) for changing the composition.

The reverse osmosis filter will allow you to adjust the composition of the water. The liquid passes through a special membrane, while salts, dirt, and other elements are removed. After the operation of the osmosis device, about 90% of the minerals are removed from the water. 

Another option for ensuring the desired chemical composition is the use of distilled water. But oxygen is almost completely absent in it, so the liquid will have to be aerated, and then add the required amount of salts and minerals.

A simple method for preparing water at home:

  • Draw liquid from the tap into a container.
  • Check the chemical composition.
  • Add conditioner if needed.
  • Turn on aeration for 15-20 minutes.

Conditioner – a mixture for adjusting the composition of the water. You can use ZOOMIR Methyl blue, it is used to remove fungal infections that cause various diseases. For example, ringworm and branchiomycosis (branchial rot). Sera Aquatan is often used to maintain a natural aquarium, which is even capable of binding heavy metals.

If the preparation is carried out without an air conditioner, the water must stand for at least 24 hours. For a new aquarium, this period is about 30 days. 


In the process of life of fish, as well as plants of the aquarium, waste is removed from the body.

In particular, these are metabolic products (excretion, carbon dioxide) and dead tissue particles (scale cells, leaves).

In open natural reservoirs, these compounds undergo a repeated cycle, participating in the cycle of substances. The nitrogen cycle also takes place in the aquarium.

Bacteria that live in water recycle waste, resulting in chemical compounds that, in small concentrations, do not harm fish and plants. This is a kind of natural filter.

  • However, inexperienced aquarists sometimes violate the feeding regime of fish, which causes a sharp increase in the content of ammonia and nitrites, which are destructive to living organisms. Bacteria simply do not have time to process this amount of waste. Therefore, it is important to start feeding small portions in a new aquarium.
  • Also, periodic water quality tests should not be neglected. It is necessary to closely observe the physical condition and behavior of the fish. Decreased activity of animals, lethargy can indicate discomfort that can be caused by pollution. If necessary, the composition should be adjusted, partially replacing the water.


Without human intervention, the nitrate levels in the aquarium will rise and cause health problems for the fish over time. And if the newly purchased fish get into the aquarium, where the amount of nitrates is higher than in the container in which they were previously, then the animals will experience nitrate shock and may even die. High nitrate levels can cause algae to proliferate.

The use of a reverse osmosis filter allows you to remove nitrates. But this is far from the best method for removing harmful substances. It is best to control the level of their content by regularly replacing some of the water in the aquarium with fresh water.

Nitrates and other harmful impurities (chlorine and others) must be removed from the new portion of the liquid before adding it to the container with the fish. Partial replacement allows you to replenish stocks of useful minerals. The addition of freshwater often causes the fish to become more active.

Preparation before swapping:

  • Pour water into a clean container.
  • Check the composition with tests.
  • Correct by adding the required chemical compounds.
  • Check the water temperature and heat or cool if necessary.

An important principle: the chemical composition and temperature of the fresh portion must match the parameters of the water in the aquarium.

No more than ⅓ of the volume can be replaced at a time. Except in cases where severe poisoning has occurred. Experienced aquarists change the water once a week from ⅕ to part, in parallel testing the composition for the level of nitrates.


An artificial filter is a container filled with one or more specialty materials. Water is forced through it, thereby removing large and medium-sized debris.

The filter cannot retain trace elements, so you still have to test the composition of the water. It is important to clean or replace it regularly – at least once every 7 days. Otherwise, the particles of feed, which sooner or later end up inside, will begin to decompose and release ammonia.

When cleaning the filter, you should try to preserve the bacteria colonies that have formed inside. To prevent them from dying, the element is washed in warm water.

In addition to mechanical filtration, chemical filtration is also used. For this, special fillers are used that change the composition of the liquid. This improves the quality of the water. For chemical filtration use:

  • charcoal – activated charcoal. It removes dyes. For example, methylene blue), drugs, tannins (peat and the like), as well as dirt particles;
  • corals – crushed or in the form of sand. Limestone chips are also used. Promote an increase or buffering of pH;
  • peat – to lower the pH.

All these components should be used together.


When planning to populate an aquarium, it should be borne in mind that there are fish breeds that are incompatible with each other. Some are accustomed to living in stagnant water, while others need the movement of streams. This is determined by the characteristics of organisms, namely, in different rates of oxygen saturation.

It should also be borne in mind that with excessive water movement, some fish begin to experience severe stress. As a result, it can have negative health effects. Rough currents can also adversely affect plant growth.

Therefore, before setting up an aquarium, it is necessary to carefully plan and determine:

  • fish breeds;
  • the type of water they are used to;
  • features of their behavior.

The same applies to the flora that will inhabit the aquarium. Water movement is regulated by filter pumps. The power indicated in the description is measured in L / H. Example: 300 L / H – in 1 hour the pump displaces 300 liters. Another parameter (h) is the height to which the water will rise.

The parameter specified by the manufacturer is higher than the actual one. The check is carried out without a sponge or other filter elements.

Expert opinion

I advise you to select a filter pump so that it pumps the entire volume of the container through itself about ten times per hour. Manufacturers often indicate this characteristic in the passport or product description.

Filter selection table depending on the volume of the aquarium.

Water flow rate L / HContainer volume in liters

Filtration systems can be divided into groups: internal, external, “backpacks” – a kind of external. Internal are subdivided into ordinary and bottom. External structures are easier to control and maintain, but they are noisier.

For small aquariums (100 l or less), you can simply install the pump and layout the ceramic pieces in the form of rectangles on the bottom.

It is allowed to use a simple filter pump with 1 or 2 sections and install it inside. As a filler, you can choose coal in the form of granules and zeolite. And it is best to use Fluval Zeo-Carb – a complex of carbon filler and zeolite.

For large containers, it is recommended to use the mixed filtration method sectional filter pumps that are installed in the aquarium. For the filling, zeolite and coal in the form of granules are used.

Cleaning Natural Aquarium Setup Step by step

A complete cleaning procedure should be carried out once a week. In this case, the water should be changed only partially, otherwise, the fish will not be very comfortable. In general, there are three types of cleaning:

  • daily – removal of excess feed, other debris. This will require a special tube – a siphon;
  • weekly – cleaning of all glasses, decorative elements, plants, filters, soil flushing, water change;
  • general – held every 6 months. This implies a complete water change and thorough rinsing of the container. It is necessary in extreme cases – for example, after a serious epidemic.

During 6 months of cleaning, you should also rinse the filter media, and best of all, replace it completely.

cleaning natural aquarium setup step by step


  • Step 1. Cleaning the walls from plaque. The appearance of mucus is normal and is associated with the vital activity of flora and fauna.
  • Step 2. Washing decorative elements. Rocks, shells, grottoes and artificial plants are also covered with bloom.
  • Step 3. Cleaning the plants. The flora of the aquarium needs pruning, weeding, planting. Grooming is required as it grows, not necessarily weekly.
  • Step 4. Flushing and blowing of soil. Removing dirt from the bottom.
  • Step 5. Partial water replacement.

Do not use detergents for treating the aquarium!

Natural Aquarium setup Useful Tips

When caring for a natural aquarium, you can use various tricks that will make the job easier.

  • Hydrogen peroxide is often used to remove unicellular green algae that cause water bloom. It is injected within 5-7 days using a syringe of about 2 ml per 10 liters. You will notice the effect on the third or fourth day.
  • With the installed filter with ceramic filler, it can be washed once a month.
  • Breeds such as Goldfish, Corridoras, Ancistrus, Girinoheilus, Siamese algae eaters will help maintain order in the aquarium by eating greens. But they will remove plaque from the walls only when there is a shortage of food.
  • In case of severe contamination, you can use such products as soda, soap, “Domestos” or “Komet”, but after use, be sure to thoroughly rinse the surfaces treated with them.
  • Excessive cleaning of the aquarium can also harm its inhabitants. During cleaning, the fish are stressed.
  • The hit of sunlight on the walls of the container will cause active greening. It is better to put the aquarium away from the window. A special lamp should be used for lighting.

is fish keeping a good hobby?

Fishkeeping is not just fun. This is a form of recreation and a hobby, and professionals can count on a good stable income by selling ornamental fish, maintaining aquariums, and advising hobbyists.

It is useful to involve children in the aquarium hobby. Taking care of the fish will help to cultivate such qualities as responsibility, accuracy, attentiveness.

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