An aquarium of this size (75 gallons or larger) is a big commitment, requiring careful planning of both the individual components and the overall setup. By the time you finish this guide, you’ll be ready to purchase your aquarium and prepare it for use.
There’s a lot to consider when setting up your aquarium, but if you follow these steps, you’ll minimize your risk of making any rookie mistakes.
Before Buying your 75+ Gallon Aquarium Setup
To ensure your project is a success, it’s best to thoroughly plan your setup before making any purchasing decisions. Careful planning in this area will help you avoid many common mistakes that plague beginners, and give your first batch of fish a fighting chance at longevity.
- Research the type of fish you’re planning to house. Different fish have widely varying requirements in terms of necessary space, environmental conditions, and compatible equipment. This will be the long-term home for these creatures, so you want to make sure they are as happy and healthy as possible.
- Buy a book aimed at your specific fish species. An entire book for the care of one type of fish might seem like overkill – but it’s not. Once you decide on the type of fish you will house, it’s worth at least a quick read on the caretaking of their type. Among other things, you’ll want to research the maximum size of your fish and the water volume requirements. This will allow you to purchase the right number of fish, without under or overpopulation issues. Another point to consider, if you’re planning to keep multiple types of fish, is how those types interact with one another. Some types of fish simply aren’t compatible with one another and can cause major issues upon introduction.
- Select the location that will house your aquarium. This might sound like an obvious point, but it’s often overlooked until it’s too late. You’ll want to make sure the tank will fit nicely in the designated area, filling the height and width in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Also take into consideration the need for distance around the electrical equipment, providing adequate airflow to ensure long life. Simply planning to push everything up against the wall is never an ideal situation.
- Establish your budget. Once you realize the extensive equipment involved in fish care, it’s clear that the tank itself is only a small part of the overall cost. Aquariums can get expensive very quickly, and it’s easy to nickel and dime your way into a very costly project. Set up your budget ahead of time, and plan out a sample list of equipment so you know what to expect. If possible, try to keep your expenses at 10% or so below your budget, because unforeseen expenditures always seem to pop up before the project is fully completed.
- Plan your components. In the past, the best way to pick out your equipment was to visit your local pet store and browse around. While still a viable option, the internet has become the best place to find everything you could possibly need. There are a lot of unique components available only online, and the price savings tend to outweigh the cost of shipping – even for large components. Plus, eyeing your setup online gives you the ability to do more research on your own before pulling the trigger. This is where a book with information specific to your fish type comes in handy. You can continue referencing it as you go, ensuring you stay on track to an effective setup.
Once you’ve considered these points and done adequate research into the requirements of your individual fish, you should have greater insight into making an informed decision. As you list off your components, you’ll likely end up with some of the following:
- The aquarium tank itself
- A solid stand for the tank
- A canopy / “top” for aquarium
- Substrate material (gravel)
- Heating system
- Filtration and pump setup
- Multi-use chemical test system
- Various necessary chemical additives (which will depend on your specific fish)
This doesn’t include the optional (but highly recommended) extras, like decoration for your tank’s interior. You can always add these touches later, but an interesting décor arrangement that mimics what would be found in a natural environment will help ensure your fish are happy and healthy. Additionally, they provide a nice aesthetic touch that makes any tank vastly more beautiful.
These examples also assume you will be using a freshwater aquarium – which is still the most common type, even among larger tanks. If you’re using a saltwater setup, you’ll need to take additional steps to achieve the desired salinity before introducing your fish.
As you plan the overall size of your tank, remember to check any details in your lease (if applicable), as some terms will prohibit very large aquariums on the premises. Ensure the floor is solid enough to support a large tank as well. A 75-gallon aquarium can weigh over 700 lbs when full, so it will place a heavy strain on the floor.
Once you have your equipment, it’s time to move on to setup. This can be an intimidating process for a first-timer, but there’s no need to stress out. While care must be taken to follow setup instructions closely, once you do, you’ll be on the fast track to being operational.
One thing to mention before we begin – don’t plan on being able to add your fish the same day you fill the tank. It takes time for the water to stabilize, for initial chemical additives to do their job in prepping the water, and for the water to be adjusted to the appropriate temperature (this alone can take some time).
With that in mind, it’s easiest not to purchase your fish until you’ve finished setting up your tank. That way, when you bring them home, their home will be all ready for them. You can just plop them in and watch them become accustomed to their new environment.
Setting up your 75+ Gallon Aquarium
With all of the planning and purchasing out of the way, it’s time to get to the fun part – putting it all together. Here’s what the process looks like, in an ordered step-by-step manner:
- Setup the actual aquarium. This involves placing the tank on top of the stand. Ideally, your stand will be made specifically for the aquarium to ensure adequate size and support. These large tanks are heavy and , needless to say, very fragile if they are dropped. Enlist the help of at least one other person (preferably two, to be safe) to ensure nothing goes wrong. There’s nothing more frustrating than a cracked or broken tank. Before continuing, be sure to remove all packaging material, such as protective films or stickers.
- Fill the tank. First, you’ll want to lay down an ample layer of gravel. Before adding gravel to the tank, thoroughly rinse it off with clean water. Lay the gravel in a gradual slope that is thinner at the front and thicker at the rear of the tank. Next, fill the tank with water. This is usually done with a simple garden hose. Unless you have well water or are using a special chlorine-free water source, you’ll want to immediately use a chlorine neutralizing chemical. These additives make even basic tap water suitable for aquarium use. Follow the package instructions, which dictate the amount to add based on your aquarium’s capacity.
- Optional: Add décor. As stated before, you don’t necessarily have to add decorations right away, but they do create a more appealing tank and give your fish something to enjoy in their environment. Don’t over-do it, however – your fish will still need plenty of free space to swim around. Always rinse off new decorations before adding them to the water. Basic décor usually includes some branches with faux leaves, some larger pieces of wood, some large rocks, and preferably something that gives your fish a cozy place to nest.
- Setup the pump, filtration system, and heater. The individual steps for this process will vary depending upon your individual equipment models, so make sure to read the setup instruction manuals before continuing. Never plug in your equipment until you’ve finished setting up everything. The external pump motor will typically hang off the rear of your aquarium’s glass. Also, take this opportunity to install the light fixture. Dial the heater into the desired temperature, and when finished, plug it in and turn everything on.
- Adding your fish. You’ll need to allow at least a full day (24 hours) for your water to reach the appropriate temperature before you can consider adding fish. It’s best to add fish gradually, if possible. After four weeks have gone by, you should do a test for ammonia and nitrite levels. It’s best to only have a few fish in the tank before taking this reading. Ideally, you’ll add the rest of the fish after that ammonia and nitrite balancing process has taken place.
There’s a lot to consider when setting up your aquarium, but if you follow these steps, you’ll minimize your risk of making any beginner mistakes.