HOW TO: Start Your Freshwater Tropical Aquarium

Tropical Aquarium Set Up Guide

“Community Tropical” or “Freshwater Tropical” is a term we use to describe the abundance of fish who live in freshwater waterways in tropical climates around the globe, places like the Amazonas, Americas, Asia, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Even Northern Africa. Although a majority of these fish enjoy similar water parameters and environments and make great tank mates, it is always suggested that you chat to us in regards to suitable tank mates for your specific Aquarium inhabitants. Generally speaking, small fish species like Tetras, Rasboras, Danio, Livebearers, Corydoras and dwarf species are suitable for small aquariums, where as some larger Gouramis, Discus, Angel fish, sharks and barbs are suited to larger Aquaria (some of which can grow as large- if not larger than your hand or forearm). Have a chat to us about your particular fishes needs, they are all uniquely different!

Shopping List

– Aquarium
– Filter
– Gravel
– We recommend Natural Gravel
–  Water Conditioner
– Aquarium Salt (for live bearers such as Guppies, Platy, Molly and Swordtails)
– Plants/Driftwood/Ornaments/Rocks
– Air stone and pump (optional)
– Aquarium heater set to 24-26°C
– Thermometer



– Place your Aquarium on your Cabinet, bench or other surface capable of holding the full weight of the aquarium (remember each Litre is 1 Kilo). Ensure that it is level, on even flooring, and centred (all four corners are evenly supported). Glass bottom aquariums should have a layer of foam support.
– Wash your gravel thoroughly in a bucket with a hose. It is often a good idea to separate the bag in portions of 1/5th at a time. Rinse until water runs clear and gravel is free of dust and debris. Gently place Gravel into Aquarium and spread evenly across the bottom. You’re aiming to have a gravel bed about 3-5cm deep.
– Wash your filter media (foam, noodles and/or cartridges) under the tap to clean it from dust. This is the ONLY time you will rinse any filter media under the tap, from this point forward it is only cleaned in old aquarium water, never under the tap. (For future reference, carbon cartridges should be replaced every 6-8 weeks and foam layer when required).
– Install your filter as the instructions direct, position the outlet so the surface of the water is disturbed and causing ripples, this helps to oxygenate the water.
– Fill your aquarium (slowly) with tap water, making sure not to disturb the gravel. Fill the Aquarium to a maximum level mark, or generally 1-2cm below the brim. At this point, you will add your De-chlorinator Water Conditioner and Aquarium Salt as per directions.
– Plant your plants and place your driftwood and ornaments where desired.
– Turn on Lighting (to make sure they work).
– Turn on Heater and Pump, check that heater is keeping a stable water temperature of 24-26C. This may take a few hours from initial fill. Place your thermometer in a visible spot so you can monitor temperature fluctuations.
– Run the Aquarium for one whole week before adding fish, heater and filter stay ON 24/7. Lights run ON for 8 hours a day during day light hours (we recommend a timer).  If you do not have live plants, feel free not to run the lights for the first week.
–  Be patient.



Shopping List

– BioCulture Live Bacteria
– Food
– Pellets
– Flakes
– Frozen Foods
–  Live Plants
– Your first Fish


– Pick out your first fish. Pay attention to our labels- We offer discounts on multiples for fish who require friends or prefer to school. As a general rule these are minimum recommendations.  We recommend adding all of your fish slowly over a matter of weeks. For a small Aquarium, follow our advice and just add a small group, Increase the amount of waste your aquarium is producing in small intervals. Ask our advice, we’re here to help!

– Float your new fish in your aquarium as per instructions on the bag.

– Your Bio-culture needs to be kept in the fridge when not being used, we suggest dosing on Day 1, Day 3 and Day 6. At this point we suggest testing your water, as at this stage we may need our first water change, and possibly more doses of Bioculture. Come in for a Water Test after one week.

– Do not feed us the day we come home. Your new fish have already had breakfast at the store, and will probably be too overwhelmed to think about eating. We suggest feeding just every second day for the first week, and then daily thereafter. Remember our stomachs are only small and generally the size of our eye. Fish are opportunistic feeders and will over feed if you let them.



Your new fish have been home with you for one week, your fish have been eating and making a mess. We’d like to see you and a 250ml sample of your aquarium water for a water test, to see how well your Aquarium is dealing with waste.


– Come in store for a Water Test.
– When you get home, do a 40% Water Change. Turn your filter and heater turned off, and keep your fish in the Aquarium for this. Use your Gravel Syphon to drain water into a bucket or drain. Lower and raise (vertically, do not stir) the syphon into your gravel. When you raise the syphon gravel will fall back down (gravity) and water and waste will continue to siphon. This first time, you may not see much waste draining out, although this is practice for future water changes.   Dechlorinate your 40% empty aquarium with your water conditioner, add a dose to treat the entire aquariums capacity, then add a dose of salt for the water removed only, and begin filling with tap water.
– Wait 2 hours before dosing bio-culture after a recent water change.



30-50% Water changes should occur once a fortnight, or weekly for very small aquariums.

We’d like to see you fortnightly with a water test at least until your aquarium has fully cycled. After this, your aquarium should be well established, and you should test yourself (or with us instore) at least once every month or two, or more frequently when issues occur.

At any sign of illness or odd behaviour, please feel free to phone us, or come in store with a water sample and photos of your setup so we can do our best at resolving the issue.


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