One of the first steps in preparing a new aquarium before introducing your fish into it is to clean it thoroughly. Many tropical fish hobbyists use a rock-salt solution to wash out the inside of the tank. This custom fish tanks preparation of is simple and inexpensive.
First, fill the tank with fresh water at about the temperature of the water that you expect to keep in it. Do not use hot water, as it may crack the glass. Then check to see whether the tank is leaking even if it was tested in the shop, there is every likelihood that it was jarred in the transportation to your home. Do not try to move the tank when it is full of water a cubic foot of water weighs over 60 pounds. If you find there are no leaks, scoop out the water, leaving about 1 inch on the bottom. Take some rock salt and dissolve it in the water. Then run a small piece of cloth over all the surfaces of the tank.
After every surface has been in contact with the salt solution, again fill the tank with water and let it stand for a few hours, leaving the salt solution in also. Then scoop out all the water and run fresh water into the tank for ten or fifteen minutes. Scoop this fresh water out and dry the tank, making sure that no large crystals of rock salt have remained undissolved.
Although a trace of salt in the water is more beneficial than detrimental to the tank, too much salt has a toxic effect on the fish and plants. Salt acts to kill fungi and certain other disease-producing organisms and so aids in the protection of the fish. Do not use any other type of disinfectant in the tank; most of the others are poisonous to the fish. Play safe and use salt. If rock salt is not available, any type of table salt will do. Your pet shop may have a suitable substitute.
The next step in preparing your aquarium is to get material in which to plant the vegetation. Pebbles, shells, marbles, and large rocks are not advisable, except for spawning purposes. They may have some soluble salts in them that would be dangerous for the fish and they will create spots that the fish and snails cannot reach, and thus provide a lodging place in which food may decay. A good rule to follow is not to have any place in the aquarium that the snails and fish are unable to reach should a piece of food fall in that spot.
The plainer the tank, the better it is for the fish. Fancy designs in rock and clay have little value, though such rocks as granite, sandstone, quartz, and slate are not harmful and tend to give the tank a natural setting. Coarse white gravel is the best material to use for your base. Do not use fine sand as it packs too tightly and the roots of the plants may not be able to penetrate it.
Although, in general, enough gravel to cover the floor of the aquarium about 1 inch deep will be sufficient, some rooted plants need a bed of sand from 2 to 3 inches deep to provide proper anchorage and root space. The best arrangement for sand distribution is to start your sand deeper in the rear of the tank and let it run shallower toward the front of the tank. This serves two purposes: first, all the debris and uneaten food will tend to roll to the front of the tank where it can easily be seen and siphoned out; and second, the gravel in the rear, where most of the vegetation will be planted, needs more depth than the front of the tank, which should be left rather free of any growth.
Actually, the best plan for plant distribution is the horseshoe type, where the planted vegetation is around the three borders of the tank, leaving the front and center free for a swimming and display area. The tank should never be cluttered with plants. Fish should have at least one-third of the tank to swim around in freely.
All gravel must be thoroughly cleansed before being used. The best and easiest method of doing this is to put it in a large pot, letting fresh hot water run over it constantly for ten or fifteen minutes. Make sure that the water is running in under some pressure so it will wash all surfaces and depths of the gravel. After the gravel has been thoroughly washed, pour off some of the water, leaving just enough to cover the gravel. Put the pot on the stove and boil the gravel and water for twenty minutes. Then pour off the boiling water and wash the gravel again. After it is thus sterilized, it may be placed in the bottom of the tank.
This is a slightly edited & updated version of an article originally published on “Fish-Aquariums.net”