How To Set Up A 10 Gallon Fish Tank (A Beginners Guide)

One of the most popular aquariums for people to buy is a 10-gallon fish tank. The small size makes it perfect if you’re on an extremely tight budget or are looking to get started with your very first aquarium setup. There’s no need to worry about outgrowing this beginner setup as well!

One of the most significant benefits that make a 10-gallon aquarium appealing for beginners is its compact nature and affordability – even better than some starter tanks at larger sizes.

It also doesn’t take much time before they can be ready to add more features like live plants, gravel substrate (or sand), additional decorations…the list goes on!

I’ve seen 10-gallon aquariums become the best choice for many beginners for their compact size and affordability.

And another reason why people choose these tanks is – many of them are available as all-in-one tanks; they come with all accessories necessary. In addition, you can place a 10-gallon size aquarium almost anywhere.

Still, if you’re just starting, I highly recommend considering something bigger like at least a 20-Gallon tank since these tanks tend to require less maintenance than smaller ones do, such as weekly water changes or filter replacements.

So, setting up a 10-gallon fish tank might be a little tricky to maintain correctly, and I am writing today about how to set up a 10-gallon fish tank to make your job easier! Keep reading.

Essential Equipment To Set Up A 10 Gallon Fish Tank

If you decide to set up your DIY aquarium instead of purchasing an all-in-one starter kit, you will need the following items with your fish tank. 

  • Filtration System
  • Heaters
  • Lights
  • Air Pumps
  • Decorations  
  • Stand
  • Lids & Covers

How To Set Up A 10-gallon Fish Tank

After you have all the necessary equipment and decor ready to go, it’s time to start setting up your 10-gallon fish tank. The process begins with unboxing items and completes with adding fish. 

1) Unboxing Items

The first step in setting up your 10-gallon fish tank is to unbox all the new aquarium gear you bought. You will need a new ten-gallon glass aquarium, gravel for substrate, filter, and air pump kit with hose tubing or airline tube connections (depending on which type of filtration system), and decorations like plastic plants, rocks, or other décor items.

Do the task carefully so that you don’t damage anything. But before everything, you need to make a plan about – where you will put your aquarium setup.

2) Placement Of Fish Tank

You will need a table, desk, or stand to place your fish tank.

You want a flat surface that is level and stable since the stand will be holding all of its weight when it’s full (and water-heavy). 

Step-2 Placement of the fish tank

Avoid placing on top of or near any windows if possible because sunlight can cause problems with algae growth in tanks as well as dust particles from outdoors getting inside.

Be mindful to place it near electrical outlets and water supply, and select a place where maintenance will be convenient.

3) Preparation Of The Substrate

Preparation of the substrate takes some effort, but you need to do it properly. Poor substrate preparation can result in cloudy aquarium water.

Wash the substrate:

There are two main types of substrate that people use for their aquariums, sand, and gravel. Both can have their pros and cons, but it is important to clean them correctly in order to keep your fish happy! 

Step-3 Substrate preparation

The best way I found to wash gravel was a colander- put them in it and start pouring water on top until clean water comes out from the bottom. This will wash away any remaining dirt particles and debris!

Sand requires more work as it often sticks together when wet. So take them in a bucket, and you can save yourself the trouble of washing sand off your hands by burying a water hose in it. Fill up to almost the top with water, then shake and stir until you see all that dirt come out. Drain all the water when it becomes clear.

Place the substrate:

Make sure your substrate is even at the top to make for an aesthetically pleasing underwater view. Most substrates only need about one inch deep in order to keep them clean and healthy.

 But you can make a deeper sand layer on the bottom that can be used as a hiding space if you are keeping some types of bottom-feeder fish who prefer that type of habitat.

4) Add Necessary Equipment

Next, add the filter unit and heater to keep the fish tank clean and warm for your aquatic friends while they swim around. 

The most common aquarium filter type is the hang-on-back (HOB), with just a suction tube in the water. However, sponge filters are also a good choice for 10-gallon tanks.

Step-4 Install necessary equipment

If you use a submersible heater unit, it needs to be fully submerged underwater.

If you use an air pump, place the air stone or diffuser in a suitable place so that air distribution can be uniform throughout the entire tank.

Last but not least, make sure that all electrical components are correctly connected before plugging them into electricity to avoid any potential accidents.

5) Decorate

It is the creative stage of setting up a fish tank. Now that you have your substrate, filter, and heater in place, it’s time to make this thing look awesome! You can decorate with small rocks or driftwood and add plants if desired.

Step-5 Decorate the aquarium

In addition to all those fun things, though, there are some other options- like adding backgrounds on one side of the aquarium, so they create an underwater scene instead of just glass walls.

The more interesting we make our tanks, the happier our fish will be living in them !!!

6) Fill With Water And Check 

You can use tap water but ensure it is free from all sorts of chlorine compounds! If your tap water hardness is too high, it is better to use RO water for the aquarium. (You can read my article on – How To Soften Aquarium Water In 6 Steps)

Step-6 Fill the tank with water

Fill the fish tank with water slowly to make sure it is leak-free. First, fill half of the tank and check for any leaks before proceeding further. If there’s a leakage at this stage, then replace it as quickly as possible because accepting a leaky tank will lead you to more problems in the future.

Now you can check all the power equipment (filter, heater, pump) by turning them on. Once all components have been installed according to the manufacturers’ instructions, turn them on one by one.

7) Cycle The Tank

Cycling your aquarium means growing the right kind of beneficial bacteria that will break down wastes like fish poops or food leftovers.

Step-7 Cycle the tank

Aquariums produce ammonia, a toxic substance that can cause harm if not dealt with in time. The nitrogen cycle aids the decomposition of this chemical into nitrates, which are much less harmful than ammonia and nitrites. This process is crucial for aquarium maintenance because it protects your fish from trouble-causing toxins!

Beneficial bacteria carry out the nitrogen cycle, so you cycle your tank means – you allow time to grow and colonize those good friends! The filter media and the substrate bed are the most suitable house for good bacteria. 

There are three standard techniques for cycling a fish tank:

  • Fishless Cycling
  • Fish-In Cycling
  • Cycling With Plants

I will suggest reading my article – Nitrogen Cycle In A Fish Tank – What It Is And How To Cycle A Fish Tank. I hope it will help you. 

The cycling process may take up to four weeks, and you have to keep testing the water to check ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels until the process is completed.

When Do I Know My Tank Is Cycled?

  • The ammonia level becomes zero.
  • The nitrite level is downs to zero.
  • The nitrate level increased and stayed steady. (The ideal Nitrate level in a fish tank is below 40 mg/l. If nitrate level rises further, perform water changes.)

8) Add Fish

It is exciting when you first add a new member to the family. You want to make them feel welcome! The Fish are coming! 

Step-8 Add fish

You want to make sure the new additions have a safe and healthy transition into their new home. The most important thing is that your tank’s water temperature matches theirs, but it can take up to twenty minutes for them both to adjust. 

Place the bag in your tank for 20 minutes before taking the fish out of the package with a fishnet and putting them in the tank’s water.

Once your tank is established and adding new fish to it, I suggest using a quarantine tank before putting them into the main tank.

Now the question is – how many fish will you add? Fishkeeping is a hobby that many people enjoy, and sometimes it can be hard to resist the urge to stock up on colorful fish. But at what cost? 

Overstocking has been shown to lead to higher mortality rates in new aquariums due to water quality deterioration from toxicity buildup.

You can read my article that provides a stocking guide – How many fish per gallon?

How To Clean A 10-Gallon Tank?

Maintaining your fish tank is just as important as setting it up the right way. Proper cleaning of 10-gallon tanks means a partial water change at least once every week, and regular siphoning off or scrubbing away decaying food from the substrate can keep this ecosystem clean.

I have three article suggestions to do these jobs perfectly. 

Read more:

What Fish Are Suitable For A 10-Gallon Tank?

Fish is a popular pet to keep, and many of them will do well in your 10-gallon aquarium. 

Guppy’s perfect for new fish owners that don’t want something too large or aggressive like the Oscar Fish. 

Betta Fish require very little care but need at least 1 gallon per inch of length, so they’re not great for small tanks unless you plan on making frequent water changes

Cory Catfish is an inexpensive option if you’d prefer bottom feeders with no requirements other than clean food (which means less work!). 

Platy can be easily bred, making it great as long as there’s enough room since females grow much larger than males during pregnancy. 

Honey Gouramis have been known to live up to 5 years, and there are many more species on the list. 

So read my article – Best Fish For 10 Gallon Tank – A Stocking Guide For Newbies.

Stocking Ideas For 10-Gallon Tanks

Here I come up with some stocking ideas for a 10-gallon tank:

  • One Betta+ 2-3 Dwarf Corydoras
  • 2 guppies (male) + 2 Cory Catfish
  • 2 Neon Tetras + 2-3 Platies
  • 2 Celestial Pearl Danios + 2-3 Mollies

You can get more ideas from the video: 

Final Words

There are many reasons why someone would want a 10-gallon tank, but beginners might prefer them for their smaller size and cost. 

These tanks can be used to house small fish or as breeding tanks, among other uses. A beginner will likely enjoy the different options available when setting up this aquarium because there is something for everyone!

I hope my article will help you to set up your 10-gallon aquarium! Your opinions and comments are highly appreciated. Please put your thoughts below in the comment box. 

Sujit Modak

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