How to set up a goldfish tank

So, you’ve decided you want a goldfish? Great! But there are a few things you should know before buying your new pet. Most importantly, how to set up a goldfish tank properly. 

This post covers the basics of setting up a new goldfish tank.

Getting ready to set up a goldfish tank

Your goldfish will need a place to live, and it can’t be a goldfish bowl!

You will need to work out what size tank you need and find a suitable place for it. And there are a few important things to think about when choosing a spot for your new goldfish tank.


To avoid excessive algae growth, you should avoid placing your tank in direct sunlight.

Placing the tank directly across from an east-facing window will likely give your tank too much light in the morning. While a west-facing window will lead to too much light in the evening.

Natural light is good – you just don’t want too much of it all at once.

You should also avoid dark places. Too little light can be bad for your fish and cause their colors to fade.


Avoid putting your tank where it may get bumped, as this will stress your fish. For this reason, areas where children play are not recommended.

Choosing a good location

Once you have decided where to set up your goldfish tank, you will need to position your tank stand.

Make sure the stand is not tilted and that the tank sits securely on top. Some people like to put a rectangular piece of Styrofoam underneath the tank to help absorb trapped condensation and level out the base.

Remember: A full tank is extremely heavy and virtually impossible to move, so you want to get the position right before adding water.

It is a good idea to leave a few inches inches gap between your tank and the wall.  This will allow your hand to fit behind it to arrange wires and chords of tank equipment.

Setting up the tank

Adding equipment

Now that you have your tank positioned, it’s time to put in your decorations. We suggest waiting to fill up with water until after this is done, as it isn’t that much fun to be up to your armpits in water while trying to arrange things.

If you have an airstone, place it on the bottom of the tank before you add the substrate. You will need to connect the stone to plastic airline tubing, and the tubing to an air pump. Then connect the air pump to a power supply.

It’s now time to place your filter where you want it to go (don’t plug it in yet!) and any other equipment you like, such as an aquarium heater or thermometer.

Adding your substrate and plants

Open the plastic bag and rinse your substrate in tap water.  This will help remove impurities that come from the factory process.  You may wish to use a sieve to help with this.

Once the substrate is clean, you can begin to pour it along the bottom of the tank, using your hands to distribute it evenly.

After you have finished spreading the substrate, you can remove your plants from their packaging and rinse them under tap water, before placing them where you want.

Adding water

You are now ready to fill the tank with tap water.

Fill the tank until the water is just below the black rim (or wood rim, if you have one).  Adding water will likely make some objects move, so you will probably need to re-position some of your substrate, plants or decorations a little bit.

Finally, treat the entire tank with a dechlorinator and start the cycling process.

Good work! You just set up a goldfish tank and will soon have some great new pets.  Be sure to wait until the cycle has finished before adding any fish.

1 thought on “How to set up a goldfish tank”

  1. Hi there, i’m a first time goldfish keeper i have 2 fan tails and 2 angelfish and 1 janitor fish. I’d like to add plants and a couple of rocks. Is it alright to add plants even though i have my fish tank going already? or should i remove my fishes first and set it up again? or add rocks and live plants that don’t need substrate? Thank you in advance for your answer!


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