7 Mistakes to Avoid When the Aquarium Kit’s Boxes Are on Your Floor

Beginning the Aquarium the right way – Even before it is filled

Many people will make their first aquarium purchase on a whim, or suddenly be given a starter kit as a gift. When that happens, there is often not much time or thought given to seven vital factors that can determine the long-term health of the ecology of the fish’s habitat. If you find yourself in this situation, or even when more rationally taking added time before making your first tank purchase, give the following points some serious consideration.

I’m not even talking about the inside fixtures of an aquarium, those will be dealt with in a future entry. No, before you even add the gravel or the first rock decoration, you need to carefully think about where and how the aquarium is situated.

1) Location (location, location). Water is very heavy, it weighs about 8 pounds per gallon, but with all the gravel and decorations, I use ten pounds per gallon as my rule of thumb. That means that even the common ten gallon beginner’s aquarium will weigh about 100 pounds. Most floors can take that relatively well, but when larger tanks are considered, that load should always be placed on a supporting wall. So the very first consideration when placing any tank is that the floor will be well able to support the weight. It just makes sense that that much weight be placed on a supporting wall, preferably on the inside of the structure so as many other factors can be kept under control as possible.

There are a couple other rarely talked about factors to also consider in initial location.

The first; the amount of general traffic around the tank makes a difference for all concerned, fish and viewers alike. If an aquarium is in a high traffic area, the fish will be constantly subjected to lots of noise and visual movement, making them a bit less natural and possibly timid. The correct choice of location is optimized by placement where there is less traffic and movement as well as a comfortable place for viewing. This set-up will allow the viewer to enjoy the living picture uninterrupted for a relaxing period away from the hustle and bustle of the real world. Lack of outside distractions and activity will also allow the fish to concentrate on their habitat and act much more naturally.

The second is an outgrowth of the weight of water. If an aquarium is placed in the middle of a floor that is not strongly supported in a heavily trafficked area, the activity around the aquarium will often cause the floor to vibrate and move, creating constant added movement within the aquarium and causing undue long-term stress to the fish and other inhabitants. The best way to prevent this is to ensure the tank is placed close to a supporting wall

2) Proper Support. So often, people decide that a piece of furniture they own is suitable to support an aquarium. This uninformed decision often sets the stage for a disaster later. There is a real reason why many aquariums are sold with the express warranty rider that the aquarium must be supported on a properly manufactured aquarium stand. This is not simply a ploy to sell an extra accessory, but truly an important safeguard for the aquarium. That strong wood table you are planning to put the aquarium on is usually the reason for a sudden, catastrophic failure. Any strong apparently flat surface simply won’t do!

You need a stand that will properly support the weight, and not suffer from the strain of so much weight on such a localized surface area. Proper support for an aquarium actually isn’t a flat surface under the entire surface area of the aquarium. Solid wood or not, the weight will eventually warp slightly, and if you accidentally drip water on the surface, that warping and swelling happens even more often. The result of a suddenly uneven support placing stress on the glass box is most often a stress crack. It only takes a minuscule shifting of the contact on the side glass panes and bottom to cause a break and leaking. Don’t take the chance of a broken aquarium from a shifting support not made especially for the aquarium that is not able to take the weight over the long term.

3) Lighting Considerations. Another important consideration in aquarium placement is in regard to lighting. Unless you plan to have the aquarium mainly a plant tank with few fish, the illumination in the system should be artificial. Ensure that sunlight cannot hit the aquarium at any time during daylight hours.

A disturbing phenomenon, green water, is caused almost exclusively when sunlight strikes the aquarium for even a short period during the day. Green water is the result of single celled suspended plants termed algae suddenly exploding in population. The main and almost sole cause of this is direct sunlight. Eradicating the problem is very difficult once it begins. As a word to the wise, eliminate the possibility by ensuring that natural sunlight does not get into your new aquarium. If this wasn’t a great reason to keep sunlight out, here is a another one. Sunlight can also temporarily heat the tank as well, making temperature control difficult.

Actual artificial lighting selection is a topic in itself, and will be handled at a later date. For the moment I am assuming that the lighting type is a part of the equipment presently sitting on your floor. That should be installed as per manufacturer instructions when you get to that time. For the moment you still need to ensure you place the aquarium, on its stand where the sun doesn’t shine.

4) Temperature Control. I’m not talking about the aquarium heater that will provide the aquarium temperature needed to keep your tropical fish alive and well. Rather, I am talking about the ambient temperature of the room and how that affects the tank over time. So far you need to put the aquarium on a supporting wall away from direct exposure to sunlight. Now inspect the area you have chosen and ensure there are no air conditioning or heating vents close by that would cause the output of either to strike the aquarium. Either type could make keeping proper temperatures stable almost impossible.

5) Electrical Power Supply. Electrical power is vital to the aquarium, the heater and filter, not to mention the light, require power. The heater will require power at the rated power, from 25 – 300 Watts, but only when it is running. The light will also require its rated power, but probably much less that 100 W unless the set-up is quite elaborate and uses HO bulbs. Generally no more than 40 Watts. If you are using a standard power filter, or even two in combination, the power required is quite small, usually less that 12 W. So the power draw really is not a consideration, it is the number of units that can cause problems, Above I have mentioned three, one more than the normal socket, so a power bar is normally required.

Most people simply leave a power bar on the floor and have no problems. But I have seen too many times when water drips into a power bar and can cause a short. Few people follow the standard electrical requirements for aquarium products contacting the tank in some way, but regulations uniformly require a drip loop. See your electrical product’s instructions for further details. One easy way would be to suspend a power bar above the floor, leaving the actual cord to drop to the floor before rising to the electrical source. The power bar thus cannot be soaked by any possible drips or leaks. This provides maximum safety to the home and aquarium vicinity.

Alternately, the use of a power block, one that increases the number of power outlets from 2 – 6 would automatically keep the power off the floor. Drip loops are almost automatic in this configuration.

6) Water Access. This is pretty much self explanatory, take a few minutes to decide whether your proposed location is close enough to water. You always have to replace evaporated water, but this is minimal assuming you are properly maintaining the aquarium over time. Removal and replacement of water is much more common, and the shorter the distance to carry a bucket – both ways – the better. If two locations are equally desirable for your new aquarium, the one closest to the sink, or the one with less steps should be the one selected. Also, the location where spilled water will do less damage is also a point to consider.

7) Pet Access. Cats love to fish, and your beginning aquarium is like shooting fish in a barrel for any feline friends in the vicinity. Many families are multi-pet owners, so when the final location is determined, make sure other friends, furred or feathered are unable to get into the system. You are making a large investment in both time, effort and money, so make one final evaluation as to the safety of both the fish and all other pets in the family.

Enjoy your new set-up. In later posts I will go over some of the factors you need to know about setting up and maintaining the aquarium through the vital first six weeks. Not all of them are obvious. But for now, ensure you have located your aquarium in an optimal place for the long term enjoyment of the living picture you are getting ready to create.