A Beginner’s Guide: When to Perform the First Water Change in Your New Aquarium

Video when to do first water change in new aquarium

Setting up a new aquarium is an exciting endeavor! In the first couple of months, your tank will undergo various changes, some natural and others indicating potential issues. It’s crucial to understand the difference between these changes. Although it takes time for your new aquatic environment to find balance, being aware of what to expect in the initial 60 days will enable you to assist the process.

Your Aquarium: The First 5 Days After Setup

You’re eager to fill your new aquarium with fish, but patience is key! Allow your aquarium to “settle” for at least 48 hours before introducing any fish. This will provide ample time to ensure the temperature is set correctly and make any necessary adjustments to decorations and other elements.

If you haven’t decided on the specific fish species yet, refer to the list of suggested beginner fish below or consult with a local aquatic expert. Some of the recommended starter fish include Zebra, Leopard & Pearl Danios, Serpae Tetras, Harlequin Rasboras, White Cloud Minnows, Bloodfin Tetras, Cherry Barbs, Black Skirt Tetras, Brilliant Rasboras, Corydoras Catfish, Australian Rainbowfish, Bettas, and Kuhli Loaches.

Resist the temptation to add too many fish at once. Initially, your filter won’t be able to process a large amount of waste, which can lead to harmful ammonia and nitrite levels rising to unsafe thresholds.

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Sometimes, the water in a new aquarium may turn cloudy after introducing the first fish. This is caused by a bacterial “bloom” and will typically clear up within a few days. Don’t be tempted to do a water change during this period, as it can prolong the bloom and potentially stress your fish. Aqueon Water Clarifier can help expedite the clearing process.

Your Aquarium: 5 – 15 Days After Setup

Initially, your new fish may be hiding. The stress of being moved from the store to a new environment can make them feel uneasy. Ensure you have plenty of hiding places and cover to make them feel safe and secure. For particularly shy fish, keep the aquarium light off for a few days (if you don’t have live plants) until they become comfortable and start enjoying their new home.

When it comes to feeding, remember to be sparing. Only provide an amount of food that the fish can consume in 2 minutes or less. Feed them once daily for now, until your tank completes its first cycle. Signs of overfeeding include food lingering on the bottom after 5 minutes, cloudy water, foaming at the surface, or an odor when you open the aquarium lid.

Regularly test your aquarium water for ammonia and nitrite levels. Even if you’ve done everything correctly, these levels may temporarily rise until the nitrifying bacteria in your filter catch up. To prevent ammonia and nitrite from reaching dangerous levels, use Aqueon Ammonia Neutralizer, perform water changes, or utilize chemical filtration media. If unsure, seek assistance from your local aquatic expert.

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Once ammonia and nitrite levels return to zero, your aquarium has completed its first cycle. You can now introduce additional fish to the tank.

Your Aquarium: 15 – 30 Days After Setup

As ammonia is converted to nitrite and then nitrate, you may notice algae starting to grow on the glass and other objects in your aquarium. This is a normal occurrence and indicates that the Nitrogen Cycle is established. Use a scrub pad or algae scraper to remove algae from the glass, but ensure that you never use a scrubber that has been contaminated with soap or chemicals.

If ammonia and nitrite levels remain at zero, you can continue adding fish to your aquarium during this period. If you’re dealing with an algae problem, consider introducing algae-eating fish such as plecostomus, otocinclus, snails, or other scavengers. Alternatively, you can use Aqueon Algae Remover to help control algal blooms.

Before purchasing new fish, always test the water and only buy a few fish at a time. Wait at least a week between adding new fish. As a thoughtful act, consider purchasing a plant or decoration with each fish to provide newcomers with their own designated space in the aquarium.

Occasionally, established fish in the tank may display aggression towards new fish, considering them intruders in their territory. This behavior is especially common among cichlids. Calm this behavior by rearranging the aquarium and adding new decorations, effectively eliminating territorial boundaries.

Perform a 25% water change after 15 days. Remember to treat tap water with Aqueon Water Conditioner before adding it to your aquarium. There are different opinions on how much and how often to change water, but a good rule of thumb is to perform 10% to 25% water changes every 1 to 2 weeks. Small and frequent water changes are generally recommended. Avoid vacuuming the gravel at this stage, as it may disrupt the beneficial bacteria that are just starting to colonize your aquarium.

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Check the cartridge(s) in hang-on filters or the mechanical filter media in canister filters, and rinse off any solid waste as needed. If the cartridge or fiber pads appear excessively dirty, you might be overfeeding! However, avoid disturbing the biological media during this stage.

Your Aquarium: 30 – 60 Days After Setup

Once ammonia and nitrite levels remain at zero, you can begin feeding your fish twice daily. Again, make sure to provide only what they can consume in 2 minutes or less. It’s also beneficial to skip a feeding every few days, as it allows the fish to clear their digestive systems.

Change the cartridge(s) in hang-on filters or the mechanical and chemical media (carbon, ammo-chips, etc.) in canister filters after the first 30 days, and then continue changing them monthly.

Observe your fish closely, especially during feeding time. Get to know their behavior as they interact with each other and swim around the aquarium. Look out for signs such as rapid breathing, gasping at the surface, clamped fins, white spots on fins or bodies, scratching against objects, unusual behavior, or new external markings. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to consult with your local aquatic expert.

Congratulations on successfully navigating the first 60 days of owning an aquarium! We hope you continue to enjoy this calming and rewarding hobby for many years to come. If you’re interested in learning more about aquarium care, check out the “5 WS” of aquarium ownership at 5 WS.

Please note that this article does not provide contact information, external links, or mention other brands.

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