Last update: November 2, 2022

Goldfish Tank Setup – Simple Guide for Beginners

Setting up a new goldfish tank isn’t as complicated as some think.

You can achieve a pretty and reliable tank set up with some basic knowledge and understanding of how goldfish like their water. 

In this article, I will guide you through all the steps and make sure you’ll get a healthy and happy pet at the end. 


Setting Up Your Goldfish Aquarium

How to setup aquarium for goldfish

Starting with the tank stand and ending with the kind of water that a goldfish likes, there are a lot of different parameters to consider when setting up a goldfish tank. 

Although goldfish don’t require special treatment, there are some requirements that your fish tank must follow to keep your fancy goldfish alive. 

Here it is, a step-by-step guide on setting up a goldfish tank. Of course, to get a proper setup, make sure to follow all the instructions. That way, you’ll keep the aquarium safe.  

Choosing Your Goldfish Tank

The first step in setting up a goldfish tank is buying the right one. There are some critical parameters we should talk about if you want to purchase the best goldfish aquarium for you in particular. 

First of all, the aquarium size is crucial. This is because so many problems can easily be avoided by buying a bigger tank. For example, bigger goldfish tanks can hold more fish and require fewer cleanings. 

However, a bigger tank means spending a bit more money. Therefore, small tanks can still be a viable option. 

It depends on the number of fish you want your aquarium to contain. The bigger this number is, the larger your goldfish tank must be. Simple!

The material used to manufacture your new tank is also essential. Glass aquariums are more affordable and can even be bought from previous users. However, if you choose to buy a used goldfish aquarium, make sure to check it for leaks. 

Another great material is acrylic. A fish tank made of acrylic is a lot more expensive and has some additional features. 

They are super lightweight, strong, and do not have a distracting trim, which glass tanks do. 

However, you can’t have an aquarium without a tank stand. There are different tank stands, and you can choose one depending on your preferences. Just make sure it will support the pressure of your fish tank when filled with water.

Last but not least is the location of your new tank. You must remember that direct sunlight can cause a large number of problems, from the formation of algae and other such things to an unstable temperature in your goldfish aquarium. 



Do you want to change your tank water every two or three days? Of course not; it’s a waste of time and money. Nobody wants that, right?

An excellent filter helps you clean your fish tank and avoid health problems with your fish. The filtration process has two parts, mechanical and bacterial. 

Depending on your budget, you can choose from various forms, designs, and abilities. However, even the cheapest filter will help you collect a large amount of waste. 

During the first part of the filtration process – the mechanical part – all the large pieces that contaminate your tank will be caught. Although, when choosing a filter, the golden rule is that the more fish your aquarium has, the better your filter should be.

Filter media, where the bacteria live, is a must if you want to buy a filter for your fish tank.

The bacteria that are present inside the filter can remove ammonia and nitrite from the water you pour into your tank. 

Ammonia and nitrite are toxic and could kill a new fish that isn’t fully adapted to it, so removing them is crucial for the health of your tank. 

You should always keep an ammonia test kit and constantly check your water for any signs of these chemicals. 

Also, filters help reduce the volume of algae and other larger objects that must be removed manually. Therefore having a filter in your tank means you’ll need to clean your aquarium less. 

The cleaning of the filter is also critical. After you choose the right filter and test the water with an ammonia test kit, not performing the first cleaning process correctly of your new tank can lead to a host of issues.

Do not clean the bacterial part of the filter with tap water directly from the sink. Instead, use a bucket and water from the tank. That way, you’ll keep the bacteria alive and thriving. 



The substrate is used to form a natural habitat for your fish. There are a lot of varieties you can choose from but do not buy aquarium gravel under any circumstances. The size of its grains is perfect for your goldfish to choke on.

Of course, you can choose to let the bottom of your aquarium stay empty. But it is boring for the fish and you as the owner to see an empty fish tank. However, it is easier to clean.

If you decide to fill your goldfish aquarium with a substrate, choose aquarium sand. It’s perfect for the fish, keeps the aquarium water clean, and is relatively easy to clean. Also, your goldfish won’t choke on it, as its grains are tiny. 

You can go for larger rocks, not the tiny gravel sold in every pet store since they can’t be swallowed by your fish and can be an excellent natural habitat for small goldfish that love to dig and hide under rocks. 

When choosing the substrate, you should also consider having a place for plants. For example, if you want to buy some plants, it’s essential to get more substrate, whether sand or rocks, to let the plants dig their roots. 


Tap water is not a suitable liquid to fill your goldfish aquarium with. Most tap water has high chlorine levels and is very toxic for your goldfish. Keeping goldfish in tap water can reduce their lifetime. Keep your goldfish happy and buy a de-chlorinator. 

A dechlorinator, also known as a water conditioner, is a substance that removes chlorine from the tap water. It isn’t toxic for the fish and can also work with chloramine. 

There is no problem if you don’t want to use a water conditioner or simply can’t find one. Just fill a large bucket with tap water and leave it to stand for 3 to 4 days. After that, the chlorine will evaporate, and the water will be safe for your fish. 

However, you can use other sources of water for your Goldfish aquarium. For example, if you have a small tank or a goldfish bowl, you can buy some bottled water that does not contain chlorine. These tricks cannot be used for a larger tank because bottled water is expensive and not sustainable. 

Bigger tanks can also be filled with tap water through a kitchen filter. Still, check the water that comes out of your filter first and make sure it doesn’t have any chlorine in it.

Plants & Decorations

Plants in tank

Goldfish live longer when the environment in the aquarium is complex and interesting. So, the more attractive you can make your tank, the better it is for your fish. 

Unfortunately, most people go for simple plastic plants and little or no decorations. Live plants can lead to happier, healthier fish. 

Also, it is simply more aesthetic and suitable for your tank if you add live plants. 

Another great perk of having plants in your tank is that they have a beneficial effect on the nitrogen and oxygen cycle.

After adding some plants, you’ll start to observe minor but exciting changes in your tank. For example, the water temperature will be more stable, your goldfish will be more active, and the water can be seen to be more transparent in smaller tanks. 

Decorations are also an essential part of any new tank. Ornaments that you can buy in your local pet store can make the goldfish feel more comfortable and make your aquarium more beautiful. 

However, there are some things to think about when buying ornaments for your fish. Firstly, clean them thoroughly. 

Ensure they don’t contain any chemicals or substances that will leak into the tank water and kill your fish. Also, look for sharp edges that can hurt your goldfish.

You can also combine different substrates to get the same aesthetic and health effect from the fish. For example, putting bigger rocks on aquarium sand will help provide both hiding and digging possibilities. 

If you have more fish and a bigger tank, you can add all these features and make your goldfish feel at home. 

What about the background?

Usually, tanks don’t need them. But, nevertheless, adding one of those can elevate the aesthetics of your aquarium to the next level. Just make sure you add one that will harmonically combine with other design elements and goes with the decor of your home. 


Light above tank

Aquarium light is a vital element for several reasons. Fish, like other creatures, need light to develop essential vitamins and minerals. Also, if you decide to add plants to your aquarium, they need light to live and produce energy to grow.

If you think that your plant’s growth is not very important, just wait until you find out how fast your goldfish can eat a plant. 

Another thing that should encourage you to illuminate your aquarium is that goldfish can lose their vibrant colors or even turn white without the full spectrum of light. But, unfortunately, that is not the only reason to invest in some proper lighting.

An aquarium light has other significant benefits, like adding extra degrees to the water temperature. 

The most common aquarium lights are fluorescent ones. They are not expensive and can illuminate all tank sizes. However, they aren’t as efficient as we’d like. 

On the other hand, LED lights are cheaper and smaller than fluorescent ones. They are popular because LED lights do not experience a shift in a color spectrum like fluorescent ones. 

Both these types of lighting can be used in your new tank. However, make sure you connect them correctly, and that no power cables are near the water. 

Aquarium Hood Cover

Aquarium hoods can keep a few problems away. 

First of all, there is a big chance that, without a hood cover, your goldfish will simply jump out of the water and die. 

Secondly, by adding a hood cover, you practically stop the natural water evaporation.

By stopping the evaporation, you avoid adding new water every few days. Hence, the level of pollutants will constantly grow, as your filter won’t be able to deal with the additional waste every day. 

Finally, a good hood cover will keep your new tank cleaner. The dust that can get into the water through the air can quickly accumulate in your filters and damage them. In addition, no filter media will be able to deal with constantly entering airborne particles in your aquarium. 

Also, tiny hairs and other materials can damage your fishs’ health. They can swallow it, choke and develop other problems. 


Temperature in Goldfish aquarium

Temperature is critical if you want to have fancy goldfish. But, of course, there is no problem keeping the temperature at the same level with a simple heater and a thermometer in a small tank. 

However, larger tanks require something a bit more sophisticated.

Firstly, you need a thermometer. There are different types and, depending on the size tank; you should choose one. From my experience, the best in the business is the floating thermometer. 

It floats on the water and shows the temperature of the water. However, it can be hard to read since it constantly moves due to the water waves. 

Besides a thermometer, you need a water heater to keep the temperature at the same level. When choosing a water heater, the most critical component you need to consider is the volume of your tank. 

However, if you previously had a smaller tank and now are planning on buying a larger one, keep the current heater. You can then buy a smaller heater and, combined with your previous one; they’ll be able to keep the temperature consistent. 

Here is a pro tip for you. Before putting both the heater and the thermometer in the water, wash them. That way, they won’t contain any dangerous bacteria and won’t make your fish sick. 

Final Word on Goldfish Tank Setup

Goldfish tanks can be a beautiful addition to any room, and with the right setup, your goldfish will thrive.

By following the tips we’ve provided, you can create a healthy environment for your fish and enjoy watching them swim around in their new home. 

Have you set up your tank yet? 

What type of filter are you using?

Ian Sterling

Ian Sterling, founder of, began his aquarium journey over 30 years ago, driven by a deep fascination for fish and their diverse personalities. His website,, is dedicated to making fishkeeping accessible and enjoyable, offering beginner-friendly guidance, expert insights, and a community for aquarists to connect and share experiences.

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