Aquarium setup: a step-by-step guide (2023)

After learning the basic elements of a natural aquarium, we'll show you step by step how to set up a 60 liter aquarium. We will be tracking the aftermath of this build with screenshots so you too can see what happened to this tank after it was completed. You can click through all the images to get a high resolution image (found on our Flickr page).

  • Aquarium:60 x 30 x 36 cm - 64 litrosADA60p cube garden
  • Base layer fertilizer substrate:ADAPower Sand M 2 Litros
  • General substrate:ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia 9 Liters
  • Substrate top layer:ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia Pulver 3 liters
  • Substrate additives:ADA Bacter 100, ADA Clear Super
  • Hardscape:Red Bogwood, Knife Stones
  • Inferno:ADA Solar HQI 150W (7 hours a day)
  • CO2:Pressure system, ADA Do!Aqua 20D ceramic diffuser
  • CO2-Computer:GHL Profilux (24/7)
  • Filter:ADA-Superjet ES-600
  • Surface cleaning:Eheim Skim 350 surface skimmer
  • Fertilize:ADA Brighty K e ADA Brighty Step 2 (3-3 ml/Tag)
  • Sterilize, Oxygenate:Twinstar 2 nano
  • Fish, shrimp:Rubinsalmler, Amano-Garnelen

Aquarium setup: a step-by-step guide (1)

This 60 x 30 x 36 cm aquarium holds 64 liters. We do not normally calculate with the volume of the aquarium for our setup plans, but instead assume the length of the aquarium (60 centimeters in our case) as the light, base cabinet, filter and hardscape are all chosen to match this suitable standard size. This aquarium is large enough to support a stable ecosystem and small enough to be a good introductory tank for any budding aquascaper. Small size is important because of setup costs (equipment, substrate, plants, etc.). Green Aqua has decided to bring you this aquarium installation procedure considering all the above points.

Configuring the substrate and hardscape system

Base layer fertilizer substrate

This special layer releases nutrients to the plant roots for about 6 to 8 months. It also ensures the growth of nitrifying (filtering) bacteria and the vegetable fertilizer substrate helps biological filtration.

Plants do not absorb nutrients in the same way. You must prepare your substrate system to meet your needs. Larger plants with stronger roots will grow better with well-prepared soil. Lack of a suitable basecoat fertilizer substrate will result in slower growth or even cessation of plant growth.

Products used: ADA Power Sand M - 2 liters

spreading the substrate

Pour the contents of the 2 liter bag into the center of the empty aquarium and spread out to create an even layer on the bottom (generally there will be a 1 cm layer, spreading out to the bottom of the tank if there is one). increase the base material for it). Professional substrates should not be rinsed off, they are ready to use. Be sure to leave a couple of centimeters free along the windshield - this is for visual purposes.

The base layer fertilizing substrates need to be covered with 4-5 cm of general substrate, and if you use the bottom layer along the front glass, you will have at least 5-6 cm of substrate there - it's just not aesthetic.

substrate additives

A stable biological balance of new aquariums can be achieved much faster if we use various additives to improve bacterial life. Some products are used as a dry powder in the substrate, others are added to the external filter and there are also products that can later be dosed into the aquarium water in liquid form.

In this case, we complete our substrate system with Bacter 100 and Clear Super additives. Sprinkle the additives evenly over the base layer fertilizer substrate. This small can in the photo will be enough for many aquariums, for a 64 liter aquarium buying a smaller quantity may be sufficient.

general plant substrate

We will use 9 liters of ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia for this tank. If you are planting to create taller mounds with the potting mix, consider 2-3 times this amount. You should also not rinse this substrate before use. ADA Amazônia soils are the best clay-based active substrates as they contain additional nutrients that promote plant growth.

The Amazonia stabilizes the water to parameters suitable for your plants by initially softening the water and lowering the pH. Distribute the soil evenly, do not mix it with the substrate from the bottom layer!

Hardscape - Holz

We used red marsh wood to find smaller roots to add scale to the landscape and give the impression that this tank is bigger than it actually is. Wood does not need to be prepared, after a little rinsing it can be placed in an aquarium.

Let your creative energies flow. Place the wood to express proportionate and natural shapes. Rotate, tilt and even break branches if needed. The scape can be refined later as we continue with the configuration.

Hardscape - Steine

Our substrate slopes slightly forward and to the right. We try to follow that lineage with our root groups. Construction is almost finished. We use flat stones to give a natural feel and support the wood and substrate.

This layout doesn't follow the golden ratio rule, but we try to balance the hardscape. We leave a 10 cm wide area on the front panel so that our fish can swarm comfortably.

General plant substrate - top layer (powder)

If you want to use a lot of foreground plants or your aquarium is smaller, you have the great option of using powdered general plant substrates. These can be distributed 1-2 cm above the existing subsoil. Plants with smaller roots can spread more densely and we get a more compact foreground.

The smaller grain size results in a more balanced view of the nanotanks, this technique is much better than just using regular substrates. Similar to previous substrates - never rinse off Amazon dust. Use a small cup to spread it on Amazon.

last adjustments

As careful as we were in spreading the top layer of substrate dust, we couldn't help but cover up some of the important elements of the hardscape. Now we can brush them with an ordinary brush. At this point, you can also make small adjustments to your hardscape.

In our case, we put some extra wood on the left side to allow for a more detailed view and emphasize the left part. Our view is now smoothly directed by the structure in the lower right corner. We broke the branch that almost reaches the surface of the water in the middle and this greatly improved the escapement.

Plant preparation and planting

It's time to prepare the plants for planting. Heads up! This process may take longer. Allow enough time to complete this task and ask family or friends for help. Potted plants must be taken out of cotton wool. This can be done in a bucket or bowl of water, submerged cotton will be easier to remove as it will soften and allow the roots to be pulled out more easily. Roots of some plants tend to weave cotton and this is impossible to manually remove. Use tweezers to do this.

plant preparation

Wash the jelly from the plants grown in the laboratory. the bundledPlants in ceramic cylindersmust also be removed - the cylinder is only used for weighing.elkit can be tied to the hardscape or you can use the moss net to place them on ADA Riccia stones or you can stick them on stones or wood. Always use the simplest method.

We use Dennerle Moss Attachment Mesh, which allows moss to be attached to an ADA Riccia stone in seconds. We divided the other bouquets into smaller groups because the larger bouquets are very difficult to plant - they will always come out of the substrate. Plants divided into smaller groups spread quickly.


Don't forget to keep your plants moist, as they can easily dry out at room temperature and become damaged. Don't forget to spray them throughout the planting process as well. Under dry aquarium light, they tend to dry even faster.

You need to moisten the substrate before planting. It's very difficult to plant in dry substrate and the plants will float if you haven't done a good job of planting. Use a regular plant sprayer to spray them regularly, but you can also use its larger counterpart - the one we have in the pictures. This allows us to pour a few liters of water without disturbing the substrate or moving the clay granules.

Plants: Tie plants to wood and rocks

Let the planting begin! We start with the plants that can be placed in the wood. These could have been tied to the branches with Riccia Line or Wood Tight, but we opted to attach them to small Riccia stones - similar to mosses. This allows us to move them to other locations later. In addition, these stones serve as useful weights to hold the wood.

The plants are in the wood. Mosses on Riccia stones are also laid - they also have a secondary function: they keep the substrate in place. We didn't want to use tall plants in the back right corner, so we planted Lilaeopsis brasiliensis there. This is slightly taller and thicker than the grass in the foreground, and later on, when all the plants have grown together, it looks pretty wild.

Foreground wetting and planting

Do not forget to spray the entire tank and prepared plants during planting, as the ambient temperature and humidity will harm them! Use narrow tip tweezers for quick results. These tweezers are best for planting. It's easy to get the plant into the substrate and the roots won't come out with the pin when you let go and pull the tool out of the substrate. Sizes S and M are best suited for this size of aquarium.

Grasses were planted on the right. They'll cover the foreground beautifully - even if we can't reach certain corners due to limited space. In the back on the left we have planted taller stem plants that will make a nice bush for the next few weeks.

Finish planting and weigh the wood

We've placed some slow-growing plants between the rocks in the foreground. These plants do well in low light, so there is no problem with stem plants shading this part of the aquarium.

When you're done planting, you'll need to place some rocks on top of the wood because - unless you've soaked it for weeks before mounting it - Red Moor wood can float for the first 2-3 weeks. You can use almost anything for this: stones, a bowl, a glass, etc. It is also important to only use materials that do not release pollutants into the water. If you're not sure of your stone, don't use it. Place a weight where you need it to hold the wood. Those weights will all be off in a few weeks and Red Moor will remain underwater.

Filling the aquarium with water

All stones are in place, all hardscapes are securely fastened. Don't worry about the bricks visual issues at this point, our main goal is to keep the hardscape in place. If you remove them, neighboring plants will take their place, and everything will be balanced.

Now we can start filling the tank with water. This should be a very slow process, let's start with the water dripping from the hose. A pleasant and calm start will have better results. The clay pellet is very light at this point, everything can tip over at this point if you drop it. You can use a bowl, plate or even a colander or the bag of substrate that is placed on the ground and foreground plants and let the water run over it. This protects the plants and the substrate and you will have crystal clear water after filling the aquarium.

Continuation of water filling

The water level rises nicely. Do not change the speed of the process. Regardless, if a few small clusters of plants emerge, you can plant them again later. When you're done with 1/3 of the tank's height, you can speed up the filling a bit, but be careful not to disturb the gravel. The slow flow keeps the aquarium water clean and the sound is not disturbed.

We are about to finish filling the water. The surface is full of small particles of substrate and plant leaves. Some of them can be removed with a landing net, others can be removed with kitchen towels placed on the surface. It's best to use a slotted spoon, as it will clean the surface in seconds. When the aquarium is full, you can mount the external filter and start, taking care that the current does not knock the plants out of their places. You can always increase the filter flow later, when the plants have taken root and are more stable in the substrate.

We are ready!

Adjust the lighting at the right time, strong lighting requires 7-9 hours at most. Set the CO2 system to the timer and start it.

We use a lot of lab plants in jam, so you should start adding fertilizer from day one and repeat the process daily. Since we plant a lot of plants, the chance of algae is less and we will also have the desired view soon. It takes about 8 to 12 weeks for the plants to reach their full size.

Algae eaters can be introduced 1 week after installation, other fish around 2-3 weeks. The aquarium was built on February 17, 2016, the next photo was taken on the 9th day. Fish were used before because we were using an already timed filter.

Aquarium setup: a step-by-step guide (2)

The following image was taken a month and a half after installation (on April 5, 2016):

Aquarium setup: a step-by-step guide (3)

This is the two-month image (taken on April 23, 2016):

Aquarium setup: a step-by-step guide (4)

We wish you all good landscaping! :)

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