How To Set Up A Nano Aquarium

There are many different types of nano fish to fill your nano aquarium with. But, you need to set up the tank. These are the 7 steps to set up a nano aquarium:

Nitrogen Cycle

The first thing to do with any new aquarium is to cycle it. Fish waste and other debris such as leftover food can lead to an increase in ammonia. Ammonia is harmful and deadly to fish and other animals.

But, there are good bacteria that help get rid of ammonia in the fish tank. These good bacteria convert ammonia to nitrite and then nitrate as part of the nitrogen cycle.

Unfortunately, it takes time for the bacteria to form in your tank. Thus, you have to do a nitrogen cycle for at least two weeks (see video below in references).

Tank Size

Knowing how big your nano fish tank will be can help you decide which kinds of nano fish and other fish species you can keep.

The size of the aquarium also determines the number of fish you can keep, the number and types of aquarium plants, as well as the amount of maintenance needed.

Thus, to set up a nano aquarium, you must know which tank size is best for your needs. Try to aim for a tank that’s 5-gallons or more. 20-gallons is the right choice.


Filtration is essential in any fish tank. For nano tanks, it is crucial to know how many gallons of water the pump in the filter can move each hour.

It’s safe to have a filter that has a GPH (gallon per hour) that is at least four times the volume of your tank. For example, a 20-gallon tank needs a filter that has a GPH of at least 80.

Plants And Decor

Before you decide on plants and decorations, you need to know what kind of fish you plan to keep. Some fish prefer planted tanks, and others prefer lots of open space. Some prefer small caves or sand to burrow in.

It all depends on the type of freshwater aquarium fish or type saltwater aquarium fish. Always go for live plants in nano tanks. They help to filter waste material from the water.


Some plant substrates change water chemistry in a tank. Always research substrates before you add any to your tank. Some substrates add no benefit to plants, and some can damage equipment.

For example, gravel doesn’t change water chemistry, but it is not ideal for rooted plants. Sand is natural, but it can damage your filter, and it doesn’t offer nutrients for rooted plants. Soil is perfect for plants that need to root, but it can be expensive and needs replacing every few years.


Lighting for a fish tank is beneficial for live plants. It’s also good for the owner to see the fish. Try to install a lighting system that’s best suited for the plants in your tank.


Most nano fish are tropical and need a heater. For example, if you keep guppies and live in a temperate area, then your guppies need a heater.