Preparing For Your New Fish.

  1. So you just bought new fish?! That’s great! Hopefully they are tilapia and you bought them from us 🙂

This article assumes the following:

  • You are looking for information on preparing and caring for tilapia.
  • The fish will be kept as pets (notes for fish that will be harvested will be noted.)
  • You are new to owning fish, so the very basics will be covered.

Please read it carefully before you purchase your fish to make sure you will be well prepared for the arrival of your new fish friends.



You can buy a used fish tank and accessories; this will save you a lot of money. Just be sure the tank will hold water when you’re buying second-hand tanks, and that the other equipment you need run as needed. Below are items you will need:

  1. Aquarium. 
    The size of the aquarium depends on the type and number of fish you are getting. Tilapia will grow to be quite large and because of their aggressive nature, you should always have a minimum of five fish in the same tank to help keep a more aggressive fish from picking on just one fish. 
  2. Aquarium Stand.
    1. Make sure the stand you are using for your fish tank can support not only the tank but the water it holds. Water weighs 8.5 lbs/gallon,  therefore a small 10 gallon aquarium, filled with water will weigh approximately 85 lbs.; A 50 gallon tank filled with water weighs about 425 lbs.
    2. Place the tank securely in its new place/stand, and make sure it sits level. 
  3. Media.
    1. If you are buying koi or tilapia (or any other larger fish), it is best not use any media at the bottom of the tank. This will help the filter keep your tank clean and let you see when it is time to change out the water.
    2. Some fish have specific requirements on what media/ gravel they need. You will need about 250g of gravel per liter of tank, depending on your setup.
    3. You will want to rinse your gravel well before placing it in a tank to remove dust and debris from travel. If you are using an under-gravel filtration system install this now. Scoop the gravel into your tank slowly so you do not damage or scratch the glass. Generally it is best to create a gentle slope of gravel; deepest in the back and most shallow in the front.
  4. Filter. Make sure you purchase a filter that is meant for the size of the tank you purchased. I purchase higher for supreme filtration. As an example, in my 50 gallon tank I have filter that will manage 75-100 gallons of water. My preference is a canister-type filter as they do not have to be changed as often.
  5. Heater. You will need to have an aquarium heater to keep your new fish comfortable. With tilapia and koi, I recommend a titanium type filter, or at the least, a filter with a protective cover on it. These fish chew on and beat up on anything that is in the tank out of sheer boredom.
  6. Thermometer. Always keep a thermometer in the tank to monitor the water temperature; don’t rely on the heater’s sensor. Periodically check the temperature in the tank to be sure the heater is maintaining a minimum of 69 degrees. I keep mine at 70-71 degrees (F), which is ideal for tilapia.
  7. Air Pump, Tubing & Air Stone. You will need an air pump to help keep oxygen in the water for your fish. You will need tubing and an air-stone to help deliver an de-solve the air bubbles, making it usable for your fish.Be sure to purchase clear tubing so that you can see if any condensation is forming inside the tube.
  8. Fish Tank hood and Light.  Purchase a hood and light that fit your tank correctly. Never sit an electric light over the tank without a hood- the hood protects the light bulb and electrical components from spray from your tank; and what would be worse is if the light fell into the water.
  9. Water Testing Kit.  You should pick up water testing kits to measure your tank water’s pH, Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates. Your water should be tested before you add your fish and periodically after that.

Before you get your aquarium, choose a good place to set it up. While your fish won’t mind a sunny window, you will find that your fish tank will fill up with algae quickly and once it takes starts growing in your tank it is difficult to get rid of it. For that reason, I recommend placing the tank away from a window.
Keep in mind the temperature of the tank’s location. If your tank is in a room where the temperature is typically warmer, your fish tank heater won’t run as often. If, on the other hand, your fish tank is in a drafty area, you may find your heater running non-stop to keep the water warm.

  1. Add water to your fish tank.
    1. If you have well water, great! You can pour the water right from the tap into the aquarium as it doesn’t have chlorine in it.
    2. If you use City water, place the water into the fish tank, then add de-chlorinator. This can be purchased from any pet store that sells fish supplies. De-chlorinator removes chlorine; the better brands will also remove ammonia and nitrites. 
    3. Be sure to read the directions before adding the fish- you may need to let the water sit for a period o time so have this done before you bring home your fish.
    4. If you plan to harvest and eat the tilapia, do not add any chemicals to the water, remember, whatever you feed them YOU will eventually be eating as well.  
  2. Time to Attach your filter. Each filter is different so be sure to follow the instructions. Once it is hooked up properly, you may plug it in and ensure that it operates properly.
    1. Make sure your filter is the appropriate size for your fish tank. For my 30 gallon fish tank I purchased a canister filter that is rated to clean a 50 gallon fish tank; for my 50 gallon fish tank, my canister filter is rated for a 75-100 gallon fish tank. This helps keep the tank cleaner longer.
    2. I personally like and use the canister style filters; if you get one, I recommend using the spray bar so that it agitates the surface of the water, helping to dissolve oxygen in the water for your fish. 
  3. Place the thermometer in/on the tank. Most tropical freshwater fish thrive a constant temperature in the 24 °C (75 °F) – 28ºC range. Depending on the type of Tilapia you are getting, they require 70°F or higher. Blue Nile Tilapia is a more hardy fish and can survive in 69°F but be sure not to go below that.
  4. Place the aquarium hood and lighting on the tank. Almost any lighting/bulb type will work for any species you keep, assuming you are not growing plants in the tank. Tilapia will tear apart any live plants that are available to them.
  5. Hook up the Air Pump, Tubing & Air-stone. 
  6. Last Minute Checks.
    1. Make sure that all cords have a drip-loop. A drip loop is a U-shape in the cord to prevent any potential water dripping to fall on the floor  instead of running into the electrical socket.
    2. Make sure the air hose also has a drip loop; in the event condensation forms in the tube you will see it before it reaches the air pump.
    3. Note: Pet stores sell a one-way valve that will let only air return to the pump; however, they place a greater strain on the air pump and if you place them on incorrectly they become useless.  I never use these and have never had a problem. I use large loops so I can see the water droplets in the tube and I can correct it before it becomes a problem.
  7. Test your water. Test the tank’s water for pH, Nitrites, Nitrates, and Ammonia. You should not have any Ammonia, Nitrite or Nitrate yet, unless your tap water contains these. Some people also test for carbonate hardness(KH) and General Hardness(GH). Calcium carbonate (hardness) ties in to pH. If you have very soft water, the pH of your tank can become unstable. If your water is soft, add conditioning salt & KH Powder to your tank to prevent a pH crash. Most freshwater fish can live in a pH from 6.5 to 8.0. (7.0)is Neutral and preferred by most fish. Take a sample of your wanter and take it to  your local Pet Shop; ask them to test your tap water for its pH level. If your pH ranges are above or below, ask the staff for advice.
    • Remember that fish are very adaptable. They are more likely to get sick from a fluctuating pH than a stable but less than perfect one.
  8. Adding the Fish to the Tank. Although Tilapia are pretty hearty fish, it isn’t a good idea to just drop them from the water they are use to, to the water you have prepared for them. Do the following to ensure a safe and healthy entry into your fishs’ new home:
    1.  Make sure the bucket/container your fish arrive to your home is about 1/2 full of the water they arrived in. Take a cup of water and add it to their bucket, then wait 15-20 minutes. Repeat this until the bucket is almost filled with water.
    2. Next, use a net and carefully net them and gently place them into their new home. If you are gentle with them they will adapt faster to their new environment and will gladly swim to the tank’s edge to great you when you enter the room.
    3. NEVER take the water from the bucket and place it into their new fish tank. By doing this you will be filling the tank with the ammonia and feces they’ve emitted into the water since they were placed in there.
And NOW it’s time to sit back and enjoy watching your new fish !
Close Menu