Here are the steps for setting up the tank:
The most difficult part of the setup is cutting a hole in the bottom of the plastic basket. The hole should be close to the size of the root ball on the plant. To get the plant ready, youíll need to rinse all the potting soil from the plant roots. You canít leave any, because the plant roots will die from lack of oxygen. Once the potting soil is gone, decide how large to make the hole in the basket. Put the plant roots in some water until youíre ready to place it in the tank.
The rest of the tank setup is simple. Set up the tank on its stand and make sure the stand is heavy enough to support the 200 or so pounds of water and tank equipment and room on the stand for the light and the air pump. Start with the equipment that goes on the bottom of the tank. Attach the air stone to a length of plastic tubing and positioned it in the middle of the bottom of the tank. Pile rocks on top of the air stone to keep it in place and attached the other end of the tube to one of the outlets on the air pump. Place the heater on the opposite side of the filter. Fill the tank about half full with some tap water treated with the standard water treatment. Seachemís ďSafeĒ is good, but you can use whatever you like, any product that removes chlorine and chloramine and detoxifies ammonia and nitrite.
I had an extra dual sponge filter from one of my established tanks and attached it to one side of the tank and pushed the filter down, so it touched the tank bottom and pushed the suction cups in place. The used filter sponges will instantly cycle the tank. So, thereís no need to cycle it and you can introduce a few small fish. I have fancy Guppies in my 20 G tank. Attach a length of plastic tubing to the filter and to the remaining outlet on the air pump. Fill the tank and youíre ready to put in the house plant. Attach the bamboo sticks to either side of the plastic basket and secure them under the lip on either side by running the twist ties through one of the holes and twist the ties down to secure the sticks. The ties should be evenly spaced on both sides of the basket. Set the basket on top of the tank and taking care not to damage the roots, put the roots through the hole you cut. The basket should be directly above the air stone and rocks. Next, open the bag of lava rock and dump the contents of the bag into a sink and rinse the rocks very well. Take some and position them on the bottom of the plastic basket, and pile them up around the base of the plant and fill the basket to the top. Move the plant a little just to straighten it and the rocks will hold the plant in place. You can place the rest of the lava rock around the bottom of the tank. The lava rock has many holes that will be home to the bacteria colony.
Now, position the light above the plant. Once everything is set up, you can plug it all in to see how it works. The light should be on and above the plant, the sponge filter and the air stone should be bubbling away, with the bubbles going up through the plant roots. Last, set the temperature of the heater to roughly 75 degrees.
As youíve noticed, the tank is open, so there will be some water thatís lost to evaporation. This is why you have a container of distilled water. You must use distilled or Reverse Osmosis water to top off the tank, no tap water. I typically need to top off my tank every day or two.
Review the directions to make sure all is in place. Allow the tank to run for a few days to steady the water chemistry and add a pinch or so of fish flakes every day or two to keep the bacteria fed until you get the fish in the tank. I recommend smaller fish species like Guppies, Danios, Tetras or some other similarly sized fish. Start with just a few, six to eight is good. Add tank decorations if you want.
Please let me know if you have questions. Have fun!
"The fish keeping hobby is very simple. Just change out a lot of water, a lot of the time!"