Last Updated on April 26, 2023 by Coral Realm

If you are wanting a fish tank that will give you and your family lots of pleasure in watching it, but don’t want to have to commit to lots of upkeep, then a goldfish aquarium might be for you. You and your family will get lots of enjoyment from the tank for years to come, as long as you get the goldfish tank setup right!

Goldfish are very easy to care for, and they can have their own unique personalities, and they look great! Children absolutely love goldfish as well.

In this quick guide we will take you through how to install and setup your goldfish aquarium.


How to Get Your Goldfish Tank Setup Right

Choose Your Goldfish Tank

To get started, you should first choose the best goldfish tank that suits you and your needs. 

If you have space for a proper aquarium rather than just a bowl then definitely go for it, as goldfish are shoaling fish that like company. If they are together they will generally be more active and happy, meaning not only are your fish happier but you will also get more entertainment value.

20 gallon aquariums are generally recommended to start off with, unless you want to jump straight in with a larger sized tank.

Add Substrate and Decorations to your Goldfish Tank

Once you have your tank ready and in place it’s time to get the bottom sorted out. You can either leave the bottom bare, and have large rocks and plants to cover the base, or utilize a substrate such as sand or gravel. 

Add in any plants, little houses or any other decorations you have as well. Goldfish are the same as any other fish and need enrichment in order to have a full life and be their happiest.

The most commonly used substrate is gravel, but be sure to use gravel which is no smaller than pea sized. Goldfish are scavengers, and will root through the substrate for food. If the gravel is too small it can be swallowed or get caught in the mouth. You can read our article on the best aquarium gravel to give you some ideas on what kind of gravel to get if you go down that route.

The table below gives some great options which you can use to enrich your goldfish tank setup and keep them entertained:

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Set Up Your Filtration and Heating Systems

A proper aquarium filtration system is a must when keeping goldfish. They prefer well filtered water, and not having a properly circulated and clean tank will cause them to become unhealthy.

While you might be able to get away with not having a filter if you undergo very regular and consistent water changes, this can quickly get very annoying and time consuming. You will have to change the water at least twice a week, or the water will stagnate. A filter negates this and cleans the water effectively.

There are a number of different filters on the market today, so have a look around at which one would suit your needs best. You can see our list of the best goldfish filters here. If your goldfish tank is going to be between 20 and 70 gallons a HOB filter such as the Fluval C4 power filter will be brilliant, or you can choose to use a more powerful canister filter such as the Penn Plax Cascade.

Undergravel filters have a strong case in goldfish aquariums as they don’t have moving parts which can damage the fish.

goldfish aquarium setup

More expensive doesn’t always mean better, so make sure you are getting one worth the price you pay. There are many more budget friendly options which have amazing functionality. 

As opposed to the filtration system, having an aquarium heater in your goldfish tank setup is optional. It really depends on what species of goldfish you get and what temperature they prefer. 

Normally for most goldfish the ideal temperature range is from 16 degrees Celsius to 22 degrees Celsius, or 61 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If the ambient temperature is too cool for your goldfish to feel comfortable then you will need to purchase an aquarium heater.

Fill Your Goldfish Aquarium With Water

Once you’ve got everything in your goldfish tank set up you can fill the aquarium with water. You should ensure the water you use is properly treated with a good water conditioner before you put it in the tank. Treating tap water with a proper water conditioner will have removed the harmful chemicals it contains, and made it safe for your goldfish.

If you have added substrate be careful when pouring the treated water in. Try and get as close to the base of the tank as possible, otherwise you’ll ruin your nice layout!

Once the tank is filled you can plug in and turn on your filtration system and heater, and get the tank cycling.

Don’t add goldfish immediately into your newly set up tank. The aquarium should be run for a week to fully integrate. This time will mean the water will get to the perfect temperature, good bacteria will grow into the substrate and filter media, and the water chemistry will balance out.

Add Plants to your Goldfish Tank Setup

As we have previously said, goldfish do need enrichment as much as any other breed of fish. A goldfish in a plain tank will not be a happy fish! While this enrichment can come in the forms of a good substrate they can scavenge in or decorations and ornaments for them to investigate, plants are always a great choice.

Live aquarium plants will give your goldfish tank setup a much more natural feel, and they will also provide your tank with oxygen and natural filtration. Many freshwater aquarium plants are very hardy and can handle being pecked and nibbled by the goldfish too!  Goldfish love being around live plants and they will thank you by being a lot more active.

Java fern is a great option; it is hardy, fast growing, and looks great!

Add Your Goldfish!

Finally we get to the best bit! Once your aquarium has been running for a little while it is ready for its new inhabitants.

Never add all the goldfish at once; this will cause a shock to the equilibrium you’ve created in the tank. Not only will this negatively impact your new goldfish but the plant life and beneficial bacteria as well.

If you add the goldfish one or two at a time you will give the filter time to work and bring the water chemistry back to normal before the next couple are added.

Also don’t overcrowd your tank; too many fish in one tank can overwhelm the filter and cause the tank to get very dirty. This will negatively impact your fish.

Once you have all of these points done, sit back, relax, and enjoy your new goldfish aquarium!! If you want to have tank mates with your goldfish read the following article:

  • Best Goldfish Tank Mates


Setting up your goldfish tank properly is a must. Getting things right from the very start will save you countless amounts of time and hassle in the future.

The goldfish you keep will be grateful for you having got their tank setup right as well, as they need the temperature to be correct, and also like having plants and substrate to scavenge in.

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