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Filling the Tank

Since our water is ready, we're going to fill the tank today.

  • We're going to attach a hose to the utility pump that is in our trash can full of saltwater and then use a clip to hold the hose on the aquarium.

  • The pump doesn't have a switch, so we have to plug it in for it to start. It's a good idea to get an extension cord so that you can do it easily while still being able to reach the hose.

  • If you can, recruit someone to lend you a hand in case something goes wrong.

  • You can aim the hose at the glass or a rock, so you don't disturb the sand too much. Or, with this tank, you can fill the sump and let the water overflow into the main compartment.

  • We're going to fill it until the overflow nozzles are completely under water.

  • Once it's full, turn off the pump and lift the hose out of the water, or it will syphon water back to the bucket.

Once ready, we're going to let'er rip!

After a few minutes, the tank looks like this:

This is normal. Dust from the rocks and sand will make the water cloudy, so we're going to run the pump in order to circulate and filter the water. Before that let's talk about electricity.


Water and electricity don't go well together and aquariums have a lot of both, so it's worth taking some precautions.

  • You will almost certainly need a power strip to plug-in all the equipment. Make sure you use a powerstrip that is rated for the load of all the equipment. Do a bit of research if you need to and get something that is UL listed. Cheaper is not always better when it comes to the heart of your tank.

  • It's a good idea to get something with a master on/off switch so you can turn it all off in case of an accident. Take the time to show everyone in the house where this switch is, so they can act on your behalf.

  • Don't leave the power strip on the floor where it can easily get wet if there is a flood. Mount it to the side of the cabinet, preferrably inside.

  • All the cords that run from the tank to the power strip should include a drip loop. This is a U-shaped loop in the cord that hangs down and allows water that runs down the cord to drip down instead of running directly into the plug where it could cause a short. The bottom of the U should be lower than the plug.

  • The cord that runs from the power strip to the wall should also have a drip loop.

  • Keep your cables neat and organized. It is a good idea to label each cord so that when the time comes, you know what you're unplugging without any doubt. As you add equipment, route the cables cleanly so you don't end up with a tangled mess.

Connect the Return Pump

The return pump comes with a controller and a power adapter. The cable that comes from the pump is plugged into to one of the connectors on the controller. The power adapter is plugged into the other one. Then, simply plug the power adapter into your power strip. Don't forget your drip loops.

Water starts flowing immediately and the pump is very quiet! Using the triangle-pointing-up button on the controller, turn it up to the maximum flow rate.

The kit also includes a piece of velcro with double-sided tape, so you can mount the controller on the side of the cabinet - somewhere it's easy to reach and see.

Now, aim the return nozzles toward the two front corners of the tank and slightly upward, so that they disturb the surface a bit. This will oxygenate the water, which is a good thing.

A message from the future

Instead of aiming the nozzles toward the corners, it is better to aim them straight at the front glass. This prevents a dead spot - an area of low water movement - in the center of the tank.

It will also create a shimmer effect in the tank. It ended up looking something like this:

What to Expect

  • You will probably see bubbles on the glass and maybe even some foam floating on the surface. This is normal and will soon go away on its own.

  • Hopefully, after running the pump for a day or two, the water will clear up and things will start to look really nice.

  • It's a good idea to check the filter sock and fiber balls once a day to make sure they're not getting too dirty at this stage. If they do, you can remove them, rinse them and put them right back. They will catch all the dirt that is still left on the rocks and sand.

  • If you already have lights for your tank, put them away. Resist the urge to turn them on since we won't need them for a while and starting them too early can lead to algae problems.

Gaze with wonder into your beatiful new ocean in a box: it will never be this pristine again!

While we wait for the water to clear up, we're going to set up our heater.