Starting a 54-Liter Aquarium from Scratch Step by Step Instructions

Every aquarist wants to create a beautiful aquarium at home. At first glance, the task may seem very daunting, especially when it comes to an aquarium with live plants. However, the use of modern technology and tools makes it possible to simplify this task as much as possible. As an example, we bring to your attention a step-by-step launch of a 54-liter herbal aquarium, made by the popular aquarium blogger Pavel Chulkov.

Aquarium features and equipment

To create the design, a 54 l (60x30x30 cm) Tetra Starter Line aquarium without a lid was chosen. Instead, a Tetra Tetronic LED ProLine LED lamp was installed, which is recommended for growing aquarium plants, when using it, the colors in the aquarium become natural and saturated.

The external filter Tetra EX400 Plus is used to purify the water and maintain a comfortable aquarium environment.


The initial stage of design is the creation of a hardscape, that is, an internal composition using soil, stones, snags, and other decorations in an aquarium that is not filled with water. The design type is diagonal. The result should be a rocky “island” shifted to the left and descending towards the right wall.

We put Jaya stones (dark rock with red veins) on the bottom, breaking large pieces to obtain elements of the desired size. We attach natural driftwood to them with the help of epoxy glue. Further work is possible after the glue has completely solidified. This process takes at least 12 hours.

Pour washed sand along the front wall and add finely crushed stone and gravel for detail. We put a small layer of fine lava behind the stone “island”, which will not only improve water circulation but slightly raise the part of the composition where the main part of the living plants will be planted.

On top of the lava, we cover the long-acting nutrient substrate Tetra CompleteSubstrate with a layer of about 2 cm. The high content of iron and trace elements ensures quick survival and intensive growth of living plants.

Next, fill in and level the natural neutral Tetra ActiveSubstrate soil with a layer of about 6 cm. It must first be washed from the dust deposited during transportation. The light and porous substrate promotes rapid root growth and activates the development of beneficial bacteria, which will positively affect the establishment of a biological balance.

The hardscape is ready. The next step is to plant live plants.

By creating a composition from living plants

Planting begins with anchoring the mosses on snags. For this, a transparent glue gel is used. Despite the fact that in places where the plant will come into contact with the glue, part of it will die, the moss will have time to grow and gain a foothold on its own. Additionally, we install lava with already grown moss.

So that in the future there will be no problems with installation, we fix the complete tubes of the external Tetra EX400 Plus filter. Mosses must be protected from drying out, so pour the first portion of water into the aquarium, and also add a few decorative stones. The best way to use tap water is to mix it with reverse osmosis water in a 1: 1 ratio. However, you can do without completely tap water. To remove dangerous chlorine compounds and heavy metals from tap water, as well as enrich the water with useful vitamins and microelements, we use the Tetra AquaSafe conditioner.

Using tweezers, we plant prepared live plants in the ground. In this design, the following types were used:

  • Staurogin
  • Hygrophila pinnately cut
  • Pogostemon helferi
  • Pogostemon Erectus
  • Pogostemon Octopus
  • Proserpinaca Palustris
  • Alternantera Reineck “Mini”
  • Ludwigia Red
  • Hydrocotyl Tripartite (Thyroid tripartite)

To enhance growth and improve the survival of roots in places of the main accumulation of plants, we introduce tableted Tetra PlantaStart fertilizer into the soil.

We launch the fish

We fill the aquarium with water, while bubbles appear on the walls. This is due to the fact that a large number of gases, including nitrogen, are dissolved in tap water, small bubbles of which can negatively affect the health of fish. Therefore, it is recommended to run the filter and wait until the bubbles disappear. This usually takes several hours.

Place one Tetra Bactozym capsule in the lower basket before starting the filter. It creates a thin nourishing film on the surface of the sponges to accelerate the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Add the required amount of Tetra SafeStart directly to the aquarium. It contains a culture of live nitrifying bacteria that reduce ammonia levels by 14 times and nitrite by 10 times, which allows fish to be immediately introduced into the aquarium.

Copper tetras were chosen for settling into the aquarium.

Testing the water for basic parameters a day after the launch did not reveal the presence of compounds dangerous for fish in the water. If you plan to keep several types of fish in your aquarium, it is best to plant them gradually at intervals of several days so as not to load the filter.

After five days, there are no problems with fish and plants. There are no signs of diseases in plants, some species have grown, and tetras are active and cheerful.

Used at startup


  • Aquarium with LED lighting Tetra 54 l.
  • Tetra AquaArt aquarium cabinet 60 l.
  • Lamp Tetra Tetronic led 580
  • Tetra Ex400 plus filter


  • Jaya Stone Composition
  • Natural light gravel Meta
  • Natural yellow gravel Borneo
  • Driftwood


  • Lava
  • Tetra CompleteSubstrate Nutritional Pad
  • Tetra Active Substrate Base Primer

Water products

  • Tetra AquaSafe – with every water change
  • Tetra Bactozym – once, when starting the aquarium
  • Tetra SafeStart – once, when starting the aquarium

Fertilizers and dosages as recommended by the author

For aquariums with lots of live plants.

  • Tetra PlantaMin – 10 ml for 20 liters of water every 2 weeks
  • Tetra PlantaPro Micro – 5 ml for 20 liters of aquarium water 2 times a week
  • Tetra PlantaPro Macro – 5 ml for 20 liters of aquarium water 2 times a week
  • Tetra CO2 Plus – 5 ml for 20 liters of aquarium water 2 times a week
  • Tetra PlantaStart Fertilizer – At Startup
Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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