Congratulations, you’re going to be a fish parent! While your role may not be as interactive as that of a dog or cat caretaker, there are some important skills—such as tank set-up and maintenance—you’ll need to master to ensure a happy, healthy home for your fish.

Because they’re easiest to care for, fish who live in cold water are recommended for first-timers. You will not need a heater in your tank, as you would with tropical fish, but you will need to ensure water quality with a powerful filtration system.

Tank: Familiar with the image of a single goldfish in a bowl? That’s a great example of exactly how fish SHOULDN’T be kept. The ASPCA recommends a 20-gallon-aquarium for beginners. You may be tempted to get a 10-gallon tank, but please keep in mind that it will be easier to maintain healthy water conditions with a larger tank—and your fish will appreciate it, too. The experts at your aquarium store can help you select fish who will get along with each other and can thrive in a coldwater tank.

Location: Set the tank on sturdy table, stand, or counter, in a place that is convenient to a sink or water source. Do not put the tank in direct sunlight—this makes it harder to control the water temperature and may cause excessive algae growth. Deciding on the perfect spot is a big decision—a 20-gallon aquarium filled with water and gravel weighs more than 200 pounds, so you won’t be able to move it once it is set up. And please note: Your fish should not be subjected to rapid and/or wide temperature swings, so take care to keep the tank out of direct, hot sun and away from heating and cooling vents.