It is a good idea to run the filter and do regular water changes before putting fish in the aquarium. If you have a smart phone or tablet, there is an app called tropica that gives you reminders of when to change and treat the water.
The water should be moving and oxygen filled to keep the bacteria alive. Just fill a bucket and add the filter on the side, and keep it running. (Treat water for chlorine first before filter gets added). With this method you can even cycle new filters for future reference.