Updated: November 23, 2020 - By: - Categories: Equipment

Anyone who has ever had an aquarium knows that there are plenty of aquarium supplies you can pick up. Using the right supplies based on the type of your aquarium will make the tank the best it can be. Here is our list of aquarium supplies.

The aquarium


There are many kinds of aquariums on the market in various sizes and shapes. Silicon glued frameless glass aquariums are by far the most popular due to their economy, endurance, and practical use. Frameless aquariums are also elegant and decorative.

As the size increases thicker glass plates are necessary to resist the increasing water pressure plus occasional mechanical shocks caused by careless handling. Safety is more important than economy; buy your aquarium from a reliable dealer.

Despite the common belief that the maintenance of a small aquarium must be easier, it is much more difficult to establish a reliable biological balance in a small aquarium than in a larger one.

Aquarium fish as well as plants are more or less adapted to stable environments in nature. Slightest disturbances like accidental overfeeding, a rotting plant, or a dead fish may easily shift the whole balance of a small aquarium to intolerable conditions. Large aquariums are more forgiving for such disturbances. Larger water volume means larger biological and chemical stability.

It is a common experience that most fish thrive and breed much better in large aquariums. Fish, and especially territorial species like cichlids, need adequate space for living. Unstable water conditions and narrowness of living quarters means stress and stress is a sure invitation for diseases.

For that reason, it is strongly recommended that an aquarium should accommodate at least 20 gallons of water. A 20 gallon aquarium with sizes 24 x 12 x 16 inches (length x width x height) is ideal for a beginner.

First, inquire about the particular space needs of the fish species you intend to keep before you buy an aquarium. Some fish like South American dwarf cichlids require surprisingly large territories compared to their size. Some high-fin fish like angelfish or discus need high aquariums, at least 20 inches, to swim comfortably.

A durable stand

All things considered, this is a quite heavy hobby. An aquarium decorated with sand and rocks weighs approximately 11 pounds per gallon volume. For example, a 20-gallon aquarium weighs approximately 220 pounds. A 100-gallon aquarium can easily weight up to 1100 pounds. The aquarium stand must accordingly be very stable and robust. Especially for larger aquariums, special stands are necessary.

An elastic material such as styrofoam should be placed between the aquarium and its stand to absorb mechanical shocks. Styrofoam is also a good heat isolator which may help you save some electricity.

Choose a proper location for your aquarium, make sure that your aquarium does not receive direct sunlight from a window. Direct sunlight encourages excessive algal growth if algae promoting micronutrients such as phosphates and nitrates are abundant in water which is almost always the case in home aquariums. Furthermore, direct sunlight may overheat your aquarium in summer.

Fish feel insecure if the aquarium receives light from all sides. Therefore it is advisable to place the aquarium against a wall. What’s more, it is very difficult to decorate an aquarium that is standing in the middle of the room unless it has a great width.

Hood /canopy

Quite often aquariums are purchased complete with plastic hood and cover. These are to prevent the fish from escaping and also help to prevent heat and evaporation loss. They also have provisions for the light fittings.

Whatever your choice you must ensure a condensation cover or tray is fitted between the water surface and the hood to prevent condensation forming on the electrical light fitting. I personally prefer the appearance of a clear plastic hood. It is easy to set up an LED light fixture over a transparent hood.

Lighting system and timer


Aquarium fish need light for them to see and for the aquarist to see them. Fish also react to the presence of light or lack of it. When the sun goes down and darkness approaches, the fish disappear into their hidden holes to rest and await the new day. When the dawn arrives and the light is strengthening, fish will re-appear and begin looking for food. So light governs their life habits and it follows that this light cycle should be reasonably followed in the aquarium.

Plants need light to assimilate their food through photosynthesis. It is the good luck of the aquarium keeper that most aquatic plants are not directly exposed to strong sunlight in nature. Most tropic plants grow in rivers or pools that are completely or partially shadowed by terrestrial plants, therefore too much light intensity is not required for freshwater aquariums. Much more powerful lighting systems are necessary for marine aquariums.

Different plants are adapted to different light intensities. For example plants like Cryptocoryne species, Anubias species or Java moss may still grow well under a low light intensity while plants like Cabomba species or red-leaved Alternanthera species require strong light. Generally, red-leaved plants require a much higher intensity of light.

For reef aquariums, most corals require light as they have zooxanthellae within their flesh. Zooxanthellae are tiny single-celled algae and there are huge numbers of them in a coral. The algae/coral partnership is called symbiotic. The algae assist in the removal of waste products and in obtaining vital trace elements from the seawater. If this algae fails then the coral failure is very likely. As with other plants, the symbiotic algae require light to prosper. So, it is very important to choose the right lighting if you want to keep corals in your saltwater aquarium.

All fish, plants, and corals need a normal light cycle with day and night to prosper, 8-10 hours of lighting is ideal for most home aquariums. With a timer, regular daylight periods can easily be realized.

Choosing an LED light here: https://portlandaquarium.net/planted-aquarium-led-light/

Filter and filter media


Aquarium filters are generally made of a water pump and a filter canister through which dirty water flows. There are various types, models, and brands of filters on the market. Some filters are inserted in the aquarium (internal filters) whereas some remain external (external filters).

External filters are generally advantageous because they have a larger canister volume. A filter must be ergonomic in use, otherwise, filter maintenance will become too tedious. A good filter must also be durable and soundless. The hose connections must be 100% secure if an external filter is used.

With proper filter materials in the canister three kinds of filtrations can be realized:

Mechanical Filtration – This is the removal of the bigger particles in the water. This first step in the filtration helps to avoid clogging up the next stages of the process to maximize their efficiency.

Biological Filtration – The bulk of the nitrogen cycle takes place in the biological portion of an aquarium filter system. It is a place for the beneficial bacteria in the aquarium water to colonize and remove ammonia and nitrites from the water as it passes through.

Chemical Filtration – Typically this will be done with carbon though sometimes there will also be an agent for the removal of specific toxins (commonly, ammonia). The carbon itself aids tremendously in sustaining water clarity and removing odor.

The thumb rule is to choose a filter that is capable of filtering four times the amount of your aquarium water in an hour. For example, a 20-gallon aquarium will need a filter with a flow rate of around 80 gallons per hour (GPH).

Read more about aquarium filters: https://portlandaquarium.net/aquarium-filter/

Heater and thermometer


Most tropical fish need stable temperatures between 75°F and 78°F (24-26°C) that are significantly higher than room temperature. A thermostat-heater is used to keep the temperature constant at the adjusted temperature. Thanks to modern heater technology, keeping the water temperature almost constant around the adjusted value presents no problems as long as you buy a quality thermostat-heater of a well-known brand.

Some coldwater species like goldfish or cardinal fish require cooler aquariums. For them, ideal temperatures vary between 60-72°F (16-22°C.) Some fish like paradise fish or peppered Cory can tolerate a wide range of temperatures that vary between 60-86°F (15-30°C.) Such species need no heating at all.

On the other hand, some sensitive species like discus or blue ram require exceptionally high temperatures, as high as 86°F. At lower temperatures, they are prone to various diseases.

At normal room temperature 68-72°F (20-22°C), approximately 1 watt of heating power will be required for each liter of water (thumb rule 4W/gal or 1W/l) to keep the temperature constantly at 77°F (25°C). For example, a 20-gallon aquarium (75 liters) will need around 75 watts of heating power and a 75-100 watt heater is perfect.

Go to the page for aquarium heaters: https://portlandaquarium.net/fish-tank-heater/

Bottom substrate


Substrate type and granularity can also be important for some fish species. South American dwarf cichlids for example need fine gravel or sand to search food or burrow their nests. Ensure that the substrate has no sharp edges that may injure the fish, especially the bottom dwellers.

Calcareous substrates are not recommended for soft water fish or plants because it hardens the water, whereas it will not harm hard water species. On the contrary, calcareous substrate and rocks may play a useful buffer role preventing undesirable pH drops in hard water aquariums e.g. Malawi or Tanganyika cichlids.

The granule size is an important parameter for plants. Some plants like most Cryptocoryne and Vallisneria species prefer fine substrate. Some Echinodorus species prefer rather coarse substrates. Generally, fine substrate means slower water circulation and lower oxygen levels. A too fine substrate tends to become anaerobic and to deteriorate emitting unbecoming smells unless a means for bottom circulation such as undergravel filters are employed.


This is down to personal choice, although, you will have a better effect if you keep it looking natural. If you’re using rocks in your décor, as with gravel, be sure to use inert materials, such as sandstone or slate.

Also bear in mind the weight of any large rockwork in your design, if you use a lot of rocks be sure the structure is stable, you could consider gluing it together with aquarium sealant, this would avoid it toppling over and injuring fish or damaging the aquarium. These structures are useful, in that they give shelter to the shy and more nervous fish of the community.

Aquarium test kits


A very important part of keeping fish in aquariums is to test the water periodically. There are many different types of aquarium test kits out there and it can be confusing in deciding which ones to get and what to test for in your fish tank.

If you have a newly setup fish tank, you will want to get and test for at least the following:

Ammonia and nitrite test: You will need these for cycling your aquarium. They are also necessary for aquarium maintenance. If you have some problems with your fish and can’t find out the cause, check ammonia and nitrite first. For a healthy aquarium, the concentrations of them should be zero.

Nitrate test: ammonia is broken down and converted into nitrite then nitrate, this is the end product of the nitrogen cycle, and is used as a food source by plants and algae. Nitrate is relatively non-toxic, but if high readings are observed from your test result, it is indicative that a partial water change is necessary.

pH test: is needed to determine which types of fish will go well with your water without using any commercial additives and to periodically check to make sure nothing is too out of control with the system. You will also need to do pH tests regularly in the journey of fish keeping.

More details: https://portlandaquarium.net/water-characteristic-ph-gh-kh/

Water conditioners

Chlorine is a powerful chemical that is added to tap water to kill bacteria so that it is safe for us to drink. It is potentially lethal to fish if left in the aquarium untreated. It can strip the protective coating off the fish, making them vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infection. Also, heavy metals such as copper, lead, and zinc can be found in most tap water supplies. These metals are toxic to all tropical fish.

It is therefore necessary to treat the water before it goes into the aquarium. There are many products available to do this, some dechlorinate, and others will also remove heavy metals as well, you can also buy products that will completely condition the water, and adjust the pH.

Maintenance tools

There are lots of little things that you can pick up. Buckets for water changes, nets for removing large debris or catching fish, cleaning tools for cleaning the tank. 

Water changer /gravel cleaner

When gravel is used in the aquarium it will need regular cleaning, this task is made a lot easier with a gravel cleaner. This consists of a length of plastic hose, attached to one end is a plastic cylinder, this is placed in the gravel, whereby gravel is swirled around in the cylinder and the dirty water is drawn through the tube by gravity, and into a bucket for removal, leaving behind the cleaned gravel. Low voltage gravel vacuums are also available, but these are more expensive.

Algae scraper /magnet cleaner

This tool helps to easily remove algae adhering to the inside walls of your aquarium. The scraped algae then can be easily removed from the aquarium by using the previous water changer.  

Optional supplies

Air pump

The primary function of air pumps is to inject air bubbles into the aquarium, and although a cascade of bubbles rising to the surface may have a pleasing effect on the eye, the main reasons for aeration are rather more practical. For instance, to keep the water moving, which aids oxygenation, helps prevent dead spots (pockets of water that don’t get circulated), and aids the removal of harmful gases.

Air pumps vary in size and your choice would be dependent on the number of features you want to run.

Automatic fish feeder

The automatic fish feeder is intended to give food to the fish automatically by releasing the right amount of feed at particular time intervals. The feeder can be fixed to the aquarium, mostly on the top position. A fish feeder is either operated off battery or electricity power. Some can also operate off both power sources.

If you are planning to take a vacation or you plan to be away from home for some time, then you must find a way to make sure that your fish are well fed as you simply cannot neglect them. Your pet fish needs to eat every day or else they will get hungry, but what are you going to do if no one is around at home to care for them? Luckily, there is an answer that is by purchasing an automatic fish feeder.

Lucas has been keeping successful fish, planted, and reef tanks for many years. He loves to collect aquatic organisms and have as many aquariums as he can afford.

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