by Tom Sarac

Nothing quite beats the clarity and visual beauty of a well-maintained aquarium. It’s important to remember, however, that crystal clear aquarium water is the result of a number of essential pieces of equipment, without which your fish will not thrive and your aquarium will always be lackluster and murky.

An aquarium must provide a complete environment for your fish, so it needs to be effectively maintained at all times. Here’s a list of the basic equipment you’ll need to get started!

1. The aquarium

Aquariums can be made of glass or acrylic and come in many shapes, sizes and dimensions. Glass is usually preferable due to its ability to resist scratches. In general, select the largest size aquarium possible to have a more stable environment and a greater choice of fish and plants.

2. A canopy

The surface of the water in your aquarium plays a vital role in the lives of your fish. This is where many of them find their food, and where carbon dioxide is exchanged with oxygen. So, it’s important to protect it carefully! Canopies provide a secure, stable cover that reduces evaporation and contamination, while also providing safe and suitable housing for the aquarium’s lighting system, which is essential for natural plants to grow and fish to thrive.

3. A sturdy base

Aquariums weigh a lot more than you’d think. Water is extremely heavy – roughly 8.3 lbs / 3.8 kg per US Gal. Add to that the weight of the tank itself and other contents like gravel, rocks and ornaments, and you have an item which demands careful planning regarding its position in a room and the furniture used to support it.

A strong aquarium stand is vital, as any uneven support across the base of the tank can prove disastrous. Note that aquariums should only ever be placed on purpose-built aquarium stands. Wrought iron and angle iron stands, TV cabinets, dressers, desks, and other pieces of furniture are not suitable for use with most aquariums. Doing so will immediately invalidate your warranty in most cases.

4. The filtration system

The only way that waste products can be removed from the water in your aquarium is through filtration. Efficient filtration is essential to make sure your aquarium stays clear, clean, and free from toxins. Note that regular partial water changes are still necessary, even with an effective filtration system.

5. A heater

Most fish are cold-blooded, which means their bodies are the same temperature as the water around them. Coldwater fish, like goldfish, do not need a heated environment, but tropical fish need a constant, correct temperature provided by a submersible heater. If the water is not the right temperature, or if it fluctuates wildly throughout the day, your fish can easily become stressed and sick.

6. A thermometer

You’ll need to keep a close eye on the temperature of your water. Choose a thermometer that’s easy to read and suits your aquarium.

7. Test kits and water treatments

Ensure your water parameters are suitable for fish by using water treatments to remove and neutralize chemicals in your tap water, and to establish a population of beneficial, nitrifying bacteria in the aquarium.

  • Water conditioners are specifically formulated to make tap water safe for fish as soon as they are added to the tank.
  • Biological enhancers help prepare the filter for your fish, and establish and maintain the aquarium’s natural biological balance.
  • Biological cleaners break down organic waste, which provides clean, healthy aquarium conditions for fish and other essential life within your aquarium.

At the start and once established, you will need to test your water regularly with test kits.

8. Rocks, gravel and decorations

It’s recommended to buy rocks, ornaments, and gravel that have been specifically selected for use in an aquarium. There’s a large variety to choose from! You can make your aquarium truly unique by combining different textures, shapes and colors of decor elements in various arrangements. Always rinse everything thoroughly before you place it in your aquarium, and note that calcareous sand is only recommended for species of fish that enjoy harder, more mineralized water conditions.

9. Plants

Healthy, thriving live plants are dynamic, beautiful, and they enhance the quality of your water by aiding filtration, absorbing carbon dioxide, and producing oxygen. A wide range of supplements, fertilizers and CO2 systems are available to help make keeping live plants as easy as possible.

Like any pet, keeping fish requires planning, patience and care. Be sure to research as many topics as you can before beginning your fishkeeping journey, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!