Beginner's Complete Aquarium Checklist

Reef fish in a saltwater aquarium

Fish are frequently seen as easy-care pets. Although it's true that fish often don't need much care or attention, setting up an aquarium may be a lot bigger task than people realize. It is advisable to understand as much as you can before buying any creatures to place in the aquarium since an unclean aquarium might be fatal to fish. You may find a helpful checklist and thorough descriptions of everything to consider before purchasing your first aquarium below.

Aquarium Supplies Checklist

  • Algae scrubber
  • Aquarium
  • Decorations/plants
  • Filtration system
  • Fishnet
  • Heater
  • Hood/lid
  • Light
  • Reference book(s)
  • Stand
  • Substrate
  • Test kit: ammonia
  • Test kit: nitrite
  • Test kit: pH

  • Water bucket: 5 gallon
  • Water conditioner

Essential Supplies


Though bigger is preferable, take into consideration the space you have available. For a dorm room, a 55-gallon tank is not feasible. A 20-gallon tank may be placed practically anywhere, though. Shorter, longer tanks are preferable over tall, narrow tanks because they offer greater swimming room and surface area for air exchange. Although many people prefer glass aquariums, acrylic tanks are better for use in homes with children since they weigh less and won't break. Keep in mind that acrylic tanks need support all the way around the bottom, not just at the sides.


Aquariums are hefty; allow 10 pounds for every gallon of water capacity. Typically, a particle board bookshelf is not strong enough to support anything larger than a little aquarium. Use an actual aquarium stand made to support an aquarium's weight only. If the aquarium is not set up on the right aquarium stand, the majority of aquarium warranties are null and invalid. If you are skilled with a hammer and saw, there are blueprints for building your own stand.

Lid or Hood

Tanks can be purchased with a lid that is sold separately from the light or with a "hood" that combines the lid and light. Fish cannot leap out of the tank since the lid piece covers the tank. Additionally, it lessens evaporation and guards against the light getting wet. When the lid and light are integrated, plastic is frequently used since it is lighter, less costly, and less likely to shatter. Glass lids are more hygienic, offer a tighter cover, and let in more light from the outside.


It's possible to buy the separately even though it's frequently included with the lid. In addition to incandescent and halogen lighting alternatives, there are also fluorescent, mercury vapor, metal halide, and Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs. The fluorescent light is a wonderful alternative for a novice since it is significantly cooler and has lower operating expenses. The best option is the LED lights, which are more widely accessible and are the greatest option since they use less power than other bulbs, are less expensive to run, and don't heat the water. If the bulb isn't already included with the light fixture, be sure you buy one. Otherwise, check to see if it is.

Filtration System

A crucial component of machinery is the filtering system. Get the greatest filter you can afford to ensure that the water is pure to maintain the health of the fish. Despite the wide variety of forms, a power filter with a biowheel system is strongly advised. The filter's size needs to match the aquarium's dimensions. Pick a filter whose flow rate will allow it to filter the water in your tank at least four times every hour. For instance, a filter for a 20-gallon tank has to have a flow rate of at least 80 gallons per hour (GPH). Always switch to a greater flow rate when it's close to it. Canister filters are the best type of filter for larger aquariums.


Each type of fish has a preferred temperature range for preserving health. The majority of fish need a temperature between 74 and 77 degrees F. You'll need a heater unless the temperature in your home always stays in that range. are available as submersible or hang-on-the-tank types, and they may have a numerical setting or just an up and down setting. Choose a submersible with a setting that has numbers. Although it will cost more, they are worthwhile. According to a general guideline, smaller tanks should use 5 watts per gallon of power, while larger tanks should use 3 watts per gallon. The wattage required, however, is influenced by the ambient temperature; colder regions could require more watts per gallon. Instead of using one huge heater for aquariums larger than 40 gallons, it is a good idea to purchase two smaller heaters and place one at either end of the aquarium. Better heat dispersion throughout the aquarium is achieved as a result.


The stick-on thermometers with liquid crystals are affordable, simple to read, and often accurate enough for everyday usage. Choose a thermometer that goes in the water if you intend to breed fish or keep sensitive fish.


The aquarium's bottom is lined with this material. Small, smooth, dark-colored gravel is often preferred. For every gallon of water, get one pound of gravel. Before adding the gravel to the aquarium, rinse it.


Select a sturdy, medium-sized net. Get two nets, much better. Two nets make it simpler to catch fish, and it's always a good idea to keep a second net on hand. You never know when one of your nets can get torn or disappear. To avoid having to dip your hand into the water while collecting fish in a big aquarium, handle length should be appropriate to aquarium size.

Maintenance Supplies

Water Conditioner

Before fish may be put to the aquarium without danger, the tap water must be dechlorinated unless it has been aged. Select a that can handle heavy metals, ammonia, and chlorine. When filling the tank and performing your routine monthly water changes, it should be added to the tap water.

Test Kits

Testing the water in a brand-new aquarium is essential. At the very least, you ought to have testing kits for ammonia, nitrite, and pH. There are further tests for nitrate, hardness, alkalinity, and chlorine. As long as you follow the manufacturer's instructions and store the multi-test strips properly, they will work. In-tank testing monitors have gained popularity recently. These are mounted against the tank wall within the aquarium and continually check the water chemistry. Take care to replenish these items on a regular basis because they often only last a month or two. The key to keeping aquarium fish healthy is to maintain correct water quality.


For water changes and vacuuming gravel, a siphon tool is required. There are basic siphons that use gravity and more complex ones that employ the water pressure from your faucet. The tap run types are more simpler to use to drain and then refill water, so if you can afford it, get those. Using gravel vacuums makes it much simpler to perform monthly water changes. As they remove water during the partial water change, they clean the waste from the tank's bottom. When refilling the aquarium with tap water, remember to add dechlorinator.

Algae Scrubber

Algae will inevitably grow in an aquarium—that is a fact of life. An essential piece of equipment is an algae pad or scraper. The algae magnet is still another choice. This eliminates the need for you to put your hand inside the aquarium by allowing you to use a magnet outside to remove algae from the inside of the glass. The added cost is justified by the convenience.

Water Bucket

Everyone has one, right? Yes, but the residue may be fatal to fish if it included soap or other pollutants. Get a brand-new one that will only be used for aquarium care. Use an indelible marker to clearly mark the bucket "For Aquarium Use Only" for security.

Reference Books

Purchase one or two excellent all-purpose aquarium reference books to complete the set. An excellent choice for seasoned fish keepers is a fish atlas. You may learn more about the natural habitat, life cycle, and breeding habits of the fish species you've decided to maintain in your aquarium from these sources.


Depending on your particular preferences, your aquarium's decorations will differ. Do you want divers and mermaids? Shipwrecks? How about creating the appearance of an ocean coral reef or using caverns and natural rock work? Using ornamental things from your neighborhood fish market, you may do all of them. Before putting anything to your aquarium, including pebbles, wood, or other design pieces, be sure everything is safe for the fish and has been completely cleaned. Fish will feel more at ease in a tank that has rockwork caves or other decor with large holes since many fish want to have a place to hide, especially while resting.

One of the most ornamental additions to an aquarium is a plant, which also serves a practical purpose. Live plants contribute oxygen and aid in the removal of carbon dioxide from the water. Fish can hide in them, while herbivorous animals can eat them for nourishment. For an aquarium's natural appearance without the electricity and upkeep that real plants require, plastic plants are also an option.
  • How do you soften aquarium water?

    There are several techniques to soften aquarium water. An explanation first Calcium, magnesium carbonate, and other dissolved minerals are found in hard water. The amount of certain minerals is decreased, which softens the water.

    The simplest solution to solve the issue is to remove some of the aquarium's water and replace it with rainwater if testing strips have revealed that the water needs to be softened. Repeat the test. Continue until you get the desired softness.

    A water softening pillow, which has components that filter out minerals, is another method for softening water. Adding peat moss to your aquarium's filter is another option because it aids with mineral filtration. For your aquarium, you may also have reverse osmosis tanks that can soften the water.

  • How do you clean an aquarium?

    Aquariums must be cleaned weekly: change out the water, use your aquarium vacuum to clean the gravel, and give decorative items a good rinse in the sink.

  • When should you do the first water change for an aquarium?

    Once the tank is set up and before you stock it with fish, change 25 percent of the water weekly.


"Aquarium Water Quality: Sources of Water. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer.", "Healthy Pets, Healthy People: Fish. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." ;