Basic Equipment & Supplies

The Essential Suppies for a healthy aquarium.

example of aquarium


After deciding on the size of your aquarium, there are a few other essential equipment to run and maintain a healthy aquarium.

There are a few options for aquarium filters. There are hang on the back filters, which just as the name suggests, hangs on the back of the aquarium. Canister filters are larger filters that are larger filters and are set beside or under the aquarium in the stand or cabinet. Another option is the sponge filter, which is a sponge with an air hose attached and filters the water inside the aquarium. All three types of filters are efficient, however, each one works differently in a sense.

A sponge filter is the perfect choice for hospital aquariums, nano aquariums, shrimp aquariums or fry grow out aquariums. Hang on the back filters, are excellent filters for aquariums. Hang on the back filters can literally go on any size aquarium up to 75 gallons. Anything over 75 gallons will have better options for filtering such as canister filter or refugiums. Canister filters are probably the best of the filters, but also can be on the more costly side. Canister filters are generally have more power and filtering abilities due to the more media inside the canister.

Do not go cheap on your filter choice. The filter acts like the heart, kidneys, liver of the aquarium. The filter removes the harmful and toxic factors from your aquarium and cleanses and purifies your water. Choose a filter that is a little larger than the size of your aquarium. It is better to over filter than to under filter your water.

Lighting is a multifunctional piece of equipment for your aquarium. After setting up your aquarium and making it look amazing, a light will showcase your hardwork and show off your beautfully designed underwater world. Propery lighting will provide your fish with the natural cycle of day and night. This light cycle will play a role in breeding. If you have decided to have a live planted aquarium, proper lighting will ensure the growth of the plants.

There are basically two types of lighting for your aquarium. Fluorescent and LED lighting, both have their pros and cons. Fluorescent lighting provides good intensity and produces very little heat. LED lights provide low heat and provide almost realistic sunlight and are more energy efficient. LEDs have come a long way since the first LED lights came out and can be programmed to simulate the natural light cycle by slowly fading in and out during the day. This prevents your fish from being startled first thing in the morning. LED lights designed especially for planted aquariums will make your plants grow beautifully and create a stunning ecosystem for your fish. LED lighting is really the best choice when it comes to lighting your aquarium, both for fish only aquariums and planted aquariums. There are many choices in LED lighting, just look for the best that you can afford and what is right for your aquarium.


Depending on where you live, you may not need a heater. If you live in an area that stays 72° and above, you most likely will not need a heater. If you live in a climate is less than 72°, you should probably invest in a heater. Freshwater aquarium temperatures can range from 74° to 86°, depending on the type of fish.

Substrate is the foundation of the aquarium. Aquarium substrate is not just an aesthetic component for your aquarium or something to just toss in your aquarium and forget about. Substrate plays a vital role in the balancing of your aquarium. The major role in the substrate of an aquarium is that the substrate is the largest home to the beneficial bacteria. The substrate, with all its porous areas, provides the perfect areas for the beneficial bacteria to grow. The more beneficial bacteria in your aquarium, the healthier your aquarium. But which substrate is the correct one for your aquarium? There are lots of options, so let us go through some of the more popular choices. The main choices for substrates are gravel, sand, crushed coral and soil.

Gravel substrate is probably the first thought of and most popular substrate. As kids, we all probably had the brightly colored confetti gravel in a bowl for a goldfish. This type of gravel comes in a wide variety of sizes and natural and unnatural colors. For most aquariums, gravel is a good choice. It is relatively inexpensive, aesthetically pleasing, and serves the purpose. However, there are exceptions for using this type of gravel in an aquarium. Some fish are bottom dwellers and will burrow into the substrate and some will shift through the substrate to eat and gravel can damage them; some fish like goldfish, will sometimes “suck” up food on the substrate and can inhale the gravel, causing them to choke and die. Larger gravel can also cause food to collect and affect the water parameters. Natural gravel is generally safer over the dyed gravel as it is safe for fish. Dyed gravel can gradually release dyes and chemicals causing an unpleasant situation for your fish.

Sand is a substrate that some love and some hate. Sand is loved for its aesthetically pleasing and clean look, easier to keep the bottom of the aquarium cleaner, and great for bottom dwellers and plants. If a finer grain sand or play sand is used, it can wreak havoc on the filter and the life of your fish. Let me explain. If the grain of the sand is very fine, when you go to clean your aquarium or move something around and disturb the sand, the sand gets into the filter and into the propeller and can stop the filter from working properly. If you have fish in the aquarium when the sand is disruptive, it can clog the fish’s gills and cause them to suffocate. Too thick of a layer of sand in your aquarium can over time cause the sand to become compacted and form anaerobic pockets that kill your aquarium.

Crushed coral is not as commonly used in freshwater aquariums unless the aquarium setup is for cichlids or brackish water aquariums. Crushed coral hardens water and raises the pH. For most freshwater aquariums, this is not something needed as tropical fish prefer lower pH and softer water.

Substrates for planted aquariums are a little more complex than just regular substrate for an aquarium, but not in a bad way. When building the substrate for a planted aquarium, the substrate needed will be used for not only providing housing for the beneficial bacteria, but also supporting the life of the plants. There are basically two types of substrates for planted aquariums.

There are clay based substrates such as CaribSea Eco-Complete and Seachem's Flourite. These are clay based substrates that have iron and minerals in an oxidized form and will last pretty much forever.

Then there are the aquasoils. Aquasoils are soils that have been developed for planted aquariums. These soils are rich in minerals and are usually layered to provide a healthy substrate for plants. Some soils will raise the ammonia during the initial aquarium set up, which is great for cycling and then come down after the aquarium has cycled.

Clay based substrates and the aquasoils both have their pros and cons. It will really just depend on which you are comfortable with and can afford.

There are three tools that are essential for planted aquariums. They are the scissors, the spatula, and the forceps. The spatula is ideal for smoothing out the substrate. The scissors, straight, curved, double wave, and these are ideal for trimming your plants. The different types of scissors work at different levels and angles in the aquarium. Forceps are perfect for planting into the substrate.

Plant Fertilizers and Suppliments

In a planted aquarium, the substrate and good lighting are only two of the three factors in growing plants in an aquarium. Aquatic plants just like garden plants, need to be fertilized with nutrients to really thrive. Plant fertilizers provide the macronutrients and micronutrients to help your plants thrive. There are several fertilizers specially formulated to help your plants thrive and are very easy to add during your regular aquarium maintenance.