You’ve added an aquarium to your home. Freshwater tanks are relatively easy to care for, but you must gather everything to set it up properly. Keep reading to see our freshwater fish tank supplies list.
Before You Buy Anything
First, plan out your aquarium. You already know you’re creating a freshwater environment, which is excellent. Now you must determine which fish you want to add to your tank.
Only buy fish once the tank is 100% ready. However, it’s a good idea to know which species you want to add later to help you determine the size of your aquarium and what substrate and decor to add.
For example, every fish has different lighting, substrate, decor, water temperature, and more needs. Also, bigger fish will need more space than smaller fish.
Some fish are schooling, so you’ll need to account for how many of each species you’ll need for them to thrive.
In addition, you’ll want to get different species with similar tank needs and temperaments. For example, peaceful community fish won’t do well with aggressive fish.
Once you have a good idea of which fish to add to your community, you can determine how big of a tank you’ll need and what other items might suit it.
Now there’s one last thing you need to do before you buy your supplies: determine where you want to set up your aquarium in your home.
Clear a space in whatever room you want to put in your house. Ensure the area doesn’t get too much direct sunlight, it’s near an outlet or two, and you have easy access to a sink for water changes.
When you buy your aquarium, you won’t need to store it anywhere. You can still put it in its spot even if you don’t set it up immediately.
You’re finally ready to check out our freshwater fish tank supplies list.
Freshwater Aquarium Setup Supplies
There are some fish tank accessories you’ll need to get immediately and others you can buy later. If you’re looking to take your time buying supplies, this brief list is what you’ll want to get first. After that, you can get everything else later while you wait for the aquarium to establish itself.
This item is the most obvious, so it’s number one on the list. You can’t set up a freshwater community without a proper fish tank.
Now, aquariums come in all shapes, sizes, and types. So, which one should you choose?
Fish tanks can come in plastic, glass, or acrylic. Plastic tanks are becoming obsolete, but you can still find them. Some people have set up plastic bins for their fish tanks, which works but isn’t ideal.
The most popular type of aquarium is glass because it’s sturdy and clean.
However, acrylic tanks are popular because they’re sturdier than glass and won’t shatter. They’re lighter, too, so they’re perfect for households with young kids or rambunctious pets.
Since glass is the most common tank, you’re more likely to find more glass aquariums rather than acrylic.
The many shapes look cool and unique, but some aren’t practical. You need to think about your fish and what they would be most comfortable in.
Rectangle tanks are ideal. They can be tall or wide, giving your fish plenty of room. They’re also more manageable for you to place somewhere in your house.
However, there are bowls, cylinders, and hexagon tanks. Unfortunately, none are practical since they typically come in smaller sizes.
Bowls are an unfit environment for any fish. However, sphere or cylinder tanks can be okay for certain fish depending on the size.
Rectangular tanks are standard and allow the most space for your community.
Aside from bowls, which you should steer clear of, the smallest tank you can get is about 2.5 gallons. The largest can be over 150 gallons.
Your size will depend on which fish you want to fill in your tank and how much space you have in your home.
Remember, the bigger, the better.
Once you have your fish tank, it’s time to pick out an aquarium stand. You may or not need this, depending on your tank’s size. If you have a table or dresser that you plan on putting your tank on, that’s fine too.
However, an aquarium stand is built to hold fish tanks. They’re solid and sturdy to hold gallons upon gallons of water. They’ll also have shelves and cabinets built within them to keep all your tank maintenance supplies.
Most tanks will come with the cover, but some only include the aquarium. If you get the basic tank, you’ll want a cover.
Measure your tank, and you buy a hood separately or a glass lid. Fish can jump out of the water; if you have snails or crabs, they’ll have no problem climbing out if there’s no cover to stop them.
No matter how big or small your aquarium is, you need a good filtration system. A filter will help keep the water clean and maintain the water cycle within the tank for you. In a nutshell, it keeps the water and fish healthy.
There are many types of filters, such as hang-on-back, sponge, canister, and so much more.
Different types of filtration come into play here, too: biological, mechanical, and chemical. Only some filters will do all three filtration systems.
Once you choose what filtration system you need and decide on a type of filter, be sure to get the appropriate size.
For example, if you have a 20-gallon tank, you’ll need a filter that filters through at least 80 gallons per hour (GPH). If unsure, it’s always best to go for a bigger GPH flow rate.
Optional: Airline Tubing And Air Pump
Some filters, such as a sponge filters, require an air pump and airline tubing to work properly. These are often sold separately, so it’s an added cost and setup.
Whether you need one for your filter or not, you can still get airline tubing, an air pump, and an air stone to create bubbles in the tank. This adds more flow to the water’s surface, cycling more oxygen throughout the tank.
In most cases, the lighting will come with the aquarium, or it will come with the tank’s cover. But you can buy separate lighting, depending on your fish communities needs. You can get many different types of lighting, such as:
- Metal Halide
- Mercury Vapor
LED lights are becoming more popular. This is because they don’t heat the water or use too much electricity. In addition, they last much longer.
Remember that fish species prefer different lighting, so research to ensure the lights aren’t too much for your fish.
Aquarium Heater And Thermometer
The water temperature needs to be appropriate for your fish as well. Since this is a freshwater tank, most fish prefer the temperature to be between 65° F and 80° F. However, every species is different. You’ll need to find the sweet spot among all your fish to keep the tank well-heated.
Most heaters have an automatic feature that will raise the temperature to whatever you want and then shut off. For example, setting the heater to 78° F will heat the water to that temperature and shut off once it reaches 78°. If the water dips below 78°, the heater will turn back on to raise the temperature again.
Buy a thermometer to put inside the tank always to know the correct temperature. This is useful to know in case the heater ever breaks.
Once you’ve set up, it’s time to fill your tank. You can get fine sand or smooth gravel. For a freshwater tank, gravel is preferred. Gravel comes in many colors, so choose whichever you like. Rinse the gravel well before placing it inside the tank.
Decorations And Plants
Here’s the really fun part: you can decorate the inside of your tank however you want. Decor pieces come in many shapes and sizes. You can have colorful rainbows and mermaids or get a giant sunken ship with a treasure chest.
Decorate the aquarium however you want, but provide what your fish needs. For example, plants are ideal. You can buy artificial plants, but most are made with plastic that scratches your fish.
Live plants are ideal and will help with the overall environment of the water.
You’ll also want to provide rocks, caves, or driftwood for plenty of hiding places. Some fish are shy, and some prefer to have more shade than others.
Now that you have the tank, there’s still more to buy. You can’t add fish to your aquarium just yet, since you need to let your filter work to establish a healthy environment. Even though you don’t have fish, you must care for the water. Here are some maintenance supplies you’ll need to keep the tank clean and healthy before and after you add fish.
Aquarium Test Strips
Aside from being at the right temperature, the water must also be clean and free of chemicals and metals, often found in untreated tap water. To ensure the filter works well, you should have test strips to check the water before and after water changes.
Aquarium test strips test the water for pH, Nitrate, Nitraite, and Ammonia. The pH levels should be within a specific range that the species prefer. For instance, some fish can handle a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0, while others can handle up to 8.0.
The ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels should always remain at zero. However, these levels may fluctuate while the tank is still getting established.
After a few weeks of the filter working, test the water. Once the levels are steady for about a week, you can buy fish for the tank.
As previously mentioned, tap water has chemicals and metals that aren’t good for your fish. Therefore, you’ll need to treat the water when doing a water change, adding fish to the tank, or treating fish for disease.
Water conditioner gets rid of these metals. API has always worked well for our tanks, but Seachem is another great brand.
Siphon (Gravel Vacuum)
To keep the tank clean, you’ll want to perform partial water changes once every week or every two weeks, depending on how well your aquarium is doing. A siphon is the easiest way to get the water out.
You can also get gravel vacuums, which is also a siphon. You can suck out the water while vacuuming the gravel. The gravel won’t get sucked into the tubing, but the excess food and fish waste hiding under the substrate will be cleaned.
Having a cleaning bucket on hand is also a good idea. You can get these at your local pet store in the aquarium section. They often hold two to three gallons, so you can siphon the water out directly into the bucket before dumping it.
Buy a new bucket that’s specifically used for your fish tank. Do not use your mop bucket because soap and chemical residue will be inside, harming your fish.
Algae can build up on the glass walls, making it hard to see the pretty environment. Before every water change, if algae are on the tank, take your scrubber and scrape it off into the water. Then, do your water change, so you siphon the algae out.
Finally, you’ll need some other supplies or your tank. This list is more so to help keep your fish and plants healthy and thrive in their environment.
Fish nets come in a few different lengths, so be sure to get one that fits your tank, so you’re not sticking your entire arm in the water. If you need to remove fish for any reason, this is where a fish net would come in handy.
Having at least two nets on hand is always a good idea if one breaks.
We put fish food on the list even though it’s obvious. Once your tank is well established, you must have high-quality food. Most fish are omnivores and need protein-rich food. Some enjoy live food.
If you have bottom feeders, they have specific pellets to ensure they get nutrients. Also, if you have algae eaters, there are algae wafers you can buy to ensure they get nutrients as well.
If you have live plants in your aquarium, they’ll need proper care, too. You can buy plants their conditioner to ensure they thrive well.
This item is just for fun and completely optional. You can buy backdrops to stick outside the back of your aquarium. These backgrounds often showcase underwater themes, giving your tank a different vibe.
Add Fish And Enjoy
Once you have everything you need and your tank is well established, you can add fish to your aquarium. First, let your tank run for a few weeks to ensure it’s running fine. Then, add no more than three to five fish at a time to ensure they’re comfortable in their new home.
Rachel Poli is a content writer and author, but her real job is being a stay-at-home pet mom. Her zoo currently consists of a dog, a cat, two turtles, and two fish tanks. She’s also an avid pet sitter for a few local families, caring for various animals.
After realizing how little information there is for pet sitters on the internet, Rachel decided to start her own animal website. She strives to educate pet parents and pet sitters about the overall care of our furry friends.