10 Must-have Things You Need for a Fish Tank

For a fish tank, essential things include a filter, air pump, heater, and lighting. Besides those water conditioner, water testing kit, maintenance kit like a water changer, and some basic medication will help to combat any issue.

One has to choose the right equipment and accessories to ensure that the fish tank is functional and inhabitable for aquatic life. Selecting a filter can help maintain the water quality by removing debris, and waste, and ensuring bacteria levels are kept in check.

An air pump is necessary to provide oxygen to the aquatic life in the tank. A heater is vital to maintain the right temperature for the fish, and good lighting will promote plant growth and maintain a day/night cycle for fish essential to their well-being. Properly equipping a fish tank is essential to ensure the aquarium’s longevity and provide a healthy home for fish.

A beautifully decorated fish tank
A beautifully decorated fish tank

Setting Up A Fish Tank: What You Need To Know

Setting up a fish tank can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Not only do you get to create a beautiful underwater world, but you also get to care for unique and fascinating creatures.

However, before you start buying fish and decorations, there are a few essential items you need to ensure proper fish tank setup.

Importance Of Proper Setup

Setting up a fish tank requires several essential items that ensure your fish’s health and well-being.

These items include a filter, heater, thermometer, substrate, decorations, and lighting. A proper setup is crucial because it provides a stable and healthy environment for your fish, allowing them to thrive.

Without a proper setup, your fish will suffer from stress, illness, and potentially death.

Choosing The Right Tank Size

The tank size is one of the most critical elements of setting up a fish tank. When selecting a tank, it’s essential to consider the number and size of the fish you plan to keep. The general rule of thumb is that a fish needs one gallon of water for every inch of fish.

However, this guideline is not absolute and depends on the fish’s species and their natural environment. Therefore, it’s important to research each fish’s individual needs to determine the optimal tank size.

Understanding Water Chemistry

Maintaining proper water chemistry is crucial for your fish’s survival and health. The water’s ph, hardness, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels must be within acceptable ranges.

If these levels are not within the appropriate range, your fish can suffer from stress, illness, or death. Regular water changes and testing are essential for ensuring appropriate water conditions.

Fish tank with fish
Fish tank with fish

Selecting The Best Location For Your Tank

The location you choose for your tank can significantly affect the health and well-being of your fish. When determining the location, look for a stable surface that can support the weight of the tank, away from any direct sunlight, drafts, or temperature changes.

Additionally, consider the amount of space you have available and choose a location that will not impede traffic flow or be challenging to access when cleaning or maintaining the tank.

Setting up a fish tank requires careful consideration and planning. You must have the proper equipment, choose the right tank size, maintain appropriate water chemistry, and select the best location for your tank. A proper setup provides the foundation for a healthy and successful aquarium.

The Essential Equipment For Your Fish Tank

Creating a thriving and healthy fish tank requires careful planning and implementation of several key pieces of equipment. Here are the essential items you’ll need to keep your fish happy and healthy:

#1: Filtration System

Sponge filter in an aquarium
Sponge filter in an aquarium

A filtration system is perhaps the most critical component for any fish tank. It helps to remove waste, debris, and toxins from the water to ensure that the environment remains clean and healthy for your fish. Here are some key points to consider when choosing your filtration system:

  • Choose a filter that is appropriate for the size of your tank. A good rule of thumb is to choose a filter that can process the entire volume of your tank at least three to four times per hour.
  • Consider the type of filter you need. There are three many types: canister filter, sponge filter, under gravel filter, internal filter, sump filter, etc.
  • Regularly clean and maintain your filter to ensure that it continues to work efficiently and effectively.

#2: Heater

Aquarium heater in a fish tank
Aquarium heater in a fish tank

A heater is essential for maintaining a stable water temperature in your tank. Most fish species require a consistent temperature, so it’s important to choose a heater that suits the size of your tank and the temperature requirements of your fish.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Choose a heater that is appropriate for the size of your tank.
  • Look for a heater with a built-in thermostat to control the temperature accurately.
  • Place the heater in a spot where the water flow is consistent to ensure even heating throughout the tank.
  • It’s a good idea to keep a spare heater in hand because you never know when the heater in the tank will stop working.

#3: Lighting System

A lighting system is essential for the well-being of your fish and the overall aesthetic of your tank. Here are some key considerations:

  • Choose a lighting system that suits the type of fish you have. Some species require more light than others.
  • Consider the aesthetic of your tank – do you want bright lights or something more subdued?
  • Set a timer to ensure that the lighting schedule remains consistent, as fish can become stressed by sudden changes in light levels.
The lighting system depends on your tank need
The lighting system depends on your tank’s need

#4: Air Pump

An air pump helps to circulate oxygen throughout the tank, which is essential for the health of your fish. Here are some key considerations:

  • Choose a pump that is appropriate for the size of your tank.
  • Determine the appropriate placement of your pump to ensure that it circulates the water effectively.
  • Consider buying a backup air pump in case of equipment failure.

#5: Thermometer

Maintaining a stable temperature is crucial for the well-being of your fish. A thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure that the temperature remains constant. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Choose a thermometer that can accurately read the temperature of your tank.
  • Place the thermometer in an easily readable location.
  • Check the temperature regularly to ensure that it remains stable.

By choosing the right equipment and regularly maintaining it, you’ll be on your way to creating a healthy and thriving fish tank.

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Substrate And Decorations For Your Fish Tank

The substrate and decorations are the key elements in making a fish tank look attractive and provide the perfect environment for your fish. Here are the things you need to know about substrate and decorations for your fish tank.

#6: Gravel And Sand


Gravel and sand are the most common substrate for a fish tank. Here are some key points about them:

  • Use fine gravel that won’t be harmful to your fish.
  • The substrate should be deep enough to allow plants to root.
  • Gravel and sand need to be cleaned on a regular basis.
  • There are different types of substrates also available for better plant growth.

Overall, the substrate in your fish tank adds to the overall aesthetic and is essential to your fish’s well-being. The surface area provided by the substrate works as a growing bed for bacterial colonies.

Take the time to choose the right ones, and your fish will thrive.

Water Treatment & Testing Requirements

#7: Water conditioner

Tap water often contains chlorine, chloramines, heavy metals, and other impurities that can harm your fish. The water conditioner neutralizes these elements, ensuring a safe environment for your aquatic friends.

When to Use a Water Conditioner: Using a water conditioner is crucial when setting up a new tank. Tap water, safe for humans, can be detrimental to fish due to its chemical composition. By adding a conditioner during setup, you create a safe haven for your fish.

Additionally, during water changes or top-ups, using a conditioner is vital. Even small amounts of untreated tap water can harm the delicate ecosystem you’ve established.

Water conditioner for your aquarium
Water conditioner for your aquarium

Choosing the Right Water Conditioner: When selecting a water conditioner, prioritize quality and reliability. Opt for a reputable brand offering comprehensive water treatment. Consider its ability to neutralize chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals, and the inclusion of beneficial components like stress reducers and slime coat protectants.

Seachem Prime is a popular and trusted water conditioner brand. It removes harmful substances from tap water and provides essential vitamins and minerals for your fish. Seachem Prime ensures your fish thrive, offering complete peace of mind. I’m using it for several years, and I also recommend it to you.

#8: Water Testing Kit

Fish, like any living creatures, are highly sensitive to their surroundings. Even slight fluctuations in water parameters can cause stress, illness, or even fatalities among your finned friends.

By conducting regular water tests, you gain a comprehensive understanding of the chemical composition of your tank, enabling you to make informed adjustments and prevent potential crises.

Water testing also serves as an early warning system, alerting you to imbalances that may not be visibly apparent. It allows you to address issues promptly, ensuring a stable and healthy aquatic environment for your fish to thrive in.

Testing water quality
Testing water quality

Choosing the Right Water Testing Product: When it comes to selecting a water testing product, accuracy, ease of use, and reliability are paramount. Look for a comprehensive test kit that covers the essential parameters, including pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.

One highly recommended water testing kit is the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. This all-inclusive kit provides accurate results and covers a wide range of parameters crucial for maintaining a healthy fish tank.

Maintaining Your Fish Tank

Siphoning a fish tank
Siphoning a fish tank

#9: Water Changing Kit

A water-changing kit is designed to simplify the task of removing old water and replacing it with fresh, clean water in your fish tank. It consists of essential components such as a siphon, tubing, and a gravel vacuum, making water changes a breeze.

Water changes also help regulate water parameters such as pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Consistent water quality ensures a stress-free environment for your fish, promoting their overall health and vitality.

Choosing the Right Water-Changing Kit: I highly recommended Python No Spill Clean and Fill kit. This comprehensive kit simplifies the water-changing process with its unique design and efficient functionality.

Its easy-to-use siphon and gravel vacuum attachment make water changes effortless, while the adjustable flow control provides precision and control.

#10: Medication and Cure:

Fish, like any living beings, are susceptible to diseases and health challenges. Factors such as poor water quality, stress, and interactions with other fish can weaken their immune systems, making them more prone to illness. Having basic medication and a cure on hand is quite handy.

Fish diseases can progress quickly, causing discomfort and endangering the entire tank population. With basic medication and a cure on hand, you can respond promptly, providing relief and preventing the further spread of illness.

I use API General Cure, and I used it in my tanks several times. This broad-spectrum medication treats a variety of fish ailments, including bacterial infections, open wounds, and fin rot. Its natural ingredients promote healing and provide relief without harming the beneficial bacteria in your aquarium.

A Few of the Other Things You Need to Have A Complete Coverage

  • Quarantine tank:
    • Used to isolate new fish and observe them for signs of illness or parasites before introducing them to the main tank.
    • Provides a controlled environment for treatment if any health issues arise.
    • Prevents the spread of diseases and protects the existing fish population in the main tank.
  • Aquarium Salt:
    • Adds essential minerals to the water, promoting osmoregulation in fish.
    • Helps fish maintain electrolyte balance and reduce stress.
    • Can be beneficial for certain species that thrive in brackish water environments.
  • Good fish food:
    • Provides a balanced and nutritious diet for fish.
    • Supports healthy growth, vibrant colors, and overall well-being.
    • Helps strengthen the immune system and enhances fish’s resistance to diseases.
  • Algae Remover:
    • Controls and eliminates unsightly algae growth in the tank.
    • Helps maintain water quality and prevents algae from competing with plants for nutrients.
    • Improves the aesthetic appeal of the aquarium, creating a visually pleasing environment.
  • Sturdy Aquarium Stand:
    • Provides a stable and secure platform for the fish tank.
    • Ensures the weight of the tank is evenly distributed, preventing stress on the glass or acrylic.
    • Reduces the risk of accidents or damage to the tank, ensuring the safety of both the fish and the surrounding area.
Snapshot of my community fish tank
Snapshot of my community fish tank

Frequently Asked Questions Of Things You Need For A Fish Tank

What Size Tank Should I Get For My Fish?

The size of your fish tank should depend on the type and number of fish you want to keep. As a general rule, allow for one gallon of water per inch of adult fish. A 20-gallon tank is a good starting point for most beginner fish keepers.

How Often Should I Clean My Fish Tank?

It is recommended to do partial water changes of about 10-15% every week. This helps keep the water clean and healthy for your fish. Every other week, you could also perform a thorough cleaning of the tank, including scrubbing the sides, gravel, and decorations.

What Kind Of Filter Should I Use For My Fish Tank?

There are three main types of filters: mechanical filtration, biological filtration, and chemical filtration. For a beginner, a hang-on-back (hob) filter is a good choice as it is easy to set up and maintain. Make sure to properly size the filter based on the size of your tank.

Can I Use Tap Water For My Fish Tank?

You can use tap water for your fish tank, but it needs to be treated to remove chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals that can harm your fish. Use a water conditioner made specifically for aquarium use to dechlorinate your tap water before filling the tank or doing water changes.

Should I Have A Heater In My Fish Tank?

Most tropical fish require a constant water temperature of around 75-80°F. A heater is necessary to maintain this temperature, especially in colder climates or during winter months. Choose a heater based on the size of your tank and the temperature range required for your specific type of fish.


A fish tank provides unlimited pleasure to its owner, and it’s not as complicated as it sounds. With proper planning and research, you can create an environment that is both beautiful and healthy for your aquatic pets. The journey begins by selecting the appropriate tank size, filter system, and substrate material to maintain an ideal living atmosphere.

Choose decor items and plants that not only look great but also provide shelter and sustain water quality. Proper lighting and heating systems play an essential role in the survival of aquatic life. Remember to maintain a regular cleaning schedule to ensure a healthy environment for your fish.

With these tips, you can create a beautiful, thriving fish tank that will provide you with many years of enjoyment.

Sujit Modak

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