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By choosing the right kind of aquarium, equipment, plants, decorations and optional accessories we lay the basis for the healthy conditions in our fish tanks. It is up to us the hobbyist to set up the closed environment in such a way that our fish can thrive.

This section will cover all the basics of setting up your aquarium in order to reach your goal.



    If you plan on keeping Tropical fish, an aquarium heater is necessary even in a heated room. Automatic heaters with built in thermostats that turn the heater on and off in response to changes in water temperature are the best. There are three basic types.

  1. Rod type heaters
    These heaters attach vertically to the wall of the aquarium. They can either be submersible or not. They are adjusted by a dial that is located on the top. Never submerse a heater that does not say it can be.

  2. Bottom heaters
    These heaters use cables attached to the bottom of the tank before the substrate is added. They have the advantage of being invisible and are excellent for plant tanks. They usually require a separate temperature sensor and are quite expensive.

  3. Thermofilters
    These are a filter with a built in heating element. They too are invisible, but are very expensive.

Heater capacity

    Two watts of power per gallon of tank size is usually sufficient at normal room temperatures of 66 degrees F. to 72 degree F, for cooler rooms increase the capacity to 4 watts per gallon. If you live in a cooler climate and go away make sure you leave your house heat set at a temperature that aquarium heater will be able to handle.




    Every tank should have some sort of thermometer in order to read the temperature inside the tank. These are usually the stick-on type that come in different styles and ranges, there are also floating glass types.


    Air Pumps, One of the first devices made for use in the aquarium still continue to play an important part in aquarium keeping. No longer a necessity, Air pumps today can be used as a source of supplemental water circulation and Oxygen supply. Rising bubbles agitate the water surface and help in the gas exchange of carbon dioxide and other harmful chemicals. Air pumps can be used to power the vast array of aquarium ornaments from the the opening and closing clam and treasure chest to the free flying UFO and scuba divers. A more laid back use would be to power an airstone or bubble wall and in Salt water the low end Protein skimmer. There are battery operated air pumps which can used in the case of a power failure or on long collecting trips.


    In Conjunction with the air pump there are two kinds of valves to use, Gang valves and check valves.

    • Gang valves are used as a distribution center for the air produced by the pump, they come in sets of one to five and any number can be combined. Each unit will have a small dial which allows you to regulate the amount of air flow through it, you must have an air pump that is capable of handling the amount of air lines you have or the air flow will be lessened and of no use to you. Gang Valves come in either Brass or Plastic, with Brass being my choice for strength and longevity.

    • Check valves should be used on every pump installation. They prevent water from back siphoning down the air line and into the pump during power failures and accidental unplugging and burn-outs. It is possible to drain an entire aquarium through the air line as well as cause permanent damage to the pump. Check valves are installed after the pump outlet and before any gang valves and is a matter of simply cutting the tubing and placing the valve "in line".


    Air stones come in many shapes and sizes and can be made of plastic, wood, glass and other materials. There are long and slender ones called walls or wands and can be used to "bubble the entire back of the aquarium. Air stones not only come in different sizes they also come with different bubble sizes. Fine bubbles are used mostly in Protein skimmers, for their ability to scrub the water. Air stones must be sized to the right size air pump to work properly. Many things affect the size pump needed to power Airstones, such as the depth of the tank, size of the Air stone, size of the bubbles and the the number of stones to be used.


    Power heads are small versatile water pumps that were designed for use with the under-gravel filter. They replace the air stone at the bottom of each lift tube and mount to the top, greatly increasing the water flow through the gravel. Some can be used as "reverse flow" pumps which force water through the gravel from the bottom to the top. Today we use power heads for increased circulation, as a source of power for protein skimmers, water pumps for wet-dry sumps and for just about anything that requires water flow. A very useful Item to have on hand.


The following will be a list of other items that are useful to have around when you maintain an aquarium.

    A must for maintaining water quality see the Test Kit page.

  • NETS
    1. Small
    2. Large

    Use only fine mesh nets designed for aquarium use.

    You can never have enough.

    Used to turn off and on your lights. Available at any hardware store.

    Used to plug in all your electrical wires and they come with a build in circuit breaker.

    Magnets or some other type cleaner to clean the Algae off the inside of the tank.

    Used in water changes, with the large end you can clean the gravel every time you do your partial water changes.