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Freshwater Aquarium Setup

Freshwater Aquarium Setup

Essentials & Accessories

All freshwater aquariums require similar basics – a good tank, a solid stand, quality accessories and maintenance tools. But to determine which kind of what items you need, first consider the aquatic life you want to keep. Freshwater fish come in all shapes and sizes with wide ranging requirements for their living conditions. Betta fish prefer smaller tanks with almost no current while Oscar cichlids need lots of room to grow and can swim in water with low currents. Understanding the needs of the fish you want will make choosing your tank essentials and accessories that much easier.

Aquarium Furniture – tanks & stands

The size of your tank depends on a lot of different factors: how much space do you have, how much weight can you manage (a gallon of water weighs nearly 9 lbs.), and most importantly what kind of aquatic life you want to keep. If your only limiting factor is fish type, remember that most freshwater fish require at least one gallon for every adult inch they are long; some species like goldfish require more. Talk to an aquatic specialist to make sure your tank is large enough to accommodate your fish.

Furniture Type Description
Desktop tanks
  • Compact design and footprint
  • Ideal for a limited number of small fish
  • May include built-in filter and/or light
Standard aquariums
  • Small, medium and large tanks available
  • Larger tanks requires strong stands for support
  • Glass or acrylic
Kits
  • Includes tank and at least one of the following: filter, hood, lamp, start-up conditioner, food
  • Filtration and lighting may be built into the system
  • Great for first-time aquarists
Stands
  • Made with wood, metal or both
  • Reinforced designs to hold up heavy tanks
  • May include supply shelves
Cabinets
  • Stands designed with closed cabinet and shelves for storage
  • Discreetly hides food and maintenance equipment
  • Available in a variety of sizes to suit different aquariums
Canopy/Cabinet Combo
  • Two-piece set for large aquariums
  • Cabinet holds supplies or equipment
  • Canopies frame tank and allow access to waterline

Hoods & Lighting

Lights brighten your tank so you can enjoy your fish throughout the day. If you want a planted tank, you may prefer certain types of lights over others. Some kits include hoods and lamps, but you can always customize your own setup with different light fixtures and bulbs.

Hood & Lighting Type Description
Hood
  • Covers tank to prevent fish escapes and evaporation
  • Often designed to house lights or bulbs
  • Adjustable designs available
Fluorescent bulb
  • Most popular aquarium lighting choice
  • Great for most freshwater aquariums
  • Come in a wide variety of spectrums
  • Some versions ideal for planted aquariums
Halide bulb
  • Ideal for planted aquariums
  • May produce excess heat
  • Requires special fixtures for proper use
Stands
  • Made with wood, metal or both
  • Reinforced designs to hold up heavy tanks
  • May include supply shelves
LED lamp
  • Typically longest lifespan of aquarium lighting systems
  • More energy efficient
  • May allow for light color customization
Incandescent bulb
  • Inexpensive lighting option
  • Easily found and replaceable
  • Uses more electricity and produces more heat compared to other bulb types

Filters & Media

Filters are key to keeping your tank clean and healthy. Determining the size of your tank and the needs of your fish will help you decide what filter system to get. More powerful filters are great for larger tanks, while smaller tanks or more delicate fish may require a less powerful filter.

Filter Type Description
Canister filter
  • External filter system with a variety of mounting and installation options
  • Powerful pump for large aquariums
  • Three-stage filtration media can be replaced separately
Power Filters
  • Standard over-the-edge tank filters
  • Available in a variety of sizes
  • Replace filter media as needed
Filter Media
  • Mechanical filters strain debris, waste, uneaten food, etc.
  • Biological filters foster healthy bacteria that break down ammonia and nitrites
  • Chemical filters remove toxins that cause odor and water discoloration

Climate Control

Freshwater fish have all different tolerances for water temperature. Some like it tropically warm, and some like it cool. And it's not just a matter of preference – their environment impacts their health and behavior. Learn about the type of fish you want to keep and what their ideal water temperature is. A thermometer and the right equipment can help you keep your fish happy and healthy.

Equipment Description
Thermometer
  • Helps you monitor water temperature
  • In-tank or external options available
  • Digital options available
Heater
  • Helps regulate tank temperature
  • External and submersible heating options available
  • Ideal for tropical tanks or cool climates
  • Adjustable thermostats offer precise temperature control
Chiller
  • Ideal for coldwater tanks or warm climates
  • Typically used for larger tanks
  • Expensive piece of equipment

Maintenance & Accessories

Keep your aquarium in ship shape with these tank essentials.

Equipment Description
Air pump systems
  • Oxygenates and circulates water
  • Create a stream or curtain of bubbles
  • Connect powered pumps to air stone with airline tubing and check valve to prevent backflow
Gravel vacuum
  • Cleans waste and detritus from substrate
  • Change water while you clean
  • Variety of sizes available to suit your tank
Algae pads
  • Cleans algae and other deposits on tank walls
  • Specially made to not damage tanks
  • Pads available for both glass and acrylic tanks
Net
  • Makes moving aquatic life easy
  • Designed to safely catch aquatic life
  • Various sizes available to suit your aquatic life and tank
Test kits
  • Measures pH, ammonia, nitrate and more
  • Provides a snapshot of the health of your aquarium
  • Scientifically accurate and easy to use

Water Additives

Water right out of the tap isn't ready to go into your tank. Conditioners, dechlorinators, beneficial bacteria and more help to transform your water into a fish-safe environment.

Additive Description
Algae removers
  • Helps to control algae blooms
  • Keeps water clean and clear
Beneficial bacteria
  • Provides tanks with healthy live bacteria
  • Supports natural processes like waste breakdown and tank cycling
Chlorine & heavy metal removers
  • Neutralizes harmful chlorine from tap water
  • Use when starting tank or preparing for water changes
Ammonia & chloramine removers
  • Neutralizes harmful ammonia and chloramine from tank water
  • Condition water for new tanks or water changes
Live plant additives
  • Promotes growth in planted aquariums
  • May include fertilizers and nutrients
pH conditioners
  • Increases or decreases tank water pH
  • Ideal for fish that prefer slightly acidic or alkaline water
Clarifiers
  • Eliminates causes of cloudy water
  • Conditions tank water

Décor

When all the essentials are in place, it's time to add the bells and whistles. Decorate your tank with ornaments, silk plants, backgrounds and substrate of all colors to create a completely unique look for your aquarium inhabitants.

Décor Type Description
Resin, rock & driftwood ornaments
  • Wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors and designs
  • Can provide hideaways or cover for fish
  • Provides interest and enrichment for fish
Artificial Plants
  • Plastic and silk fish-safe plants
  • Creates a more natural look without the maintenance requirements of live plants
  • Wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors
Backgrounds
  • Adheres to the back wall of tank
  • Choose from natural or fun scenes
  • Gives the impression of depth and texture
Gravel & Substrate
  • Variety of textures, shapes and colors
  • Provides a surface for beneficial bacteria to colonize
  • Sand, gravel and artificial substrates available