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How to equip with your aquarium?

Before you start shopping for swimmers, pick a tank and set it up so your new pets have a place to come home to. Creating a well-balanced aquatic ecosystem requires special equipment. Without it, the balance between water, waste and gases becomes dangerously skewed and places your precious pets in a dangerous position.

Aquarium Tank

Will you house your fish in a modest ranch-style home or a towering skyscraper? Aquariums come in all shapes and sizes, so pick one that accommodates both the number and size of the fish you'd like to own as well as your pocketbook.

A 30-gallon tank is a good choice because it's large enough for most species and allows slow waste buildup, which means fewer water changes. But don't skimp on quality or you may end up with 30 gallons of water on your living room floor.

Fish breathe oxygen that's dissolved into the surface water, so the broad surface of a short wide tank accommodates more fish than a taller, thinner tank of the same capacity.

Aquarium Stand

You'll want to display your new aquarium on a stand at eye level, where you can watch your little friends swim.

A 30-gallon tank filled with water weighs more than 230 pounds, not including gravel, rocks and other decorations. Select a sturdy, level stand that supports this weight, or your fish may get a crash course in carpet surfing.

Cover and Lighting

A fitted cover can prevent your pets from jumping ship, and most covers accommodate led aquarium lighting  

Besides illuminating the tank and colorful fish, lighting helps plants grow. lighting fixture distributes evenly, gives off less heat, uses less electricity, and comes in full-spectrum modalities. Full-spectrum wavelengths assist plant growth and make your finny friends' colors look more vibrant. Your aquarium needs about 1.5 watts of light per gallon of water, but a standard 40-watt bulb is okay for a 30-gallon tank. Deeper tanks may need more light to penetrate the bottom.

Before you go to bed, don't forget to turn out the lights. Your sleepy swimmers need some downtime, so give them at least 12 hours of darkness. Hooking your light to a timer is a good idea!


Aquarium filters sift debris and provide a home base for good bacteria to break down waste. Most filtration systems accomplish this by pumping water through a foam or floss filter to remove particles and then into a bed of gravel, plastic balls or beads, where nitrifying bacteria convert chemical waste.

You'll need to clean filters periodically to unclog debris. Use only lukewarm water - never soaps or chemicals - to preserve active bacteria. But if you notice hazy water or a water analysis indicates a problem, take action. You can add activated charcoal to your filter to remove fine organic waste or zeolite to absorb ammonia.

Choosing among the countless filters on the market can make your head spin, so consult a knowledgeable aquatics employee if you need help.

Air Pumps

Air pumps circulate water throughout the tank via air bubbles and provide oxygen so fish can breathe.

Pump placement is critical. Position the pump near the top of the aquarium or install anti-siphon devices into the pump tubing. If the pump is located below water level, water can back-siphon into the pump when it's turned off.

Choose the correct pump size for your tank and check its noise output before buying. Nothing ruins the tranquility of your pet's underwater haven like a rumbling pump.


The ocean maintains a consistent temperature and so should your aquarium. Even freshwater fish who experience seasonal and nightly temperature variations need an aquarium heater. Freshwater and marine species enjoy their water at a balmy 75 degrees F, but they'll tolerate 10-degree fluctuations.

Any extreme temperature change puts your pets' health at risk. In hotter climates, fish need more oxygen, but warm water dissolves less oxygen. Cooler water makes fish's immune systems less effective and diminishes their appetites and growth. Maintain a water temperature of 75 to 80 degrees to prevent extremes.

The actual heating device is controlled with an adjustable internal thermostat, and the heater rests in the water or hangs from the aquarium rim. Plan for a heater capacity of two to four watts per gallon of water.

Now that you've got the basics, it's time to pick your tank decorations and let your creativity run wild. Whether you choose a cranky pirate, a flirtatious mermaid or a lavish castle, your finny friends will appreciate the time you spent assembling their underwater paradise.

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