Freshwater Aquarium Equipment Checklist

When you decide to set up a freshwater aquarium, your main concern apart from your fish is getting a proper home, which means equipment. You need equipment kits for various reasons like maintaining the water quality, a healthy environment, decorating your tank, monitoring sudden changes in your tank, and so on. So, in today’s article, I am going to guide you on the freshwater aquarium equipment checklist that are essential to set up a proper tank.

All freshwater aquariums require basic yet similar types of equipment – a good-sized tank, a solid stand, maintaining tools, and other accessories. Various aquarium gadgets are available in pet stores, some are very essential, some might be useful for specific applications or purpose and some add no value to your aquarium. Equipping your tank can cost anywhere from $150 to $200 for decent equipment.

Small fish like betta need a smaller tank with no current while bigger fish like Arowana and other cichlids need a lot of room to grow, swim with water movement. In the following article, I have listed basic and the most important freshwater aquarium equipment checklist that you require before setting up your aquarium.

Freshwater Aquarium Equipment Checklist


Freshwater Aquarium Equipment Checklist

You can find aquariums in different shapes and sizes, and you can even customize your tank. However, there are certain standard dimensions you need to find in any tank. Size, shape, weight and location placement of the aquarium are the most important factors you need to keep in mind.

There are two types of tanks you can find in the market: Acrylic aquarium and Glass aquarium. The Acrylic aquarium is cheaper and lighter in terms of weight. However, unlike the glass aquarium, it requires support all the way up.

If you happen to be a beginner, avoid tanks that are smaller in capacity. The minimum requirement is a 20-gallon tank. It is comparatively spacious, provides more surface area for the exchange of air and is stable.

Your fish-tank must be of at least 20 Gallons. Which is recommended for beginners worldwide. But bigger fish-tanks are usually more stable.

Aquarium Stand

Freshwater Aquarium Equipment Checklist

Aquarium Stand depends on the size of the fish-tank. The biggest mistake made by a hobbyist is underestimating the weight of the tank once it is filled with water. Aquariums are heavy once filled, so it is very important to get a solid support base for your aquarium.

A strong, sturdy and durable stand is required by an aquarium of any size. Stands can be made up of -Particleboard (MDF), Plywood or Metal.

The stand’s capacitive strength should uphold the gallon capacity of your tank. It’s best to purchase a tank that is easy to set up, just in case you want to move your tank’s location in the near future.

Aquarium Substrate

Freshwater Aquarium Equipment Checklist

The material that you use at the bottom of your fish tank is called the substrate. A wide variety of aquarium substrates can be found in the market. The most common ones are sand, soil, and gravel.

Regarding the quantity, the general rule is to use one pound of substrate for each gallon of water. The aquarium should be filled with the substrate to approximately two inches depth.

However, the amount may differ according to the setup. If you are placing plants or other stuff, then the quantity can increase. It is very important to use a clean substrate.

Aquarium Filters

Freshwater Aquarium Equipment Checklist

Filters are one of the essential equipment in the fishkeeping hobby.  Having a filter helps to keep your tank clean by removing debris and toxins like ammonia, and nitrates.

There are three basic types of filters – mechanical, chemical, and biological filters. These filters can be either externally attachable, ie. external filters or internal filters, which are placed inside the tank.

For any filter during purchase, it is always rated for a flow with a measurement such as gallons per hour. The turnover rate of the filter should be at least 3 times the volume of aquarium per hour. For further details please visit my previous article on “Aquarium Filtration“.

Aquarium Filter Media

Freshwater Aquarium Equipment Checklist

There are endless varieties of filter media and every filter out there has some variations. The actual ordering of media is first coarse mechanical filter (filter floss), biological media (k1 media, lava rocks, ceramic rings), lastly chemical media (carbon filters).

Mechanical filter media like the filter floss often get dirty since all the aquarium waste is collected in the media itself. So, ensure that you have plenty of replacement mechanical filter media. The more frequently you replace your media, the clearer the water gets. You don’t need to replace the biological media as the older it gets the more beneficial bacteria colonized in it. For detail please visit my previous article on “Filter Media“.


Freshwater Aquarium Equipment Checklist

A heater is also one of the most important accessories in fish keeping hobby. Fish require a standard temperature to be maintained for survival. The heater helps in maintaining the fish tank’s temperature hence allowing you to keep tropical fish. Because frequent temperature changes can affect the health of the fish, the use of heaters limits the diseases.

Aquarium heaters are either hang-on-the-tank or submersible models and can have a numerical setting or simply an up-down setting. I suggest going to the submersible heater with a numerical setting that will help you to adjust the heating settings.


One of the most inexpensive items that are the most essential one, “the thermometer”. You can find a variety of thermometer in an aquarium shop, a digital thermometer, a thermometer that you can stick to the wall of the tank or the old school thermometer. I guess I don’t have to tell you what a thermometer does right? However, let’s talk about tank readings/requirements. The average fish requires anywhere around 77ºF and the liquid crystal (the old school) thermometer is generally accurate enough. If you plan to breed fish or keep delicate fish, you should consider having a tank thermometer.

I would recommend you to go for the old school thermometer than any fancy one. they are more efficient than the fancy thermometer.

Fish Food

Freshwater Aquarium Equipment Checklist

Quality fish food results in proper growth and coloration in fish. The amount of food will depend upon the fish size as well as the breed. Usually, food should be fed twice a day in a small amount. Young fish tend to require more feeding per day. I would recommend mixing a different variety of fish food and flakes for a better result.

While feeding, be sure not to overfeed your fish. If you feed the fish beyond the capacity, it may result in fatty livers and leftover food may pollute the water. The best practice is to purchase a small quantity of food and feed sparingly over time.

Always get a high-quality fish food no matter what type of fish food you are getting: live food, frozen food, frozen dried food, food pellets or wafers.

Fish Medications

It is necessary to have basic fish medications for your fish in your drawer. This is because of the sudden changes that might occur when you start your tank.

It is recommended to have a consultation with the veterinarian on the medication type. Basic medications may include stress relievers and antibiotics. Keep in mind that sick fish need to be quarantined and medicated so that it does not affect the other fish. The basic Medicines you may require are Aquarium salt, water conditioner/dechlorinator, and other medicine related to fish stress.

Aquarium Water Test Kit

API freshwater aquarium checklist

An Aquarium water test kit plays a great role in monitoring the fish tank’s water. It alerts you about the toxic aquarium conditions in advance and helps save your fish. Maintaining proper water quality is the most important part of keeping aquarium fish healthy.

Ammonia, nitrite, and pH are the basic yet critical water testing elements given by any test kit. Testing water in a newly set up aquarium is critical. Kits with multi-testing capacity are also available. These kits can be used as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Another option you can consider is the in-tank testing monitor. Placed inside the aquarium, in-tank monitors continuously monitor the water chemistry. The in-tanks water monitors are temporary and have an average life of 1 month.

Glass Scrubber

glass scrubber

A glass scrubber helps you to clear your glass since the different types of algae and bacteria make it their home. It is just as important to keep the outside of your aquarium glass as clean as it is on the inside.

Aquarium glass accumulates algae and debris easily. You can easily find a wide range of fish tank brushes and scrubbers in the market for maintenance purposes.

Fish Net

fish net

Fish-net is a very handy tool when you need to remove dead plants or any excess food moving around the surface of your tank’s water.

An aquarium fish-net is a must-have tool for aquarium fish care. It is useful to transport your fish to their temporary habitat with reliability, ease, and safety while you clean. Therefore, always get a net with mesh which is gentle and big enough for your fish.

Water Bucket

A water bucket for the purpose of aquarium use is very important. You want your bucket to be clean from any substance which can harm your fish. For this, always make sure to clean your bucket before use.

I recommend keeping a separate bucket for aquarium purposes only. This way you can keep the bucket from exposure to harmful chemicals.

Siphon (Optional)

A siphon is a tool based on suction and gravity. It is very useful to vacuum the gravel and perform water changes. A siphon may not necessarily be used by everyone, you can use other alternatives to clean your tank. It will make the cleaning process way too easy.

Siphons clean the bottom waste without a hassle. It is very handy when it comes to partial as well as monthly water changes. It makes cleaning easier and faster. Water changes often require a dechlorination process for your fish. This is because chlorine is harmful to the fish.

Decorations (Optional)


Using decorations is just a way of making your fish tank visually appealing by using various scape rocks, fake plants and so on in your aquarium.

Decorations can vary according to your taste. They can be hideouts, statues, plants, rocks, and even PVC pipe logs. Most fish prefer hideouts and live plants as it increases their comfort level. Make sure to provide enough nutrients and light to your live plants because they are quite needy. Also, make sure to clean your decorative item thoroughly before you place it into your aquarium.


These are some of the important freshwater aquarium equipment checklists you require before setting up your aquarium. Now that you have all the equipment you can set up the aquarium.