Aquarium-Supplies Checklist

Fish can make wonderful, entertaining pets. Learn how to prepare for the arrival of your new pets. This checklist shows what you need to to set up your new aquarium and provides key fish-care tips.

Be Informed: Knowledge Is Gold(fish)

There are a few important things to consider before you buy your new tank and stock it with fish.

  • Get the Facts: What kids of fish do you like and where do they come from? What’s your budget? Will this become a long-term hobby? Should you choose fresh water or salt water? Ask a professional for advice on these initial questions before you invest.
  • Size It Up: Measure your space. Choose an extra-sturdy cabinet or counter to support the heavy weight of your aquarium. Make sure your tank holds enough water to support the type and number of you would like to own. Don’t place the aquarium near heat sources or windows.
  • Test the Water: Try a small tank when getting your first aquarium. Once you’re comfortable  with that size, you might consider upgrading. Be sure to test the water for certain minerals, toxins and acidity (pH). Bring a sample of water to your fish provider, or learn how to test it at home.
  • Consider the Expense: Aquarium setups range in price depending on the size of the aquarium, accessories and type of fish. Ongoing costs for food, tools and replacement plants and fish can be minimal, but should still be considered.
  • Plan Ahead: Decide on aquarium details based on long-term goals and set a regular maintenance schedule — each family member should have a role, no matter how small.

Get the Goods

Your fish are healthiest and happiest in an environment that mimics their natural habitat. Pick up these tools to help you create an aquarium that feels like home.

  • Tank
  • Water thermometer
  • Heater
  • Filter
  • Light
  • Gravel or sand
  • Gravel vacuum
  • Plants (live or fake)
  • Non-toxic decorations
  • Fine fish net
  • Water-testing kit
  • Chemicals for softening the water
  • Fish food 

Provide Ongoing Care

Perform these basic aquarium chores to help keep your finned friends healthy.

  • Initially: “Cycle” the tank when first setting up your aquarium by letting it sit for a while before adding fish. This allows natural bacteria to build up and create a balance in the water.
  • Daily: Feed and check your fish at least once a day. Be careful not to overfeed — sprinkle a pinch of food on the water, and only dish out what they’ll eat in a few minutes’ time. Watch and enjoy the activity in the tank so you’ll notice if anything seems out of place or wrong.
  • Weekly: Check the aquarium water’s pH levels and chemical balance with a water-testing kit. Use a fine fish net to sift out floating waste. Refresh the water supply by changing 25 to 30 percent of what's in the tank — the filter can’t do it alone. Check all equipment to make sure it’s still working properly.
  • Monthly: Clean the interior of the glass with an algae scraper and wipe the outside with a damp cloth to help you give you and your fish a clear view. Be sure to avoid window-cleaning solution, as overspray or fumes could kill fish. Periodically vacuum the gravel and sift out the waste that's settled at the bottom. Use a water-testing kit to check pH and chemical balance.
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