Home » Tips » The Equipment that keeps your Fresh Water Tropical Aquarium Fish Alive

The Equipment that keeps your Fresh Water Tropical Aquarium Fish Alive

The article gives a detailed analysis of The Equipment that keeps your Fresh Water Tropical Aquarium Fish Alive. With today’s modern technology… Tropical aquarium fish keeping has never been easier. By selecting the proper equipment, your new aquarium will be a living work of art for years to come.

If you’re putting together a no bells and whistles aquarium of 20 gallons or more you’ll only need to gather up 9 items. These vital aquarium components can be purchased new… or picked up second hand. Let’s start with the under-gravel filter.

Aquarium Fish Equipment

Undergravel filters…

Although there are more complicated and costly ways to Perfecto Undergravel Filterfilter the substrate… I recommend using under gravel filters (UGF) to do the job. All of my tanks have one, and they work flawlessly. An under gravel filter sits on top of the glass in the bottom of your aquarium. Lift tubes are inserted into the risers at the rear of the filter, and then the under gravel filter is covered with substrate (gravel). Perfecto is the leading manufacturer of UG filters.

Lift tubes…

Lift tubes are thin… clear pieces of round Plexiglas that are inserted into the risers on the undergravel filter. They are inexpensive and available in several lengths. Purchase lift tubes that are nearly as tall as your aquarium. You’ll need two lift tubes for tanks up to 90 gallons. More for larger tanks. Measure your Powerheads and cut that much of the lift tube off. Place the end you cut off in the UGF riser so that you have a flush surface for your Powerhead to rest on.


Powerheads are the work horses of the aquarium. They draw water from under the UGF and pump it out the the powerhead. This creates water movement in the aquarium as well as delivering oxygen to the fish and the beneficial bacteria that lives in the substrate. Most powerheads have a port for attaching a surface air tube.

Powerheads are driven by small electro magnetic motors. Powerheads seem to last forever. In 25 years I’ve only replaced one. If a powerhead stops working just take it apart, clean it, and most likely it will start working again.
Maxi-Jet, Penguin, AquaClear, Power Sweep, and Rio are the major powerhead manufactures.

Mechanical Filters…

Mechanical filters attach to the rear of the tank. Their primary purpose is to filter larger particles from the water. All mechanical filters have some sort of replaceable filter pad housed inside the box to catch and hold the particles. This filter material can be removed, cleaned in the sink, and reinserted into the filter. Most filter pads contain a small amount of charcoal to freshen the water. Manufactures say to replace the filter pads one a month… but I replace mine quarterly and clean them weekly.

There are numerous brands of mechanical filters on the market. They all work pretty good… some better than others. Myself I prefer the MarineLand brand because of their Bio Wheel. The Bio Wheel is a paper like cylinder that rotates as the water is retuned to the tank. Beneficial bacteria takes up residence on the wheel… helping to increase the biological cycle.

Mechanical filters also help to oxygenated the aquarium water.

Aquarium Heaters…

Aquarium heaters are a long glass tube with a heating element that is immersed in the tank. At the top of the heater there is a thermostat for adjusting the temperature. All good heaters should have a light on them indicating if the heater is on.

Your tank heater is a very important piece of equipment. Do not skimp in this area of your tank setup. A stuck heater can “Cook” your fish in no time. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need 2 to 4 watts per gallon of water.

There are numerous brands of aquarium heaters on the market. The one that I use is manufactured by Ebo-Jager. To date I have never had one fail.

You’ll also need a thermometer to monitor tank temperatures. The floating thermometers work well. I prefer the digital thermometers myself. What ever you do, don’t waste your money on the thin strip types that stick to the outside of the tank.

Substrate and Decorations…

If you don’t have burrowing fish, or intend to keep live plants… the choice of substrate is a matter of personal preference. Some people like the brightly colored gravels, and others like myself… prefer the natural look. My favorite substrate is called Texblast. It is a natural looking sandblasting gravel. Whatever substrate you choose, you’ll need to wash it very thoroughly.

Decorations are another personal preference item. Some folks like the brightly colored “Pirate Ships” and “Castles”, while I prefer natural items like rocks and driftwood that I collect at the lake. If you collect natural items be sure to boil them for about an hour to sterilize them.


Lighting will make or break your aquarium. Fluorescent tubes are my preference. They don’t cost an arm and a leg to run, and they don’t produce much heat. Whatever you do, don’t buy standard white fluorescent tubes or plant grow lights tubes.

The choices in fluorescent tubes is as great as the selection of tropical fish. I prefer Penn-Plax Aquari-Lux™ tubes. They are a medium priced tube that really seems to bring out the colors of my fish and tanks.

A timer is a handy item for turning your aquarium lights on and off automatically. Look for a timer with the ability to set multiple on off times. My tanks are set to come on when I get up in the morning. They turn off a couple hours later, turning back on about the time I get home from work, and off again at bed time.

The last item… a GFI Power Strip

Like your computer, your going to have a bunch of plugs that need plugged in some where. Since we’re dealing with electricity and water… I highly recommend a GFI strip. GFI stands for “Ground Fault Interrupt”. If something in the tank happens to short out… the GFI will instantly turn off the power. Look for a GFI with at least 5 sockets.

Leave a Comment