Planning for your Aquarium

You went to your pet shop on a Saturday morning, wanting to look at the cute animals. While browsing the fish section, your eyes land on a pretty goldfish, and its love at first sight. You NEED that goldfish.


Have you considered what your tiny 10 dollars fish will need to be happy and healthy? While a lot of love from you is amazing, your little one will need quite a few things. Here’s a comprehensive list of everything that you will or may need to buy for him or her.


The essentials!

  • The tank! Forget about those tiny bowls, you’ll need a nice tank for your fish of minimum 20gal. If you can’t get your hands on a glass aquarium, remember that food grade plastic storage totes make great aquariums too! (Check here for more info on tanks)
  • The filter. You need very good filtration if you want to keep your fish’s home clean. Forget internal filters, they are never enough for goldfish. Think canister or Hang-on-back. (Check here for more info on filtration)
  • A gravel vacuum or water changer device. Necessary to do your weekly water changes.
  • Buckets. Lots of them of different sizes, dedicated to the aquarium only! You’ll see it’s very practical for maintenance, moving fishes around, etc.
  • Thermometer. Either electronic or regular, you need a good thermometer to keep track of the temperature of your aquarium.
  • A water conditioner. It’s important to add water conditioner with each water change to dechlorinate the water and make it safe for your fish. Ideally, find one that also detoxifies ammonia, like Seachem Prime. You’ll find yourself using it for many other things than the basic water treatment.
  • A water test kit. Necessary for checking the water quality. You need tests for at least ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. Ideally, you also want a KH/GH test. API freshwater master test kit is a good starting point.
  • Food!
    • Staples: Drop those flakes, they are no good. If you want to stick to what you can find in your pet shop, grab sinking pellets. The best brands are Omega One, New Life Spectrum and Northfin. But there are many other options you can choose from if you are willing to. Ask around and we’ll be happy to inform you better.
    • Other non-dry food: such as frozen food, seaweed and fresh veggies. It’s important to diversify your fish’s diet and, especially with fancy goldfish, to add good fiber from plant matters.

The recommended!

  • A light on a timer. Not only does it allows you to see your fish, it helps to have a regular light cycle so your fishes feel just like in nature.
  • A second thermometer. It’s very useful to check the water temperature coming out of the tap before refilling the aquarium.
  • An air pump with an air stone. Adding one to the tank helps with the surface agitation and therefore the oxygenation of your tank.
  • A sponge or algae scrubber. You’ll find your glass will need a good scrub after a while. If you want a sponge that is softer than what you usually find in pet shops, go for natural sea sponges, usually sold in the cosmetic section of shops.

The “Nice to have”!

  • A small empty media bag or piece of mesh. It’s useful to stick it at the end of your siphon to prevent your fish getting sucked up during your water change.
  • A turkey baster. It’s the best way you have to spot clean your tank in between water change … or right after one if our fish is like mine!
  • A suction cup veggie clip. It’s really the cleanest and easiest way you have to serve your fish their veggies!
  • A big bag of filter floss. The finest mechanical filtration, it helps for many other things, such as reducing flow from a filter.
  • Decorations! Substrate, fake plants, rocks, etc. Avoid gravel as it gets dirty fast and your fish can swallow it. Go for sand, river rocks or bare bottom instead. Be wary of sharp edges on the decorations as they can hurt your fish.

The backups!

  • A bottle of good bacteria. It’s very useful to kick start a cycle or boost an established one. Tetra Safestart or Dr.Tim’s One and Only are your best choices.
  • Another small tank (around 10gal) or a storage tote. It’s necessary in case your need to isolate a fish for medication or quarantine.
  • A heater. Unless you live in an igloo, you shouldn’t need a heater in your main tank. But it is necessary to treat many illnesses.
  • Aquarium salt. It is one of the most basic and most useful medications you’ll need. It is used in many situations and should be kept around every aquarium.
  • Another air pump and air stone. You will need them in your hospital tank.
  • Another filter option. May it be an internal filter, an air powered filter or a power head with a pre-filter attachment, having a filtration backup solution can prove useful in a hospital or quarantine tank or in case your main filter breaks on Christmas.
  • A battery powered air pump. If you ever experience a power outage that lasts for more than a few hours, you’ll be thankful to have this little thing that can run some sort of filtration on your tank. You can easily DIY yourself an air driven filter with a water bottle. (Check here for a tutorial)
  • Extra chemical media. If you are using chemical filtration in your filter, it needs to be replaced quite often. Having some on hands will save you a trip to the pet shop.

The specifics!

  • Bleach. While bleach sounds scary, it is very useful to have some lying around to disinfect anything that could have been in contact with other fishes before you put it in your aquarium. It’s also useful to do a bleach dip on plants before adding them. But always make sure you thoroughly rinse the items and maybe dump a bit of water conditioner on them too.
  • Vinegar. As bleach, it is an amazing disinfectant, but it is much safer for your fish and does well in day to day light cleaning, such as cleaning the outside of your aquarium or your ornaments that got all murky after a while.
  • Fish transport bag. Just keep the one your fish came in when you bought them if they are not leaking. It can be useful if you ever need to transport your fish.
  • Live plants… I’m not going there. Live plants require another set of equipment all on their own. Just look into it if you’re interested!
  • Other chemicals. There is an array of chemicals for your aquarium that you can find on the market. Most of them are useless and made to make you spend your money. BUT, you may need some in very specific situations. If you have a specific problem, ask around and we’ll be glad to direct you to the appropriate products.