In recent years, the quantity and range of aquarium equipment, commercially available, grew exponentially. Therefore, a beginner aquarist may be extremely confused about what he really needs and what does not.
It will be conjectured, as in previous times, aquarists generally managed to keep fish, when there were no such “essential” accessories. In fact, aquarists did very well without all of this, because they understood and applied the general principles of maintaining the right state of water.
Unfortunately, today an aquarist can easily become a “victim of progress,” buying, for example, the largest and most powerful filter that one can afford, and being confident that this filter is the best of all. In this case, the nature of the filter and its suitability for a particular aquarium, he has no idea, innocently relying on the fact that the price is the best indicator of quality.
The same principle – “if it is sold, it means I need it” – usually applies to other equipment. Often among aquarists there are people who are able to use tap water, poor in salts and not containing pollutants, and pass this water through a reverse osmosis device. They heat small aquariums with powerful heaters and try to keep their fish healthy with ozonizers or ultraviolet sterilizers.
At the same time, they usually neglect relatively inexpensive, but nevertheless very important things — such as water analysis tests, nets, and aquaria manuals that explain what they really need and what they don’t.
Below is a list of equipment, as well as briefly describes the functions and the use of its various types. Immediately make a reservation that due to the huge variety of commercially available products here it is impossible to assess the effectiveness and describe the functions of each particular model of filter, heater, etc.
It should be emphasized that all equipment used for keeping fish should be specifically designed for this purpose. Auxiliary equipment, such as a bucket, should be made of materials that do not react with aquarium water, do not poison fish, and do not harm them in any way.
Plastic items should be chosen with extreme caution and use only those that are specifically designed for aquariums or for food.
Acquisition of aquarium equipment
In different stores, prices for the same goods may differ significantly from each other, so you should visit several stores and ask the price. It may be worthwhile to consider the possibility of ordering the equipment by mail as soon as you decide which particular equipment and which models you require.
Although it is possible to order the equipment by mail, it is better to purchase some items somewhere nearby. These are large or breakable items such as aquariums, coasters, aquarium covers and fluorescent lamps.
The equipment you urgently need is also better to purchase in your area.
If you really intend to buy the equipment, do not hesitate to ask the staff to demonstrate it to you in action so that you can evaluate its work and learn how to use it.
Used aquarium equipment
If you are setting up your first aquarium, you will find that this event is quite expensive. Therefore, you can be tempted to save money by purchasing used equipment.
However, there are a number of good enough reasons not to do this:
A “complete set” – one of those offered for sale in private advertisements in a local newspaper – is usually “staffed” with fish that were chosen not by you, but by another person — their former owner. Perhaps he decided to sell the aquarium because he ran into some intractable problems (for example, diseases or incompatibility of fish) that you would inherit from him. To be able to transport the aquarium, it must be freed from fish, water, design items and equipment.
When you install it in your home, it will take at least two to three weeks for it to “ripen” and become safe for fish. So, the purchased fish will have to arrange somewhere.
* Aquariums, equipment and design items that were in use, can serve as a haven for pathogens of infectious diseases, parasites and other unwanted creatures – such as snails and hydras.
* Used aquariums may have scratched sight glasses.
* Used electrical equipment may be unsafe, with an expired warranty period. In any case, the right to warranty repair is usually not transferred to the buyer “second-hand”.
* Used aquarium items may not be suitable for fish that you would like to keep.
If a new equipment fails, the seller usually replaces it, regardless of the manufacturer’s warranty as a sign of “goodwill” (and in some countries this is a legal requirement). A person selling used goods is unlikely to be so helpful. If the aquarist is experienced enough and has experience in sterilizing equipment and decorative items, he may, in spite of everything, decide to purchase used equipment.
However, used electrical equipment should be avoided under any circumstances. And for beginners, we highly recommend investing money exclusively in new equipment.
Aquarium Heating Equipment
Heating equipment consists of a heater that heats the water, a thermostat that maintains a constant water temperature by turning the heater on and off, and a thermometer.
Nowadays, the most common type is a device that combines a heater and a thermostat.
Heaters are available in different capacities. It is important that their total power is sufficient to maintain the desired temperature in the aquarium at a time when the temperature in the room reaches its minimum (and therefore the heat loss in the aquarium is maximum), for example, on a cold winter night when the room does not have heating.
The heater power required in this case should be discussed with the seller of the equipment, because there are no firm criteria for each specific situation. (In general, based on the ratio of 1 W of power per liter of the volume of the aquarium. Manufacturer’s recommendations, usually reflected in the form of diagrams and drawings on the heater package, will also help to orient.) Consultant’s note.)
It would be reasonable to distribute the required power to two heaters. Then if one of them fails, the aquarium will not remain unheated.
However, in small aquariums it is practically impossible. Two sets, each consisting of a heater and a thermostat connected in series, have the added advantage: if one thermostat is malfunctioning and turns on the heating when it is not needed, the second thermostat will remain off and this will reduce the likelihood of serious water overheating.
Aquarium thermostats often have a limited temperature range, corresponding to what is usually required for tropical fish. Operating temperature is set by rotating the nimbus or screw.
Sometimes the temperature regulator has a temperature scale (it can have different accuracy). Otherwise, you have to act by trial and error. In most cases, thermostats, including those combined with a heater, have an indicator light that turns on when an electric current flows to the heater.
However, some indicators are constantly lit, showing only that power is supplied to the device. There is always at least one model of a heater combined with a thermostat that has a light indicator on when the heater is turned off.
There are two main types of thermostats:
Electromechanical thermostats using a bimetallic plate. In the past, separate internal (submersible) thermostats of this type were widely distributed.
They are still produced today, although they are not popular. In devices that combine a heater and a thermostat, in most cases it is the bimetallic plate that is used as an actuator.
There are also external electromechanical thermostats – they “feel” the temperature in the aquarium by contact with the glass.
Electronic thermostats. They are usually much more expensive.
In most cases, they are installed outside the aquarium. They are equipped with a temperature probe, which is immersed in water.
These are accurate, reliable devices that serve long enough. However, it is necessary to make a reservation that a small proportion of these devices from the very beginning does not work properly or breaks down after a few days. Therefore, it would be useful to first get them to work in an aquarium in which there are neither fish nor plants.
The advantage of external thermostats is the ease of access to them for adjustment. However, this is at the same time a disadvantage – because their settings can be knocked down with the same ease.
There are three main types of heaters:
Spiral heaters consist of a wire heating element wound on a ceramic core and enclosed in a glass flask sealed with a rubber stopper from which the electrical wire goes. Such a heater can be easily moved without disturbing the tranquility of the inhabitants of the aquarium.
Heating mats (mats), placed under the aquarium, so that heat rises up through the bottom of the aquarium. It is believed that such heaters benefit the plants, as they heat their roots (in nature, plants do not have this luxury). But their biggest drawback is that they can not be removed without removing the aquarium.
But they usually serve much longer than spiral heaters.
Heating cables. They resemble cables used to heat the soil in greenhouses. They are buried in the ground of the aquarium.
Like heating mats, they are useful for plants. Cleaning them easier than mats, but this is often associated with significant damage to the interior of the aquarium.
In addition, they can easily be damaged by heavy decorative objects, such as large stones.
Flow-through heater with thermostat
The original, infrequently available type of heaters. Its action is based on the heating of water returned to the aquarium from an external filter.
The advantages of this solution are obvious:
- the heating element is always in the zone of water movement, which ensures efficient use of electricity and a stable temperature in the tank;
- the heater is located out of the water, which greatly simplifies its configuration and maintenance.
There is, however, a negative point in the work of such a pairing: in the event of a filter failure, the fish risk being not only in a dirty, but also a cold environment.
Heaters combined with thermostat
These devices are usually bimetallic thermostats and a spiral heater enclosed in a single glass flask. Since heat rises from the bottom up, heaters of this type should not be placed vertically – otherwise the thermostat will turn off prematurely.
Instead, such devices are best placed horizontally or obliquely. (Horizontally, you can only stack heaters with full sealing. The ability or impossibility to immerse the device under water is usually indicated by the manufacturer in the instructions or on the packaging. – Note of the consultant.)
Sometimes outdoor electronic thermostats are an integral part of a kit with heaters immersed in an aquarium. Therefore, such devices are also sometimes referred to as combined instruments.
Thermofilters for aquarium
Thermofilter – a filter with a built-in heater and thermostat. The heater heats the water when it passes through the filter. At first, it may seem that combining all of these devices is a very good idea, but, first, the thermal filters are too expensive, and secondly, if the device encounters difficulties with the flow of water, this can lead to unacceptable water cooling in the aquarium.
In addition, the entire life support system of the aquarium should not depend on one electric device and one fuse.
Most aquarium thermometers are either ordinary alcohol thermometers mounted inside the aquarium, or plates with a liquid crystal display, attached to the glass of the aquarium outside. Thermometers of the first type tend to detach themselves, either by themselves or with the assistance of overly inquisitive fish. But they can be transferred from one aquarium to another.
It is very difficult to detach the liquid crystal thermometers from the glass of the aquarium without damaging them. Plastic alcohol thermometers are preferable to glass thermometers, which easily break and may contaminate the aquarium with alcohol.
Electronic thermometers are a relatively recent innovation. Some of them give an alarm when the temperature drops or rises beyond the specified limits.
Most of these thermometers are more expensive than usual, but some of them are sold at a reasonable price.
The degree of accuracy of aquarium thermometers, as is known, can be different. It is best to use two thermometers and remove the agreed indicators.
The ideal option is to check the accuracy of the thermometer by comparing its readings with a laboratory or some other accurate thermometer, and subsequently, taking readings from the aquarium thermometer, make the appropriate corrections.
Fasteners and protective covers for heaters
Mounts heaters are designed to fix them in the aquarium. Unfortunately, plastic suckers, often designed for this purpose, crack over time and stubbornly refuse to stay in place. If the aquarist knows about this problem, he can attach them to the glass with silicone sealant before filling the tank with water. (Too cardinal solution to the problem.
And what if you need to fix the heater in another place? It is easier to use durable silicone suction cups, which for years have not lost their elasticity. – Note. consultant.)
The protective cover of the heater serves to protect the glass body of the heater from accidental impacts, to prevent its contact with the aquarium material (glass or acrylic) in order to avoid damage to this material, and also to prevent the fish from burning the heater. The casing can be equipped with suction cups and at the same time serve as a mount.
Aquarium, stand and cover
All these three subjects we will discuss together. Since it is necessary that they have the same length and width, they are best bought together as a whole.
This does not mean that an aquarist should buy an aquarium, a lid and a stand in the kit – such kits in the store are shown assembled. Most stores have a fairly large selection of individual parts of different sizes, among which an aquarist can choose the most suitable ones.
Nowadays, aquariums are usually made of glass sheets that connect to each other with silicone sealant (glass aquariums). In addition, the aquarium can be completely cast from Plexiglas.
Small aquariums are sometimes made from other types of transparent plastics. The advantage of plastic is that it is relatively unbreakable.
However, scratches appear faster on it than on glass, and in addition, it can distort the image of what is behind it, and deform under the action of heat.
Before you buy an aquarium, it is important to think about what kind of fish you will keep there – because the aquarium should be sized for its inhabitants by the time they are fully grown.
The allowable number of fish in an aquarium is usually calculated by determining the ratio between the body length of the fish (not counting the tail) and the surface area of the water – this is approximately equivalent to the oxygen needs of the fish in relation to the area where gas exchange occurs. The usual formula for tropical freshwater fish is 2.5 cm of fish body per 64 cm2 surface area.
Remember that for some fish space requirements are based on other criteria (for example, they must have their own territory). Such special needs are usually mentioned in the literature devoted to particular species of fish.
The size of the aquarium can be limited by the available free space and the ability to access it (the width of the doorway and the angle where you agreed to put the aquarium), as well as its price. The weight of an aquarium filled with water can be quite significant. This can also be a limiting factor if the floor is not able to withstand such a heavy load as a large aquarium (to assess the maximum weight, you should consult a professional).
However, generally speaking, on an average or large aquarium (90cm or more in length) it is easier to maintain biological balance. In addition, such an aquarium, of course, can accommodate more fish.
Note – Calculation of the weight of water in the aquarium.
Metric system of measures: multiply the length of the aquarium by its width and height, expressed in centimeters, to get its volume in cubic centimeters (cm3). Divide this value by 1000 to convert it to liters.
1 liter of water weighs 1 kilogram.
Also important is the shape of the aquarium. Fish usually swim horizontally rather than vertically, so the traditional elongated rectangular aquarium best meets the needs of the fish. High and narrow “towers” have a relatively small area of water surface.
In fact, such aquariums are high-altitude versions of small aquariums with goldfish, considered in our time as a symbol of cruelty. The value of an aquarium as decorating a room should not be determined by its shape, but by the attractiveness of the underwater world contained in it with healthy plants and fish.
Plexiglass (acrylic) aquariums are produced industrially, as are silicate glass tanks. However, some stores offer high-quality glass aquariums, which were made somewhere nearby to order. Such aquariums can be cheaper because there is no additional overhead in their cost (for example, transportation costs).
It is advisable to check that it was the new glass that went to make the aquarium, and not the old window glass from the store. To do this, carefully look for scratches on the glass. In addition, the glass should have the desired thickness, and the upper edges should be properly reinforced with sides (compare with an industrial aquarium).
Industrial aquariums often have a plastic frame, which is usually purely decorative (it covers the joints of the glass).
Stand for aquarium
The stand for the aquarium can have a different design:
Special cabinet for the aquarium, usually made of wood. At the bottom there is a compartment for external equipment and storage of necessary supplies. For the living room this is probably the most attractive option, but at the same time the most expensive.
Make sure that the material and design of the cabinet are such that they can withstand moisture and weight of an aquarium filled with water.
Stand made of welded metal profiles, usually painted black or white or with a plastic coating of the same colors.
Any piece of furniture or built-in furniture (shelf or sideboard). It must be strong enough to support the weight of the aquarium and water.
If you have doubts about this, seek professional advice.
Floor. This is not ideal in terms of ease of observing the aquarium.
At one time, some low-income aquarists made very good coasters of concrete blocks or bricks stacked on top of each other, and a thick, stout board was placed on top of them. Such “creativity” can be visually hidden.
The stand should have a perfectly flat surface, which put the aquarium. Curbstones, as a rule, have a suitable surface, however metal supports and some items of built-in furniture (for example, a stone fencing of a fireplace) do not have such a surface, therefore, a strong foundation for an aquarium should be placed on them.
The best-suited sheet of moisture-resistant plywood of desired size, intended for outdoor use or for use in the sea, with a thickness of not less than 1.25 cm. Such plywood can be purchased in stores building and finishing materials.
Do not use for this purpose plywood intended for internal use, chipboard or wooden boards – they will swell and rot when water drops fall on them, which is almost inevitable.
In addition, the bottom of the aquarium should be protected with a polystyrene foam pad or thick fabric of appropriate thickness and size. The gasket will help to compensate for any unevenness of the stand – without this precaution the bottom of the aquarium can crack.
Cap for aquarium
The cover of the aquarium is needed to keep the fish in the aquarium. Without a lid, some fish can jump out or even crawl out of an aquarium — for example, members of such families as the karium and snakeheads. In addition, the cover prevents dirt from getting inside the aquarium and serves as a barrier for children and pets.
Lighting devices are located on it (see below). Sometimes it has sockets for connecting other electrical equipment.
However, such a “tee” is better placed outside the aquarium and protect it from the slightest danger of contact with water. Therefore, the presence or absence of additional sockets in the lid should not particularly bother you.
As for the aquariums that are sold with the cabinet, they usually have a cover of the appropriate size.
Covers for the most part have a window that provides access to the aquarium. Make sure the window handle has the right size and shape – it should not slip out of your fingers if they are wet.
The lid must be equipped with integrated cover glasses or plastic trays for condensate collection. This is necessary so that evaporation of water is minimal, and the air space above the water surface has the same temperature as water.
This is especially important if you keep gouramies and other fish with additional respiratory organs that allow them to breathe atmospheric air. Make sure that cover glasses or trays provide access to the inside of the aquarium – otherwise you will have to remove the cover every time you want to feed the fish or change the water.
Some types of aquarium lighting require that the aquarium be left without a cap. In stores, aquariums also usually stand without covers.
Nevertheless, you still need to close the aquarium with cover glasses that also keep the fish in the aquarium, preventing dirt from entering there, etc.