Products for Your Fish Tank

Before you set up your ocean floor away from the ocean, aka fish tank, let’s get you aquarium-acclimated with some of the products you’ll need.

Filtration equipment really cleans up.

Type of filter How it works Maintenance When you would use it
Top-fitted power filter Pump sucks water up and through the pressurised filter box. Simple to maintain: Turn off pump, remove top cover and open the box. Normally comes with the tank.
Hang-on filter Hangs off the back of tank, with cartridges polishing the water. Easy access by removing the top of the filter and replacing the cartridge. Purchased for smaller glass tanks.
Canister filter Filter sits under the tank with hoses to the top; large box for filter media. Slightly more difficult to maintain: Taps make it easier, but they are strong filters. Ideal for bigger fish and large glass tanks.
Internal filter Sponge filter with powerhead sucking water through. Regular maintenance is needed but great for clearing a tank quickly. In a small tank or as a supplement filter to help clear water.
Under-gravel filter Sits below the gravel in the tank, runs off an air pump. Must use gravel siphons and be maintained regularly. For a cost-effective set-up; generally more maintenance later, however.

How an aquarium filter works, fishies.

It doesn’t get much Betta than an aquarium filter – after all, it reaaaalllly reduces the time needed to clean your fish tank. And that’s not the only fish-tacular thing about it. An aquarium filter also:

  • Maintains a flow of water through the aquarium.
  • Develops bacteria that makes harmful waste elements less toxic for your Tiger Oscar. These are then removed each time you partially change the water.
  • Helps remove ‘fishy’ smell and discolouration.
  • Removes dirt particles floating in the water.

Your aquarium filter works in three stages, for your tank-cleaning pleasure. These are:

1. Mechanical filtration

In your aquarium filter, you may find wool. Wrong animal, right? Nope, this actually acts as a mechanical filter to remove dirt from the tank, and helps keep the water clear. Cleaning and changing this bad boy should be done regularly. So, you’ll want to check it monthly, rinse (in aquarium water) and change as needed. No bubble-trouble there.

2. Chemical filtration

In your aquarium filter, you will find activated charcoal – Don’t worry, Mr. Trout, not the BBQ kind. Acting as a chemical filter, this removes most, well, chemicals, and helps scale down cloudy, smelly water, as well. A big deal: Always remove the activated charcoal when you’re treating your ailing Angelfish with any medication, as it will filter the remedy right out.

3. Biological filtration

This keeps your tank’s water as top-quality as Neptune’s pitchfork. This is also where bacteria and waste build up over time, which is actually what you want – the creation of an ecosystem within your aquarium. Your fish will be wide-eyed impressed. Seriously.

Understanding the nitrogen cycle will help make it clear as caviar, don’t worry. (Basically, the bio-balls and bio-noodles are where the bacteria will settle. Click the link for details.)

Top tips for cleaning the filter:

  • Never use tap water. (You think your fish look shocked now…)
  • Use aquarium water to maintain bacteria in the filter. (How’s that ecosystem going? Swimmingly.)
  • A filter should always be a little dirty, so you only should fish out any excess gunk that could clog the filter.
Filter system Parts Replacement
Mechanical filtration Wool
1–2 months
6–9 months
Chemical filtration Charcoal 2 months
Biological filtration Bio-balls (plastic)
Rinse; replace if damaged; 12 months

Lighting helps plants grow, and fish, glow.

Aquarium lighting is a big reel for plants and fish alike.

Live aquarium plants and marine corals are actually dependent on proper lighting, to live.

As for fish – Does my tail look big in this light? Lights can make even a Clownfish look fantastic, no joke. Your tank will look pretty spiffy itself, even if your Silver Dollar Fish sat around all day counting his Super and didn’t get a chance to clean the place. And, since pet fish are no longer exposed to natural sunlight, giving them the next best thing is vital for their overall good health.

Our friends, the algae, could leave the light on all day, too. That’s because the longer it’s on, the more algae or slime will grow on your aquarium’s glass and rocks. We recommend six to eight hours of lighting, but of course that will depend on whether your fish tank receives sunlight, as well. The more sunshine it gets, the less light you’ll need.

Temperature: C’mon in, the water’s fine.

For most aquarium fish, a consistent water temperature of between 23C and 27C should be juuuuuust right. (Dwarf Lionfish lets out very stifled roar of approval.)

Keep in mind, however, that all of the finny friends you bring home will have specific temperature needs you’ll want to be aware of. After all, fish can become stressed when temps fluctuate too much, which can lead to illness. (Yes, Spotted Grouper’s stunned expression will actually have a reason behind it.) Now, that’s not to stress you out, pet-lovers. If you only have one species in your fish tank, simply set the temp just for them. But if you have a whole school of different fish, 25C is a pretty safe temperature.

But don’t swim away just yet. Marine aquariums may need a bit more attention to maintain a consistent temperature, because they tend to need more light, which can warm the water. Also, certain corals can’t handle a temperature increase, so you’ll want to keep an extra fin in the water, at all times. Or just during the next commercial – whichever works.

Balancing water quality for your scaly friends.

How well your new aquarium does as a home and a provider for your fish family is dependent on the water quality. Let’s face it, top-of-the-line H2O means healthy fish, friends. You’ll no doubt need to buy various chemicals and additives to help your fish tank achieve and maintain the proper balance, for good water quality.

Depending on the fish that you choose for your tank, you may need special pH adjusters and buffers, or salt and trace element additives. Water conditioners or agers are also a must for removing chlorine and harmful chemicals from tap water. Test kits are another great catch to ensure that your water quality begins and remains at the healthiest levels for your fish.

So, now that you’re no longer floundering around filters, go ahead – dive in!