Supplies I Need for a Fish Aquarium! Checklist for Beginners

If you want to adopt a pet, many people would suggest you start with fish. Because it’s easy as pie to keep fish as they are totally undemanding, this is what they say. No doubt fish are relatively easy pets- they don’t need grooming, heavy meals, and long walks. But setting the right environment for your fish and maintaining their health is not an easy task. If you have never kept an aquarium, but now you really want to add it to your home, then don’t be in a rush. You should be aware of each and everything your fish will want for its good health and safety. Once you have complete knowledge about all the essentials you’ll need to set up your aquarium, you’re good to go.

Want to know what supplies your fish will need? Here you go:

There are certain essential supplies that your fish will need right away. You should buy good quality and right-sized aquarium, equipped with all the essential devices that will help maintain the quality of water. Also, don’t forget to buy healthy fish food and store it. If you skip the essential supplies or feed your fish anything you’re eating, then sooner or later, your fish will start to die.

Supplies needed for fish aquarium (Video)


Aquarium checklist for beginners

Essential supplies:

  • Aquarium
  • Aquarium filtration system
  • Light
  • Heater
  • Aquarium air pump
  • Live bacteria seeding for the nitrogen cycle
  • Fish food
  • Fishnet
  • Aquarium substrate

Maintenance supplies:

  • Water conditioner
  • Algae scrubber
  • Plants
  • Test kit
  • Siphon

Non-essential supplies:

  • Hood
  • Stand
  • Decorations
  • Water bucket

Supplies you need for your fish

Essential supplies

The things that you should not forget and buy before getting fish are the essential supplies.

Fish are very fragile and they need a proper environment to live in. Although we can never provide fish with the habitat similar to their natural one (rivers, seas, and oceans), but essential supplies can help mimic that habitat and your fish will stay healthy.

So, let’s get started:


The first thing to buy is an aquarium or a fish tank. Although it might seem easy peasy; if you’re a beginner, then it’s not. You should know which size of the aquarium is suitable for your house and the fish you’re going to buy. Aquariums are made of different materials. So, you should know the best material that suits your home.

If you’re going to buy small fish and you are living in an apartment. then 20 gallons aquarium is suitable. Aquarium smaller than this size isn’t good enough even for the smallest of fish. Vendors are selling as small as 5 gallons aquarium that seems a jail for a fish. The fish will eventually die in such a congested area, and due to lack of oxygen and contamination.

Aquariums come in glass and acrylic material. Many people go for glass aquarium as glass is easy to clean and looks great. But acrylic is preferred if you have kids at home. Acrylic doesn’t break and is light in weight. Glass aquarium only needs to be fixed through its edges while the acrylic aquarium needs to be fixed from all over the base.

Some people skip the aquarium altogether and prefer to keep their fish in a bowl or glass. Yes, you heard it right. Do you think it’s good enough for your fish? Glass or bowl both aren’t suitable at all for any type of fish. It’s actually cruel to keep your fish like this. Because of the lack of ventilation and waste accumulation, the fish will experience a painful death.

Aquarium filtration system

filter is required to keep the water clean. The filter is an essential part of your aquarium and without a filter, your fish will die. The filter removes the waste accumulated in the aquarium, and thus maintains the quality of water.

Without a filter, fish’s waste accumulates in the tank and releases ammonia that’s fatal for the fish. This ammonia also decreases oxygen from the tank, and fish can’t breathe properly.

As much as the filter is essential, buy the best one that you can afford. The best one for small to medium tanks is a power filter system that has bio wheels. The filter system should be good enough to filter all of the water in the aquarium four times per hour. For this, you have to see the flow rate of a filter you’re buying and compare this flow rate with your aquarium size.

For a 20 gallon aquarium, you should buy a filter system that has a flow rate of 80 gallons per hour.

For large aquariums like for a 50-gallon aquarium, you should buy a canister filter.

Note that the filter is altogether different from an air pump. The filter has a filter media and it cleanses the water. Whereas, the air pump only pumps the water for efficient oxygenation.


Light isn’t essential for the fish to live but it’s essential for the plants that you’ll plant in the aquarium. So, be sure to purchase a light.

Light enables us to see the aquarium clearly and you can keep an eye on your fish. You can detect if any fish is ill or wounded. So, light is an essential supply for fish.

Light often comes with the hood of the aquarium. But you can also buy one. You will have the option to buy any type of light like incandescent bulbs, mercury vapor, halide bulb, LED, and fluorescent bulb.

As a beginner, you can choose LED or incandescent bulbs. Both don’t heat up the water and provide nice light with less usage of electricity.

The light shouldn’t be on 24/7. You can turn it off at night.

If you don’t buy light at all, then the plants in the aquarium will die after some days. Also, you’ll not be able to watch your fish.


Many fish that are commercially available are tropical fish. Tropical fish needs water to have a temperature between 70 to 77 degree Fahrenheit. If your home is maintained at that temperature (in case you are living in tropical regions), then well and good but if not, then you need an aquarium heater.

The aquarium heater regulates the water temperature. It can be numerical as well as the one in which temperature has to be adjusted up and down. Also, the heater can be a hang on or the one that is submerged in the aquarium. The best one is the numerical heater that is submerged.

Now the size of the heater depends upon the size of the aquarium. You can buy 3 to 5-watt heater for 20 to 30 gallons aquarium. If you have a large aquarium, the best is to have two small heaters and adjust them at the corners of the tank. This will ensure better regulation of heat.

Without a heater, some fish can’t survive and will die ultimately. On the contrary, some fish don’t need a heater. Goldfish is one of them.

Aquarium air pump

An air pump is required to regulate the flow of water. When the water is regulated, the carbon dioxide goes out of the water and oxygen is absorbed from the air. This gas exchange is necessary for the survival of fish as fish can breathe easily when there is enough oxygen.

An air pump is required when the filter doesn’t regulate the water. Otherwise, if the filter creates waterfall, then there is no need if an air pump.

An air pump is an essential supply, as your fish will die in poorly oxygenated water.

You can buy an air pump along with a stone that creates bubbles and supports gas exchange.

Live bacteria seeding products

When fish pee and poop, ammonia is released. Although some ammonia is removed from the aquarium by the filter, but some of it remains there. Ammonia accumulating in the tank can make fish sick, and they ultimately die.

In a well-established aquarium, there are numerous good bacteria that are essential for fish survival. These bacteria feed on the ammonia and in this way ammonia is removed from the water. This is the best way to make water clean from ammonia. The good bacteria grow in the aquarium on their own, but it takes several weeks. You can’t wait for them to grow on their own as fish can’t survive with this much ammonia that would accumulate in weeks.

So, you have to buy commercially available live bacteria seeding. They’ll start utilizing ammonia as soon as they are added to the aquarium.

Live bacteria seeding is an essential supply. Without them, fish will start dying due to ammonia.

Fish food

Fish need food to survive. But what sort of food is healthy for the fish and in how much amount? You should know that before you own a pet fish.

Fish need proteins and a small number of fats to survive. The best food for fish is commercially available food. You can feed your fish live food by purchasing live, frozen worms and small fish. You can also buy food pellets and flakes.

Please don’t feed your fish raw veggies and carbs. If you want to feed them veggies, then go for one or two boiled peas. That’s it. Don’t give your fish bread or anything that has too many carbs. Your fish can die because of stomach swelling and severe constipation by consuming the bread.

You should be able to buy the best commercially available food for your fish. Fish don’t eat too much food. They just need a few pellets and they can spend a whole day well. So, don’t compromise on the quality of fish food to save a few bucks.


Fishnet is very important as you’ll need it anytime to catch the fish. If your fish is diseased or has some fights with other fish, then you’ll use your fish net to take the fish out.

It’s safe to have two fish nets. Choose the size of fishnet according to the size of your aquarium.

Aquarium substrate

Although some fishes can live without a substrate but it’s essential for most of the fishes. Otherwise, fish find the aquarium as an unnatural habitat. Some fish, like Catfish, likes to dig the substrate. They feel safe and at home, when they have soft substrate at the bottom of the tank.

Choose the gravel according to the needs of your fish. One pound of gravel is enough for one gallon of water. So, if you have a 20 gallons aquarium then you’ve to buy 20 pounds of gravel.

Don’t forget to wash the gravel thoroughly before putting it in the tank. Washing is important as the gravel might have any germs that can infect your fish.

Maintenance Supplies

Water conditioner

water conditioner is used when you use tap water to fill the fish tank. We all find it convenient to use tap water as it’s readily available. But tap water contains certain chemicals that aren’t harmful to us but are deadly to the fish.

Tap water contains chlorine and chloramine. Both these chemicals are used to disinfect the water. But these chemicals will kill your fish if you use tap water to fill the tank.

To neutralize the effect of chlorine and chloramine, a water conditioner should be used. Buy a good quality water conditioner, it’s few drops will do the trick. So, you’ll need one bottle that will last for months.

The water conditioner will instantly neutralize chlorine, chloramine, ammonia, and heavy metals. So, that water will be safe for your fish.

Another method to remove chlorine and chloramine is to boil tap water and then cool it. Boiling causes chlorine to vaporize, but it’s uncertain that you’ll boil and cool the water every time you change the water in the aquarium. So, it’s best to buy a water conditioner.

Algae scrubber

When you’ll set up the aquarium, you’ll notice that after some days, algae will start to grow inside the aquarium. This alga isn’t good for your fish and it also smells bad. So, it needs to be removed.

To remove algae, you can use an algae scraper or scrubber. There are also algae magnets that can remove the algae and pull it to them. You can use an algae magnet from outside of the tank. This way, you’ll save your hands from getting wet and is a more clean process.


Adding live plants to your aquarium will not only beautify it, but also remove toxic ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites from the tank.

You can use any plant that is suitable for use in an aquarium. Your local fish market will have all the plants that you can use in your aquarium.

Fish also use the plants to hide behind them and sometimes munch on them. They play with these plants and find them a source of protection.

Be sure that you provide an optimum environment for the live plants. The light of the aquarium should remain on so that plants can perform their daily life activities.

Test kit

You should buy a test kit to know the quality of water in the aquarium. You can monitor the level of chlorine, ammonia, and other toxins. You can also check the pH of the water.

There is a multi-test strip available. You can use these strips for several times. But be sure that you store them properly.

There are more advanced test devices. These devices can be merged in water and the quality of water can be determined. But these devices are not durable. You have to change them every two to three months.


Siphon helps in the water changing process. Siphon helps to pull out the water in the aquarium and allows the tap water to go in.

The best siphon you can have is a gravel vacuum as it removes debris from the tank efficiently and pulls out the water from the aquarium that needs to be changed.

Non-essential supplies


You can add a hood to the top of the aquarium. Hood protects the fish from jumping out and it also saves fish from your kids.

You can buy a hood made up of glass or plastic. The plastic one would be great if you have children in the house.


If you want to fix your aquarium at a place, then buy a stand as well. For glass aquariums, only edges will need support while acrylic aquariums need support from below as well.


You can make caves, ships, coral reefs, and whatever you like out of decorations. Be sure that the decorations are for aquarium use.

Don’t add any decoration item that isn’t for aquariums. These decorations can release chemicals and can be fatal for your fish.

Water bucket

It’s good to buy a brand new water bucket that should be used for aquarium purposes only.

The water buckets used in household chores can have soap or surf in it. If not washed, the detergent can literally kill your fish. So, it’s best to buy an aquarium-only water bucket.

The Takeaway

If you are just going to buy pet fish for your home, then do your research and buy the things that are essential for your fish’s survival.

Although having a pet fish is easier, but setting up the aquarium is difficult if you don’t have the knowledge. Buying things without knowing can result in a disaster.

Above are listed all the supplies you need for your fish. Give it a read and you’ll know all the basics about the supplies you need for a fish. You just have to buy these things now. Good luck!

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