As an aquarist, finding the right fish-keeping essentials in today’s competitive, keyword-centric marketplace has become increasingly challenging. While there are decent products that do the intended jobs pretty effectively, they’re hard to put a finger on.
In this article, we’ll go through personally-tested fish-keeping essentials to help you choose the best one among them. We’ve tested each product against its effectiveness, accuracy, durability, ease of usage, price, and other subjective parameters.
For DIY and traditional fish tanks, having a general idea about the build quality, water leakage, and dimensions are often enough. But, when it comes to choosing self-cleaning tanks that come bundled with filters, pumps, heaters, and lighting, you need to carefully review the options.
1. Best 2.5-gallon Tank: Aqueon LED MiniBow Small Aquarium Fish Tank Kit
The Aqueon self-cleaning 2.5-gallon tank is great for small schooling fish that need active swimming and regular water change to thrive. In an attempt to intrigue beginners, this fish tank comes equipped with a small filter cartridge and a smart water change system.
- 2-Minute water change with SmartClean™ Technology
- Elevated base for better visibility and cleaning.
- Low noise level from the heater and air pump.
- Easy to assemble. Comes with an instruction manual and setup guide.
- Great Build Quality. The vessel is made from premium-quality acrylic and the accessories are of excellent quality.
- Comes with fish food for specific species like Betta and Guppies.
- Need to use a siphon. The SmartClean™ Technology doesn’t clean the gravel.
- The filter flow rate is superfluous. Maintain it with filter sponges in the inlet to prevent your fish from getting sucked in.
2. Best 5-gallon Vertical Tank: Marineland Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit
The vertical design of the Marineland Portrait Aquarium makes it suitable for planted aquariums and graceful swimmers like Betta fish and Rainbow Guppies. The hidden 2-stage filtration and Daylight lighting give it a great aesthetic and professional vibe.
- Rounded corners and a clear glass canopy offer a safe all-around viewing opportunity.
- White and Blue LEDs in this kit are designed to give your fish tank a daylight/moonlight glow.
- 3-stage filtration with bio-foam and Rite-Size Z Cartridge cleans the tank of chemical and biological contamination.
- 5-gallon fish tank to keep betta, mollies, and other tropical small fish.
- Made of glass. Glass is more inert towards chemical reactions and corroborations than acrylic.
- The filter motor is quite silent and powerful. You may need to reduce the speed with the filter pads.
- No horizontal swimming space for active swimmers.
- The filtration system is underwhelming.
3. Best 5-gallon Horizontal Tank: Fluval SPEC Aquarium Kit
With a stylish honeycomb design and concealed back filtration, the Fluval SPEC Aquarium Kit is one of the highest-rated all-in-one fish tanks out there. The etched glass and aluminum trims only add to the overall ultra-modern look of this product. Fluval also offers a 55-80 GPH adjustable pump for the filter.
- 7000K LED lights, generating 20% brighter output (821 lumens) for bolder fish colors and better plant growth.
- Glass construction with etched sides and high-grade aluminum trims for better visibility and scratch-free cleaning.
- 3-stage filtration through foam block, activated carbon, and bio rings, resulting in better water quality and visibility.
- Horizontal space for more active aquatic members to naturally swim and explore.
- The kit is easy to assemble and clean.
- The slowest pump setting is rather too fast to cause stress to plants and small fish.
- Pricing is on the higher side.
4. Best 20-gallon Fish Tank: Tetra ColorFusion Aquarium 20-gallon Fish Tank Kit
Charming the young and beginner aquarists, the Tetra ColorFusion is a 20-gallon fish tank with interchangeable lighting colors and every other accessory included. Great as a medium-sized community tank, this fish tank comes bundled with plants, a heater, and a blooming white anemone.
- Color Fusion LED lighting cycle to give your tank different looks according to your mood and preference.
- Justifiable pricing. Every accessory, such as filter, heater, and decorations, is included in the package. You just have to buy gravel and fish to get started.
- Built with scratch-resistant glass to allow deep cleaning and keep your fish from toxic chemical reactions.
- Tetra Safe Start Dosage is included to dechlorinate tap water before pouring it into the tank while changing water.
- Noisy filtration system. The averagely efficient filtration system is pretty noisy to keep in your bedroom or living room.
- Build quality and quality of the accessories leave a lot to desire.
5. Best 20-gallon Turtle Tank: Tetra Aquatic Turtle Deluxe Kit
Equipped with basking platforms, a pair of heating lamps, a decorative filter, and a boxwood plant mat, the Tetra Aquatic Turtle Deluxe Kit is suitable for keeping two small or one large turtle. It also includes Tetra Food and water care product samples to get started with your turtle tank. An adequate filtration system is also included in the package.
- Decorative ReptiFilter creates a beautiful waterfall for your turtle tank while keeping the tank water clean through 3-stage filtration.
- Basking platforms are included to blend with the modern look of the aquarium and to help your turtle rest on land.
- A 60-watt heating bulb and a 12-watt 5.0 UVB bulb are included in the kit for prime basking and warmth.
- Glass 20-gallon aquarium for durability and scratch-free operations.
- The waterfall filtration is loud.
- The lid doesn’t fit perfectly.
Check out our article on “Neon Tetra“.
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In natural waters, the local fish species develop their physiological processes according to the water conditions. However, in your tank, setting up a healthy fish tank requires regularly testing water parameters acting on them. For that, testing kits are essential.
1. Best Freshwater Master Test Kit: API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT
Empowering you with the 5 most essential parameters and 800 total tests, the API Freshwater Master Test Kit helps you measure pH, high-range pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. While it’s not as easy as using the test strips, it’s more accurate.
Equipped with a color card, 7 testing solutions, and 4 glass tubes, this product is suitable for every aquarist.
- Test all the necessary parameters and help you maintain your fish’s health through weekly monitoring.
- With 800 tests spreading across 5 parameters, the kit should be enough to last you months before you need to replace it.
- Easy to use. The kit comes with detailed instructions in a comprehensible format. The glass tubes are used for observing color changes.
- The color card includes tips to solve parameter imbalances.
- Isn’t designed for both saltwater and freshwater. While you may test saltwater aquariums, the color charts are different for both.
- No water hardness tests are included. Be careful when testing planted aquariums, as they’re more sensitive to water hardness.
2. Best All-in-One Test Strips: Tetra EasyStrips 6-In-1 Aquarium Test Strips
Available in 25 and 100-strip variations, the Tetra Easy Strips is convenient and easy to use. Dipping the strip in aquarium water is what you need to do to test water parameters for every essential parameter, including water hardness. Moreover, it can be used for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums.
- Completely tests every essential parameter with a single dip of the strips and perfectly matches with the colors printed on the bottle.
- Specially designed to test chlorine levels, the strips also do a similarly great job testing pH, hardness, nitrite, and nitrate.
- 60-seconds result. As there is no need to facilitate complex procedures, all the tests are concluded in a minute.
- Can be used for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. Both the color charts are present.
- Isn’t as accurate as individual liquid test kits.
- The ammonia test isn’t available in the 6-in-1 strips.
3. Best pH Testing Kit: API pH Test Kit
Dedicated to only testing the pH levels, the API pH Test Kit can measure pH levels in the range of 6.0 to 7.6. The package includes a bottle of testing solution, a glass test tube, and a color card. As per our testing, the results from this kit come pretty close to the laboratory-grade results derived from pH monitors.
- The results are pretty accurate. Although limited to a relatively normal pH range, the results are quite actionable.
- The chart bundled with the product is easy to read and has accurate colors.
- The dropper bottle comes with a child-resistant safety cap to avoid unfortunate incidents.
- The instruction manual is easy to follow.
- Cost-effective pricing. Better per test value than strips.
- Results are limited to normal pH levels. For higher-level measurements, you need to buy a separate kit.
4. Best Nitrite Test Kit: Salifert NIPT Nitrite Test Kit
With the proprietary formulation and fast turnaround time, the Salifert NIPT Nitrite Test Kit disregards amine interference and does its job of aquarium nitrite measurement quite effectively. Although the pack mentions 60 tests, you can comfortably get 50 tests with the kit. The instruction and color codes also are pretty comprehensible.
- Two different scales for ultra-low and medium-scale nitrate measurements are provided for more accurate metrics.
- The kit can be used for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
- Amine interference often generates inaccurate results in nitrite tests. Sailfert’s formulation prevents its occurrence.
- Easier to use and more accurate than other nitrite tests. A spoon is provided with the package to measure the chemical amount.
- The colors can be a bit confusing. With the test results ranging from purple to violet, getting an exact match may become challenging.
5. Best Water Hardness Test Kit: Freshwater Hardnss Test Kit
Measuring both GH and KH, API Freshwater Hardness Test Kit helps create a more natural habitat for your fish. Although the testing process requires a bit of patience, the results are pretty accurate. The information manual, however, was as comprehensible as you may expect. The kit comes with 2 different bottles and test tubes for GH and KH tests.
- The instruction manual comes with general tips for adjusting the water hardness levels for both GH and KH. It also included the optimum GH and KH range for different fish species.
- More accurate results, compared to strips and other liquid testing kits.
- A chart is provided to convert drops to degrees that the instruction is in.
- Takes plenty of time to deliver accurate results.
- The instruction manual includes everything except for a comprehensive guide to the tests.
- Doesn’t work with saltwater aquariums.
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A lot of equipment, purposes ranging from filtration to lighting, are considered essential for fish tanks. However, using and reviewing each one of them is superfluous and unnecessary. Therefore, we’ve listed only the equipment that we personally use for our aquariums.
Best in class, the Fluval 207 canister filter comfortably cycles aquariums up to 45 gallons. Equipped with Fluval eTEC, this unit delivers powerful pump performance and reduces energy consumption.
Decorated with various easy-to-use attachments, this canister filter allows quick release, faster start-ups, and easy media basket removal.
- Employed efficient Technology (eTEC) construction for effective filtration and increased pump performance.
- Aaquastop valve ensures spill-free and smoother operation. Make sure that the valve is in the correct position before operation.
- EZ-Lift media baskets allow the main media stack to be removed completely without making any mess.
- The motor is quite silent and is suitable to be kept in your living room.
- The new primer with an easy-grip handle allows easier priming with just a few pumps.
- The pricing is on the higher side.
- The filter needs to be assembled.
UPETTOOLS 6-in-1 aquarium cleaning tool is suitable for cleaning both glass and acrylic fish tanks. Made from ABS plastic, this tool comes with 6 unique accessories that repurpose it for various cleaning operations. The accessories include a scrape, a gravel rake, a brush, a cleaning sponge, a fish net, and a ring-angle cleaning sponge for corners.
- Durable build quality. ABS plastic gives it the strength to handle every cleaning operation around your tank without bending or breaking.
- Stretching to 3.2 ft, the adjustable handle covers every corner and depth of your fish tank.
- Easy to assemble the accessories. Just remove one and attach another without hassle.
- 180-degree rotating brush head.
- Large accessories—suitable for larger tanks.
- No rubber razor blade scraper was provided. Cleaning acrylic tank glasses may leave scratches.
- Quite large for smaller tanks below 20 gallons.
Available in 4 variations, ranging from 10 to 100 gallons, the Tetra Whisper Air Pump is a powerful and quiet solution to your aquarium’s oxygen needs. Their patented dome shape and sound-dampening chambers offer a laminar, quiet stream of air. Some of the larger variations come with 2 air outlets for more versatile applications.
- Dome-shaped chassis with a suspended motor allow noise-free operation.
- Vibration-reducing rubber pads are used in the feet of the pump for stability.
- Pairable with Tetra My Aquarium App. The app notifies you about maintenance schedules, water care routines, and equipment inventory.
- Powerful diaphragms generate enough pressure for the air to reach the depths of your tank.
- Pricing is a plus. The affordable pricing structure of this product is quite intriguing for beginner enthusiasts.
- Corded air pump. Wireless functionality through batteries isn’t available.
- The pump isn’t UL certified.
Operated via the FluvalSmart app from your phone, the Fluval Aquasky 2.0 is a versatile and practical aquarium lighting system that comes in 4 wattage variations. The lighting system is customizable to dictate the mood and weather of the aquarium with 6500K white and RGB color LEDs. Overall, the kit is easy to use and is great value for money.
- Bluetooth operated. Explore the lighting settings and customization options connected through Fluval Smart App.
- Skypad remote control. Choose from the 11 preset sky effects or customize your own, the color scheme options are virtually limitless in this aquarium lighting.
- 120-degree dispersion. Covers the whole fish tank surface and offers uniform lighting.
- Extendable mounting brackets. Fit the lighting setup to any size of tank with the adjustable over-the-tank brackets.
- 24-hour automatic daytime/nighttime timer.
- Not suitable for planted aquariums.
- The app is terrible.
Easy to use and easy to clean, the Laifoo Aquarium Siphon Vacuum Cleaner is a basic substrate cleaning equipment, complete with a long 5-feet hose and large gravel tube. With 3 months free replacement warranty, it’s also a great value for money. However, a handle or grip would’ve been better for more comfortable handling.
- Anti-kinking durable hose for siphoning the substrate without disturbing the plants and the fish.
- Detachable filter screen to use at your convenience. Remove it when you need to move larger debris.
- Smell-free siphon ball. Doesn’t harm the fish and has no peculiar smell.
- Adjustable flow controller. Choose a drain flow rate of 0.8 to 1.2 gallons/min, depending on your substrate and plant situation.
- Suction power is somewhat inadequate for larger debris.
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Nutrition is the most essential element in maintaining your fish tank. Depending on the fish diet and macro elements, the fish food is prepared. While a few professionals like to explore live food, most of us prefer pellets and dried options.
With larger pellets, the Hikari Massivore Delite, specially made for carnivorous fish, claims to stabilize vitamin C and support immune system health. These sinking pellets also develop better colors and reduce fish waste.
- Higher levels of carotenoids for the development of brighter colors.
- Highly nutritional. Each pellet is equivalent to 1.8 goldfish.
- Natural ingredients. Fish food, krill meal, fish oil, and major vitamins are the basic ingredients of Hikari Massivore Delite.
- Turtle food. Hikari can also be fed to turtles.
- The product stinks and you need to remove anything uneaten as soon as possible. However, fish love the smell.
Promoting less ammonia production and cleaner water, the API Goldfish Pellets are rich in vitamins C and E. Striking the absolute balance between the protein requirement and nitrogen production of goldfish species, the product is one of the most popular goldfish foods in the market.
- Immunity booster. The API Goldfish Pellets help boost your fish’s immune system.
- Less waste and 30% less ammonia. These pellets are formulated to minimize goldfish waste and ammonia production.
- Better colors. A rich blend of carotenoids and wheat germ is used as ingredients for better health and colors.
- Nutrition-rich ingredients. Whole wheat, squid meal, wheat stretch, pea protein, and many other nutritional elements are used in production.
- Uneaten pellets may cloud the water.
Consistent with natural feeding habits, the Hikari Marine-S is ideal for smaller marine omnivores. With ingredients enhancing the color of your fish, the soft sponge-like texture of the pellets promotes instinctive feeding. It also claims to stabilize vitamin C–supporting immune system health.
- Natural ingredients with high protein levels are suitable for marine fish living on the reef.
- Small pellets for easy feeding to small marine fish, such as Clowns and Darts.
- Sinks slowly. The pellets sink slowly and hover mid-tank before hitting the substrate.
- A bit on the expensive side.
Semi-floating pellets, protein-rich ingredients, and added Amino Acids make Hikari Fancy Guppy Food the best choice among aquarists. In addition to improving growth rate and boosting the immune system, it improves breeding habits and enhances color.
- Soft yet undissolved.
- Minimal water clouding. The proprietary Micro-Coating feature ensures that the pellets won’t dissolve and cloud the water.
- Increased reproductive capacity.
- Little too small for grown guppies.
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Fish Tank Decor
Aquarium decorations are determined through the mutual preference of you and your dish species. Here are a few fish tank decor products that are almost essential to keep healthy and happy fish. We’ve chosen these items on the basis of their durability, BPA-free, and aesthetics.
If you must replace live plants with artificial plants, PietyPet Green Plants are one of the most premium products out there. With 10 different green plants and soft leaves, your fish can explore and hide behind these decorations. Each of the plants also comes with pedestals for submersion and anchoring.
- Different sizes of plants allow you to customize your waterscape as graciously as you like.
- Soft leaves ensure that the fish can hide and play around these plants without hurting them in the process.
- Ideal for both saltwater and freshwater fish, the plastic used to produce these plants are non-toxic to use in aquariums.
- Heavy pedestals are used under every plant so that they don’t float around the surface.
- The small plant leaves are harder and may injure your fish.
Appropriate for kids’ tanks, GloFish Aquarium Gravel is the perfect complement to GloFish fish and blue LED lights. This fluorescent gravel comes in a few different packaging, including black, green, white, pink, and mixed gravels. You may also use them as an accent but don’t forget to rinse the gravel with water before using it.
- Non Toxic. The gravels are fluorescent but aren’t toxic to your fish and plants.
- Fluorescent. The gravel glows in the dark with the help of blue LEDs. Don’t expect them to emit light.
- Pricing for the 5lb bag is in an affordable range.
- You need to rinse them thoroughly multiple times to get rid of tiny rock fragments.
Also check out our article on ‘How To Breed Glofish Tetras?’
Organically collected and washed, the Voulosimi Natural Slate Rocks are used to create naturally occurring landscape variations in aquascapes. The product is available in different types and packaging sizes. They also offer a full refund if you’re not satisfied with the quality of the rocks.
- 100% natural slate stones. Picked, inspected, and washed by hand, the slate stones are natural and don’t influence water quality in any way.
- Can be used to create caves and cliffs for your fish to explore. Don’t forget to use aquarium-safe glue.
- Easy to clean. Just wash it away with water and a brush. You don’t need to use any soap or cleaning agents.
- The package comes in differently sized and shaped rocks.
- Pricing isn’t optimum for a bag of slate rocks.
- Smaller stones are too small to be accent stones.
Providing hiding space for small species, such as betta, mollies, and guppies, the CREMOG Fish Tank Decorations are aesthetically unique and safe for fish. Produced with safe and durable resin, these decorations hold onto their vividness for a long time. It’s also suitable for both saltwater and freshwater tanks.
- Made from durable corrosion-resistant resin to support both freshwater and saltwater operations.
- The cave is carefully smoothed out to safely allow your fish to explore and hide.
- Suitable for 5 to 25-gallon aquariums. The largest variant is 7” in height and may seem small for larger tanks.
- Your kids will love the Star Wars-inspired robotic dog decoration.
- Seashell decorations are included with the large variant. However, being natural ornaments, they may influence the pH of your tank.
- Pricing is a bummer. However, the smaller version comes cheaper.
Equipped with 6 different pattern options, the HITOP Aquarium Background is vivid and fade-resistant. The pictures printed on glossy backgrounds are high-definition and clean. Furthermore, these 15.7” X 31.5” aquarium backgrounds are optimum for 30-gallon tanks.
- Multiple background options. Each piece of the picture contains 2 different backgrounds on both sides. A total of 3 pieces contain 6 aesthetic options.
- Remove or replace the backgrounds without any hassle. Just don’t use glue when attaching it. Use gummed paper or tractable glue.
- Adequate pricing for 3 beautiful backgrounds.
- A bit bland. The colors and exposure could’ve been a little better.
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Fish Tank Heaters
Most aquarium fish species aren’t adapted to withstand extreme cold and hot temperatures. While the water temperature can be easily reduced by increasing flow and water changes, colder temperatures in aquariums are hard to manage and require heaters for the same.
The best heaters for different-sized aquariums are discussed in this section. And, unless you have a really small tank, there is no harm in using a more powerful heater with a thermostat.
Best suited for 50-gallon aquariums or below, the Orlushy 300W Aquarium Heater comes with a 6-feet long power cord and a precise meter. This adjustable, submersible heater is quite sensitive and reliable for most aquatic operations. Moreover, it’s suited for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
- Adjustable temperature. The precise temperature control dial allows you to manage aquarium conditions.
- Explosion-proof. 2mm thickened quartz glass is used to prevent explosions from happening due to thermal radiation.
- Automatic shut off. The heater shuts itself off whenever the desired temperature is reached. It’s also the reason that it can be used in smaller aquariums.
- Crash pad. A rubber crash pad prevents the heater from taking fall damage.
- Fire retardant padding. The fire retardant padding in the bottom prevents fire-related accidents from happening.
- The adjustment dial isn’t very accurate.
Combining modern aesthetics with Italian design, the Fluval M50 Heater is appropriate for 15-gallon tanks. A replacement to traditional options, this heater immerses in the surrounding environment, thanks to its reflective Borosilicate glass and slim profile. It comes with a 3-year limited warranty support.
- Reflective design. Heat and shock-resistant Borosilicate glass tube is used to reflect the surrounding aquarium color.
- Accurate temperature control. Electronically-calibrated temperature control dial automatically turns off the device when the desired temperature is reached.
- Slim profile. The traditional bulky designs are replaced by this slick (less than 1”) aquarium heater.
- Ceramic heat sink. To easily and smoothly dissipate heat, ceramic heat sinks are used. It allows even heat distribution and safe operations.
- The temperature control knob could’ve been sturdier.
- No temperature meter is present,
Small yet powerful, the Tetra HT Aquarium Heater is designed to fit into smaller tanks without losing its 50-watt firepower. The heater is specifically designed for tropical fish (78 F) and doesn’t come with an adjustment dial–promoting simplicity. The filter is fully submersible and can be placed either vertically or horizontally.
- Dual LED indicator. A red LED indicates the ON position of the heater, and a green LED announces the optimal temperature.
- Aluminum Oxide Crystals are used for equal distribution of heat around the aquarium.
- Shock-resistant pad under the heater ensures minimal fall damage.
- Powerful. Can be used for larger aquariums. But, the size of the heater limits its capabilities.
- The heater can be hidden behind decorations and filters for an additional aesthetic vibe.
- Temperature isn’t adjustable.
- Doesn’t come with a temperature meter.
UL STD certified and equipped with a titanium heating element, the Finnex Titanium 600W is perfect for your 100-150 gallon aquarium. Focusing on safety and efficiency, this heater comes with an external temperature controller and Japanese components. Preventing moisture injection, O-ring seals are employed to protect the internal components from damage.
- Accuracy. This aquarium heater is the most accurate one among the ones that we tested.
- Equipped with a remote sensor, the Finnex 600W employs a memory function to safeguard your tank from power interruptions.
- Redundancy Technology. The heater, reportedly, never sticks to the ON position after reaching the desired temperature.
- Titanium heating element. 17mm corrosion-resistant titanium is used as a heating element for even heat distribution.
- Pricing is on a significantly higher side.
The highly durable, extremely powerful, and fully submersible Aquatop 1500W Titanium Tube Heater is the single perfect choice for your 200-gallon aquarium. A precise meter and remote controller combination ensure that the water temperature is maintained at the optimum level at any given moment. This aquarium heater has a wide operating range of 68-92 F.
- Durable design. The heating element is made out of titanium for efficient and long-term application.
- For both saltwater and freshwater tanks. The corrosion-resistant build of the heater ensures that the unit can be used in both saltwater and freshwater tanks.
- Overheating prevention. Dual relay interwork and dual digital controller ensures that overheating issues are eliminated.
- Accurate temperature control. While the temperature is off by a degree or two, it mostly renders accurate results.
- Pricing is on the higher side.
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The Bottom Line
We’ve listed all the fish-keeping essentials that you need to maintain a healthy and happy tank. Hopefully, you’ll now be able to fulfill the requirements of your aquarium without investing in poor product choices.