Once you picked out your aquarium, it’s time to decide what extra and additional pieces of equipment, or decorations, your tank needs. Here are some things to consider when customizing your tank.

1. Heater:

Some fish require water up to 85˚F. This requires a water heater. Heater size depends on tank size and the general temperature of the room your tank will be held in. To figure out what size heater you need, figure out the average temperature of the room and subtract the temperature you would like your tank to be.

For example:

Room Temp. 68˚F
Desired Tank Temp. 82˚F
Difference: 14˚F

This requires a heater than can heat your tank size by at least 14˚F. If the temperature you need is between heater sizes, always air on the side of caution and purchase the larger heater. In addition, you should consider using two smaller heaters to heat a big tank rather than one giant heater to heat the whole thing. Two smaller heaters can be placed on opposite sides of the tank and heat the water equally without over-heating fish that get too close to a large heater.

2. Filters:

When purchasing a filter, the general rule is that ALL the water in the tank should be filtered four times every hour. This means that a ten gallon tank should have a filter that has a forty gph (gallon per hour) flow rate. If you cannot find a filter that has a gph flow rate for your tank, always get a larger filter instead of a small one. It is better to over-filter your water and keep it extra clean than to not filter it enough and poison your fish.

3. Sediment, Rocks and Substrate:

What type of substrate you use depends on your personal preferences and the preferences of your fish. While most fish do not have a preference and will do well with rocks and pebbles, some fish such as Blennies or Rays require a soft, sandy substrate that they can dig into. If you have a tank with bottom-dwelling fish or fish with soft bellies, you should always air on the side of caution and purchase a soft substrate.

How much substrate you purchase is also dependent on your tank size. A well-balanced tank will have about two inches of substrate. How much should you buy then? Figure that you should purchase one pound of substrate for every gallon of water, i.e. a 10 gallon tank needs 10 pounds of sand or pebbles. This varies if you add real plants or have an oddly shaped tank. Certain species of fish may also need an even thicker substrate to bury in.

4. Decorations:

Pots, pirate ships and plants are just a few of the tank decoration options you have available to you, and a trip to the pet store can be both exciting and overwhelming in this regard. Before you get carried away by the underwater pirate brigade and the bubble-blowing chest, think about your fish. Shy fish may be frightened by the bubble-blowing chest. Some fish absolutely require hiding places and the pirate ship may not have holes big enough to hide in. Other fish need plants over decorations and would do better with a replicated sea-grass bed.

5. Fish Food:

Each fish has specific dietary requirements that must be kept in mind when stocking up on fish food. Pond fish, such as Koi, have specially formulated pellets that meet their dietary needs. Other fish, such as a number of the marine fish, require high-protein and fairly expensive diets. You may even find yourself buying shrimp and clam for your fish. Flake food is sufficient for a number of freshwater fish, but it doesn’t always meet all their nutritional needs and fish fed flake food should occasionally be treated to live blood worms, brine shrimp, and fresh vegetation such as fruit or boiled lettuce.