What you will need to start up a fresh water aquarium

A suitable position for your aquarium: this should be away from direct sunlight, which can adversely affect temperatures, and also encourage unsightly algae growth, plus be placed on a flat surface, on solid piece of furniture sturdy enough to support its weight (one litre of water weighs 1kg, which obviously means that a 60l tank, which is by no means huge, will weigh 60kg – that’s over 9 stones – once filled with water.)  It should also be well away from things which cause undue vibration, such as hi-fi speakers, and out of the way of being knocked against by children or pets.

A tank: think carefully about what size you will need.  No fish should be living in goldfish bowl sized accommodation.  A basic rectangular 60 or 70l tank will provide space for a varied community of small fish to get you started, though you may find that over time you wish to expand as your hobby grows.

A lighting unit: usually fitted inside the lid of your tank, these will be included in most ready-made tanks, and may be traditional tube lights or LED type. Fish don’t mind either kind.

Substrate: gravel or sand to form an attractive floor for your aquarium, to conceal debris between cleans, and to provide rooting for any plants you may wish to add.

A filter: to remove impurities, in particular the harmful chemicals produced by your fish in their waste.  Filters can be internal units, sitting just below the water-line in your tank and attached to the inside of the glass, or external mechanisms which live in the space below your tank and have pipes feeding in and out of it.

A heater (for a tropical aquarium): to keep the water temperature consistent inside your tank, to keep your fish happy.  The size of the heater you need will depend on the size of your tank.

An air-stone and pump: to provide air movement within your tank, and to create attractive bubbles.

Plants and decorations:  to make your tank look appealing, and to give your fish a habitat to feel at home in.

Water: available out of the tap, brought to the correct temperature for your chosen fish (most tropical community fish are happy between 24 and 26C, but check care guides for specific requirements), and dechlorinated (dechlorinating liquid is available in our shop, and all pet stores) to remove harmful chemicals from tap water.

Patience.  Plan to get your tank up and running, so that you can play around with getting the water conditions right, well before you aim to add fish.  See our tank cycling guide here.

Choosing a tank

Types of aquarium

Cycling your tank