Aquarist-Approved Products for a Healthier Tank You’ll Wish You’d Known About Sooner

Alison Page

Alison Page


aquarist- recommended products for tank health

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As an aquarist with over four decades of experience in keeping coldwater and tropical fish of many different species, I’ve learned that having a successful, thriving aquarium isn’t just about water and fish. This absorbing hobby is all about creating a harmonious, balanced ecosystem where every element, from the substrate to the lighting, contributes to the well-being of its fauna and flora.

In this guide, I’ll introduce you to some products that you’ll wish you’d known about sooner! Some of these products are designed to address and fix problems, while others can make keeping your pets less time-consuming. That leaves you more time to sit back and appreciate the aesthetic beauty of your aquarium.

Keep reading to discover the aquarist-approved products you need to have in your fishkeeping arsenal!

Key Takeaways

  • Creating a Balanced Ecosystem: Success in fishkeeping hinges on establishing a balanced ecosystem that supports the health of both the fish and plants, with each aquarium element playing a vital role.
  • Essential Products for Care: Highlighted essential aquarist-approved products include water conditioners to treat tap water, bacteria supplements to accelerate tank cycling, and aquarium test kits for water quality monitoring, which are indispensable for both novice and experienced fishkeepers.
  • Maintenance for Healthier Aquaria: Regular maintenance with tools like aquarium vacuum cleaners, alongside the use of beneficial supplements like bacteria and aquatic plant additives, as well as UV sterilizers, ensures a clean, disease-free environment conducive to the thriving of aquatic life.

Water Conditioners

Spraying the aquarium with conditioner

The most important element of any fish tank or planted aquarium is the water you put in it. Without healthy, safe water, your fish and plants won’t thrive and could even die.

Most hobbyists fill and top up their tanks with tap water. That’s fine, provided you treat the tap water with a good-quality conditioning product. Tap water generally contains chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals, which public water companies add to make the water safe for human use.

However, these chemicals can be extremely harmful to aquatic life and also kill the beneficial bacteria in your filtration system. Those colonies of bacteria are responsible for processing organic waste, such as fish poop, decaying plant matter, and uneaten fish food. Without their presence, ammonia levels in your tank will rise to dangerous levels, potentially spiking and killing your fish.

Chlorine vs. Chloramine

Back in the day, when I first started keeping fish, the traditional way of making tap water safe for use in fish tanks was to place it in a bucket, stir it to encourage the dilute chlorine to turn to gas, then leave the water to stand overnight. Once the chlorine had evaporated, the water was deemed safe to use in the aquarium.

However, in more recent times, another chemical called chloramine has largely replaced pure chlorine. Chloramine is formed by the reaction of chlorine with ammonia, which is lethal to fish. Most hobbyists use water conditioners to neutralize these harmful substances, making tap water instantly safe to add to your tank.

But did you know that you can buy some water conditioning products, such as API Stress Coat Aquarium Water Conditioner, that not only get rid of chloramine and chlorine but also add essential electrolytes and promote the natural slime coat of fish, aiding in their resistance to disease?

API STRESS COAT Aquarium Water Conditioner
  • Contains one (1) API STRESS COAT Aquarium Water Conditioner 16-Ounce Bottle
  • Makes tap water safe and protects fish with dual-action formula
  • Removes chemicals from tap water that are harmful to fish
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Beneficial Bacteria Supplements

A woman adds beige-gray oval capsules - aquarium bacteria supplements - to the water

We’ve all been there: You set up your beautiful new fish tank and can’t wait to go to your local fish store and choose your new aquatic pets. But before you can do that, you must allow sufficient time for your tank to cycle fully.

When you set up a new aquarium, the cycling process refers to establishing a healthy biological filter before adding any fish. Beneficial bacteria must colonize the filter media, tank surfaces, and substrate, where they process ammonia, first into nitrites and then into less harmful nitrates.

This process typically takes several weeks and involves introducing ammonia from fish food or a commercial product to the tank. The ammonia effectively provides food for the bacteria and promotes cycling.

Once the tank has cycled and ammonia and nitrite levels are zero, it’s safe to begin adding your new fish to the aquarium. If you add your new fish too soon, they will suffer ammonia poisoning, and most will probably die.

But if you simply can’t wait, you can use bacteria supplements to help jump-start the nitrogen cycle, reducing ammonia and nitrite levels and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria colonies. I also like to use one of these supplements after a significant disturbance to the biological balance in my tanks, such as a large water change or when I’ve used medication treatment to tackle a disease outbreak.

Take a look at this in-depth article to discover some of the best bacteria supplements I’ve used in my tanks.

Aquarium Test Kits

Hand holding aquarium test strip pads

I make it a part of my aquarium maintenance regime to monitor the water parameters in my fish tank. That helps address any potential issues before they become a problem.

You’ll need a reliable aquarium water testing kit that provides you with essential parameters, such as pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and phosphate. The Sera aqua-test box is my go-to resource. This comprehensive and user-friendly aquarium water testing kit provides accurate results for multiple parameters, making it convenient to use rather than needing to keep several separate testing fluids.

Aquarium Salt

close-up of male hands with aquarium salt

Many hobbyists reserve using aquarium salt for wound treatment and recovery. However, aquarium salt can be a versatile and valuable tool in maintaining optimal conditions within both freshwater and saltwater aquarium environments.

So, how can products like API aquarium salt, which I recommend, be used to create a healthier tank for your fish and other aquatic pets?

API Aquarium Salt 65oz
  • Made from all-natural evaporated sea water for freshwater aquariums.
  • Helps provide fish with essential electrolytes.
  • Promotes recovery from diseases to help increase fish health and reduce stress.
  • The salt formula helps keep your freshwater fish healthy.
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Osmoregulation Support

Osmoregulation enables fish to maintain the crucial balance of salts and water within their bodies. Aquarium salt helps facilitate this process by providing essential ions that help regulate the osmotic pressure inside the fish’s cells. This is especially critical in freshwater aquariums where the concentration of salts can fluctuate, potentially causing stress or health issues for fish.

Reduce Stress

Fish are sensitive creatures and can easily become stressed following changes in their environment, fluctuations in water quality, or problems with aggressive tank mates. Stress compromises the fish’s immune system, often resulting in disease outbreaks and a failure to thrive. The condition can even be fatal if the fish is exposed to long-term stress.

Aquarium salt can act as a helpful buffer against stressors by promoting a stable osmotic environment. This helps the fish cope better with environmental fluctuations and reduces the likelihood of stress-related health problems.

Wound Healing and Disease Prevention

As mentioned earlier in our guide, many hobbyists use aquarium salt to treat minor wounds in their fish.

Minor wounds and abrasions are not uncommon among aquarium fish, especially in community tanks where different species live together, and squabbles often occur. Aquarium salt has mild antiseptic properties that can help prevent infections and promote healing.

By creating a slightly saline environment, aquarium salt helps to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi, thus reducing the risk of disease transmission and helping prevent disease from spreading.

Mimicking Natural Habitat Conditions

Some freshwater fish species, like mollies and guppies, come from brackish water habitats where the salinity level is higher than in typical freshwater environments. Introducing a low concentration of salt into the aquarium can effectively replicate these natural conditions, helping to prevent stress and encouraging natural behavior.

Alleviating Parasitic Infestations

In addition to its benefits for wound healing and disease prevention, aquarium salt can also help prevent certain parasitic infestations.

For example, some parasites, such as Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis), are less tolerant to saline environments. Adding aquarium salt to the water can disrupt the life cycle of these parasites and help eradicate them from your fish tank.

Aquatic Plant Supplements

man's hand applies fertilizer to the algae

If you don’t already keep live aquatic plants in your fish tank, you really should! Although silk plants look nice, healthy living plants contribute to a balanced ecosystem by oxygenating the water, absorbing excess nutrients, taking up carbon dioxide, and providing shelter for shy fish and fry.

Many hobbyists don’t bother too much about their plants, aside from pruning away excess growth and trimming off dead stems and leaves. Indeed, most plants extract the nutrients they need from the water column and substrate, as well as through photosynthesis. However, liquid fertilizers, such as Seachem Flourish or API Leaf Zone, provide your plants with essential nutrients such as iron, potassium, and trace elements.

So, you can make the most of your plants by providing a little extra nutritional supplementation to boost lush growth and encourage more vibrant colors.

UV Sterilizers

aquarium with uv sterilizer

Over the years, I’ve suffered from the common challenges of algae blooms and pathogens in some of my tanks. That’s infuriating and can quickly ruin your carefully aquascaped and stocked aquarium.

These problems are usually caused by high light intensity levels and a large organic load, which could be caused by overstocking or keeping fish that produce a lot of waste, such as goldfish.

UV sterilizers, like the Coralife Turbo-Twist or AA Aquarium Mini Green Killing Machine, use ultraviolet light to kill algae cells, parasites, and harmful bacteria, effectively reducing the risk of disease outbreaks and keeping your aquarium water clear and pristine.

Coralife Turbo-Twist Ultraviolet Sterilizer
  • For fresh or saltwater applications
  • Indicator light lets you know when the sterilizer is operating
  • Use Coralife UV Replacement Lamps
  • Multiple sizes to accommodate a variety of aquarium sizes
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GKM3W Mini Internal UV
  • GKM3W mini Internal UV with Power Head. For aquariums up to 20 gallons.
  • The GKM3W allows water flow in direct contact with the UV lamp, making it extremely efficient. Keep your aquarium crystal clear & reduce water changes.
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Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner

aquarium cleaner

Removing debris, uneaten food, and waste from the substrate every week is essential to prevent the accumulation of organic matter that can degrade water quality and fuel algae growth.

For many years, as part of my routine weekly water changes, I used a length of aquarium hose to suck up obvious piles of organic debris from the tank bottom. Then I discovered an aquarium vacuum cleaner!

An aquarium vacuum cleaner works on the same principle as my suck-it-and-see approach but without the danger of experiencing an unexpected mouthful of tank water and debris if you mistime your siphoning technique!

However, using a vacuum cleaner, such as the Python No Spill Clean and Fill or Aqueon Water Changer, makes water changes and substrate cleaning quick and effortless.

Python No Spill Clean & Fill Aquarium Maintenance System
  • A complete, ready-to-use system that adapts easily to most faucets and makes changing your aquarium water a breeze
  • It drains as well as fills aquariums, and will not disturb fish or plants during routine aquarium maintenance
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Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer
  • Vacuums out the debris in gravel right down the drain
  • Simply turn on your faucet to begin siphon
  • Be sure to add Aqueon Water Conditioner when adding clean water to aquarium
  • See diagram for appropriate faucets
  • Water Flow Assembly and Faucet Adapter Replacement parts available
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Both these devices enable you to dig down deep into the substrate and suck out accumulated fish waste, uneaten food, and general debris, leaving the environment clean and helping to prevent ammonia build-up. In addition, agitating the substrate can prevent dead spots from developing in the tank corners, where dangerous toxic bacteria sometimes accumulate.

Nowadays, I would never be without an aquarium vacuum cleaner in my tank maintenance kit. You can even buy electrically powered devices, which are handy if you have a very large tank.

High-Quality Fish Food

feeding fish in aquarium

Although it can be tempting to save cash by buying cheap fish food, that’s really just a false economy. Often, you end up having to feed your fish more low-quality food to provide them with the nutrition they need than you would if you gave them a higher-quality product.

I can’t stress enough that nutrition plays a crucial role in your fish’s overall health and vitality. Always opt for high-quality fish foods formulated with a balanced mix of proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals to meet the dietary needs of your fish species. Include a mix of frozen meaty foods and fresh veggies to keep your pets’ diet varied.

Brands like Hikari, New Life Spectrum, and Omega One offer a wide range of nutritionally complete diets tailored to different fish types, ensuring optimal growth, coloration, and enhanced immune function.

Hikari Tropical Mini Algae Wafers Fish Food
  • Convenient feeding option for most herbivorous bottom feeders
  • Disc will not dissolve rapidly
  • Will not cloud your aquarium water
  • Hikari Mini Algae Wafers 2.2lb
  • Perfect balance of vegetables and proteins
  • Flavorful mix smaller species crave
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New Life Spectrum Grow 60g
  • Naturox grow 0.5mm pellets - 60g
  • Newest lineup from New Life Spectrum featuring the Naturox series
  • No artificial preservatives, flavoring, or colors
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Omega One Super Color Flakes
  • SUPERIOR QUALITY: No meals, hydrolysates, digests, or any other pre-processed protein
  • INSTRUCTIONS: Feed 1-3 times daily, using only as much food as fish can consume in two minutes
  • GUARANTEED ANALYSIS: Min Crude Protein 42% / Min Crude Fat 12% / Max Crude Fiber 2% / Max Moisture 8.5% / Max Ash 8%
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Aquarium Thermometer

fish tank thermometer

Maintaining stable water temperature is essential, especially for tropical fish species sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Dramatic temperature changes can cause shock in your fish, which can be incredibly stressful and sometimes fatal to your pets.

Of course, most modern heaters have a built-in thermostatic control to maintain a stable water temperature. However, if the heater develops a fault or there’s a power outage, your fish could be in trouble. I was caught out a few times in the early days of my fishkeeping journey by heater failures. Luckily, I noticed the problem and replaced the heater unit before any damage was done.

So, another aquarist-approved product I’d strongly recommend is an accurate digital thermometer. My favorite device is the Cooper Atkins DFP450W Digital Pocket Test Waterproof thermometer. This neat little gadget means you can quickly check your tank’s water temperature whenever you want to with minimal hassle and absolute accuracy.

Aquascaping Tools

Aquascaping Kit

As mentioned earlier, keeping aquatic plants in your fish tank is not just about creating an aesthetically pleasing aquascape; it also contributes to the health of your aquarium and the well-being of your aquatic pets.

Aquascaping tools like long-handled scissors, tweezers, and planting tongs make it a whole lot easier to trim and maintain your plants, sculpt hardscape elements of your display, and create hiding spots and territories for your fish and invertebrates.

12-Inch Stainless Steel Aquarium Aquascaping Kit 5-Tools
  • Straight scissors allow for precision cuts; curved scissors get hard-to-reach areas and foreground plants.
  • Spatula creates smooth substrate slopes and terraces.
  • Straight tweezers securely grasp items and curved tweezers plant live plants with comfort and ease.
  • omes in a zippered carry bag
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Remember to disinfect and clean all your tools thoroughly after use and always before using them in another tank. That helps prevent the spread of diseases and the transfer of pests, such as tiny snails and their eggs.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it! The products overviewed and recommended above are all devices that will help you create a healthy, aesthetically pleasing environment for your aquatic pets and plants.

Some of these gadgets and products can save you time and effort, while others are purely there for the health of your fish and plants. To order yours now, click on the in-text links provided to get to what you want immediately.

Happy fish keeping!

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