You should refer to my Shopping List page to see what items you will need to buy.
You need a tank, and you need some fish. DO NOT BUY THE FISH UNTIL A FEW WEEKS AFTER YOU HAVE SET UP YOUR TANK! Your tank needs time to cycle .
Choose the largest tank that is practical for your space. Bigger is better: the more water you have, the more stable the water conditions will be. Fish like stability. You can choose either acrylic or glass: acrylic scratches easily but glass is heavy. Your call. Choose long tanks over tall ones because you get more surface area, which is good for gas exchange, allowing you to keep more fish in the same amount of water. The hood and lights are usually sold as part of the aquarium package. You need a good stand. By "good" I mean one that is made specifically for your aquarium. Other furniture will not do. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon. Your little ten gallon tank weighs more than eighty pounds! It takes a sturdy tank stand to properly support the weight. You should also put some kind of pad under the tank - ask your dealer. Put the tank in a place away from doors and windows, near at least four electrical outlets (for the filter, heater, air pump and lights). So much for the big stuff. You also need to choose a lot of little stuff...
When choosing a net, be sure it is the proper size for your fish. The white fabric nets are called "brine shrimp" nets because they are fine enough to catch such tiny critters. I like them for other fish also, if you can find them large enough. The soft blue ones are nice too. Some nets have a little hook on the handle for hanging it on the back of the tank. I love those; where I don't have one I make one out of twist ties. You should always have a separate net for each tank. Never put the net from your hospital tank into your main tank unless you have sterilized it. All hardware can be sterilized with very hot very salted water. You may also use a weak bleach solution, but it is imperative you rinse it well with dechlorinator.
When choosing a heater, you will need about five watts per U.S. gallon. In a large tank, using two heaters eases the burden on one and provides a backup sorce of heat should one fail. Unfortunately, heaters often fail in the "on" position, raising the temperature of the water twenty or more degrees too high! This is why you check the temperature every day. Try to buy a heater that promises to fail in the "off" position instead, but don't take that promise too seriously. Always check the temperature. If a serious spike does occur, you will have to reduce the temperature slowly over the course of a day or two, by adding slightly cooler water over time. A sudden change in temperature is unhealthy, so take your time.
You will need to buy some kind of algae scrubber. Many kinds of scrubbers are available, but I recommend the "Mag-Float." It keeps your hands dry and will never fall into the bottom of the tank. If your tank is acrylic, be certain that what you choose will not scratch your tank.
Bubbles are decorative and aid in circulation. Unfortunately, most air pumps are quite noisy, and you may feel you are better off without them. I have tried a few brands of air pumps, and have had the most luck with the "Profile" brand. To choose a size, consider how many air stones and decorations you will be driving, not how many gallons your tank contains. I recommend avoiding fancy air rods that may clog. I stay with the blue air stones (made of a kind of glass, I think). You will also need an air control kit (the valves that determine which stone the air is flowing toward). Of course, don't forget your air line tubing. Be sure to buy enough. You will also need a check valve. A check valve is inserted into the air line between the pump and the tank. It prevents water from dripping down into the pump itself.
The filter is your most
important purchase. The health of your whole tank depends on it,
so choose carefully. If you have a large tank, you will probably
be best off with a canister filter. I have been told that a good,
quiet one is the Eheim Classic or Eheim Professional.
For smaller tanks, use filters that hang on the back of the tank. I rely on the AquaClear hang-on-the-back filters. They are very quiet, affordable, and easy to maintain. Proper, regular maintenance of the filter is essential to a healthy tank, so the easier it is to clean, the better. Do not choose filters that rely on replaceable floss cartridges with carbon inside. They are not effective. Choose ones that employ layers of media, like foam blocks and activated carbon inserts and/or ammonia reducing chips. Which ever type of filter you use, when cleaning your filter, only clean one layer at a time. Never replace all layers at once. New, unused media is clean, but not yet colonized by the bacteria the filter needs to detoxify the water. You need to keep those bacteria colonies alive, so always rinse your filter media in used tank water or dechlorinated water. Chlorinated tap water will kill the bacteria you need. Filter media with an established colony of bacteria are often referred to as your "biological filter." You can read more about this on my Water Chemistry page.
For sifting particles out of the water, your media will be floss or a foam block. Activated carbon layers are inserted when you need to remove chemical impurities that might cause odors or cloudiness. They are also used to help remove medicines from the water. As does the foam block, the carbon also provides housing for your biofilter colony, so keep it in even after it gets old, until you need to replace it.
FILTERS AND STUFF
THE NITROGEN CYCLE
DISEASES AND MEDICATIONS
PLANTS AND ALGAE