Your first Aquarium equipment needed and on a budget

This post covers a couple of main topics and is the first in a mini-series if you like of articles based around setting up your first tank / planted tank.  It covers all the equipment you will need for a tropical fish aquarium as well as allowing you to do it all for a budget of less than £100!

When planning this I set myself a couple of tasks / goals.  Many people just starting out don’t want to spend a fortune for something they may not enjoy.  Other people may only be wanting to setup a small aquarium for their kids to hold a few smaller fish in there etc.  So what I wanted was a fairly small aquarium with all the equipment needed and ready to go. I also wanted to spend no more than £100 because anything over that for your first tank is going past the “well its cheap enough to give it a try” margin.  9/10 times you end up gettting hooked and spending thousands over time but for now the target was sub-£100 🙂

Equipment Needed

Since we’re talking tropicals here we need a couple of pieces of additional equipment over and above a cold water setup but luckily it only adds an extra tenner or so to the price.

  • Fish tank
  • Lid for tank with inclusive light or if going open top just a light fitting of some description
  • Filter (in this case internal)
  • Heater
  • Thermometer
  • Substrate
  • Stand for tank (optional)
  • Water Conditioner (remove chlorine from tap water)

As mentioned I’m working to a strict budget so where sensible I’ve bought second hand stuff from  where I’ve had to buy brandnew I’ve shopped around on the interwebs to find the cheapest.

For the tank I managed to pick up a 24″x12″x12″ with lid + light + stand for £45 from aquarist classifieds.  Its a Hagen Elite Style 60 tank which holds 54 litres of water ish.  Its a fairly small tank in the scheme of things but its a good size for a first tank looks pretty good and comes with a matching stand.  The hood fits over the entire tank sealing it nicely to stop houdini fish and has a single T8 bulb in the hood too.  Which is perfect again for a starter fish only tank. (I’ll be expanding this article to cover doing this tank as a planted tank in part 2 but for part 1 concentrate on the basics 🙂 )

Next up is the heater, thermometer and filter.  I managed to get the filter off aquarist classifieds as usual for a massive £10 its a Eheim Aquaball these are very good little internal filters plenty of flow and lots of media for a filter this size. The heater and thermometer unfortunately I had to buy brand new.  The thermometer came from ebay for £1.99 its a digital lcd style I prefer these over the stick on glass strips or the internal thermometers since the only bit inside the tank is the probe and a small bit of wire both of which are easily hidden from view using a well placed plant or ornament.

The heater is a TetraTec 100 Watt ceramic core heater.  I selected this instead of one of the cheaper metal core heater because from my experience they’re very sturdy heaters hard to break and last longer than the standard metal cores which have a habit of burning out.  It cost £15 from a little pricy but I feel well worth it for the benefits over the cheaper heaters available.

Finally we have the substrate (stuff in the bottom of the tank 🙂 ) in my case I am using aquarium safe pea-gravel. Now normally I’d pick this up from the local garden centre but while I was in my LFS they had a big bag of the Unipac gravel for only £5 usual price £12 so I decided this was ideal for my budget tank. Other cost effective substrates can be play sand from any DIY store (must be play sand not sharp or building sand!) or tesco clay cat litter can also make a good substrate.  All of these substrates must be well washed before using to remove any dirt and light floaty bits out of it.  A summary of all the bits used is available below in the gallery.

Cost Summary

  • Tank + stand + lid + light £45
  • Filter £10
  • Heater £15
  • Substrate £5
  • Thermometer £1.99

Total: £76.99

Not a bad price considering brand new the aquarium alone is double that value.  All it took was a little bargin hunting and some elbow grease to clean the tank and everything up before using.

The next post in this series will be all about putting everything together and prepping the tank ready for it to cycle.  I’ll also be filling in on some shortcuts and methods to cycle the tank without the need for fish.

Optional Extra

I’m putting this optional extra right at the very bottom of the page since its not strictly required for a starter tank but because the next stage of this post will be setting up the tank and creating a planted tank I wanted to put a background on the tank.

Now you have many options. You can use a stick on picture from your LFS (ewwww) you can paint it black or blue using hammerite or any other paint designed for non porous surfaces. Black works really well if you have bright colour fish and lots of plants it really brings the colours out.  In my case I decided I wanted a frosted glass effect.  Rather than sand the glass down using a fine grit paper as some do I wanted to make it possible to revert back to clear.  Now you have 2 options you can buy stick on plastic frosting which is good but scratches and peels over time.  I was told about some spray on paint frosting by someone else which I went out and purchased from my local Homebase it costs £10 a can but is enough to do about 30 tanks of this size so I’ve got plenty left over.  It can easily be removed with a stanley knife blade should I ever want to revert back yay.  For reference its this stuff.

5 thoughts on “Your first Aquarium equipment needed and on a budget”

  1. Hi i would like your help. I bought a 2nd hand tank equipment with fish. However the noise from the equipment is insufferable. Are there silent options available. Also i have 5 different things to plug in again unsightly, is there a better option. I love my fish what can I do.

    1. Older equipment can be noisy you can put down some foam to stand things on that’ll eat some of the sound for you or buying new equipment more modern designs usually results in less noise too.
      As for the plug bundle unfortunately there’s not much you can do about that. Some more modern filters have heaters built in allowing you to 1 plug for 2 processes but apart from that unfortunately no.

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