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Multiple Tank Survival Kit


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6 months into getting back into aquariums, I now have 5, plus a few small empties for "just in case" and wow do I need to slow down!

But as I've set these tanks up, I find myself ordering the same things over and over again, or buying a bunch because I didn't realize I needed them, or so grateful I have one small thing. So here's what I'd recommend to anyone planning their second tank. Because more are on the way!

Basic electrical equipment:

  • Power strips, pick up a cheap pack of them when you're at a hardware store.
  • Indoor extension cords. When do these NOT come in handy?
  • Try to have an extra outlet timer on hand, but these are okay to buy when you get a tank set up.

Basic water-moving equipment:

  • At least one nice 3-gallon plastic bucket. Preferably one designed for aquariums since it'll have a lip and a grip for pouring and gallon measurements inside. I couldn't keep fish without one.
  • Some basic 5-gallon buckets, preferably with lids, because you never know when you'll have to move a tank or need some emergency fish/plant storage. Also handy for rinsing gravel.
  • A gravel siphon, preferably one size bigger than you think you'll need. Small ones can go so. slowly.
  • Old towels

Sponge filters & gear:

  • Try to have at least 1 more small or nano air filter than you do tanks. Keep it cycled in your largest tank for quick QT set-up.
  • Airstones, check valves, airline tubing, nano air pumps, airline control valves. They're all cheap, buy more than you think you'll need because when you need any of these things, you need them right away.
  • Sponge filter media. Always good to have a pack or two extra of this stuff.
  • An extra small or medium inlet filter sponge. You don't need em til you really need em, fast.

Plant gear:

  • Always throw in a pack of plant weights with your plant order from the Co-op. I swear my tanks are eating these things.
  • Superglue gel. I use it for so much more than anchoring plants!
  • Black cotton thread and/or fishing line.

Fish gear:

  • Get the quarantine trio! 100%, absolutely, even if you're not planning on getting new fish for awhile. The peace of mind to be able to handle most any common disease that comes up, when it comes up, is priceless.
  • Have a QT with plastic plants/caves ready to go. I love Irene's advice for a clear plastic sterlite container with holes in the lid.
  • Get a hang-on-tank specimen container, like what they use at fish stores. Best way to keep fish secure as you're transferring them between different tanks.
  • At least 1 more 50w heater than you think you'll need. You never know when one will go, and it's good to have on hand for your QT.
  • This is going to sound crazy, but: peacock feathers. I happen to have a bunch laying around because my cat loves to play with them. You can probably find them at most pet stores as cat toys or cheap on amazon. But they're so handy for gently poking at something at the bottom of your tank, like a flipped-over nerite snail, a leaf with some detritus to shake off, or a piece of decor that a dumb fish is stuck near.

Emergency gear:

  • silicone tank sealant. It may not hold for long, but if disaster strikes, it can hopefully hold long enough to rescue your livestock.
  • Portable battery for nano air pump (and your phone!).
  • Hand warmer packs.
  • Thermal blanket(s).
  • A few gallons of distilled water, always handy.

Hang on to these:

  • The little plastic coated twist ties that come with a lot of fish gear. These are super handy for securing sponge filter media to outlets that are too strong, other things that might be partially submerged or damp.
  • Clean, large fish bags. Essential for cleaning sponge filters!
  • Empty water jugs. I like to fill them directly from the gravel siphon hose, then keep them by my houseplants for when they're thirsty.
  • Any interesting rocks or pieces of driftwood you see that could fit in a tank one day. Scrub em down with plain water.

Things I surprisingly don't use that often:

  • Rubber gloves. Try as I might to protect my poor hands and nails, they're just not fitted enough for stuff I need to do, and usually not long enough, either.
  • Nitrile exam gloves. I use these all the time for any number of gross household or automotive jobs, but not with my aquariums.
  • Extra large nets. All my fish are small, so the big one is just clumsy.
  • Algae scraper. That's what my snails are for! I use it more often as a long stick to grab something that fell behind the tank.

Any other gear that surprised you or that you wish you had in abundance as you got started?

Edited by Kirsten
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I keep all of the rubber-bands from fish bags. I slap them on the top of the prestage mesh for intakes. They hold it tight to the pipe but can still be slipped off easily after pulling the prestage off for cleaning. 

A bunch of towels. You'll understand why in a moment...

Scissors. I can never find any of the 3 pairs of scissors when I need them.

Forceps. Never fails! I'm always elbow deep, covered in floating plants and now I have to walk around the house with a green arm, thats dripping, trying to find my blasted forceps that I conviently NEVER keep by the aquarium >_> *end rant* 



Bonus round. Plants! There is never enough plants. You know that awesome plant at the LFS or on AqCoop? Yea, clearly you need that. You have no idea where it will fit, but you need it. Your aquariums look like a thick jungle but obviously you can find a place, right? 😂😂



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That's a great list and you clearly spent a lot of time on it. However, not to rain on your parade, but it represents hundreds of dollars for things one may rarely if ever use. I'm all for having an emergency kit for a power outage and a quarantine kit like Irene describes in their A.Co-op video. As for the rest, supplies tend to automatically grow as the need arises and in some cases, one can improvise rather than opening the wallet. If you have money to burn, go ahead and buy anything and everything, but I'm fishkeeping on a budget and have been for years. 🙂

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@Kirsten Thank you so much for so much valuable food for thought! I hope you get nominated for a future CARE package as your posts always make this forum a better place.

21 hours ago, Kirsten said:

Any other gear that surprised you or that you wish you had in abundance as you got started?

Strangely enough, I find myself using a ginormous pair tweezers at least a couple of times a week just pull stuff out of deeper tanks and reach items that fall behind by aquariums too.


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As a newbie I would have loved this list! Thanks! This is a very good start, and reflects exactly the things I use continuously, without adding a lot of superfluous stuff.

To this I would add aquarium salt, for mystery issues that seem not to respond to the trio, and a length of regular half inch tubing, for those simple water changes that just need to be fast. You can cover the opening with mesh and a rubber band to keep from grabbing small fish.

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I just got a few emergency supplies yesterday - hand warmers and emergency blankets. Check hand warmers for an expiration date - I found out while living in upstate NY at a very inconvenient time. I can't say enough good about a sturdy 2-3 gallon bucket with a spout and thick handle. And like @DanielI use my plant tongs all the time - 2x a day to set out and pick up my otocats' feeding dish, shrimp mineral junkie bites and algae wafers. These came in a set with 2 pairs of scissors and a gravel scaping tool. 


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8 hours ago, Aubrey said:

Let's not forget a Turkey baster.  It's kind of like a pokey instrument, mini vaccum, feeding tool, and fry catcher all in one.


I keep my turkey baster (bought at like Big Lots, I think? For $1.99?) with my QT supplies for spot cleaning. Cory said it right, though, to spend on a no-drip baster if you can, because the perfect timing I need to have in order to lift up this regular baster without disgorging all of its...heavier contents...reminds me of when I was learning how to drive stick.

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Nice list @Kirsten! Though even with snails I find I'm using my algae scraper often.

I agree with @Daniel and @Maggie, I have a deeper planted tank, and the stainless steel planted tank kit with tweezers and scissors comes in helpful often.

I also like to keep some extra tubing on hand for drip acclimating, and I keep a few costco 1 gallon glass pickle jars (well cleaned with label removed in soapy water) on hand for top offs and for the random planted jar shrimp tank that strikes my fancy.

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I think @Frank mentioned it first, but a 5ml glass serological pipette with a rubber bulb is probably top 5 most used tool. Need to do an API test w/ 5ml of water? Bam. Need to dose Seachem Prime in a 3.5 gal tank when the rate is 5ml/50gal? The pipettes are 12" long in graduations of .025ml. I can add exactly 0.35ml easily. They are for lab use, so even the cheap Chinese ones are pretty darn accurate. They are glass, so inert and easy to clean. The rubber bulb just pulls right off, so you can dry them out. The one in this shot I got in this multi-pack: Amazon Can't recommend them enough




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