Top Five Beginner Maintenance Equipment

Updated 2024

I possess a vast assortment of maintenance equipment for my aquarium. While some items are in frequent use, others see action only every few months. I’ve decided not to stick with the top five… because that’s just dumb.  So here are all of my favorite pieces of maintenance gear, some of which save me hours a month.  Oh, and these are in no particular order

1. OXO Good Grips Deep Clean Brush Set

While it may sound odd, I highly recommend the OXO Brush Set for aquarium cleaning. These brushes offer firmer bristles compared to regular toothbrushes, making them much more effective for various tasks.

Having two sizes to choose from is incredibly handy as I use them all over my tank. They are perfect for removing salt creep and scraping algae off baffles. Honestly, these brushes have become indispensable for my aquarium maintenance routine.

2. Gravel Vacuum/Cleaner

Python 2" Gravel Vacuum on a white background

A gravel vacuum is a gravel vacuum is a gravel vacuum.  But I prefer this one from Python.  There are cheaper options, but this is just slightly higher quality.  I prefer the 2″ size, as the 1″ is too small and easily sucks sand up and out of your tank.

3. Flipper Magnetic Algae Scraper

The Flipper is a magnetic algae scraper that comes with a higher price tag, but its performance makes it worth the investment. Having tried various magnetic scrapers, none of them compare to the Flipper.

What sets the Flipper apart is its unique design that allows you to switch between the soft, felt side and the stainless steel scraper side without having to put your hand in the tank. This versatility makes it highly efficient for dealing with both new, easy-to-remove algae growth using the soft side and hard algae build-up near the edges with the stainless steel scraper.

When purchasing the Flipper, it’s crucial to select the right size. They offer three sizes, each with a magnet suitable for a specific glass/acrylic thickness. For most beginners, the standard Flipper will work just fine and prove to be a valuable tool for tank maintenance.

4. Citric Acid

Honestly, you can use this or white vinegar… But what I really like about this as opposed to vinegar… is it’s compact form factor. This small container can make a lot of acidic water for cleaning your pumps.  

I currently run kalkwasser in one of my auto top off units, so I use citric acid every week to clean the pump.  It is also great for all pumps, and I use it ever 6 months or so when it is time for a deep clean.  Plus, it weirdly smells like maple syrup to me… which is strange.

5. Stainless Steel Turkey Baster

Although I don’t use this Turkey Baster as frequently as my other tools, it proves to be indispensable whenever I need it.

There are instances where I need to blast sand off the rock or stir up detritus and get it back into the water column, and this baster comes to the rescue.

I particularly appreciate its stainless steel construction and the fact that the rubber bulb is easy to detach for cleaning. It also comes in handy during coral acclimation and whenever I need to create additional water movement in the tank.

6. Acrylic Rod

This may seem like a super silly thing to buy, but I use this thing every single week.  It is my kalkwasser stirrer, my coral pointer, and my snail flipper.  For a simple piece of acrylic, it’s quite versatile. This picture is the green one, but it comes in many different colors that phosphoresce under those actinic lights!

7. Tunze Care Panes Aquarium Glass Cleaner

I use this on both of my tanks every week, after wiping all of the salt off and giving the glass an RODI clean. It puts a light oil coat on the glass which makes it sparkle!

8. Spray Bottle

Why would I recommend a spray bottle you might wonder?  Just fill it with RODI water and it is your clean everything kit.  I use it on my glass, to clean salt creep, to dust my lights, to clean my mesh screen, and I’m sure there are others that I just can’t think of right now. Plus, RODI water is aquarium safe, so you don’t have to worry about spraying it near or into your tank. Just be sure to mark the bottle RODI water, so you don’t accidentally fill it with some sort of cleaner

9. & 10. Carbon & GFO

I have gone back and forth over the years as to the benefits vs. the potential drawbacks of using both carbon and GFO, and for now, I’ve landed here.  I like using a small amount of carbon all the time, and GFO as needed (in small amounts).

And of course, I always get the high end stuff.  For carbon that would be the ROX 0.8.  It rinses way cleaner, and goes further.  For for GFO, I go with the high capacity because you have to use a lot less for the same level of effectiveness.  

GFO has especially been a help in my HelloReef nano tank, where I have about 14 anemones at this point.  But I use a small, small amount, about 1 to 1.5 tsp which I change out each week.  My goal isn’t zero phosphates, but controlled phosphates of around 0.05 to 0.1 ppm.

And I mix in 1 TBSP of carbon to keep toxins out, the water clear, and smelling fresh.  I just mix these two things together in a small mesh bag.

11. Mesh Media Bag

These are the actual mesh baggies that I use.  I used to use different ones with zippers but they didn’t last. And I like these because they are a fine mesh which works well at containing the smaller sized GFO particles.  

Pick up a few of them, and try out different sizes.  For my nano tanks, the smallest size absolutely works well. I prefer using reactors, but I’ve found that tying this mesh media bag around the output of my HOB UV sterilizer works phenomenally.

12. Python Extension w/No Spill Hook

Okay, these two things, especially when combined with our next and final item on this list, could have the potential to change your life, and give you back hours of time.  I’m not joking.

I currently have two tanks set up in my house.  I also have a 50 gallon barrel of ready to go sewater, and a 30 gallon Brute trash can full of RODI water.  Before I got these things, I had to lug five gallon buckets, or a 20 gallon trash can on wheels between my storage containers and the tanks.  I couldn’t justify the price of these items to myself.

Then I said screw it, I’m buying them.  Best life decision (okay, not the best, but a good life decision for sure) I ever made!  Now I just use the python hook and extension and item #13 and no more lugging buckets around.  Game changer!

#13 Sicce Ultra Zero Utility Pump

The best utility pump ever!  I own three of them actually.  They fit the common garden hose (and the python extension above).  They will suck water from the bottom of any container, down to something like 2mm, so crazy low.  Great for water change setups or for cleaning out a sump.  work great, decent flow rate, they will make light work of siphoning which used to be a hassle!

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