The following is a list of all of my favorite products. These are all products that over my 17 years of fishkeeping have proven to me to be the best option for what they do.
New Life Spectrum Fish Food- NLS is by far the best fish food on the market. For more information please read the article New Life Spectrum Fish Food.
Golden Pearls Food-This is a truly unbelievable food. It can feed all sorts of animals from corals to larval fish. It can be used to completely replace the need for live foods when breeding fish and raising their fry. It comes in six size ranges from 5 to 800 microns. I have personally used it to raise a batch of fancy goldfish fry that I accidentally bred in my 75. I have heard it can be used to raise cories, tetras, rainbows, and many captive bred marine fish. It has a neutral buoyancy so rather than just floating or sinking it stays in the water column for much longer than almost any other food so it stays available to whatever eats it. When I fed it to my last reef tank it produced the best feeding response I had seen my corals give to any food ever. I really can’t praise this food enough.
New Era Fancy Goldfish and Algae Pellets- These are both great foods that should be included in the diets of fancy goldfish. If there is any food out there that will take the title of ‘best fish food’ from NLS it is New Era. One of the best things about it is that it has a higher mousture content. Whereas NLS is dry and even a little dusty, New Era is soft and not moist, but moister. This means they sink well and if you have goldfish with particularly sensitive digestive system it will be a great option.
Saki-Hikari Fancy Goldfish Food-Again, if necessary this is an amazing option to include in the rotation of a varied goldfish diet. It is more expensive than other Hikari foods but is still more than worth including in the rotation. A great, high quality, sinking pellet.
P.E. Mysis Shrimp Frozen Food-This is an essential product for many marine fish species. It is a great food to get new marine fish eating well and soon. It is larger than other mysis shrimp so it is best for things like tangs, butterflies, and really anything with a mouth large enough to take this food.
Cyclopeeze Frozen Food-This is even more amazing than P.E. Mysis but smaller making it a great option for small gobies, clowns, anthias, etc. I was able to get my clown gobies to take Cyclopeeze directly from a pipette. This is NOT the same as cyclops. You need to get the actual Cyclopeeze. It is also great for corals. I would broadcast feed it and got a great feeding response. I could even watch my Gorgonian eat it and even see the Cyclopeeze inside the polyps.
Filters and Pumps:
Fluval Canister Filters-These are my top pick for canister filters. Their hardware is amazing (tank rim adapter, intake strainer, etc.). They are very reliable, easy to customize, and a great value. Their only weakness is the impeller cover, the clips can be fragile so be gentle when opening and closing the impeller cover. The FX5 is an amazing filter with an impressive capacity. When running large freshwater tanks do not hesitate to buy a Fluval.
AquaClear Hang-On-Back (HOB) Filters-AquaClears are made by the same company as Fluval canister filters so they are great quality and a great design. The really unique thing about AquaClears compared to other hang-on-back filters is that with other HOBs you have a dinky little cartridge that slides in and that is it. With the AquaClear you have a big foam block, a big bag of carbon, and a big bag of Biomax biological media. In addition, because of their design, you can pick any media you want, just like in a canister filter. If you don’t want carbon, take it out and add more biomedia or anything else you want. There are only two small downsides to AquaClears. One is the piece of plastic used to adjust how far away from the tank the filter sits. It is too thin and will bend, then pop out. I have found that super gluing it in place fixes this without any other issues. The other problem is the intake strainer, it is just too small for the amount of flow these filters can produce. I have seen snails sucked from their shells and healthy fish become stuck to the intake. I now make my own cover with black needlepoint mesh as seen here.
Rio Powerheads and Pumps-I have found Rio pumps to be an amazing pump. The design is as good as it gets in my opinion. You have a built-in strainer so you can keep things out of the impeller without having to use foam at all. That strainer easily goes on and comes off but stays on very securely. I have never had a strainer come off when I didn’t want it to. In addition, the impeller cover is the best I have ever seen on any pump or filter ever. There are no delicate clips, no screws, just a hand screwed cover that is easy to grip that holds a main cover snugly over the impeller. It is very solid yet easy to open and close, even on a wet and dirty pump. They are also very slim pumps. This is great when using them as a return pump from a sump because it saves you valuable space.
Azoo Sponge Filters-This is a great option for breeding tanks, fry tanks, shrimp tanks, etc. They come in many sizes and shapes, including multiple sizes that suction cup to the back of the tank, which can be hard to find but is a great feature. The suction cups are actually really good, something that cannot be said of most suction cups in this hobby.
Cobalt Neo-Therm Heaters-These are great heaters. They are black, so they blend in well with a painted black background. They are flat which is a nice change. They are plastic, not glass, so they are much more durable. They have an LED dial on them that tells you the programmed temperature and the current temperature so you know if you are off at all at a glance, no need to get up close and try to read the 0.5mm difference on some thermometers.
Aqueon Pro Heaters-There are also a great heater, and a little cheaper than the Cobalt Neo-Therms. It is also a shatterproof thermal plastic. It has an LED light on it that is green when the temperature is correct and red when it is heating. It automatically shuts off when out of water and turns back on again when submerged. Basically this heater is everything the Stealth heaters were supposed to be.
Seachem Matrix-This is the best biomedia out there. It has channels that are large enough to not be clogged by the biofilms you want to grow, unlike some other companies whose product may have more surface area, but the channels going through the rock are clogged by the exact bacteria they are meant to grow. It is even supposed to allow for denitrification, just like live rock in a reef tank. If you are using a biomedia in a canister, hang-on-back, or even sump that uses submerged media then this is the one you want.
Seachem Matrix Carbon-This is the best carbon I have ever used. It is nice and small so you get a lot of surface per weight compared to other types of carbon. It is super porous, a great option for hang-on-back filters, canisters, and even media reactors.
Poly-Filter-This is a great specialized filter pad. It is white and turns brown as it is exhausted and does its job. It even changes specific colors for specific problems (such as ammonia). You can cut them to fit any filter. The fact that they change colors as they are exhausted means you know exactly when to change them. You know you are not letting it go too long and you know you are not wasting your money by changing it too soon.
Seachem Purigen-This is a very advanced resin media. Like the Poly-Filter it starts off white and turns brown as it is exhausted. The 100mL size comes in a special bag since this media is VERY small and will get through almost any media bag out there. Seachem makes a special bag for this media if you do not buy it in the 100mL size. This is a great option for a media reactor. In my experience tanks that have Purigen and Poly-Filter in them all the time tend to run cleaner and with fewer problems. When problems do occur they tend to not go as badly as tanks that do not have these advanced filter medias in them.
Acurel Filter Lifeguard Media Bags-These are the best filter media bag I have found. They come in three sizes (3×8″, 4×12″, and 8×13″) so they will fit almost any use you need them to. What really makes these media bags the best is that the drawstring is so thick. You can easily tie and untie them so you can use them over and over again without any issues. If you have any trouble finding them they may be listed as Loving Pets brand.
For Reef Aquariums:
Refractometers-If you want an accurate measure of salinity get a refractometer, hydrometers are simply guessing compared to refractometers. They have gotten much cheaper, you can usually get them online for $30-35 shipped. They are also very easy to use and easy to calibrate.
Coralife Pure-Flo II RO System with Booster Pump-This is the system I use and I am glad I went with it from the beginning. Most systems do not include booster pumps which most homes need for the RO system to run properly. This one automatically turns off when the float valve stops flow to the reservoir, in many systems the pump just keeps pumping water until you turn it off, just pumping water out the waste line. This system also automatically backwashes the membrane, no need to do it manually (or forget to do it) which extends the life of your membrane. I had a customer who thought something was wrong with this system because it was producing more clean water than waste water, with most systems much more waste water is produced.
Coralife Pure-Flo II Add-On Deionization Canister-This is simply an add-on to the main Pure-Flo II RO system. The DI stage removes what little may get through the rest of the filter giving you truly pure water. It is very easy to add on after the main system.
Two Little Fishies Phosban Reactor-This is a great little product. It is very easy to use and you can choose whatever pump you wish to run it. You can hook them together in-line too. On my last reef tank I had three in a row hanging off the back of my sump. The first one held carbon, the second held granular ferric oxide, and the third held Seachem Purigen. They have a built-in clip that allows you to hang them off the back of the sump, on the inside of the sump (if there is room and you are paranoid about leaks) or it can sit on any flat surface (inside stand next to sump). And at $40-55 or so it is a very affordable media reactor. They even have a very large version now.
Eshopps Protein Skimmers-These are great skimmers. Whether you need a cheap, small, hang-on-back or even internal nano skimmer, or you are looking for a large, advanced cone skimmer with bubble plate and small footprint, Eshopps has it. They are easy to use and very beginner friendly.
AquaC EV-series Spray Injection Skimmers-These are simply amazing skimmers. They are larger and more advanced than the Eshopps though, but you get an amazing amount of control. You can control the amount of water going in, the amount of air going in, and the rate of water coming out. This allows you to tweak it to truly get it perfectly tuned for your system. Rather than sucking air in at the pump like a venturi skimmer, these skimmers blast the water through a chamber of air as it enters the reaction chamber. This also means you can run them remotely (they don’t have to be in the sump or right at the pump). I ran mine behind the sump on my last reef tank, between the stand and the wall. This saved me a ton of space in the sump for a larger refugium. If you are willing to work with it a little more to get in tuned in right, this is a more than impressive skimmer.
Reef Crystals Aquarium Salt-I am not going to claim to be an expert on salt, nor have I run trials on all the brands out there, but this is a great salt that is easy to find at a great price and can produce some very impressive reef tanks.
Tropic Marin Salt-If you do want to go the next level I think Tropic Marin is the way to go. It is all pharmaceutical grade ingredients so it is as good as it gets. Oddly their Pro-Reef version has LESS calcium and alkalinity than their regular version because they assume you are running a calcium reactor or automatic doser. So go with the REGULAR Tropic Marin Salt and you will not be sorry.
JBJ Automatic Top Off (ATO) System-This is a great little device and usually one of the first upgrades reefers make to their system once it is running. After topping off once or twice daily for a couple months (or forgetting to and causing a salinity roller coaster) you will understand why this product is worth it. This system includes a main control unit, two float sensors, and mounting equipment. The sensors are for the sump (or main tank if there is no sump) and the reservoir. There is an outlet on the main control unit that allows you to use any pump in the reservoir. When the water level in the sump gets too low the ATO turns the pump on until the water level is high enough again. If the water level in the reservoir gets too low it will not run the pump dry.
EcoTech Radion LED Lighting Systems-These are unbelievable lighting systems. They are very intense. Because of the tight arrangement they do provide the ripple effect that so many people love about metal halides. They are intense enough to run anything you can with metal halides. You can program their color, intensity, exact timing, etc. There is a lightning mode to simulate thunderstorms. If you are running more than one on a longer tank you can even program them to start to slowly come on from one side of the tank and turn off on the other simulating the movement of the sun through the sky. You hook them up to your computer and use their software to program whatever you want.
Acan Lighting LED Lighting Systems-These are great LED lighting systems with very programmable capabilities, although they are programmed manually on the unit, not on your computer like the Radions. The layout of the lights is in lines which makes the lighting much more uniform in the tank. They come in many different sizes and can be more affordable than the Radions.
Aquastik Coral Epoxy-This is a great little putty that comes in two colors to match your live rock, red or grey. Simply mix it by hand and apply underwater to fasten coral frags to the live rock or even pieces of live rock together.
Coraffix Gel Coral Adhesive-This is an amazing product. The gel helps a lot. It dries quickly though once underwater so be quick. I usually try the epoxy first and if the frag ever comes loose the epoxy gives me a perfect fit for just a small amount of glue.
AquaVitro 8.4-The AquaVitro brand is part of Seachem and is a premium level line of products. They have many products for freshwater and saltwater, but the one that stands out the most to me is 8.4 (as in: a pH of 8.4) because it is so good at getting the pH right. Whenever anyone is having a pH/KH issue in their saltwater tank this is the first product I have them try and it is almost always the fix they need.
Lee’s Black Pond Vinyl Tubing for Sumps-Using black tubing around your sump prevents the light from the refugium from growing algae inside all your tubing. I had coralline algae growing inside the tubing on my reactors before I switched to black tubing. It does cost a little more but is more than worth it. It does come in any size you need, from air tubes, to 1/2″ reactor tubing, to 3/4″, 1″, or even larger tubing for skimmers, return lines, etc.
Estes Marine Sand, aka Ultra Reef and Stoney River-This is simply my hands down, unquestionable, perfect substrate. For more information please read Sand as a (Superior) Substrate.
Seachem Prime-This is a great dechlorinator. It is much more concentrated than almost any other dechlorinator on the market. It can also be used to treat ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. It not only breaks the bond of chlorine and ammonia in chloramine but actually detoxifies both of those products.
Python Water Change System-Anyone with anything more than one ten gallon tank should have a water change system that connects directly to their sink. It makes a huge difference to not have to use buckets and drag water around every time you do a water change. It makes water changes easier which means they will actually be done. Simply vacuum as needed while draining. When done draining add dechlorinator to the tank, then fill. That’s it.
Lee’s Cleaning Claw-This is a great product that goes over the end of the gravel vacuum tube on the Python water change system and all other water change systems EXCEPT the one by Aqueon (slightly different diameter). This product allows you to drain without watching because it prevents fish from being sucked up. If you are using gravel read the Sand as a (Superior) Substrate article. If you are using sand you may need to vacuum a couple spots when you first start draining, but after that place this over the end and don’t worry about it. It also spreads out the flow when you refill.
Mag-Float Algae Scrapers-This is another product that makes maintenance easier which means it actually gets done. Rather than finding a towel, your algae pad, and dunking your whole arm in your tank, simply slide the Mag-Float on the glass. You can go around corners and tuck it in a hidden spot for next time. Your whole algae wipe can take seconds with nothing getting wet. They are even selling replacement pads now. Do not hesitate to buy this product for any size tank. They have a whole line of them for acrylic tanks too.
Lee’s Hose Clips-These are great any time you need to secure something to the edge of a tank. They grip the top trim of a tank very well. You can use zip ties to secure tubes, wires, etc. to these clips. They are perfect for securely mounting Eshopps’ return jet.
JW SmartTemp Magnetic Thermometer-This is a great little thermometer because it actually uses a magnet instead of a suction cup. The only thing that could make it better would be for it to be in black instead of white.
Coralife Digital Thermometer-This is a great little thermometer that you can mount anywhere you want to be able to easily view it while placing the probe anywhere in the tank or sump (very long wire gives you tons of flexibility).
JW Aircore Air Stones-These are just a simple little air stones that comes in many sizes. They are not particularly fragile so they last like they should.
Azoo 9500 Air Pump-This is an incredible air pump. They are cheap ($20 or so online). They are exceptionally strong and dead silent. They have other sizes but the 9500 is the largest and I don’t think you can have too much air in a freshwater tank.
API Algone-This is a great product for treating greenwater algae. In general I prefer to fight algae problems with nutrient control (more water changes, proper feeding of high quality foods, etc.) or algae eaters (bristlenose plecoes, Siamese algae eaters, ottos, etc.) but greenwater algae can be almost impossible to get rid of. I have seen Algone do it in hours. Double check the directions, if I remember correctly it cannot be used with invertebrates.
API Melafix-This is a great, natural product to treat bacterial infections and help the healing of wounds. It is the next step if water changes and salt are not enough.
API Pimafix-This is another natural product. This one treats fungus. Like Melafix it is very effective and safe.
Cichlid Stones-These are great decorations for any fish that like to hide including cichlids, loaches, plecoes, catfish, and more. My bristlenose plecoes actually bred in these, so they were very happy to have them. They are hollow, ceramic stones that look very natural (except for the hole where the fish can get inside). They come in many sizes and shapes. The company also has hollow logs and other great decorations.
Products I usually DO NOT Suggest:
Ammonia Removers-Bacteria remove algae for you for free. If you are still cycling and having stressful levels of ammonia then water changes are best but the use of Seachem Prime or ammo-chips may be justified. Other than that don’t waste your money, the bacteria in your filter are happy to do it for you for free.
PH Adjusters or Buffers-In general I find that messing with the pH does more harm than good. For more information please read Freshwater Chemistry.
Algae Killers-Except with the use of Algone for greenwater algae, algicides are not the cure, they are a temporary band-aid. Please read Algae Control.
Chemical Medications-I try to avoid using chemical medications when at all possible. Prevention is the best cure, after that more water changes and adding salt are usually best. If that is not enough then I am willing to use Melafix or Pimafix. If none of that works then chemical medications may be necessary. Please read the articles found at Illnesses and Diseases in Aquarium Fish.
Bacterial Additives-I do not think you can buy magic in a bottle, nor do you have to. The nitrifying bacteria you want in your filter can literally be found IN THE AIR, FOR FREE. In saltwater tanks you will get more than enough bacteria to seed your colonies in one single piece of live rock. There is no need to buy a magic bottle of special bacteria. This tells me you are impatient and are trying to rush things. This is the last thing you want to do, especially in the beginning. Let your tank run naturally, nature knows what it’s doing better than you do.
Products ‘To Keep Things Stable/Balanced’-There are different types of products marketed to ‘keep the balance’, ‘maintain your bacteria colonies’, etc. and in my experience they do nothing. If you setup the tank right and do the water changes you will have a strong, stable system.
Hydrometers-These are just antique instruments of measuring salinity. Use a refractometer. If you are using a hydrometer you might as well be guessing, you could be 1.010 off and not even know it.