Setting Up A Goldfish Tank (Part 1) – The 8 most basic equipment

Now that you have done some research on goldfish (if not, please at least read this), you may want to start setting up a goldfish tank. Before you can do that, you will need to know what equipment you need to get.

At this juncture, please do not give in to the temptation of buying those pretty goldfish at your local fish store that keep calling out your name (Get a grip, it’s in your mind!) … YET. You will need time to set up and cycle your fish tank before it is fit to be the home for your goldfish.

This is how my first goldfish tank looks like currently:

My goldfish tank in May 2017

Note: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please visit my disclosure page.

Typically to set up a goldfish tank, these are the 8 most basic equipment (at least for me):

1) Tank

This is where your goldfish will stay, so the bigger the better as they do grow big. The common guideline is 20 gallons for the first goldfish, another 10 gallons each for subsequent ones.  Goldfish bowl is a HUGE NO NO!

I have a 3ft tank which comes out to be ~50 gallons, and I have 5 goldfish in there. Yeah I know… not exactly following the guideline, but I learn to make it work.

The tank may come with a hood or not, it doesn’t matter. Goldfish are not known to be jumpers, and I have not had any goldfish jumping out of my open top tank.

2) Filter

The general purpose of a filter is to keep the water clean and safe for the fish. Filters come in many types and with different level of capabilities. Some examples are Sponge filter, HOB filter, Canister filter, Top filter, etc. The media in these filters provide the place for good bacteria to colonize and you really need them. This is why.

The most basic and cheapest filter is the sponge filter.

Sponge Filter

I am using Eheim Classic External Filter 2215  for my first goldfish tank. It’s expensive but I think it’s worth it.

I chose it because it offers different types of filtration (mechanical, biological & chemical) and is able to handle the volume of water in my tank. Besides that, it’s an external filter and can be hidden from view.


3) Air pump

Air pumps provide water movement in the tank for the exchange of gases at the surface. Oxygen from the atmosphere gets dissolved into the water, and gasses such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen from the water is released. Some filters such as the sponge filter will need air pump to work. Using air stone with air pump will also produce nice bubbles in the tank for visual effect.

Air Pump

As I am using a canister filter which outlet does create water movement in my tank, technically I do not need an air pump. However I wanted to see curtain of bubbles rising up, so I have it anyway. The bubbles really add on to the visual enjoyment… really really.

4) Substrate & Decorations

Substrate & decorations enhance the look of your tank. To me, these are optional although the substrate (such as gravel, sand, soil, etc) acts as the place for good bacteria to colonize as well. What to choose will depend on what theme you want to go with. I went for a minimalist nature theme with sand and some river rocks.

If you are going with substrate, I would recommend those with small particles such as sand instead of gravel. Like little kids, goldfish do put things into their mouths and bigger particle like gravel may get stuck there.

SandSand for the fish tank

Some people just go with a bare bottom tank with no or minimal decoration. To them, this is the way to really enjoy the beauty of your goldfish without distractions. This also make the tank easier to clean and maintain.

Bare bottom tankExample of a bare bottom tank with minimal decoration and sponge filters

5) Lighting

Lighting illuminates your tank so that you can enjoy looking at your goldfish. It is also used to replicate day & night for them.  They do need to sleep too, you know..

For the purpose of goldfish keeping, I do not think you need special or strong lighting unless you are keeping them with plants. I never had any luck keeping goldfish and plants together. My goldfish would rip them apart and eat them, even with plant species such as the Java fern which is supposedly too hard for them. Hmm… could it be that I was not feeding them enough???

LED Lighting

I chose LED lighting for my tank. Besides energy saving, LED does not release much heat that could warm up the tank. I am also using a timer to turn the lighting on and off so that my goldfish gets around 9-10 hours of light each day.

6) Water Conditioner

The tap water that we use to fill up our fish tank contains chemical such as chlorine and other diluted metal which are good for humans, but not for aquatic lives.

So we will need water conditioners to remove these substances from the tap water so that it’s safe for our goldfish. I am using Seachem Prime 500ml for this purpose.


7) Test Kit

When a fish tank is newly set up, it will need to go through the Nitrogen Cycle process before it’s safe for your goldfish. During this process, you will need to monitor the water condition and this can only be done by using a test kit that checks on the concentration of Ammonia, Nitrite & Nitrate in your tank.

The test kit that I am using is the API Freshwater Master Test Kit.

Test Kit

8) Maintenance Equipment

I know this probably doesn’t fall under fish tank set up, but if you are going on a shopping spree for your fish tank’s stuff, you may as well get these too.

Goldfish tank needs to be maintained. You will need to do regular water changes, fish tank’s glass cleaning, goldfish wastes removal, etc etc. So you will need things like water siphon, bucket, fish net, water hose and sponge cleaner.

Maintenance Equipment

So yah, these are the 8 basic equipment that are needed to set up a goldfish tank. Now lets go shopping, shall we? *wink

For part 2 on Setting Up A Goldfish Tank, please click here.

[Added On]

I am so sorry. I overlooked the fact that not everyone lives in a tropical country like mine.

Although goldfish prefer cold water (18-24°C), they can tolerate a big range of temperature. Over here, my room temperature is usually around 27-28°C, and occasionally rise up to 30°C. However my goldfish are doing fine without needing any additional equipment.

If you stay in a place that can get very very cold or freezing, you will need a fish tank heater to regulate the water temperature accordingly.

[Added on 9-Aug-2017]

I am adding some information on my own goldfish tank setup:

My goldfish tank setup
My goldfish tank in May 2017The equipment that I am using for my goldfish tank are:

1) Fish Tank
This is a 50 gallons fish tank which is curved at the 2 front corners. I bought it from a local fish store together with the cabinet. However I do not know what the brand is.

When I tried searching on Amazon, I came across the tank on the right which looks very much like it, if not better.

2) Lighting
This is a 3 feet all white LED lighting by Deebow.

3) Filter
As I mentioned earlier in this post, I am using the Eheim Classic External Canister Filter 2215. Do check out my review of this filter.

4) Substrate
These are Nature Aquarium White Shirui Sand.

5) Rocks
These are river rocks that I selected and bought from a shop specializing in landscaping and ponds. I am sure you can get some nice looking ones from your local fish stores as well. I used to have 8 rocks of various sizes in this tank but reduced them to 3 for easier maintenance, and to provide more room for my goldfish to swim around.

The other equipment that I am using for this tank is already mentioned in the post above.  I do not have a fish tank heater as I live in a tropical country.

So… all the best in your fish tank setup!

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18 Replies to “Setting Up A Goldfish Tank (Part 1) – The 8 most basic equipment

  1. very good article my older sister did a science project about raising tropical fish so my father had a demenstration washing machine tub I couldn’t tell how much water went into it it has been a long time but the process of cleaning the tank was very time consuming but when the fish were swimming around it was enjoyable

    1. Hi James,
      Thanks for dropping by. Yeah… fish tank maintenance can be time consuming. However call me weird if you want, but I find doing water changes to be very therapeutic and stress relieving. 🙂

  2. I always wanted to have one. An excellent guide to start this project, I will be in contact !! Thank you

  3. Good step by step guide on how to set up a tank for goldfish. One thing I have found is don’t put any live plants in the tank because all they will do is eat them.

    1. Hi Chappy,
      Thanks for the visit. Yeah…I learned that too. Goldfish and plants cannot go together.

  4. Very good information! We used to keep goldfish when the girls were small. Your tip on keeping the gravel very small is good. I always worried about the fish sucking up the gravel. I’d notice they would spit it out, but who knew they could actually be hurt by them. Maybe that’s why a couple died without us knowing why.

    1. Hi Linda,
      Thanks for your comment. I have witnessed a gravel stuck in a goldfish mouth before in one of the local fish store here. It was swimming frantically with the mouth wide opened. Looked painful to me. Anyway I informed the shop keeper for the rescue.

  5. Thanks for the tips Alex. This is something I would have had no idea how to do. This puts it all together in one place, so I know what exactly to buy.

    1. Hey Andy,
      Thanks.. that’s great to hear. I do hope my posts are able to provide some help to new goldfish keepers out there.

  6. Thank you for the info. We have a freshwater tank, and although we don’t have any goldfish, this would have been very useful when we were setting it up. We definitely made several trips to the store to get what we needed! It is hard to be patient and get the tank set up, but it is well worth the effort!

    1. Hi Jessica,
      Yes you are right. This post is applicable no matter what fish you are keeping.
      I understand about how it is hard to be patient. All us fish keepers just couldn’t wait to get everything set up and if possible, we want to enjoy the fish immediately. 🙂 That’s when things start to go wrong and we wonder why. So proper setup and cycling the tank are very much needed.

  7. That bare bottom tank looks really good! I always thought you had to have something on the bottom (because every fish tank I’ve seen seems to have pebbles or sand). No doubt cleaning the tank would be heaps easier. I haven’t had goldfish for years, maybe I should dig out my old tank and look into getting some more soon!

    1. Hi Angela,
      It really depends on individual preference. With bare bottom tank, you get to enjoy the beauty and grace of your goldfish without any other visual distractions. It’s also cheaper and less effort to set up; and easier to maintain.

  8. Thank you for this information, I have no idea of what is needed for the fish to survive and my grandchildren want a fish tank filled with fish, so we will be checking this out and hopefully fill one of their wants on their list!

    1. Hi Jeanie,
      Thanks for the comment. I am sure your grandchildren will be very happy. All the best with the new fish tank!

  9. Hi, i’m interested in making a tank similar to yours and I was wondering what was all the supplies did you use. What is the brand of the tank, substrate, rocks, etc.

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