All tanks, no matter how big of a size or how good of a filtration will require maintenance. A properly stocked tank, good filtration, and proper feedings will keep the maintenance at the minimum.
Aquarium - As far as getting a tank, the bigger the better. Pick a place in the house where you want the aquarium to be, take measurements, and then find a tank equivelant or close to the dimensions.
Filter - Depending on the size of the tank, the most commonly used or recommended are canister filters. HOB (Hang on Back) filters are secondary. Canister filters, due to their design of the tubing, allow you to connect heaters, UV sterilizers, CO2, etc. to them, without the equipment being in the tank. This makes the tank look nicer, with less equipment inside it.
Heater - I like inline heaters, mainly becuase you cannot see them in the tank. There is no possible chance of accidental heater burns on the fish, since the heater is outside the tank.
Fish - everyone has their own particular taste in fish. If you are unsure, go to the store and see what fish interests you, then make a list. Go home and research the fish or ask questions here about them. That way you can find out their compatibility.
Test Kits - This will allow you to test your water for ammonia, nitrite, & nitrates. These are usually 3 seperate tests. You should also look for test kits for chlorine/chloramine and pH.
Dechlorinator - This will nuetralize chlorine/chloramine in your water. You should test your water for this or find out if your water supply company uses it in your water supply. Your LPS (Local Pet Store) or LFS (Local Fish Store) will usually test your water for free, if you bring in a sample. If you do fine chlorine/chloramine in your water, look into getting Prime.
Syphon - This will allow you to suck up fish waste on the bottom. I suggest getting a Python No-Spill syphon. This connects to your faucet and allows you to suck up fish waste and also fill up your tank without carrying buckets of water.
Substrate - This is your preference. You can go with gravel or sand or even BB (Bare bottom). BB is easy to maintain, but very plain looking, but you always see the waste on the bottom. Sand is nice, but can cause a problem with a filter, if there is no pre-sponge filter on the intake. gravel is cheap and you may be able to find Pea gravel from your local hardware store or maybe home improvement store.
Bigger is always better, the water will stay more stable for your fish, which is a big plus.
Hight is usless as far as how many fish you can have, the length and width are more important, very tall tanks even though they have alot of gallons of water won't let ya add as many fish as a shorter but wider and longer tank since the surface area is less.
The equipment I recommend are:
Filter: Emporer line (NOT penguin) by marineland, or the aquaclear line of HOB filters, buy two rated for the size of tank you have.
If you have the $, Canisters are nice, but really only are worth the money if you have a planted tank or want as little equipment in the tank as possable.
Visatherm Stealth, rena, or Jager brand heaters are good brands, make sure you get a submersable heater.
Sand needs to be completely stirred once a month to prevent anerobic pockets since it compacts, it does make weekly cleanings easier since most of the waste stays ontop.
Hovering the syphon above the sand will take a little practice, but after a water change or two you'll rarely suck any of it up.
Pool filter sand (silica sand) is a great sand to use, it is completely inert, very clean out the bag (rinse it anyway though) and white, makes for good contrast on darker fish.
Oh god i hate sand as a substrate for freshwater!
Another posibility would to get the all-glass corner aquarium. Is fits into your corner,it has a bowfront, it is 50 gallons,and in the back it has a built in overflow. This would allow you to do a wetdry filter with bioballs.
I like glavel cause it looks more natural and it is esier to take care of.(just gracel vac)
No substrate, No plants, low lighting and maybe 6-10 schooling fish like tetras or similar sizes fish. AquaClear HOB filter and a heater, visotherm is a good choice and submersible is better than not but not absolutely needed. With such a small tank, weekly water cnahges of 50% would work fine and all you have to do is add dechlorinator to the water in the amount equal to the tank and that is it.
Adding gravel adds the chore of gravel vacs.
Adding plants adds the chore of at least micro ferts and working around them to gravel vac.
Canister filters require turning it off, taking it apart to remove and replace media and clean it. HOB filters like the AquaClear only require you to take the sponge basket out and rinse them really good in the water you remove in a waterchange.
Sand requires you to stir it at least once a month, gravel must be vacced.
You could get away with sand if you get some Malaysian Trumpet snails to stir the gravel but then you have to remove them if the population gets too high.
I guess the real question is what do you consider low maintenance? This will help us get a setup that will meet what you want to do to the tank.
Some input on the sand, it IS very hard to clean, but can be learned over time. Be careful not to suck it up where it goes down your sink drains or you'll have major plumbing problems quickly. I prefer the fine grades of gravel because gravel vac are not so time consuming if your fish aren't overfed. I don't do gravel vacs in my tanks for most part because there's nothing to vac. Frequent small water changes and lots of live plants, not too many fish, and the tank can balance itself quite easily. I have a handful of planted tanks running right now that only get fed and topped off, and my nitrate is never above 20 and I never gravel vac. The fish thrive. If keeping a tank were as much work as I've seen some people turn it into, I'd never be able to keep up with the 30 I now have running, or the 50+ I had a yr ago. Once we finish moving, I'm intending to have over 100 going, and taking care of it myself. If its done RIGHT, and you understand patience and asking questions, doing research, then you should accomplish what you originally asked for... a "low maintenance" tank that you can sit back and enjoy instead of slave over daily. There is no such thing as no maintenance, but you really don't need to spend a lot of time if you do it right.
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