Best Heaters 2020

Best Heaters 2020

Aquarium heaters are one of the most essential parts of a thriving aquarium, whether you may use one year round or only for a short while. Over the years, the market has become saturated with a plethora of options in all shapes and sizes when it comes to heaters, but were here to talk about the best. While the main goal of keeping a reef tank between the temperatures of 76 and 80 degrees remains the same, the heaters which allow you to achieve those temperatures have continued to evolve. 

In this report, we want to give you the rundown on which heater will fit best with your aquarium. The main categories we will be looking at include the best budget heater, the best heater for a nano tank, and the best overall heater. 

Best Aquarium Heater on a Budget: Eheim Jager TruTemp

The Eheim Jager TruTemp Fully Submersible Heater is a heater that we have all come to know and truly love. This heater has changed very little over the past 5 years as it is still one of the most well built, reliable, and budget friendly heaters around. In addition to being fully submersible, this heater also features run-dry protection that will turn off the heater if it is no longer submersed in water. The shatterproof glass adds to the durability that you have come to expect from all Eheim products. It is nearly impossible to find a more durable, reliable, and proven heater on the market at a better price.

Best Heater for Nano Systems: Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm

Nano systems have been a huge trend in the aquarium industry for years, its where a lot of us got our start. These tanks are currently the most popular size range for entry level hobbyists. Space is at a premium within these small systems so finding a heater that can fit and still be reliable is often difficult. That is why the Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm is one of the best aquarium heaters for a nano tank. The slim profile and easy to set, “One touch” display gives the Neo-Therm the upper hand when it comes to squeezing it into tight spaces. An ultra-accurate thermostat and LED display rounds out this compact, effective, and durable heater. Even in the tightest of spaces, Cobalt has found a way to keep your tank at the proper temperature.

Best Overall Heater: Finnex HMA-S With Guard and Analog Controller 

The Finnex HMA-S series is a superior line of heaters that are built to last. This is certainly an inexpensive heater so many of the features you would come to expect in a higher budget option are prevalent. The heater includes an external analog controller that allows for quick and easy temperature adjustments without getting your hands wet. The titanium built heater is even more durable than shatter resistant glass and they can be used in freshwater, saltwater, and reef aquariums. The features and durability built into this product are elite and that is why it is one of the best aquarium heaters on the market. 

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How to Clean Sand or Gravel for the Aquarium

How to Clean Sand or Gravel for the Aquarium

When you buy new aquarium sand or gravel it is highly recommended that you rinse it first, unless it is live sand for your reef. Even if it says it was pre-washed, it will still carry some dirt which can cause a cloudy mess in your water. However, even after you get it in the aquarium it’s not over, the substrate will accumulate detritus, decomposing organics and more. So here are a few tips on how to clean sand or gravel to keep a pristine aquarium.

How to clean new substrate:

Cut the bag of sand open and fill a 5 gallon bucket about 1/3 full with sand. Place the bucket under the faucet and turn it on full so that it vigorously jets into the sand. Move your fingers through the sand, stirring it and lifting into the water jet as you do so. When the bucket is full, turn off the water, run your fingers through the sand some more, then pour the dirty water away (being careful not to pour the sand down the drain) and repeat. It may take 10 or more goes until the water remains clear. Pour the clean sand into the bare, new tank, and fill the bucket with the second third of sand. Repeat, and repeat again with the last third. You may also do this process outside with a garden hose. If you are rinsing sand for a reed tank I recommend doing your final rinse with RODI water.

Cleaning substrate in an established aquarium:

One of the most trusted methods is to use a gravel cleaner like an Aquaeon Siphon Vacuum or Python Pro-Clean to siphon out detritus into a bucket. You may also use a larger system such as an Aqueon Water Changer or Python No Spill Clean and Fill which connects to your faucet to siphon the water. Once a siphon is achieved, hover the wide open end of the vacuum over the substrate so that it travels a few inches up the tube and releases the detritus from within it. Slowly move the vacuum upwards and gravity should drop the sand or gravel back down, otherwise the flow may be controlled by simply pinching the soft tubing; the detritus should be all that ends up in the bucket. Repeat this, moving the gravel vacuum back to front, left to right, until a sufficient amount of the substrate has been cleaned.

If you don’t have a gravel vacuum, routinely run your fingers, a plastic rod, or a JBJ Aquascraper 4-in-1 Cleaning Kit through the gravel to dislodge debris. Let the filter remove the dirt from the water via mechanical filtration, then clean the filter or swap filter socks to export the dirt and nutrients from your system.

Lastly, use livestock to help clean the substrate. For freshwater use Corydoras catfish, Loaches or Geophagus cichlids to sift the substrate for food, cleaning it as they do so. Tanks containing Corydoras always have cleaner substrates. For nano freshwater tanks, shrimp do a great job. For a reef cleanup crew use Nassarius snails, sand sifting starfish, fighting conchs, or sand sifting gobies to clean the sand.

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The Icecap Pod Habitat

The Icecap Pod Habitat

The IceCap Pod Habitat is a unique creation which combines our previous knowledge of copepods with modern design and innovation. Yes, copepods do not naturally live in neat little tower blocks, and surely your live rock or sand will do the same job... right? Not necessarily, many man made "dry rocks" are too dense for copepods to truly thrive and the more you think about it, the more something like this 3”x3”x2” cube makes sense.

How it works

Once placed into your AIO, sump or refugium the small holes become populated with copepods and amphipods. As the pods reproduce they will overflow into the main tank, feeding the fish just like a classic refugium. Although, unlike a traditional refugium, you can pick up the pod habitat and shake it in the main tank, releasing live pods on demand for any waiting fish. 

You can also get creative and leave a full pod habitat in the main tank for a bit to replicate a butterflyfish and pipefishes natural habitat. Watch as they go to town on the pod sanctuary, pushing their snouts into it to munch on pods just as they would in nature.

You may also “mature” a pod habitat in the filter section of an existing tank and then move it to a new tank to seed it with bacteria and tiny critters which will help bring your reef to life. 

If you do not have the luxury of a separate filter section you may also bury your Pod Habitat under the rocks and leave it there as an in-tank refugium. A secret pod fortress deep within the aquascape will give copepod populations a chance to establish and retreat when needed. You could even set up multiple pod habitats that could be shook on different days of the week, ensuring you always have a supply.

Usage of live copepods is becoming more and more mainstream, many reefers are even dosing their tanks on a weekly basis with bottles of live pods. The Oceanic Institute of Hawaii Pacific University published recently that copepods are the “key to success” in rearing many species of reef fish, so this novel marine bug hotel has true potential.

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Best Aquarium Filters 2020 - Staff Picks

Best Aquarium Filters 2020 - Staff Picks

Filtration is one of the most important factors in establishing long term success as water quality is essential in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. Almost all displays look beautiful on the first day of setup, but, as that brand new tank look wears off, we begin to rely on our filtration to keep everything looking clean and healthy. Aquarium filters come in many varieties including ones that hang on the back of the aquarium, canister filters that are plumbed externally, and multi-filters that can perform a variety of tasks in the filtration process. Building an aquarium with an excellent mode of filtration allows hobbyists to have the perfect foundation to create a successful saltwater, freshwater, planted, or reef aquarium.

While the look of these products may differ, the ways in which they operate are ultimately the same. Aquarium filters are designed to remove harmful elements from the water, create continuous water flow, and polish the water to keep it clean and clear. Within this list, we will break down some of our best aquarium filter recommendations including the hang on back, the canister filter, and the multi-filter.


Best Hang-on-Back Filter: Seachem Laboratories Tidal Power Filters

This filter is a beast, it is one of the only hang on back filters equipped with a surface skimmer, ensuring excellent function on both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. High quality and well thought out products are what we have come to expect from Seachem and their Tidal Power Filters are a perfect example. These filters come in four sizes and can be used on aquariums up to 110 gallons. One of the best features on this filter is the oversized filtration capacity that allows you to add any of Seachem’s media to the back of the unit. Another impeccable feature in this filter is the custom leveling and flow regulation that allows for a great fit on any tank. Finally, there is a maintenance monitor which will alert you when the media inside needs to either be cleaned or replaced. These features are nearly impossible to come by on any other hang on back filter which is why we have selected the Seachem Tidal Power Filter as one of the best aquarium filters on the market. 

Best Canister Filter: Eheim Classic External Canister Filters

Eheim has been producing canister filters for decades, and it shows in their product. Their excellent build quality, pricepoint, and customer care have allowed them to make this honorable list. These filters come in a variety of sizes to fit your aquarium and each includes a set of media to filter and polish your water. This canister filter features quick disconnect plumbing which allows for easier maintenance and cleaning when necessary. While Eheim filters may lack some of the special features that you can find on more modern and expensive filters, they are a reliable option that is built to last. This makes the Eheim Classic External our choice for the best aquarium filter in the canister category. 

Best All in One Filter: AquaMaxx HF-M Hang-On-Back Multi Filter

As our hobby has progressed, so have our filters, we now have options that perform more than just simple water filtration and polishing. The AquaMaxx HF-M Multi Filter is a shining example of innovation in our industry, it is equipped with a built in protein skimmer, probe holder, tubing holder, and media cartridge. All of these included features come together to make an exceptional all in one filtration unit that can perform on aquariums between 20 and 60 gallons. This filter guides water through three different stages of filtration; beginning with the protein skimmer where waste is removed from the water. The water then enters a biological filtration section where it is polished. Finally, the water flows into the third and final chamber where even more filter media can be customized to suit your system. All of these premium features packed into this single filter provide your tank with a comprehensive saltwater filtration process that cannot be topped without the use of an external sump.



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Freshwater Shrimp Keeping and Shrimp Safe Products

Freshwater Shrimp Keeping and Shrimp Safe Products

Freshwater Shrimp

Freshwater shrimp seem to be all the rage as of late. With their ease of care, complex lives, and brilliant colors, you can't go wrong. As owners, we must do our best to replicate a shrimps natural habitat. This will in turn increase the longevity and happiness of the shrimp and owner. Below are a few products which will help along your crustaceous journey.


Safely removes chlorine, chloramines and ammonia and detoxifies heavy metals.
Most hobbyists start out using tap water for their freshwater planted and shrimp tap. Some TDS is actually desirable for nutrition and growth of plants. However tap water has chlorine and can also have chloramines which are made up of chlorine and ammonia. ShrimpPrep removes these and also detoxifies heavy metals like copper making the water safe for immediate use.

NeoTiger KH+/GH+ and Caridina GH+

Establishes mineral balance in purified (RO/DI) and soft water.
Shrimp, other invertebrates, and aquatic plants require that specific elements be present in the water to aid with osmotic balance and ensure proper biochemical function, contributing to overall long-term health and survival. NeoTiger KH+/GH+ and Caridina GH+ fulfills this requirement with a formulation based on data compiled from up-to-date aquatic research. Provides a beneficial ratio of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium, elements which are vital to the overall health and osmoregulation of fishes, invertebrates, and many aquatic plants. When using RO water, there is no need to use ShrimpPrep.

Blackwater Clear

Provides humic substances for all shrimp & freshwater fish planted biotopes with much less color.
Adding botanicals to a freshwater aquarium provides humic substances for all shrimp & freshwater fish and planted biotopes. Humic substances are natural derivatives of organic materials found in soils and, more importantly, in many forested streams and rivers. A characteristic of humic substances is their deep brown color, which is responsible for the color of soil. Botanicals take some time to breakdown in the water which makes BlackwaterClear a valuable additive. Gradually increasing the concentration of humic substances in aquaria is an effective method of encouraging spawning in fishes.

FlorinBacter One

Complete tank starter bioculture for all freshwater shrimp, fish & planted aquaria.
FlorinBacter One is primarily designed to jump start the ammonia cycle in freshwater planted and shrimp aquariums and prevent “New Tank Syndrome.” It will instantly create a biological filter in freshwater aquaria of all types and is particularly useful for freshwater shrimp and planted aquariums. It removes toxic ammonia and nitrite naturally through bacterial oxidation. You still need to use ShrimpPrep to remove chlorine and chloramines in the water, both of which are lethal to the bacteria in this product.


Trace and minor elements for shrimp and other crustaceans & riverine fishes.
The role that trace and minor elements play with shrimp, other crustaceans and riverine fishes is related to neurological and metabolic processes, as well as overall coloration. Dosing a trace and minor supplement with every water change performed is an effective method of delivering these substances for maximum benefit. Parameters within the following ranges is generally acceptable: pH 6.5 – 7.5; dGH 4 – 6; dKH 3 – 4; however, obtaining the water parameters in which your shrimp were bred and maintaining them in these conditions is the best practice to follow.

Shrimp FlorinMulti

Complete multi-nutrient fertilizer for planted shrimp or freshwater fish aquaria with iron.
Nutrients are substances required by plants for survival; they are collectively involved in all aspects of the biological and chemical reactions that allow plants to function properly. Brightwell Aquatics Shrimp FlorinMulti provides these substances in concentrations found by researchers to be necessary for long-term health of tropical aquatic plants including Potassium, Boron, Carbon, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, and others.

Shrimp Vītamarin F

Advanced freshwater multi-vitamin supplement for all shrimp, other crustaceans & fish.
Vitamins are compounds required in minute concentrations for vital metabolic reactions. Short-term vitamin deficiencies can typically be tolerated by most organisms, however long-term deficiencies tend to result in abnormalities, poor health, and eventually even death of the specimen. It is recommended that Shrimp Vītamarin F be utilized as a soak for vitamin-deficient foods, or it may be added directly to the aquarium water, to benefit any plankton, biofilm or algae that may be present and become food sources.

FlorinBacter Clean

Unique freshwater microbial culture & enzyme blend designed to target and clean surfaces of plants, driftwood decorations & tank walls.
Brightwell Aquatics ShrimpFlorinBacter Clean is a selective complex of extremely effective microbes and enzymes that not only reduce the concentrations of organic nitrogen, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, and organic carbon in all freshwater ecosystems, but make maintenance easy by actually loosening accumulations and coatings.

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