Fish tank with lots of fishes

13 Fish Tank Hacks Every Pro Knows But Won’t Tell You

When keeping an aquarium, there can be many things to consider. You need to think of water quality, filtration, lighting, and feeding.  Because of this, you can spend a lot of money purchasing aquarium supplies.

However, some experienced aquarium keepers have found DIY (Do-It-Yourself) approaches and hacks for aquarium maintenance.

The DIY approach to aquarium can not only save your money, but it can also be safer for your fish in some cases. Instead of treating your aquarium with chemical products, which I usually recommend as a last resort, you may have the ingredients that you need in your kitchen pantry. Keep on reading to discover our expert aquarium hacks.

DIY CO2 System

If you have an aquarium with aquatic plants, you may need a CO2 system to add carbon dioxide to the aquarium water. Unlike animals that breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

Instead of purchasing a CO2 system, you can save money by making your own. 

Making a CO2 system involves connecting two bottles with plastic tubing. Add water, sugar, yeast, and gelatine to one of the bottles. The carbon dioxide is created when the yeast consumes the sugar and yeast.

Fill the second bottle with water; it will collect the carbon dioxide from the first bottle.  Also, you can use substitute baking soda and citric acid for the sugar and yeast. To test the CO2 level in the aquarium water, you can purchase an inexpensive CO2 test kit. The preferred carbon dioxide range for a planted aquarium is 20-30 ppm.

Pantyhose Filter

As surprising as it may seem, pantyhose makes for a multi-purpose hack! The following are examples of this:

  • Before introducing new substrates to your aquarium, place them in the pantyhose and rinse them off to wash away any residue that may cloud your water.
  • Cut off a piece of pantyhose, cover the intake opening of your filter, and secure it in place using a rubber band.  Doing this will prevent fish fry or small invertebrates from getting sucked into the filter.
  • If you’re starting a new aquarium, take a piece of filter media or substrate from an established tank.  Wrap it up in a piece of pantyhose and place it into the new tank.  This will help  speed up the growth of beneficial bacteria.
  • When siphoning or vacuuming your aquarium, use pantyhose to cover the bucket collecting the old water.  Doing this lets you capture any fish fry or small invertebrates that may have gotten sucked up.  You can then return them to the tank.

Egg Crate Light Diffusers

Egg crates are louvered light diffusers that can be purchased at any DIY store. Some aquarists use egg crates under the aquarium substrate. While the belief is that the egg crate helps support the weight of decorative rock, this actually isn’t the case. The glass bottom of the aquarium can support the weight of decorative rock. Using an egg crate under the substrate can be helpful for another reason:

If you have large decorative rocks stacked on top of each other, the upper rock layer can tumble and fall, causing damage to the glass bottom. Using egg crates can help prevent damage from falling rocks by absorbing the shock and protecting the glass.

For this reason, I recommend you use egg crates if you keep cichlids. Because many cichlid species are diggers, if they dig under decorative rocks, it can create instability for the rocks and cause them to tumble.

Natural Water Conditioners

There are ways that you can make aquarium water safe for fish using DIY methods. Some of them include the following:

Reverse Osmosis System

A reverse osmosis system (RO) is one of the easiest, safest, and most accurate ways to dechlorinate water. In addition, you can combine an RO with activated carbon. Doing this will increase its efficiency in removing chlorine and chloramine.

Using RO is especially good for keeping fish that like alkaline water. Alkaline water is water that has a pH of 7.5 or more. Fishes that like alkaline water include red oscars and African cichlids.

🐠 Learn more about setting up a fish tank the right way, including reverse osmosis in our comprehensive fish tank setup guide.

Activated Carbon Filters

Carbonated filters can be used to dechlorinate water, though it will not reduce water hardness. You can make an activated carbon filter by following these steps:

  1. Burn hardwood or fibrous wood in a pot till it turns into charcoal.
  2. Clean and grind the charcoal into a powder
  3. Add calcium chloride or vinegar
  4. Heat the mixture.  

Place the mixture into a section of pantyhose and then place it in the tank.


The most natural way to condition aquarium water is to use rainwater. Rainwater is free of chlorine and metals that are found in hard water and will also lower the pH in your tank. Simply place a large bowl outside while it’s raining to collect the rainwater.


While it’s not considered a water conditioner, UV light does remove chlorine and chloramine from tap water. What’s more, it removes chlorine and chloramine more effectively than carbon filters or peat moss. To be effective, use a UV light that has a wavelength of 240 nanometers. UV lighting

Water Hardness

There are also natural ways to adjust the water hardness of your aquarium. The following are suggestions for increasing your tank’s water hardness: 


If you need to raise the hardness of your aquarium water, try adding limestone rocks to your tank. While raising the hardness of the water, it will also increase the pH.

Crushed Oyster Shells

Adding crushed oyster shells to your aquarium can also increase the hardness of your water and its pH. Place the crushed oyster shells in your filter and the water that flows through the filter will disperse their minerals throughout the tank.

Plant Substrates

Substrates for aquatic plants can be used to reduce the hardness of your water. An example of a good substrate for this is Controsoil. Besides reducing the water’s hardness, it will also provide nutrients for aquatic plants.


Driftwood contains tannin, a chemical compound found in some plant species. Place driftwood in the aquarium to release the tannin into the water. Because tannins can turn the water a light, tea-colored brown, boil the driftwood before placing it into your tank to avoid this.

Peat Moss

Peat moss can also be used to soften the water and lower its pH. Peat moss will also add a tea-colored tint to the water. Wrap it in a piece of pantyhose, or place it in the filter.

LED Lighting

Do you have a planted aquarium? If so, in my opinion, LED lighting is the only kind of lighting that you should use. LED lighting is superior to traditional lighting as it’s cheaper and more economical, using as much as 80% less electricity than traditional lighting.

LED lights also last longer than fluorescent lighting and come in almost any color. LED lighting is great for aquariums because it’s less likely to cause water temperature changes.

LED light also provides the wavelengths plants need to absorb light and conduct photosynthesis, turning light into energy. This energy is used to digest carbon dioxide and minerals found in water.

It’s important to get the right kind of LED light. If you’re only interested in adding color lighting to your tank, I recommend getting LED lights that have 6000 Kelvins. These lights go by the name “Cool Daylight.”

If you’re getting LED lights to benefit your plants, you will want to get a mix of colors. In that case, get twelve “Cool White” (4,000 K) and combine them with one “Pure Red” (1,000 K) and one “Pure Blue (10,000 K).

Veggies for Plecos

Do you have plecos in your aquarium? Plecos are primarily herbivorous, meaning that they mostly eat plant matter. Instead of feeding your plecos a specialized diet and purchasing food from the store, you can serve your plecos a homemade vegetarian meal.

The following are vegetables that your plecos will enjoy eating:

  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Squash
  • Green beans
  • Sweet peppers
  • Peas
  • Lettuce

Always thoroughly rinse your vegetables to remove any pesticides and other containments.

Vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli should always be boiled. Doing so will soften them up and make them easier to eat. I also recommend chopping the vegetables up into small pieces—and as always,  remove any uneaten vegetables so they don’t pollute the water.

Give Our Pro Hacks a Try!

You can incorporate DIY fish tank hacks to maintain your aquarium in many ways. These methods are not only cheaper, but they can be safer for your fish as well. We hope you enjoyed this article and please leave your comments below if you have any questions.

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