11 things that could save your fishes' lives!


Fishkeeping emergency? Are you prepared? Don't wait until it happens, or you could live to regret it — and your fish may not live at all! Jeremy Gay looks at 11 bits of essential fishkeeping kit that could save their lives in a crisis.

Test kits

Water can be crystal clear, yet deadly to fish at the same time. To be able to analyse whether or not your aquarium water is fit for your fish, you must have a test kit. Failing water quality is by far and away the most common killer of fish, so to be keeping fish without one is quite frankly keeping fish blind. Get one and save lives.

Syphon tube and buckets

So you've tested the water and identified a problem. The remedy, change it, but without these aquaristic essentials you may be some time. A syphon tube with gravel cleaning attachment should be a real desert island must have, and we certainly wouldn't ever be left without one.

Buckets are obvious but necessary, and apart from lugging water about they can hold fish in dire emergencies.

Spare heater and filter

Heaters are more reliable these days. Right? We use lots of heaters here at PFK, many with all the bells and whistles and new technology, but many still fail surprisingly often. They're less likely to boil your fish these days but you don't want frozen fish either. Always carry a spare.

A spare filter can also be a lifesaver as total filter shut down is not unheard of. A simple internal canister filter can be stuffed with existing, mature media and will keep your fish going until you can replace the main one.


Again, you've tested the water, all hell has broken loose and even water changes aren't getting rid of a high organic or chemical load in the water. Reach for the Polyfilter. These white, impregnated pads remove everything from ammonia, nitrite and nitrate to chemicals and medications. If youre filter is in total meltdown, this might just save lives. Other products and manufacturers are available.


Ever maintained your filter in an evening and snapped the impeller shaft? Aquatic stores aren't open late at night so unless you carry a spare, you will have no filter until the morning, meaning bacteria die-off. When you choose a filter ensure that spares are available, then arm yourself with a new impeller and shaft.


Again, the test kit indicates high levels of nitrite, and your fish are looking visibly unwell. The remedy, change water, check filter is functioning correctly and depending on your fish, add salt. Salt detoxifies nitrite and can aid breathing in freshwater fish. Simple but effective.

Ammo Lock

High levels of ammonia are deadly so you need to flush away as much as you can via water changes and convert what is left into less toxic ammonium. Ammo Lock converts ammonia to ammonium and removes chlorine and chloramine from tapwater, so you have a really useful remedy in one simple to use product. Other similar products are available from other manufacturers.

Battery air pump

When the power goes off your highly stocked, sensitive planted tank or reef tank may be in real trouble. Invest in a battery powered air pump to get gaseus exchange going again. Good for travelling long distances with fish too.


The key to treating a fish disease is first to diagnose it correctly and secondly to ensure that the right remedy is administered fast. A community aquarium owner should really have treatments available to treat parasites and bacterial infections. The quicker you treat Whitespot, the quicker you can nip it in the bud. 


Every fishkeeper needs a suitably sized catching net, even better two. You may think that you'll only need one to remove the odd dead fish maybe – but what if one evening a territorial dispute breaks out a fish needs to be caught and moved for its own safety? Become skilled with using two nets and you will catch fish much faster.

Quarantine tank

Before you add any fish to an existing community tank it must be first be quarantined. The object of doing this is to first and foremost stop the spread of disease from new fish to your existing population, but also to acclimatise your new fish to different water conditions and feeding regimes. Don't underestimate the usefulness of owning a second, spare tank.