I kept a list of my personal To-buy or Bought From Where items on my phone. I regularly check the list when I am at the LFS or shopping online.
Amazon used to be a great place to get things, especially for the rest of the world, but their shipping rate is just ridiculous. I found that AliExpress has a different philosophy when it comes to online shopping. They will try to bundle in the shipping cost, most often free but slow shipping.
How many times have you found yourself wasting time trying to buy an item on Amazon only to find yourself abandoning the purchase because the shipping cost was just pure extortion.
Cheap and Good Lightings
I have heaps of aquarium lights sitting on the floor at home, from all sorts of brands.
Unfortunately, when it comes to buying lightings for your planted tank, the only information you can get to help your purchase is the “claims” on the box of the light.
How many times I made the mistake of trusting the words “For Planted Tank” or “Grow lights for aquarium plants”. And after a few weeks of using the lights, the only thing that is growing well in your tank are all sorts of algae. 🤬
And those which people reviewed online are either not available in your LFS or too expensive. It took me a long time finally buy a brand of light that actually grows plants well.
The thing about LED lights is that it requires very specific wavelengths in order to grow aquatic plants. Most manufacturers do not have the know-how or find it too much hassle to go into wavelength R&Ds.
Now, all my tanks are powered by Chihiros lights.
I found that their lights, although not the best in the market, but are very affordable, BRIGHT, and most importantly, grow aquatic plants well.
Here, I will recommend two affordable lightings and the link to buy it with international free shipping included.
Chihiros A Series
The Chihiros A Series is what I will call beginner’s lighting for a planted tank. This light is the cheapest one can get for that kind of light output. PAR value is good but not the best for rendering colours. But one thing for sure the wavelength of the light is meant for planted tanks. It will grow anything you put under it. Construction is acceptable. Gets hot. But it grows plants.
In addition, the A Series supports both 110 and 220 volt. The trouble with buying a light from another country is that the voltage may not be compatible!
Chihiros A Series Light Pricing Guide
Price is for rough estimation as merchant makes minor price adjustment or have regular promotion. Exchange rates also affects pricing. Nonetheless the actual prices should not differ too much. Prices are in USD INCLUDING FREE SHIPPING!
|Model||Length||No. of LEDs||Lumen||Price|
The model number generally goes in this format AXX1.
Whereby “A” denotes A series.
The “XX” denotes length divided by 10. For example a 120cm lights will be 120, or 45cm lights will be 45.
And the last number denotes Series 1. There’s Series 2 but I have not used them before.
As a general rule, it cost USD1.08 per 1 cm length of light.
Chihiros RGB Series
I started with the Chihiros A Series for some of my tanks that requires medium/high lighting. However, the colours of the fishes are kind of washed out. So I decided to try the RGB series one day. And all I can say is, for this price, there is no other lights that will come close and still grow your plants.
Although this light is consisted of various colours LEDs but this light packs quite a punch with 7500 lumens of brightness for the 60cm RGB-60 thanks to the 120 LED lamps!!!
Some merchant will throw in a 7-steps dimmer. You can also get the SMART Pro light timer to work with all Chihiros lights which will allow you to adjust up to 100 steps with 8 time settings with a mere USD20! The link is below.
SMART S2 Light Control
If you use Chihiros lights, I highly recommend getting the Smart LED light controller. This light controller/timer has 8 individual time settings! Each setting can allow you to set your light from 0% to 100% in 1% increment!!
I use this controller to simulate sun intensity throughout the day on some tanks and on some other tanks I use it to set siesta for photo period.
Simulating sun rise and sun set
The best part of it is it only cost USD15! The downside, it can only handle lights under 100W and the time is not the most accurate, but I can live with that.
But at USD15, it is as cheap as your mechanical timer with only On or Off switch. But this thingy, has intensity setting! The small footprint and a digital display adds coolness to the overall experience.
Get it from AliExpress with free shipping!!! There is the S2 and the S2 Pro. The Pro version can handle higher wattage lights.
Night Light Function
There is a little documented function in the S2 Pro – Night Light.
I bought another unit of S2 Pro recently and set it up like I would usually to mimic sun rise and sun set.
On one occasion late in the night I discovered that somehow the light was still on but dimly, despite setting the last setting to zero intensity. I manually switch it off, but it came back right on.
This went on for every night. I thought I had a lemon unit.
After combing through lots of websites, there was still no solution in sight. So I drop by the manufacturer website to see if there is any missing instructions I missed out.
Right at the bottom of the product description, there was a one liner that states…
If you set a small setting in Setting 01, after the light goes off, the S2 Pro will resume using Setting 01 as a Night Light function. This is a useful function for those who keep Arowana and wanted a low night viewing light throughout the night.
There have been plenty of discussion on the forums all over internet. Most of the comments were that it will not work. And I also realised that most of them do not have one themselves. They based their opinions on theories.
And those few who made the dive and purchase one had mixed reviews.
So I took the dive and got myself one.
Algae Control - Not Obvious
Well, to begin with, my tank has little algae issues. When in algae spores killing mode, I did not notice any differences.
Disease Control - Effective
The tank I use the Chihiros Doctor with is a community tank. It has all sorts of fishes in it.
My Neo Tetras always have white spot diseases. And my Golden Barbs are also plagued by occasional outbreak of cysts.
After deploying the Chihiros Doctor, I have witnessed a significant drop in white spot diseases among my Neon Tetras and the cysts on my Golden Barbs never return!
And recently the coil is no longer producing as much “fog” and the white spot diseases is returning with a vengeance.
This is the third generation Chihiros Doctor. The previous generations are tank size specific and measures specific, ie they either kill algae spores, kill diseases, or improve shrimp water.
The third generation Chihiros Doctor is now multipurpose. By a selection button, you can set up tank size, select measures to use.
Auto switching 110v or 220v
EU/US/UK plugs available
$47 with free shipping worldwide.
I got all my cleaning maintenance tools almost all from AliExpress. They have free shipping for almost everything! And the price is just a fraction of the LFS.
Tube & Hose Brush - $3
Double ended brush. Nice and soft. There’s a smaller version which cost just $1!
Stainless Steel Algae Scraper - $12
Chihiros Magnetic Brush - $13
This is one VERY STRONG magnet brush. It is unlike the typical magnet brushes. This thing CAN remove those tough greenspot algae. Replacement velcro can be purchased as well unlike most others.
Other Must Buys!
Solor Powered Air Pump - $22
For those of you who frequently need to face with adverse weather, there is nothing more valuable than a solar powered air pump.
I use this for my fishing trip though 😆
Leak Detector - $4.00
I believe no matter how good your tank was built, there will always a chance of critical failure of an equipment which will lead to a consequential flooding. The flooding will be worse if it happens during bed time and your floor is wooden.
If you haven’t got any kind of leak alarm installed, for god sake, please get one immediately. It doesn’t cost much. A simple, crude looking one cost only USD4 from AliExpress with free shipping to the states and most other countries. It’s really a no brainer.
This detector is smaller than a regular cigarette box. You can just place it behind your cabinet and forget about it as the battery last for years.
Single Channel Lab Pipette - $18
What the hack is a Single Channel Lab Pipette??? A picture tells a thousand words.
A Single Channel Lab Pipette is basically a pipette but with a precision knob controlling the liquid volume. It beats using a surgical syringe for liquid precision as well as speed. You always see a lab technician using it on TV/video.
What is it used for?
Well I use it for measuring
- the amount of Prime to use during water change
- the amount of ferts when dosing
- spot treatment with Exel or H2O2
USD18 and another USD5 for shipping on AliExpress. Dosing will never be the same. You will need to choose the ideal volume for your daily use. There is one that measures from 0.1ml to 1ml for small tanks, and there is one that measures from 1ml to 5 ml, and another 0.1ml to 10ml for more general use.
Stainless Steel Pipes
Chihiros Stainless Steel Pipes w Swivel outflow - $50/set
Chihiros uses so called “Class 1” highest grade stainless steel in their pipings. Comes in 4 different sizes. Smallest set of in/out flow starts from $30 with free shipping. The largest set cost just $50 with worldwide free shipping.
Medium Size Glass Lily Pipes Set 12/13mm - $9.15
Classic glass Lily Piping intake and outlet set. Free shipping as usual.
Assorted Types of Lily Pipes - From $10
This store sells all sorts of Lily Pipes from Poppy to Wheel/Spin types. Packed in foam boxes for safe shipping. Free shipping as usual.
I have to warn you that the ceramic diffusers listed below are not the most efficient for those of us using high pressurised CO2.
However, for those using DIY bottle A+B CO2 users, ceramic diffusers may be their only option.
Small Ceramic Diffuser - $1.50
Useful for 10 gallon and below tanks.
Small Cup Type Ceramic Diffuser - $2
Useful for 10 gallon and below tanks.
Small Ceramic Diffuser Starter Kit- $8.60
One of my LFSs likes to use this type of diffuser. This kit comes with a check valve.
Useful for 10 gallon and below tanks.
Atomizer - $10
I used to love this diffuser. It is a cheaper version of the Intense Bazooka Atomizer. It is able to produce fine mist.
However, the minimum pressure required is 30psi to operate this diffuser.
UP Mini Diffuser - $5
This, my friends, is probably the best money to performance diffuser in the market.
Do not be deceived by its look. It is extremely efficient in producing fine bubbles at low pressure. If you are using bottle A/B DIY CO2 production, don’t waste time, just get this diffuser.
I have switched back to diffuser from reactor, the reason is I’m lazy to perform reactor cleaning and I like less equipment.
The CO2 reactor is still one of the best methods of CO2 injection into your tank. You don’t get the soda drinks effect and you save more CO2 for being efficient.
And it is SUPER DIY CO2 friendly because it only requires very low pressure to work.
Remember you will need a separate powerhead/pump for it to work, or you can attached it to your canister outflow at the sacrifice of your flowrate.
ISTA External Turbo Co2 Reactor Diffuser - $23
This is the better built reactor. But you will need a strong flow for it to work.
Free worldwide shipping.
ISTA Max Mix CO2 Reactor - $16
Poor man’s reactor. Cheap but yet efficient. Gets the job done. Not elegant. Big footprint in tank.
Free worldwide shipping.
Bubble Glass CO2 Drop Checker - $2.00
Your typical glass drop checker. They are selling it at USD2 and comes with the indicator solution. WTF? Shipping cost another USD2. Still cheap.
Aquarium Safe Superglue - $0.80
Ever wonder how moss can grow on driftwoods? Ever wonder how rocks can be stacked up and not fall?
Use it to glue multiple sticks of wood to form the ideal layout.
Check Valves - $0.50
Cheapo check valves. Free shipping.
Glass Check Valve + Glass Bubble Counter - $3
I really like this set. It is elegant and cheap. The only problem is filling water into the bubble counter. You need to remove the air line tubing and use a syringe to inject water into it every two weeks. Otherwise it looks awesome.
As usual, it has free shipping.
Stainless Steel Check Valve - $1.30
If you are tired of the usual plastic looking check valve, this can be a nice change.
ADA Style Glass Bubble Counter - $1
ADA style bubble counter at a fraction of the cost.
Glass Round Type Bubble Counter - $1
Another type of glass bubble counter if you are tired of the usual ones.
Suction holder for tubing
Opened End Air Line/Tube Suction Holder - 10 for $1
I have a bunch of these as well. Keeps your tube organised. I will discard them after a few months when algae starts to grow on it. This way your suction holder will always be shiny new! Beats scrubbing it down.
Clip Type Suction Holder - 10 for $1.10
This type of suction holder clips your tubing into place. Less regid than the open end type but offers a more tight layout.
Air Line Tube & Accessories
Glass U Shaped Bend - $0.60
I use this to form a nice bend around the tank edge where the air line tube bends.
Stainless Steel U Shaped Bend - $1.26
This is the stainless steel version.
Typical shipping under $0.50.
10m Air Line Tube - $3.50
This is the soft type for normal air stone. Free shipping as usual.
3m CO2 Tubing - $3.50
This is the hard type for pressurised CO2. Comes in clear or black.
Magnetic Tools Holder - $12
I simply love this! I don’t think I need to say much. I place an industrial strength double sided tape and sticked it to the wooden stand of my tank.
No free shipping, but shipping worldwide is about another $5.
Stainless Steel Tool Rack - $10
Nice and elegant rack for your tools. Free worldwide shipping as usual.
AQUAPRO Acrylic Tool Rack - $10
Another one of my favourite rack. The acrylic is of high quality THICK acrylic. The screws and the threads are of better quality.
Free worldwide shipping as usual.
4 Channels Auto Dosing Tube Holder - $6
No fuss dosing tube holder.
TDS Meter - $3
I use this. Not very elegant but gets the job done. $3!!!!! With free shipping!? WTF?
Citric Acid & Baking Soda
For Singapore’s reader you can get citric acid at 500g pack from Poon Huat. They have 13 outlets island wide. They have 10% sales every Monday and Sunday. Prices at the point of writing is about SGD5.10. Baking Soda comes in 600g pack and cost just SGD1.80!