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!

ModelLengthNo. of LEDsLumenPrice
A1201 120cm/47.2" 230 11600 $130
A901 90cm/35.4" 160 8700 $95
A601 60cm/23.6" 117 5800 $57
A501 50cm/19.7" 99 4800 $50
A451 45cm/17.7" 81 4350 $46
A361 36cm/14.2" 63 3450 $37
A301 30cm/11.8" 54 2800 $31

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.

Get it cheap from AliExpress! FREE shipping to USA! 😳

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.

AliExpress is selling this at list price USD90 only, but they ship for free.

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!!!

Model Length Width Power LEDs
RGB 30 30CM 11CM 25W 60
RGB 45 45CM 11CM 35W 90
RGB 60 60CM 11CM 50W 120

It is good to know that all Chihiros lightings supports both 110V and 220V! Most lightings on Amazon only supports 110V which makes purchasing pointless for those countries using 220V.

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.

Light Timer

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.

Sun intensity simulation

  Time Light Intensity
1 0700 5%
2 0800 20%
3 1000 50%
4 1200 100%
5 1600 50%
6 1800 20%
7 1900 5%
8 1930 0%

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.

Get it from AliExpress with free shipping!!! There is the S2 and the S2 Pro. The Pro version can handle higher wattage lights.

Cleaning Tools

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 – USD4 free shipping!

Stainless Steel Algae Scraper with free shipping! I use one for deep or extremely tough algae.

Chihiros Magnetic Brush with FREE shipping! The magnet is extremely powerful.

Other Must have

Leak detector

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.

Single Channel Lab Pipette

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.


No need to write more. This is a no brainer. About USD0.80 per tube delivered to any part of the world. I would usually grab a bunch and store them. How I hated it when I needed a quick fix to hold a moss but had to drive 1 hour to get a superglue from the LFS. No harm keeping a handful at all times.

Check Valve

USD0.50 a piece with Free Shipping. WTF? I mean the postage itself would have cost more than USD0.50! BUY!

Suction holder for tubing

10 for USD1 shipping included! TF?


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!

Get from eBay

10 lbs pack Citric Acid. Cheaper on eBay with free international shipping!



to be continued…


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