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second hand aquarium equipment

Second hand aquarium equipment – what you need to know

A popular online auction website, or for those who don’t have to abide by product placement rules, Ebay, is full of second hand aquarium supplies and it’s not the only website offering users previously used fishkeeping gear at knock-down prices. Depending on your local area, classified and auction websites as well as fishkeeping forums can add their names to this growing market.

Unfortunately, it’s often hard to tell the bargains for the junk and putting the life of your fish in the hands of an old, passed-down filter may prove to be something of a false economy. Here’s some advice on second hand purchases, wherever you get them from, that might save you more than a few pennies.


The simplest staple for any fishkeeper is the tank, a relatively simple concept but equally the most important. When buying a second hand tank, inspect it thoroughly and make sure you see it holding water, something that’s hard to do in a photo.

There is no rule of thumb regarding an aquarium’s life expectancy, however many people re-seal their tanks after a certain time. All tanks are different and some fail after a relatively short period. It is equally important to check any braces and lids for signs of imminent failure. There should be no cracks in the glass and inspect the sealant for any signs of repairs. The base is often neglected but is the most vulnerable to cracking in the absence of suitable support material under the tank, namely polystyrene.

It goes without saying that a tank failing to hold its water is a disaster for the fish, a nuisance for your carpet and a nightmare for home-owners.

All electrical items

This advice applies to any electrical item you purchase online. Never forget the fact that aquarium equipment is designed for use around water. An IP67 rating would have applied to the electrical device when it was new and subsequent use may have limited its suitability for submersion in an aquarium.

Inspect equipment to ensure that there are no cracks resulting from the item having been dropped or any attempts to open up the device for repairs. Reject any electrical goods that show signs of tampering by a previous owner as this may have broken an important waterproof seal.

Check for signs of overheating and cutting out or operating less effectively than it should. You should also inspect the plugs as these are often removed in order to thread the cable through a stand or cabinet.

second hand aquarium equipmentFilters

The filter is the heart of the aquarium ecosystem and provides both water circulation and filtration. It must be reliable and a backup filter is always a good idea. They aren’t impervious to deterioration and can become less effective with time.

When buying a used filter, you must inspect it thoroughly for signs of wear and tear, notably the motor and impeller: the motor can slow with age and may be prone to overheating whilst the impeller can be missing some of its blades, also reducing its effectiveness.

Check any seals around the unit, whether it’s an internal or external filter and make sure any filter media isn’t clogged.


Whilst you can find some bargains, it is important to understand that light bulbs do not last forever, and tend to dim after a certain period of time. For some bulbs, this can occur after just a few months of use whereas others can provide a decent light output for much longer. Check your light fitting to ensure that replacement bulbs haven’t become obsolete and find out how much it would cost to replace them.

Some light fixtures and tank attachment clips are notoriously flimsy which is worsened with age as the plastic becomes more brittle.

Similar to filters, some lighting units are designed to be waterproof, even submersible and therefore require checking for cracks and any deterioration of their waterproof seals.

Scrub it up nice

Whatever you buy, in whatever condition it may be, there’s always room to give it some tender loving care. You should clean filters thoroughly as this can boost performance and extend their life, use some vinegar to remove lime-scale and rinse well afterwards.

Lights can also be cleaned to remove deposits from the bulbs and reflectors. Tanks, of course, can be scrubbed thoroughly to remove grubby biofilm marks.


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