This is one of the most important purchase and that is why I am listing it first. I can say this because I woke up to find two of my fish dead and knew I had a water quality issue. These two fish already set me back $20 (blue rams...so sad!). I was immediately able to test the water to find out EXACTLY what the problem was before I lost my whole tank or begin randomly dumping chemicals trying to guess what I was treating. It turned out I had dangerously high level of ammonia which I had to address quickly or I would have lost most of my fish. I will have another post on just this experience that will focus on cycling your tank or in my case not adding to many fish before the good bacteria had time to establish themselves. The best kit out their that is unanimously recommended if you do a search is the Freshwater Master Test Kit.
To find out more about the different chemicals to test check out what fishlore has posted here. I can say it is easy, you fill up the 5ml beaker that has a cap to the black water line on the test tube.
Here is the PH test, I am in the 6.8 range which is fine for a community tank
My Ammonia levels are now good, before they were dangerously green.
Add three drop to test PH and wait for the color change, match it to the chart, if it is high reference the guide that will tell you the appropriate steps you can take to mediate.
Because I chose to get a canister filtration system I went with an in-line water heater. The Hydor External Heater received a 9.12 on the Cichlid forum based off of 32 reviews. I have to agree. Basically once it senses a water temperature drop it kicks in. The ideal temperature range for a community tank and plants seem to be about 73" degrees. I like the fact that it actually senses the water temperature in real time only kicking on when needed, so far it has worked flawlessly.
I only hit one snag with the heater, it takes a larger hose then the 3/8" green one supplied with the Eheim 2215, it takes 1/2" hose size that usually goes on the Python Tank cleaning gravel sweeper (also the most recommended for cleaning tanks at it hooks into you sink tap so you do not have to mess with buckets!). I popped off the end of the hose sweeper and cut of two, 2" inch pieces fitting both on the end tips of the heater. I was then able to slowly force the Eheim 3/8 hose into the 1/2" hose so it formed a sleeve. The fit is super tight so I am not worried about it coming out. I am going to put a small hose clap on it though to be double safe. If the hose came off the pump would pump out all the water in the tank until it fell below the intake level, scary thought.
Here is a picture of the heater, you can see the red light just kicked on during the photo to indicate that it is heating the water, the temperature dial is also easy to use.
Bottom line pick a heater that is reliable and accurate, if your not going canister filtration take your time and do your research online to find the right one, when you begin getting the more expensive fish "your 2-4 show/wow fish" your going to need a good one because you are going to set the temperature according to their ideal conditions to reduce their stress (Angel, Discus, ).