With so many different sizes and shapes, buying a fish aquarium can be overwhelming. Not to mention the many starter kits you have available to you.
So, how do you know which aquarium will be right for your setup?
Here are 7 factors to consider when purchasing an aquarium to help you decide which is the best option:
1. Where You Are Putting It
The biggest factor in choosing an aquarium is where you will be putting it. You want to make sure the aquarium fits both the space and design of your home.
When deciding what size tank you want, you first need to choose where it will go. The ideal location will be somewhere that:
Makes it easy for you to view and enjoy your fish
Has enough room around it to do regular water changes, maintenance, and feedings
People or pets won’t accidentally knock it off its stand
Doesn’t have regular temperature changes (i.e. keep your aquarium away from doors, heaters, fireplaces, A/C units, fans, windows, etc.)
Is not in direct sunlight as this can increase algae growth
You also want to be sure the place you choose can hold the aquarium’s weight. As a general rule of thumb, 1 gallon of water weighs about 8.3 lbs. Be sure whatever shelf, stand, or piece of furniture it’s on can hold the aquarium you choose, including decor, stones, and other accessories.
You also want to consider how much your floor can handle. Generally, floors can handle up to 125 gallons without issue, so long as the floor is structurally sound. Anything bigger may need extra support.
Once you know where you’ll be putting your aquarium, you will have a better idea of what size your space can handle.
2. The Type (And Quantity) Of Fish You Want
The fish aquarium that you get will depend on the type and quantity of fish you want to keep. Each fish has different needs and requirements - from water temperature to diet to tank size.
Most fish are babies when you buy them, which means they’ll grow. And, like any pet, different fish can have varying personalities and traits. While some like to share their space, others are more active or territorial.
Before choosing a tank, consider which fish you want to have and do some research. If they’ll grow to a large size, are territorial, or need space to move, you may need to get a larger tank or reconsider your selection.
You also want to consider whether different types of fish are compatible and how many fish you want vs the size of your tank. As a general rule, you can keep one 1-inch fish per gallon. However, this is a rough estimate that will depend on a number of other factors.
If you don’t have a preference for the type of fish you have, buy your preferred tank size and stock it with appropriate fish.
3. Your Time And Budget Constraints
The bigger an aquarium is, the more expensive it is to set up and maintain. That’s because more water means bigger heaters and filters, more water treatment, and greater amounts of filler and decor.
On the other hand, when it comes to maintenance, a bigger aquarium can actually be easier to maintain. That’s because toxins and debris build up more quickly in a smaller aquarium. And that means more cleanup, maintenance, and fluctuation in water quality and temperature.
Larger tanks leave more room for error as they are less susceptible to environmental changes and debris builds up more slowly. This will make it easier to maintain ideal conditions and the tank should stay cleaner for longer. That means a 15-gallon tank will be less time-consuming than something smaller, assuming they have the same number of fish.
When choosing an aquarium, consider how much time you have to dedicate to the aquarium, as well as the cost of the tank and all the extras.
4. The Shape Of Your Tank
There’s often a misconception that fish don’t need oxygen to breathe. But this is not true. Like humans, fish need oxygen but instead of getting it from the air, they get it from the water.
In your aquarium, water absorbs oxygen from the atmosphere through the surface of the water. Aerators and aquatic plants can also help improve oxygen levels, but only by a small amount.
As a result, the larger the surface of the water in your aquarium, the more oxygen your tank will have and the more fish it can support.
For example, if you’re looking at two 40-gallon tanks where one is tall and narrow and the other is short and wide, the second will be able to hold more fish because there’s more oxygen to go around.
As a general rule of thumb is 1 inch of fish for every 12 sq inches of surface area. But, like the 1 inch rule we mentioned earlier, this is just a baseline. Its primary purpose is to help new fish owners understand the issues associated with different aquarium shapes.
5. Choosing Between Glass and Acrylic
Aquariums are usually either made out of glass or acrylic. Both have pros and cons and ultimately the choice comes down to a few key factors.
Glass is the easiest to maintain. That’s because it’s more durable and scratch-resistant than acrylic. It’s also cheaper and amplifies light better, making your fish look brighter. For these reasons, glass is a good option for beginners and smaller tanks.
Acrylic, on the other hand, is lighter, more impact resistant, and much easier to move around than glass. It also becomes cheaper than glass around the 150-gallon point. That means acrylic is the better choice for larger tanks.
Acrylic is also preferred for uniquely shaped tanks. That’s because it’s more flexible, meaning it can be formed into more unusual shapes, and it doesn’t distort the view as much as glass when curved.
If you do opt for acrylic, be extremely careful when cleaning and setting up the tank. Acrylic is very easy to scratch. While scratches can be buffed out but it is extra work that you shouldn’t have to worry about. Especially if you are a beginner.
6. Saltwater Vs Freshwater
The type of tank you have will determine which accessories you need and the type of fish you can keep. Saltwater and freshwater aquariums also require different maintenance and levels of experience.
Saltwater aquariums provide a more natural and unique environment, with brightly coloured fish, fascinating corals, and live rocks. Though the fish tend to be more delicate and sensitive to change, making them better suited for those with aquarium experience.
Saltwater aquariums are also more expensive to set up and maintain. And they require more frequent water testing, maintenance, and water changes, in addition to the general care that is needed to keep any aquarium healthy.
Freshwater aquariums are usually less expensive and require fewer daily maintenance tasks. Generally, the fish in freshwater tanks are also hardier, leaving more room for errors while learning. This makes saltwater tanks great for beginners or owners with less time and money.
In terms of livestock, freshwater fish are less vibrant than saltwater fish but do come in a number of colours and patterns. For more colour (but less complexity than saltwater) consider a planted or tropical freshwater setup.
7. Whether You Should Buy A Starter Kit
Kits come with all of the equipment you need to start a fish aquarium. This usually includes:
The usefulness of these kits is often debated as not designed for a growing tank and the extras are not the best quality available. That being said, this doesn’t mean that starter kits don’t have their place.
If you’re looking for a low-cost way to start a fish tank, kits are a good option. The problem is you will likely need to upgrade your tank or accessories down the road. If you’re prepared to invest in new equipment at a later date but have a low setup budget, then a starter kit may be a good choice.
If it is within your budget, consider picking and choosing your equipment and tank to reduce the likelihood of having to replace it down the road. This will increase the upfront costs but will reduce future expenses.
Overall, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to buying a starter kit. Only you can decide what’s best for you, your home, and your aquarium. Just be sure to do your research so that you can invest in a fish tank that will thrive.