What to Know Before Buying an Aquarium – 14 Things to Consider

Deciding to purchase a new aquarium can be an exciting decision to make. However, there are many fish who have despised their owner’s decision.

The Ultimate Guide To Saltwater Fish…

Let me show you 14 considerations that cover what to know before buying an aquarium.

  1. Personal Enjoyment or the Office
  2. After Your First Fish
  3. How Much Time Can You Dedicate
  4. Cost
  5. Starter Kits
  6. Acrylic or Glass
  7. Size, Weight and Space
  8. Stands
  9. Determining the Right Equipment
  10. Consider a Unique Aquarium for More Fun
  11. You should cycle a new aquarium before getting the fish
  12. Fish-keeping maintenance
  13. Not all fish are compatible
  14. Be careful where you put your aquarium if you have pets or children running around the house.

When you decide to buy an aquarium you can’t just zip over to PetCo and buy any aquarium that you want. You should make as detailed a plan as possible.

The first place to start is to choose which type of fish you want. If you want more than one fish then you need to make sure they are compatible with each other.

After you choose some fish that are compatible with each other, you need to make sure you get the right size aquarium and equipment for your fish. We’ll go through all of this later. The first question we need to answer is.

Is This Aquarium for Home Personal Enjoyment or is it For Decoration and Amusement at the Office? –

If the aquarium is for a commercial business, depending on how much money you can invest, you should probably hire an aquarium specialist. This article is mainly for home aquariums.

You can do your own aquarium for a business but most have a pretty large aquarium that is way outside the normal spectrum of a home aquarium. However if you are here for a home aquarium here are the things you should consider.

After Your First Fish –

It is really fun for a lot of people to take care of their first fish, especially after they learn that you can actually interact with your pet fish! I know crazy right?

I thought it was lame when my wife bought her first fish and aquarium. I thought it was mean haha. Like, keeping the fish in a jail cell.

As I observed over time though, the fish got to know my wife and would even wag its tail fin when she approached the tank. Her fish even knew when she fed it every day so it would be waiting for her every day.

So be forewarned that you might not want to take up all of your available space for your first tank. After you become addicted to having a fish you may want to add more fish, get a bigger aquarium, or even get some more exotic species of fish that are harder to take care of.

How Much Time Can You Personally Dedicate to Your Aquarium? –

Okay, first let me say that fishkeeping is not as easy as taking care of say, a dog. There is a learning curve in the beginning that is not difficult. However, if you don’t complete the learning curve, your fish can actually die.

You will probably need to dedicate a day or two to get your new tank setup in the first place. There is a lot more involved than just putting water and fish in a tank.

Before you setup your tank you will also have to decide how much time you have each week for maintenance of the tank and care for the fish.

If you want to keep some exotic fish you will have to do some thorough research and dedicate more time each week.

A fresh water aquarium is the easiest to start with, but it still requires a learning curve at the beginning.

Cost – Before you research and decide your budget, remember that you will need a lot of equipment besides just the tank. You are going to need fish, heaters, gravel, chemicals, substrate, plants etc.

20-gallon tanks are easier to start with and assuming you are a newbie you might consider…

Starter Kits –

Aqueon LED Aquarium Starter Kit Column Black 15 Gallon

Starter aquarium kits are especially designed for your first aquarium purchase and setup. A good starter kit usually comes with:

  • Tank
  • Filter
  • Food
  • Lights
  • Beginners Manual
  • Heater
  • Thermometer
  • Hood

These beginner kits are by far the easiest way to get going. They can also be more fun and way faster in the beginning because it takes the stress out of all the research and pricing you would have to do for all of the different parts of an aquarium.

The kits can be cheaper in the long run than buying separate but not always. Some of the complaints are that they come with lower quality accessories, but some of these can be replaced and you should be alright if you buy from a reputable brand such as Aqueon, Carolina Keeper, Marineland, Marina, Tetra.

These starter kits usually come with a glass or acrylic tank.

Acrylic or Glass

Acrylic Advantages:Glass Advantages:
Different ShapesClearer Vision
AppearanceHard to Scratch

Size, Weight and Space

This is the easiest to figure before buying an aquarium. Just measure the space where you are going to set your aquarium, decide how big of a tank you can fit, then decide how big of a tank you will actually put there.

Tank GallonsRegular Tank SizeLonger Tank Size
1020 by 10 by 1224 by 8 by 12
1524 by 12 by 1220 by 10 by 18
2024 by 12 by 1630 by 12 by 12
2524 by 12 by 20
3036 by 12 by 16

Aquarium Stands

Ollie & Hutch Ameriwood Home Flipper 10/20 Gallon Aquarium Stand

Make sure you pick a stand that is sturdy enough to support the weight of the aquarium you choose, so you should probably choose your aquarium first and then choose your stand accordingly.

The aquarium shouldn’t go past the edges of the stand or the aquarium could warp over time.

Aquarium stands (made specifically for aquariums) are specially made for this purpose.

Aquariums sometimes leak or water is dripped during maintenance so be aware of protecting your stand and floor from water.

You can get a waterproof material to cover your stand and make sure your floor isn’t going to get damaged from your stand – you could even get a waterproof floor mat to set your stand on.

I recommend choosing from these 3 types of stands depending on the weight:

Iron Stands – are very strong. Be careful with water leakage. Also put some pads on the ends of the legs if you have a hardwood floor. If you have to set the stand on carpet check it often to make sure no water is leaking down the legs onto the carpet. You can also cut out some square or round pieces of old carpet to set between the end of each leg and the carpet. This will keep the heavy iron legs from leaving marks on your carpet.

Aluminum Stands – are also extremely strong, waterproof and can be custom made for your situation if you order them. More expensive.

Wooden Stands – usually have cabinets. Be careful with water here. Wood absorbs water easier so the stand can become warped, resulting in your aquarium becoming warped over time. I would only use wood for a lighter stand unless it is a heavier duty wood.

Determining the right equipment –

A lot of this stuff comes with an aquarium kit but if it doesn’t or you are going it alone you will have to choose all of these yourself.

Filter – There are 3 types of filters: mechanical, chemical, and biological. You can buy a filter that does all 3 or buy a separate filter for each type. The proper filtration keeps your tank free of any type of contamination.

Pump –Circulates water so that gas is exchanged between the water and air. It keeps the water oxygenated.

Heater – tropical fish live in tropical waters so you will need a heater if you have tropical fish. It will have to heat the water to 75 – 80 degrees F. It will also need 5 watts of power per gallon.

Substrate –Sand, medium and coarse gravel. Important for the biological cycle of your tank. Substrate lies in the bottom of your tank and helps anchor plants while allowing bacteria to grow that can help breakdown waste.

It’s usually gravel for freshwater and sand for a saltwater aquarium, but you will need to choose the right kind of substrates that is compatible with ypur fish or any types of live plants ypu will have.

Water Conditioner – gets rid of metals from your water, especially tap water. Most come with a dechlorinate to get rid of chlorine also.

Lighting -You will need lighting if you have live plants so they can photosynthesize, oxygenate, and make food. Your fish will need light also, so you will have to choose the right type of lighting for your aquarium setup and type of fish.

Consider a Unique Aquarium for More Fun (probably not best for the beginner) –

If you want something out of the ordinary box or rectangle U-shaped aquarium, you might consider some of these unique, or out of the ordinary aquariums:

Wall-Mounted Aquarium – these tanks are beautiful and come in handy when you are short on space. You don’t need a stand, but they are actually mounted to the wall like a picture (so check with your landlord if you are a renter).

They are thinner tanks that try to blend into the wall for appearance. Because they are thin you can only keep smaller fish.

In the Wall Aquarium – these are sort of like a wall-mounted aquarium, but a space is cut out of the wall. You would be able to keep bigger fish, but these aquariums are more complex than a wall mounted aquarium and I would stay away from them if you are a beginner.

Tower Aquariums – these tanks, shaped like a tower, are great for corner spaces, hard to find live plants for, and their skinny size makes them a bad fit for fast swimmers.

Some Stuff You Will Have to Learn After Buying Your Aquarium

You should cycle a new aquarium before getting the fish – when new bacteria grow in your new tank it gets rid of dangerous ammonia, but this causes nitrogen to build up.

There is a second wave of bacteria that gets rid of nitrogen. In a new tank the proper bacteria haven’t grown yet so people either use starter fish to promote the bacteria growth or let it grow on its own.

These starter fish usually die though, so some people just add ammonia to the water.

Periodical water changing is needed after this to get rid of the nitrogen. You can buy a water test kit to make sure the water is ready for your new fish.

Fishkeeping – Maintenance –

Every two weeks you should change the water and service the filter.

Not all fish are compatible –

You have to make sure you don’t choose species that will fight with each other. You can’t put saltwater fish with freshwater fish. Tropical fish live in warmer water than most other fish.

Be careful where you put your aquarium if you have pets or children running around the house.

Conclusion –

Having an aquarium can be a lot of fun. Just consider all of these things I’ve written about and make sure you have a decisive game plan together before you start buying any equipment or fish. Just remember that fish originated in the wild so an aquarium has to mimic their natural living conditions.

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