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 because of the mistakes that were made when they first purchased their new home.
There are many things to consider before buying a tank besides what type of fish to put in your tank.
Let me show you 14 considerations that cover what to know before buying an aquarium.
- Home or Office
- What Type of Fish Will You Get and How Many
- How Much Time Can You Dedicate
- Starter Kits
- Acrylic or Glass
- Size, Weight, and Space
- Aquarium Stands
- Determining the Right Equipment
- Aquarium Design
- Cycling an Aquarium
- Fish-Keeping Maintenance
- Not All Fish are Compatible
- Where to Put Your Aquarium
When you decide to buy an aquarium you can’t just zip over to your local pet store 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.
Let’s discuss in more detail the 14 things you need to consider before buying an aquarium.
Home or 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 wanting information about a home aquarium here are the things you should consider.
Your First Fish and How Many
One of the most exciting steps is deciding which species of fish to get and how many. We will discuss later that not all fish are compatible so this is important to research prior to picking out your fish. Something else to consider is how big and how many fish you want. The amount of fish and size will also determine what size of aquarium you will need.
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 so it would be waiting for her every day.
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 Dedicate?
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.
In the first place, you will probably need to dedicate a day or two to get your new tank set up. There is a lot more involved than just putting water and fish in a tank.
Before you set up your tank you will also have to decide how much time you have each week to maintain 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 as they might require more upkeep.
A freshwater aquarium is the easiest to start with, but it still has a learning curve at the beginning.
Before you research and decide on 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 getting a start kit instead of buying everything separately.
Starter aquarium kits are specially designed for your first aquarium purchase and setup. A good starter kit usually comes with:
- Beginners Manual
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 separately 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, or Tetra.
These starter kits usually come with a glass or acrylic tank.
Acrylic or Glass
There are advantages to both acrylic and glass. It just depends on what you would prefer.
|Acrylic Advantages:||Glass Advantages:|
|Different Shapes||Clearer Vision|
|Appearance||Hard to Scratch|
Size, Weight, and Space
This is the easiest to figure out 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. Also, keep in mind the quantity of fish you want now and in the future. Sometimes getting a bigger tank now in case you want more fish in the future might be the best decision for you.
|Tank Gallons||Regular Tank Size||Longer Tank Size|
|10||20 by 10 by 12||24 by 8 by 12|
|15||24 by 12 by 12||20 by 10 by 18|
|20||24 by 12 by 16||30 by 12 by 12|
|25||24 by 12 by 20|
|30||36 by 12 by 16|
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 the 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. These stands are 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 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 items 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. 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 break down waste.
It’s usually gravel for freshwater and sand for a saltwater aquarium, but you will need to choose the right kind of substrate that is compatible with your fish or any types of live plants you 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.
If you want something out of the ordinary you might want to consider a unique aquarium design. Besides rectangular shapes, aquariums also come in box or rectangle U-shaped. However, if you are a beginner I recommend staying with the rectangular aquarium design.
If you aren’t a beginner and are ready to buy a new tank 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 because it is actually mounted to the wall like a picture (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 wall-mounted aquariums, but 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 so I would stay away from them if you are a beginner.
Tower Aquariums – these tanks, shaped like a tower, are great for corner spaces. They are hard to find live plants for, and their skinny size makes them a bad fit for fast swimmers.
Cycling an 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.
Fish Keeping Maintenance
Every two weeks you should change the water and service the filter. You should also clean the gravel, plants, and any other substrates that are in your tank.
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.
Make sure you understand the diets of each fish species as you want to make sure the fish you pick eat the same types of food.
Where to Put Your Aquarium
Be careful where you put your aquarium if you have pets or children running around the house as you don’t want them to accidentally bump into the tank and disrupt the fish or worse break the tank.
Having an aquarium can be a lot of fun. Just consider all of these 14 steps I’ve written about before buying an aquarium. Make sure you have a decisive game plan together before you start buying any equipment or fish. Remember that fish originated in the wild so an aquarium has to mimic their natural living conditions.