Tanks come in every size from small bowls to giant 500 gallon aquariums. Choosing the right tank will make your aquarium experience much more enjoyable for both you and the fish, so you’ll want to pick a tank that not only looks good, but is also functional and appropriate for your needs. Ultimately the decision is up to you – here’s some pointers and tips that might help to insure you pick one that is perfect for you!
The rule of thumb for size when choosing a tank is that the bigger the aquarium tank, the less maintenance you’ll need to do and the more fish you can house. If you are just starting out you should consider a 20 to 30 gallon aquarium. You might be tempted by those little fish tanks or bowls that house 1 or 2 fish with no filtration, but I will tell you that the fish will not last long in that tank and you will spend a lot of time monitoring the water quality and performing water changes. A small 5 gallon aquarium tank is fine if you don’t have a lot of space but you will have to make sure you don’t overload it with fish or your water quality and fish health will suffer. Typically you can house 1 inch of fish for every gallon of water (in a fresh water aquarium, see below for info on salt water)- that is assuming you have proper filtration and aeration. So, if you have a 20 gallon aquarium tank, you can have 20 inches of fish, or about 15 fish with the smaller 5 gallon fish tanks you will only be able to house 2 or 3 fish.
Fish tanks come in many shapes as well as sizes. The most common are hexagon and rectangular, but you can also buy rounded bubble tanks, coffee table tanks and even thin tanks that fit right in your wall! When choosing the size of your fish tanks, you’ll want to consider the location where you will place the tanks to make sure the tank will fit and won’t stick out into any traffic areas.
Rectangular fish tanks are the best for your water quality and fish health. Since rectangular tanks are long, the surface area (or area of water that is exposed to the air) is larger in ratio than fish tanks of other size and allows for better exchange of gases and, thus a healthier tank. A hexagon shaped tank, looks neat, but since it is tall the surface area is smaller. You can still have a successful hexagon shaped aquarium tank, but you will probably need to spend more time maintaining the water and may not be able to house as many fish as you can in a rectangular fish tank that holds that same amount of water.
If space is no issue, buy the largest tank you can afford – you’re water quality will be better insuring fish health and you’ll be able to keep more fish in it!
Want to start small? Try an Eclipse 5 Gallon Hexagon – comes with filtration and lighting!
When choosing your fish tanks, it is important to think about it’s location in your home. If you are trying to add zest to an empty corner, a hexagon shaped tank might be ideal, but a long rectangular tank could make a great focal point along a wall. If just want to keep 1 fish as a conversation piece on a little shelf or bathroom vanity a fun decorative tank might be the way to go. Either way, be sure that you take the weight of the tank into consideration (a filled aquarium can weigh 12 pounds per gallon so a filled 20 gallon tank can weight over 200 pounds) and place it an area that can hold the weight as well as on the appropriate stand.
Acrylic or Glass?
Glass weighs more but is less expensive. Acrylic scratches easier but can be more aesthetically pleasing.
So which one is right for you?
Basically, it’s a matter of personal preference. Either one will do the job just as well as the other. Glass aquariums are held together by glass sealer, sometimes that sealer can wear out and spring a leak, but this can be fixed by adding more sealer – if you can find the leaking spot. Acrylic aquariums will rarely develop a leak, but can be scratched. However scratches on acrylic fish tanks can be removed or lightened whereas scratches, although much less likely, cannot be removed from glass. Having said that, you can avoid ever getting a scratch on your acrylic aquarium tank with just a bit of care – I’ve had one for years and have no scratches on it at all. Acrylic is 17 times stronger than glass and more flexible, thus resistant to shattering and the seamless construction and sleek lines give it a much more pleasing look. Due to this construction, acrylic fish tanks will probably last much longer than glass tanks so this fact combined with the fact that most acrylic fish tanks come with the hood and lighting added into the price (glass tanks do not) should offset the higher price of the acrylic aquarium tank. One other thing to remember with acrylic fish tanks – never use an ammonia cleaner While it’s probably a bad idea to use an ammonia cleaner near any fish tank, ammonia will crystalize the acrylic so stick to milder cleaning agents like vinegar and water.
Freshwater or Saltwater?
While saltwater fish tanks house more colorful fish, they are a bit more expensive both in setup and fish price. Although saltwater are less forgiving when water quality is not maintained, the overall maintenance of a saltwater tank (after initial setup) is not much more than that of a fresh water tank. For saltwater fish tanks, you will need a absolute minimum of a 20 gallon tank – in saltwater aquariums, the water quality is very important so the bigger the tank the better. Therfore, if you don’t have room for at least a 20 gallon tank, better stick with fresh water. I recommend a 55 gallon tank for the best saltwater aquarium experience. Salt water fish tanks will only house about 1/4 as many fish as fresh water, so a 55 gallon salt water aquarium tank will house about 15″ of fish (or about 7 or 8 fish) where fresh water fish tanks of the same size will house about 55″ of fish (or about 30 fish). Since you should have excellent filtration and a protein skimmer in order to make your saltwater fish tanks a success, you’ll probably spend more on it that you would a fresh water tank and, while not necessary, the decorations in that tank can be more expensive especially if you choose live rock and expensive substrate. Finally, since water quality in salt water tanks is paramount, and there is more things to test for, you will probably be spending more on test kits for your salt water fish tanks.
Once you have weighed the difference in startup and fish costs against the beauty of the saltwater fish and purchased and setup your tank, your tank will go through it’s cycling process just like a fresh water tank. The only difference in the salt water fish tanks is that due to the fragile nature of the fish, you may want to monitor the tank more closely than you would a fresh water tank. After the cycle is complete, you can fall back to regular maintenance that should take no more time than a fresh water tank would and includes partial water changes every month, and algae scraping once a week.