Aquarium Considerations

Factors to consider when deciding on an aquarium.

example of aquarium


There are several factors when deciding on an aquarium. While no aquarium is the “wrong” aquarium,you may pick up an aquarium that is too small or too large. Here are some factors to think about before making your purchase. The factors that need to be considered are the budget, size, placement, and type of the aquarium.

The first consideration is your budget. How much are you comfortable with spending and how much can realistically spend on an aquarium? Keep in mind upfront costs of an aquarium will be higher than the long run costs and costs will flatline once your aquarium is running well and everything is well balanced.

To begin thinking about your budget for your new aquarium, the startup costs will include the aquarium, the stand, filter, lighting (which will vary if you do a planted aquarium vs a fish only aquarium), heater, substrate, hardscape, plants, decor, and the monthly costs of running your aquarium. In addition to the actual aquarium, think about the cost of food, water conditioners, test kits, disease treatments, fertilizers for plants, CO2 tanks for high tech planted aquariums, water (if you decide to purchase from your local fish store (LFS)). The larger the aquarium, the higher the cost. While a 5 gallon nano aquarium could cost you around $150, a 75 gallon aquarium could set you back around $1,000.

A general guideline for budgeting for an aquarium as follows:

  • LOW: $0-$500
  • MEDIUM: $501-$1,000
  • HIGH: $1,001+

The main goal of the aquarium hobby is to replicate the environment of your inhabitants to provide them with a healthy natural environment. Please do not skimp out or go really cheap to just have an aquarium. You do not have to spend a lot of money to have an amazing aquarium. Just stay within your budget and you can create the amazing aquarium you desire.

The next consideration is the placement for the aquarium. Take a good look around for an area where you will be able to enjoy the aquarium, where the aquarium will not receive large amounts of natural sunlight, preferably not under a heating/cooling vent, a place that will support the weight of the aquarium, and the aquarium will be level. Also think about the size of the room and the size of your aquarium.

When considering where to place your aquarium, think about where you want to enjoy your aquarium. If you are thinking about placing your aquarium in a room you rarely go into, then why would you consider placing it there? Think about an area where you can sit, relax and enjoy the beauty of your aquarium.

While thinking about where to place your aquarium, consider where you will also store your aquarium supplies. Will your stand be able to hold the majority of your supplies or will you need to find another place to store your supplies. The best rule of thumb is try and keep all your supplies nearby. If you have room for a 5 gallon bucket in your stand, you can store all your supplies in the bucket and stash the bucket inside the stand. If you have a closet you can store items that is nearby and will be convenient, go for that closet. Make it easy to get to your supplies so you will want to do your maintenance and not be put off by trying to get your supplies out. If you are storing in a place that is a hindrance, then you will most likely not do your maintenance, and maintenance is very important.

The next thing to consider, is what type of aquarium you want to set up. Currently, this app is set up for freshwater aquariums only.

When considering what type of aquarium, ask yourself, if you would like a fish only aquarium or a planted aquarium? Would you like a specific species of fish or a community fish aquarium? Are you wanting something high tech or low tech? Are you interested in passive fish or more aggressive fish? There are so many options, but it will depend on what you are willing to take care of and what things that interest you. If you do not like plants, then a planted aquarium will not be something for you. However, if you enjoy gardening, then a high tech planted aquarium with plants and a select group of fish would be ideal. A planted nano aquarium with a couple of different species can be a beautiful aquarium as well as a 55 gallon aquarium with Malawi cichlids can be stunning to watch. The type of aquarium will really depend on what interests you and what you are trying to create.

To help you consider an idea of the different types of aquariums, here are some ideas to get you started. And this is by no means all the different types.

Passive Community Aquariums are aquariums with several different species of schooling or non schooling fish, in a planted or non planted aquarium. Passive community aquariums are generally easy to set up and maintain. Examples of passive community aquariums could contain guppies, mollies, platies, tetras, swordtails, dwarf gouramis, rainbows and cory cats.

Semi Aggressive Community aquariums are aquariums that have fish that are a bit more aggressive during eating, breeding, or when being picked on by other fish. Sometimes, the aggression can lead to death. There are several techniques to setting up semi aggressive aquariums such as adding the fish all at the same time, having few fish per gallon, and generally should be in larger volumes of water. Semi aggressive fish include cichlids, barbs, large gouramis, and oscars.

Species Specific Aquariums are aquariums that are set up with one particular species of fish. A beautiful example of this type of aquarium would be a ten gallon with maybe 10 or 12 chili rasboras.

Regional Biotope is another type of aquarium in which the aquarium is set up to simulate or mimick a certain region. The fish, plants, substrate would all be from the region you are wanting to recreate. Examples of this could be a Madagascar biotope or Lake Malawi cichlids aquarium based on Lake Malawi in Africa.

Brackish Water Aquarium is a hybrid of freshwater and saltwater. Brackish water occurs where fresh water meets seawater. Examples of brackish water fish include archers, gobies, puffers, monos and leaf fish.

Brackish water aquariums are 20 gallons are more, crushed coral gravel or sand is preferred to maintain a higher pH, decorations should be artificial since driftwood can lower the pH and most live plants cannot tolerate or live in such high salt concentrations.

Planted Aquariums are probably the most beautiful aquariums in the hobby, and can be some of the most rewarding and satisfying aquariums to watch and provide a more rewarding experience. Planted aquariums can go from a low tech aquarium with low light plants, no cO2 to high tech plants using lights to simulate sunlight and infusing cO2 into the water. Planted aquariums are natural environments for the habitants of the aquarium and can make the aquarium come to life for years. The creator of this site is biased on planted aquariums and cannot say enough about the benefits, joy and aesthetics of planted aquariums.

Natural Planted Aquarium/El Natural Aquarium or The Walstad Method is a way of setting up a planted aquarium where the plants and fish balance each other’s existence and needs. This is a more natural approach to creating an ecosystem.

Artificial Decor is simply silk or plastic plants and items purchased at your lfs or box chain to decorate your aquarium. For those that would like a more simple aquarium to maintain this would be the way to go. The artificial decor will need to be removed and cleaned more since these items generally get more dirty than live or organic decor.

Bare Aquariums are simply aquariums that have nothing but water and fish in the aquarium. These aquariums are much easier to clean but they do not provide a textured surface for beneficial bacteria to grow.

There are 4 classification of sizes for an aquarium. While there are many different sizes that aquariums come in, they can be placed in 4 different classes. Each classification has pros and cons. The bowls and “aquariums” under 5 gallons should really be avoided as they are quite cruel to house fish in. If you wanted to use an aquarium under 5 gallons for a quarantine/hospital aquarium for small fish for a very short period of time or possibly use a small aquarium to start growing plants, it could be acceptable. Setting up any species of fish in anything under 5 gallons in just plain cruel. A general of how many fish an aquarium can sustain is "one inch of fish per gallon". The size is for the mature fish. One inch per adult fish per one gallon. Some fish species do better in groups of even numbers. Schooling fish tend to prefer groups of 6 or more. Live bears do well starting with one male to three females. Remember too, that if a fish can fit into another fish's mouth, it will be considered food for the bigger fish. And a good tip, add small fish first and work your way up in size. This helps with preventing snacking from the larger fish and the bio load.

The four classification of aquarium sizes are nano, small, mid-size and large.

A nano (5- 10 gallons) is a newer size classification for the hobby and becoming very popular. A nano aquarium is generally for a habitat for nano fish (fish under 2 inches) and shrimp. Nano aquariums are great for desks, night stands and bookshelves. Nano aquariums can require a little more work due to the smaller margin of error with water parameters. Lots of live plants and a small number of fish would benefit this type of aquarium. This aquarium can be a lot of fun and can really be a great introduction into the hobby. Nano aquarium kits are also very abundant at your local fish store and the big box chains.

Fish options for the nano aquarium are:

  • Chili Rasbora
  • Green Neon Tetras
  • Neon Tetras
  • Celestrial Pearl Danios/Galaxay Rasbora
  • Golden Dwarf Barbs
  • Pygmy Corydoras
  • Guppies
  • Betta Fish
  • Dwarf Gourami

Small aquariums (15-29 gallons) are fun size aquariums. The small aquarium is probably the best size aquarium to get into the hobby. This size is great for a passive community aquarium. A couple schooling fish and decor can make this size aquarium fun to watch.

Fish options for a small aquarium:
  • All of the above
  • Platy
  • Swordtail
  • Molly Fish
  • Cory Catfish
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Zebra Danio
  • Otoconclus
  • Harlequin Rasbora

Medium or Mid-size aquariums (30-46 gallons) are probably the best for a first time aquarium. The medium size is not too small and not too large, it is just right. The medium size aquarium is budget friendly, easy to place into any room, easy to maintain, great to design with either live plants and several schools of fish and a showstopper fish or several schools of fish and some fun decor items such as sunken ships or beach themes.

Fish options for medium aquariums:

  • All of the above
  • Cichlids (Dwarf, South African and South American)
  • Rainbowfish
  • Angelfish

Large Aquariums (55+ gallons) are the beginnings of the mac daddies of aquariums. These large aquariums are wonderful aquariums for the semi aggressive fish, larger fish, bigger schooling fish and the margin error is not as narrow in regards to the water parameters. If a larger aquarium is your desire, just make sure you have the room and the floor can support the weight of the aquarium.

Fish Options for large aquariums:

  • All of the above
  • Plectostoms
  • Kuhli Loach
  • Three-Spot Gourami
  • Cherry Barb
  • Black Shirt Tetra
  • Bleeding Heart Tetra
  • Afican Ciclids
  • Oscars
  • Green Spotted Puffer