Everything you need to know before setting up an aquarium.

You might have had a few pet fish as a child, as they make for simple pets that don’t require as much attention as others. These days, looking at aquariums in the decor of magazine and internet spreads certainly serves as inspiration for getting one’s hands wet again with their own aquarium. If you’d love to start an aquarium of your own in your home or business, we’ve got a few pointers on where to begin.

There’s an awful lot to consider before you get started. For example, would you want a saltwater or freshwater aquarium? Fish, crustaceans, amphibians or coral reef? What equipment will you need? This guide will help you know what to expect, and what to ask the helper at your local pet store when you get your supplies and fish.

Size Matters

First, have in mind the size of the aquarium that you wish to buy. Believe it or not, smaller aquariums can actually be more difficult to maintain than larger ones, because they are subject to rapid temperature changes and toxin buildup due to less space and water. A beginner will run into less problems with an aquarium that holds at least ten gallons of water and provides more room for error.

Before picking the largest aquarium you can buy, know this: 15 gallons of water will weigh more than 200 pounds. Scout out space in your home–taking care of dimensions as well as whether you can support the weight of an aquarium–to ensure you have the room

Supplies and Costs

Fish themselves can be cheap compared to other pets, but you’ll have to make quite an investment in starting your aquarium. This includes not just the tank, but equipment and decorations that you will need. An aquarium can ring up almost $200 in initial costs–and can certainly cost much more depending on how big you’re willing to go.

A saltwater tank requires a bigger investment than the simpler freshwater tank. A salinity tester will measure the salt content of your aquarium, and you will need a heater (and thermometer) to ensure your fish will keep healthy. Note that larger aquariums will need multiple heating units.

Some fish may require vitamin supplements as well. When selecting animals for your aquarium, be sure to check first for their nutritional needs. For example, coral and live rock will require you to add calcium to your tank.

Freshwater fish are typically cheaper than saltwater fish. Aside from a filtration system–which isn’t necessarily required for freshwater aquariums–you won’t need equipment for the tank unless specific species you plan to buy require them.

Don’t forget maintenance! Fish don’t require your attention as much as other pets, but you will need to keep things clean regularly if you want yours to live long and healthily. Have nets handy, a place to keep your fish while cleaning the aquarium or changing its water, and cleaning tools like an algae scraper.

Should You Hire a Professional?

As stated above, it’s not necessarily difficult to take care of an aquarium, but things may become complicated if your aquarium is a big one. A good rule of thumb is to clean your aquarium every week or two.

We’re not all chemists, and if you’re ever uncertain about your aquarium’s pH or salt balance you might want to call a professional to assess your aquarium’s water. Aquarium professionals can also diagnose fish that appear to be sick, and give you instructions on what to do to ensure everyone else in there stays safe.

Of course, services exist to clean your aquarium as well. Between cleaning the tank and its decorations, replacing water and maintaining the filter, keeping your aquarium in tip-top shape at the end of the month can seem like more work than you expected from quiet, unobtrusive pets. Don’t be afraid to hire someone to help out if you run into any trouble–although with the proper knowledge, equipment and time, anyone can keep an aquarium population healthy and happy.

Tips to Keeping Things Clean & Healthy

  • Ask your local pet store what’s easiest to take care of out of their stock. Livebearing fish like guppies and swordtails are among the easiest.
  • More shade means less algae. You can also add a plecostomus (but watch out–they get big!), which will feed on algae.
  • Use filtered water; tap water can contain chemicals that may harm your fish.
  • Keep new fish quarantined to ensure that they are healthy before mixing them with others in the aquarium.
  • Keep a regular feeding schedule!


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