8 point guide that will give you more clarity on the things to know while buying your first fish tank and get started on your fishkeeping journey.
Alright, let’s break this down. If you want a pet fish, you need an aquarium. With a huge variety of tank sizes and shapes to choose from and a plethora of fish in all different shapes and colors. Where do you start? It can be challenging in the beginning to even figure out what it is that you need to simply get started… If only it were as simple as buying a tank, add some fish and water.
But no worry! We have put together this simple and straight to the point 8 point guide to help you gain more clarity, avoid common mistakes, and save some time and money along the way!
Let’s dive in! Things You Need to Know While Buying Your First Fish Tank
Plan your tank
Before even thinking about going shopping for a tank or equipment, you need to decide what species you would like to keep in your tank. This will ultimately determine the size of your tank, the water conditions within the tank, the equipment you need, and the types of plants you need. Once you figure out the type of species you want to keep, then you can move on to buying the tank and the proper equipment.
Bigger is better. Period
I don’t know about you, but, I like my space. My dog likes her space and same thing with your future fish, they will like and want their space. So simply put, choose the largest tank possible! This actually benefits you since it is easier to care for a larger fish tank then a small one. The reason for this is that fish are going to produce waste… a lot of it so the larger the tank the more water there is to dilute the waste making it unnoticeable. This is why with smaller tanks they require much more maintenance and care due to the waste build up. So in sum, bigger is better.
Finding a space
So by now we know the type of species and the size aquarium we will have. Now let’s find a space for it. Consider these points when looking for a space;
- Can you see it? Find a location that will provide the best view! Aquariums are designed to be looked at!
- Near power and water? You will inevitably have equipment like filters and heaters, these need a power source so the closer the fish tank is to an electrical outlet the better!
- Weight! Fun fact! One gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. So that beautiful side table you have where you were going to place the tank isn’t going to be strong enough to hold up decent-sized aquarium.
- Bright and sunny? Another fun fact! Direct sunlight hitting your tank encourages algae to grow. This doesn’t mean you can’t place your aquarium near a window, just simply means to keep the curtains drawn.
Long story short, the location impacts which fish tank is right for you!
How much can you afford?
If you are new to the hobby here is a great saying “keep the expenses down”! It is so easy to get caught up in all the “extras” and “features”. We all want the biggest tank but… the bigger the tank, the more water it has which means the larger the heater, the bigger the filter, the more water treatment you need… and so on. Although a bigger tank is certainly better you must keep in mind your budget the maintenance costs later down the line.
The size and type of your fish?
Most fish at the pet store are babies, with care from you they will grow until they reach adult size. The bad news is that the adult size may be larger than your aquarium can accommodate. So buying the right sized tank is crucial. Now not all fish/ species go together, if you buy a predator species and place it in your tank you can wake up the next morning to all your beloved fish gone. So research the types of fish that are compatible.
Glass or acrylic?
The short answer here is glass is the way to go if you are starting out. Basically, acrylic scratches way too easily and besides glass tanks are cheaper and much easier to come by. Check out our previous guide where we explain in more detail Glass Vs Acrylic: Which Aquarium Is Best For You?
Cycle the tank
Now that you have your starter fish in your tank, you have to go through 6-8 week cycling phase. During this time be very diligent with fish tank maintenance, don't over feed, watch your fish's behavior closely, do extra water changes if necessary, and don't add any more fish. Until your fish tank has finished cycling, you should only stick with your few select starter fish.
Maintenance is a pain but it is a necessary evil to have healthy and thriving fish. Make sure to feed and observe your fish daily. Check your filters at least twice a week. Perform a 10-15% water change every week, and scrub for algae at the same time. Every month, check all hoses, fittings, clamps, cords, lights and other miscellaneous equipment. This may sound like a lot, but a couple of minutes a day could save you from disaster months later. It only takes about 30 minutes to do a water change, including checking all equipment and scrubbing for algae. Most people find their aquariums to take under 2 minutes a day to keep everything in good order.
You are now ready to dive into the exciting world of fish keeping. If you made it this far, you now have the main actionable steps to get you started on the perfect fish tank for you.
Just remember to take your time when choosing. Once set up and filled with water, a fish tank cannot be easily swapped out for a new one and is a pain to move. It is better to get it right the first time than waste time and money.