09 Essential Things to Know Before Buying an Aquarium: A Complete Guide

Before buying an aquarium, know the tank size, type of fish, equipment needed, and maintenance requirements. There are several important factors to consider to ensure the health and well-being of the fish and the success of the aquarium.

Aquariums are a beautiful and calming addition to any home or office space. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced fish enthusiast, there are important things to know before buying an aquarium.

Considering the size of your space, the type of fish you want to keep, the equipment required, and the maintenance responsibilities are crucial factors to consider.

Making informed decisions will not only ensure the health and happiness of your fish but also make your experience as an aquarium owner enjoyable and successful. Read on to learn more about what to consider before buying an aquarium.

Fish tank set up
Fish tank set up with plants and fish inside
Contents show

#1: Find A Reliable Source

One of the most important things to consider before buying an aquarium is finding a reliable source for your supplies and fish.

It’s essential to visit local aquarium stores and establish a good working relationship with one or two dealers who maintain a clean business, have healthy fish, and are willing to answer your questions.

A good dealer can provide invaluable information on new and reliable products, as well as advise you during the setup and maintenance of your system.

It’s best to avoid dealers who won’t take the time to explain things. Larger dealers may not meet the needs of beginners.

Look for smaller pet shops that cater to all levels of aquarists, are willing to special order supplies, and prioritize selling you the right choice over making a sale.

Once you’ve found a reliable source, you can begin planning your aquarium with confidence.

Guppy fish roaming around the tank
Guppy fish roaming around the tank

#2: Consider Your Budget

Setting A Realistic Budget For An Aquarium

Before you set your heart on a new aquarium, it’s important to determine a realistic budget for your new hobby. Here are some key things to consider:

  • Evaluate how much money you can afford to spend on a new aquarium without causing financial strain
  • Research the average cost of aquariums and equipment to get an idea of what you can expect to pay
  • Factor in the cost of an ongoing supply of fish food, water conditioners, and other essentials
  • Decide whether you will hire a professional to set up the aquarium or you will do it yourself

The Various Costs Associated With An Aquarium

The cost of owning an aquarium doesn’t stop with the initial purchase. Here are some important expenses to keep in mind:

  • The cost of the aquarium itself can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on size and type
  • The cost of necessary equipment, such as a filter and heater
  • The cost of decorations, lighting, substrate, and other accessories
  • The cost of fish, which can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars, depending on the species

The Cost Of The Aquarium Itself

When considering the cost of an aquarium, there are several things you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • Traditional rectangular aquariums are often less expensive than those with unique shapes or custom designs
  • Larger aquariums generally cost more than smaller ones due to the increased cost of materials and transportation
  • Higher quality materials, such as acrylic instead of glass, will typically increase the cost of the aquarium

The Cost Of Necessary Equipment, Such As A Filter And Heater

In addition to the aquarium itself, there are several essential pieces of equipment you’ll need to keep your fish healthy and happy. Here are some things to keep in mind when budgeting for aquarium equipment:

  • The cost of a filter can range from $20 to $200 or more, depending on the size and type of filter you choose
  • The cost of a heater, which is essential for keeping the water at a consistent temperature for your fish and can range from $20 to $100 or more
  • You may need to purchase other equipment, such as lighting and air pumps, depending on the type of aquarium you choose and the needs of your fish

By setting a realistic budget and understanding the various costs associated with owning an aquarium, you’ll be better equipped to enjoy your new hobby without breaking the bank.

#3: Tank Size Matters

Beautiful Aquariums owned by fellow aquarists
Beautiful Aquariums owned by fellow aquarists

The Importance Of Choosing The Appropriate Tank Size For Your Space

When purchasing an aquarium, one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make is selecting the proper tank size. It is essential to choose the right size of the aquarium to provide a comfortable and healthy environment for your aquatic pets.

So, let’s go through some of the crucial factors that will impact your selection.

Factors To Consider When Selecting Aquarium Size

The general rule is to buy the biggest tank you can with your budget. Larget tanks are beneficial, and it offers more space for fish to swim, and sufficient oxygen to live.

However, still, there are several factors to bear in mind when choosing the right aquarium size. Some of these factors include:

  • Type of fish: Different fish species have varying requirements for movement and breathing space, and therefore, need different tank sizes.
  • Available space: Consider the space available where the aquarium will be housed. Measure the dimensions carefully and determine the maximum size of the tank that can fit into the space comfortably.
  • Budget: Larger tanks tend to be more expensive than smaller ones as they require more materials and upkeep expenses. Determine a budget that you’re comfortable with, and choose an appropriate aquarium size.
  • Equipment: The size of the tank you select will impact the equipment that you need. For instance, large aquariums need more robust filtration systems than small aquariums.

What Is The Right Size For Your Fish?

Fish need plenty of space for movement, growth, and adequate oxygen supply. Therefore, choosing the right size aquarium for your fish is vital. Here are some common aquarium sizes and the types of fish they are suitable for:

  • 10-20 gallon tanks: Ideal for small fish species such as betta, guppies, and tetras.
  • 30-40 gallon tanks: Ideal for mid-size fish species such as angelfish, swordtails, and danios.
  • 50-75 gallon tanks: Ideal for a community of small to mid-sized fish species such as cichlids, loaches, and barbs.
  • 100-gallon and above tanks: Ideal for larger fish species such as Oscar, Arowana, and stingrays.

Selecting the right aquarium size is crucial to ensure your fish thrive in a comfortable, healthy environment. Consider all the above factors before making your decision, and you’ll end up with an aquarium that both you and your fish love.

#4: Types Of Fish

Understanding Types Of Fish That Are Appropriate For Beginners

As a beginner, it’s essential to select the right fish for your aquarium. Understanding the different types of fish that are suitable for beginners will help you create an aquarium that is easy to maintain and take care of. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Go for hardy and small fish varieties that can adapt quickly to their new environment
  • Choose fish that are relatively peaceful and don’t require specialized water conditions
  • Avoid buying expensive fish species that require specific diets or habitats

Researching The Fish That Are Best Suited For Your Aquarium

Researching fish that are best suited for your aquarium is critical in ensuring a healthy and thriving environment for fish. Before purchasing any fish, carry out some research on the specific fish to determine whether it is a good fit for your aquarium.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • Plan ahead for fish that will co-exist well in your aquarium
  • Consider the fish’s size, dietary needs, and activity level before making a purchase
  • Look into the fish’s natural habitat and try to replicate that environment within your aquarium

Deciding Between Saltwater And Freshwater Fish

There are two main types of aquariums – saltwater and freshwater. The kind of fish you wish to keep in your aquarium will dictate what type of water setup you choose. Here are a few things to consider when making your decision:

  • Freshwater fish are generally easier to take care of and require less maintenance than saltwater fish.
  • Saltwater fish are more colorful and unique, but they require more attention and care.
  • Bear in mind that starting a saltwater aquarium can be more expensive than freshwater due to the equipment and the fish cost.

Remember, before making your final decision on which type of fish to buy, it’s essential to do your research and weigh the pros and cons between saltwater and freshwater options.

#5: Tank Placement And Maintenance

Platy fish
Platy Fish

Selecting A Suitable Location For Your Aquarium

When it comes to selecting a location for your aquarium, there are several factors to consider. Here are the key points to keep in mind:

  • Choose a location away from direct sunlight to avoid excessive algae growth and temperature fluctuations.
  • Avoid placing your tank near drafty areas, like doors and windows, to prevent temperature swings and protect your fish from cold drafts.
  • Make sure the surface where you place your tank is level, sturdy, and able to support the weight of the tank and all the equipment it holds.
  • Place your tank within reach of a power outlet and preferably close to a water source.
  • Place the aquarium in a well-used living area to habituate your fish with people leaving and entering the room. Otherwise, setting the aquarium in a rarely used area will make your fish timid when people approach the room.
  • Lastly, choose a location that can tolerate water spills. Water spill is likely when dealing with aquariums even for experienced aquarists.

If you want to know about the best location for placing the fish tank in your home, I would like to invite you to read this article where I have shared 10 tips on selecting fish tank locations.

Maintaining The Proper Environment For Your Fish

When it comes to aquarium maintenance, the environment is everything. Here are some factors to consider to ensure your fish live in a healthy and stress-free environment:

  • Keep the water temperature consistent for your fish’s specific needs and use a thermometer to monitor the temperature daily.
  • Check the water ph level regularly to ensure it corresponds to your fish’s requirements and adjust it if necessary.
  • Add the necessary nutrients to promote plant growth and ensure your fish have a balanced diet.
  • Use appropriate lighting to simulate the natural light cycle of your fish’s habitat.

Maintaining The Cleanliness Of Your Tank

Maintaining cleanliness in your aquarium is crucial for your fish’s and plants’ overall well-being. Here are some key points to keep your tank clean:

  • Change 10-15% of the water every week to remove debris and toxins and keep the water clean and healthy.
  • Clean the glass and decorations weekly, if not more frequently, to eliminate algae build-up.
  • Avoid overfeeding your fish, as overfeeding is a common cause of cloudy water in aquariums.
  • Use an aquarium vacuum or siphon to remove waste from the substrate and keep the water clean.

Remember, maintaining a clean and healthy aquarium is essential for the health and happiness of your fish.

By selecting a suitable location for your tank, maintaining a proper environment, and keeping it clean, you’ll be on your way to a thriving aquatic ecosystem.

#6: Choosing The Right Equipment

Aquarium Filter
Aquarium Filter

Setting up an aquarium requires some considerations, such as the size, shape, and materials of the aquarium. However, selecting the appropriate equipment is the most critical aspect.

This section will cover three areas where proper equipment selection is essential: filters, lighting systems, and heating equipment.

How To Choose The Appropriate Filter For Your Tank

Filters help maintain the aquarium’s water quality by removing pollutants that could be harmful to plants and aquatic animals. Here are some tips for selecting the appropriate filter for your tank:

Purchasing The Correct Lighting System

An aquarium lighting system does more than just make the aquarium look good; it is essential for the health of marine life in the tank. Here are some tips on choosing the appropriate lighting system:

  • Research the types of lighting systems available for aquariums. New aquarium owners often overlook this crucial step.
  • Determine how much light your tank requires. This will depend on the type of plants and animals in the tank.
  • Choose a lighting system that will last longer, is energy efficient, and will not add significantly to your electricity bill.
  • Get help from an experienced aquarist or pet store employee when selecting a lighting system.

Purchasing Proper Heating Equipment

Fish and other marine life require specific water temperatures to thrive in the aquarium. You will find that installing proper heating equipment is essential to maintain a comfortable water temperature for your aquatic pets. Here are some tips on selecting heating equipment:

  • Buy a heater appropriate for the size of the aquarium and the temperature range required for the marine life in the tank.
  • Carbon fiber heaters are becoming popular and are energy efficient.
  • Buy a reliable heater with built-in temperature control and safety features.

With these tips on selecting aquarium equipment, you now have a basic understanding of how crucial it is to have the right equipment. Research and ask questions before making any purchases to ensure that you make the right decisions.

#7: Water Quality

Bubbler in aquarium
Bubbler in aquarium

Understanding The Factors That Affect Water Quality

Before buying an aquarium, it’s essential to understand the factors contributing to the water quality. These factors include ph level, ammonia and nitrite levels, water hardness, and temperature.

Here are a few key points to consider when it comes to understanding the factors affecting water quality:

  • The ideal pH level for an aquarium is between 6.5 and 7.5. Anything lower or higher than that can cause stress to your fish and lead to health problems.
  • Ammonia and nitrite levels in the water can harm your fish. It’s important to monitor these levels and keep them within safe limits.
  • Water hardness is a measure of the mineral content of the water. Some fish species prefer soft water, while others prefer hard water. It’s important to research your fish’s specific requirements.
  • Temperature is another crucial factor affecting water quality. Warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen, so it’s crucial to ensure that the water’s temperature is suitable for your fish’s needs.

How To Test And Maintain Water Quality

Testing and maintaining water quality is crucial for the health and well-being of your fish. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • Test the water regularly using a water testing kit to check the levels of ammonia, nitrites, and ph.
  • Maintain water quality by performing regular water changes. Aim to change 10-20% of the water each week.
  • Use a water conditioner to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals from tap water before adding it to the aquarium.
  • Avoid overfeeding your fish, as uneaten food can lead to increased ammonia and nitrite levels in the water.

The Importance Of Monitoring Water Quality Regularly

Water quality can change rapidly in an aquarium, which is why it’s essential to monitor it regularly. Here are a few reasons why you should make monitoring water quality a regular part of your aquarium maintenance routine:

  • Keeping the water clean and healthy is crucial for the health and well-being of your fish.
  • Poor water quality can cause stress and illness in your fish, which can be costly to treat.
  • Monitoring water quality regularly can help you spot any issues before they become more serious.
  • Regular monitoring and maintenance can help prevent algae growth, which can be unsightly and hard to remove.

Understanding the factors that contribute to water quality, regularly testing and maintaining water quality, and monitoring it regularly are crucial for the health and well-being of your fish and the overall success of your aquarium.

#8: Feeding Fish

Betta Fish in the Aquarium
Betta Fish in the Aquarium

Understanding The Feeding Requirements Of Your Fish

Before purchasing an aquarium, it is crucial to understand the feeding requirements of the fish you plan to keep. Fish, like any other living organism, also need proper nutrition to thrive and be healthy.

Here are some of the key points you should keep in mind when it comes to feeding your fish:

  • Different species of fish have different dietary requirements that should be met through a balanced diet. Some fish eat only plant-based food, while others eat protein-rich animal-based food.
  • A fish’s size, age, and activity level also play a significant role in determining their feeding requirements.
  • Overfeeding fish can lead to health problems such as obesity, constipation, and poor water quality.

Choosing The Right Type Of Fish Food

Selecting the right type of food is essential for the overall health of your fish. Here are the essential factors to consider when choosing fish food:

  • The food should be appropriate for the species of fish you have in your aquarium.
  • Fresh and high-quality food should be a top priority.
  • Some fish may prefer specific types of food over others. Therefore, it’s essential to do some research and understand the dietary preferences of the species you plan to keep.
  • Don’t forget to check the expiry date of the food. Using expired food can harm your fish and even cause illness.

The Importance Of A Proper Feeding Schedule

Having a proper feeding schedule for your fish is essential for maintaining their health and happiness. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to creating a proper feeding schedule:

  • Consistency is key when it comes to feeding your fish. You need to establish a routine and stick to it.
  • Avoid overfeeding your fish by offering small, frequent meals throughout the day, so they can eat as much as they need.
  • Ensure that you don’t feed your fish too close to bedtime, as undigested food can lead to health issues.

Make it a priority to research and provide nutritious and balanced food options, adhere to a feeding schedule and keep your aquarium clean to ensure the long-term health of your aquatic pets.

#9: Dealing With Health Issues

Sick fish
Sick fish

As a responsible aquarium owner, it is crucial to keep your fish healthy and happy. Ignoring any potential health problems could lead to the death of your beloved pets.

In this section, we’ll discuss recognizing signs of illness in fish, addressing fish health issues promptly, and the importance of quarantine tanks.

Recognizing Signs Of Illness In Fish

It can be a challenge to recognize signs of illness in fish since they can’t communicate like humans. However, here are some symptoms that you should keep an eye out for:

  • Clamped fins
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargic behavior
  • Abnormal swimming
  • Discolored skin

If you notice any of the above symptoms, immediately take action. Ignoring these symptoms could worsen the condition and lead to the death of your fish.

Addressing Fish Health Issues Promptly

The key to addressing fish health issues is to act promptly. Delaying treatment could lead to irreversible health problems and even death. Here are some steps you can take to address fish health issues:

  • Quarantine the sick fish
  • Identify the cause of the illness
  • Consult an aquatic veterinarian or aquarium expert
  • Administer the appropriate medication or treatment

By following these steps, you can increase the chances of your fish making a full recovery.

The Importance Of Quarantine Tanks

Quarantine tanks are essential to your aquarium’s health. By keeping new fish in a separate tank for a while, you can ensure they are healthy and won’t spread any diseases or parasites to the other fish in the tank.

Here are some key points to keep in mind regarding quarantine tanks:

  • A quarantine tank should be at least 10 gallons in size.
  • Water conditions in the quarantine tank should be similar to the main tank.
  • Quarantine new fish for at least two weeks before introducing them to the main tank.

Taking care of your fish’s health is vital. By recognizing signs of illness, addressing health issues promptly, and using a quarantine tank, you can ensure your pets are healthy, happy, and safe.

Frequently Asked Questions On What To Know Before Buying An Aquarium

Shrimp in a fish tank

What Size Of Aquarium Should I Get For My Home?

The size of the aquarium you get should be based on the amount of space you have available, as well as the type and number of fish you plan to keep. A good starting point is a 20-gallon tank, large enough for most beginner-friendly fish.

How Often Should I Clean My Aquarium?

You should clean your aquarium at least once a week with a water change of 10-20% of the total volume. This helps remove waste and toxins in the water. A gravel vacuum can also be used to remove debris from the substrate.

Should I Use Tap Water Or Distilled Water For My Aquarium?

It is generally safe to use tap water for your aquarium, but it is important to use a water conditioner to remove chlorine and other chemicals that might be harmful to your fish. Distilled water is not recommended because it lacks the necessary minerals that fish need to thrive.

Do I Need A Filter For My Aquarium?

Yes, you need a filter for your aquarium. A filter helps remove waste, decomposed fish food, and toxins from the water to keep your fish healthy. It also provides aeration and circulation to the water.

How Many Fish Can I Keep In My Aquarium?

The number of fish that you can keep in your aquarium depends on the size of the tank and the type of fish. A general rule of thumb is to allow one gallon of water per inch of fish, but it is important to research the specific requirements of the fish you plan to keep to ensure they have enough space.


The process of buying an aquarium can seem overwhelming at first, but with careful planning and consideration, anyone can become a successful aquarium owner. Knowing how to properly set up and maintain an aquarium is essential for the health and well-being of its inhabitants, and researching beforehand can help prevent any potential issues down the line.

Consider the size and type of aquarium, as well as the type of fish and plants that will inhabit it. Proper filtration, lighting, and temperature control are also crucial for a successful aquarium. And don’t forget the importance of regular maintenance and care.

With these factors in mind, anyone can enjoy the joys and beauty of owning an aquarium while ensuring the best possible environment for its inhabitants.

Sujit Modak

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