Without a doubt, aquariums make gorgeous additions to homes and provide hours of enjoyment. Their serene beauty creates a warm and inviting atmosphere that soothes and mesmerizes. Indeed, research shows that fish tanks offer a wealth of benefits. But if you’re thinking of buying a home aquarium, there’s a lot you should know before taking the plunge. Below, is a master list of all the basic information you need to jump-start your new aquarist hobby!
How Much Does Owning an Aquarium Cost?
This question could very well be the most important.
Prices range dramatically for home aquariums depending on the size, type, materials, etc. So, there’s no right answer to this question. But start-up costs for your tank can be significant. Additionally, you’ll have to budget for routine maintenance necessary to keep your fish happy and healthy.
But don’t let that scare you.
There are tanks for every budget. But you must bear in mind that owning a home aquarium is a hobby like any other. It requires time, money, and dedication to really get the most out of it.
What Kind of Aquarium Should You Get?
Once you know your budget, this question is easier to answer. Traditionally, saltwater tanks are more expensive to maintain but offer a wide range of colorful, exotic fish and plant life. Conversely, freshwater tanks are less expensive and maintaining them is significantly easier.
But this question goes beyond saltwater vs. freshwater. Once you’ve made that choice, it’s time to consider what you will fill your tank with. This step takes a bit of planning and research. After all, aquariums are delicate ecosystems. Not all fish are compatible with each other. A good rule of thumb is if they don’t get along in the wild, they definitely won’t get along in a tank setting. So, spend a bit of time thinking about your tank’s population. Your livestock deserves to thrive in a habitat that’s best suited to their needs. Below are a few types of aquariums to help you get an idea of what’s out there. But this is far from an exhaustive list.
Popular Freshwater Home Aquariums
Goldfish are popular choices for home aquariums, but they can be tricky to take care of. Firstly, they are typically kept exclusively among their own species, since they require colder temperatures than most other fish. But that’s not to say that it’s impossible to keep other fish with goldfish. For example, catfish can make excellent bottom feeders. But only if the tank’s temperature is kept on the high end for the goldfish’s threshold. Additionally, goldfish tanks are usually on the sparse side with gravel and a few plants for decoration.
Passive Freshwater Community Tank
A passive freshwater community tank is filled with fish species considered to be non-territorial. This type of aquarium offers a lot of flexibility as there are many fish that can co-habituate in this way. Some of these species include: Tetras, Danios, Rasboras, Cory Cats, Dwarf Gouramis, Rainbowfish, Angelfish, Discus, Silver Dollars, and many more. Passive community tanks are great because they offer a wide range of coloration and patterns to create beautiful visual effects. Furthermore, when properly maintained these tanks have little aggression and are relaxing to watch.
Semi-Aggressive Community Tank
But maybe you want a bit more action in your home aquarium. If that’s the case, a semi-aggressive community tank might be perfect for you. What we mean by “semi-aggressive” is that under certain circumstances, fish that fall into this camp can react very aggressively. They might attack or eat your other fish. As a result, this type of tank is more challenging to care for. Additionally, these fish tend to be on the bigger side. So, they typically need a larger tank to accommodate them (most likely 75-gallon minimum, depending on the number of fish).
Popular Saltwater Home Aquariums
Fish-Only Marine Aquariums
Fish-only aquariums have the simplest setup of all saltwater tanks. As the name implies, these tanks are designed to highlight and showcase marine fish. As a result, they are typically sparsely decorated, often with coral skeletons or replicas. Hardy saltwater fish like damsel fish or yellow tangs are great for this set up. Additionally, because they’re easier to care for, these aquariums are perfect for novice hobbyists looking to experiment.
Fish-only-with-live-rock (FOWLR) aquariums are a middle ground between fish-only aquariums and reef aquariums. While the fish still take center stage, more plants and elements of reef tanks are introduced. Most notable is the incorporation of live rock which provides supplemental filtration and helps maintain stable water parameters. But as this setup is more complex than fish-only saltwater tanks, it’s also more of a challenge.
Reef aquariums are the most challenging and expensive of all saltwater tank types. They contain mostly corals and other invertebrates, with very few fish—if any. Since marine invertebrates are incredibly sensitive to changes in their environment, it’s important to monitor water parameters on a routine basis. Additionally, many corals need light that mimics sunlight. So, finding just the right light conditions can be tricky.
Where Do Home Aquariums Fit in Your House?
Sometimes when considering a home aquarium, finding the perfect spot for it can be a bit of a challenge. The ideal location depends on several factors. First, you must think about lighting. For example, some aquariums need more natural light than others, so you must be mindful when placing your aquarium near any windows. Likewise, all fish require certain temperature parameters to survive. So, you’ll need to find a temperature-controlled environment for your tank.
But you also want to consider how your tank will impact the overall aesthetic of your home. After all, you want your tank to flow seamlessly with the rest of your décor. There are numerous ways you can play around with your aquarium to make sure you find the best placement possible.
One of the best ways is to consider different shapes and sizes to accommodate your home’s design. You’re not limited to the basic rectangular shape of a traditional aquarium. In fact, aquariums come in pentagons, triangles, bowfronts, and so many more.
What Kind of Maintenance Do Home Aquariums Require?
There are monthly, weekly, and even daily tasks you can do to keep your tank in tip-top shape. Frequently practicing these good habits makes caring for your tank significantly easier. Below, we breakdown these best practices in detail.
- Check your tank’s temperature: Monitoring the temperature of your tank every day can help you take note of natural, slight fluctuations. Knowing what temperature range to expect can alert you to when those numbers are dangerously high or low. Preemptively checking can prevent a full-blown crisis.
- Top off with new water: Replenish your tank with new water to replace what’s been lost to evaporation. The amount will vary depending on the size of your aquarium and humidity of your space. By filling with clean water regularly, you’ll avoid having to replace a tank full of dirty water all at once.
- Inspect equipment to ensure it’s running smoothly: You don’t have to spend a significant amount of time thoroughly examining each piece of equipment. A cursory assessment of heating, lighting, and filtration systems will do the trick. You just want to make sure that everything maintaining the delicate balance of your aquarium’s ecosystem is in working order.
- Test the water parameters: Every week, it’s a good idea to check the ammonia, nitrite, and phosphate levels of your aquarium using quality test kits. This task ensures that your aquarium isn’t experiencing a spike in any of these compounds, which can disrupt tank life. Once your system has matured—and it you aren’t constantly adding new livestock—you might be able to get away with testing the water less frequently.
- Wipe down aquarium panes to get rid of algae: At least once a week, you’ll want to clean your tank panes of any build-up. This is best accomplished using an algae magnet that you can easily from the outside of the aquarium. Depending on how quickly waste and algae build up in your tank, you might have to perform this task more frequently.
- Vacuum gravel of debris: Using an aquarium vacuum, you’ll want to rid your gravel of waste by-products and other debris. Make sure that you use a fine mesh screen on the pump to avoid sucking any substrate. There’s no need to remove your animals from the tank during this process—but proceed with caution!
- Partially change the water to keep it fresh and clean: This is perhaps the most vital step in your tank maintenance. Every month or so, you’ll want to partially change the water in your aquarium—about 10% of it should be changed at this time. Perform smaller, more frequent water changes so that you don’t have to replace all the water at once. This will not only save you time, but it’s the best way to preserve the equilibrium of your tank.
- Replace filtration media if necessary: At least once a month we recommend replacing disposable filtration media, if you’re using a canister filter. In the process, check for build-up or disrepair on the air intake hose and protein skimmer valves. Often, these can become clogged with calcium which can throw the air and water mixture out of balance.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide to home aquariums. Hopefully, you now have a better sense of what you can expect from an aquarium of your very own. While fish tanks require a lot of work, research, and preparation, the peace and beauty they bring makes it all worth it.