A fish tank is the first item on the list when it comes to set up a home aquarium. Many first-time fish owners just buy a random fish tank without thinking about it. It can’t be more wrong.
The following are the major things to consider when it comes to buying the right fish tank.
Fish Tank Size Matters
The size of a fish tank is more important than most people think. For the well-being of aquarium fish, a bigger tank is better with good reasons.
1. Swimming Room
For obvious reasons, if a fish tank is too small, the fish will have a hard time to swim. No one should live in a room where movement is restricted. It is very uncomfortable and unhealthy even for a fish.
2. The amount of dissolved oxygen
Fish needs oxygen just like us. However, they can only use the dissolved oxygen in the water which is less readily available in a fish tank than in the open water. The more water you have, the more dissolved oxygen the water holds.
3. Stable Water Conditions
More water means more stable water conditions. If the water conditions such as water temperature, hardness, PH, etc. become unstable, it will make fish uncomfortable and even become sick and die. When there is more water, the changes will be more gradual instead of a sudden massive swing.
Imagine if you dump a half cup of boiling water into another half cup of cold water, the result will be a full cup of hot water. But if you dump the same half cup of boiling water into a large 5-gallon bucket full of water, the change will be tiny in overall temperature.
The same goes for water hardness, PH, and water pollution as well. The more water there is, the smaller and slower the change will be if something happens.
In conclusion, we recommend getting the biggest fish tank you can afford, with other cost included in consideration of course.
There is also a minimum recommended fish tank size. Nothing less than a 5-gallon tank should be used for long term. A 10-gallon is much better, and it is almost the same price as a 5-gallon ($12 vs. $14 from most local stores).
Fish Tank dimensions/shape Matters
1. Fish tanks come In different shapes. Even for the fish tanks of the same capacity, they might not have the same dimensions. For example, There is a 20-gallon long tank, and a 20-gallon high tank. As the names suggest, the long one is longer, while the high one is taller. But they are both 20-gallon.
If the tank is longer and wider, it must have bigger surface area. Bigger surface area means more contact with the air. As a result, it is easier for the water get more dissolved oxygen. In such tanks with larger surface areas, you can have more fish than the taller tanks of the same capacity. Though it won’t be a problem if you only plan to stock your fish tank lightly.
If you plan to have live plants, we recommend a high tank as the water might not be deep enough for some tall aquatic plants.
2. In the case of having some species of catfish, they must go to the surface for air from time to time. They do better in long tanks instead of high tanks.
3. Some beginners also keep fish in fish bowls. Fish bowls are not ideal for fish due to their shapes. The more water you fill a fishbowl, the smaller the surface area is. It means less oxygen in the water. Fishbowl is also terrible for installing other equipment. Stay away from fishbowls if you are serious about keeping aquarium fish.
Glass vs. Acrylic
While most fish tanks are made of glass, there are also other types of fish tanks such as acrylic.
Glass tanks are relatively cheap. However, they are heavy and easy to break.
Acrylic is half the weight of glass, and it is a lot stronger. With an acrylic tank, breaking it by accident is highly unlikely, and it is a lot easier to move it. However, the acrylic tank has two downsides. They are expensive. They cost 3~5 times the price of a glass fish tank of the same capacity. And they can be scratched easily. I found out first hand even a regular paper towel can scratch an acrylic fish tank when I tried to clean the outside of it. Paper tissue and 100% cotton cloth are fine though.
If you just want something cheap and do not care about anything else, a glass tank is the one for you.
If you have the budget and want something light and unbreakable, go for acrylic fish tanks. Just be careful not to use any random material to clean them.
Your actual plan for the fish
If you plan to get only a handful of small fish, then anything meets the minimal 5-gallon requirement should do just fine. If you want bigger fish and a lot of them, then you need a big fish tank. Plan ahead is a good idea. Bigger tanks come with more options down the road.
Are you up for the task?
While a bigger fish tank means easier to maintain the water quality and happier fish, it can also mean more work for you when it comes to doing partial water changes.
Partial water changes are mandatory as a part of regular aquarium maintenance. We recommend doing 30~50% partial water change once every week.
Just to think about it.
If you have a 10-gallon fish tank, a partial water change of 30~50% means you only need to replace 3~5 gallon of water.
If you have a 100-gallon fish tank, then a 30~50% partial water change means you have to replace 30~50 gallon of water. Not a problem if you have an aquarium water change system or if you are up for some workouts every time to carry all the water. Otherwise, you might want to keep the size under control as long as it is above the minimum required size.
Get nothing less than a 5-gallon when buying a fish tank. Double to 10-gallon is better. If the budget is not a problem, and you are up for the challenge, then get the biggest fish tank you can afford. It is a one-time investment. In the long run, you can have a lot more options with a bigger fish tank.