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So You Think You Want an Aquarium?

Choosing the Perfect Tank

That aquarium in the doctor's office has you really aching to get one of your own. You think they're pretty, relaxing and even educational. However, do you really know what you want? This four part series (one part every other week) will help you decide on what you want, teach you how to set it up and help you take care of it! I plan to cover saltwater and freshwater tanks (no reptiles yet!). Remember, this is a beginners guide so it's just the basics! There's plenty more to learn.

Size Matters

Size is very important to whether you do a freshwater or saltwater tank. Saltwater tanks can be done in smaller tanks but it's very difficult and should only be attempted by experienced aquarists. The more water you have, the harder it is to mess up a water parameter. I recommend 75 gallons as the perfect starter size for saltwater. That being said, I started with a 30 gallon tank. I think that's the absolute smallest tank one should have when beginning saltwater.

Most freshwater fish, on the other hand, are generally hardier and their water quality is generally not as delicate as saltwater. A few neons are perfectly suited for a 2 gallon desktop aquarium. However, I would recommend a size of at least 20 gallons if you're interested in keeping a freshwater community tank with a few different species of fish.

Shape and Material

Acrylic tanks are often very nice looking. They come with clean edges, they tend to leak less and are touted to be stronger than glass. They do their drawbacks. It's very, very easy to put an unsightly scratch on a acrylic tank. You can't clean them with most commercially available scrubbers, cleansers or scrapers. If you're considering a saltwater tank, I would definitely go with glass because you will probably use "live rock" and live rock has a tendency to accidently scratch acrylic and make the tank look awful. That's not to say that acrylic is bad it's just harder to work with.

A glass tank should last at least 10 years and they are built very sturdy. They can be cleaned with almost anything and the insides can be scraped by razor blade or almost any available scraper.

For saltwater reef tanks, I prefer the typical rectangular tank. The shorter the tank, the better. Light intensity is very important to corals. In very tall tanks, the light will be diminished by the time it reaches the bottom. This is the also the reason that hexagon tanks aren't very well suited for saltwater. They are not economical for light. However, it is possible to set up a reef in almost any shape.

In freshwater tanks and saltwater fish only tanks, the lighting is not as critical. Pick whichever shape you like. Getting an oddly shaped tank will somewhat limit your choices of inhabitants. Many fish need long areas to swim and prefer longer, bigger tanks.

Coming Soon: Part 2: Getting the right equipment: Lighting, filters and skimmers oh my!

Q and A

Have a pet question you want answered? Ask me! I'll respond to your question for free.

Please note that due to the volume of requests I receive and the time it takes to answer some of the more complicated questions, I cannot answer every question received and I will not answer duplicate questions. However, I will try my best to get to all of them in a timely manner.

Content on this site is for information purposes only and not meant to replace veterinary care. Please consult your veterinarian for specific advice concerning the care and treatment of your pet.

All info copyright © Amanda Galiano