Starting an Aquarium

Fish and invertebrates are alive. The very first goal in The Aquarium Hobby is to keep them that way. It is true that fish need less attention then most pets but they will still need to be fed everyday or at least have food to eat everyday. Neglect for more then a few days will ultimately lead to the demise of your aquarium and inhabitants.

Once you have decided on what type of system you are going to use weather it be a freshwater aquarium,saltwater aquarium, planted aquarium, or brackish aquarium all of the systems will need a few of the same basic elements.

For all the aquarium setups you will need the following to get started:

Fish identification book

Having a book to I.D. your fish is essential in giving the fish in your tank the individual attention they may need. Some fish have specific feeding needs or may need to have a school of fish to stay healthy. Read about the tank mates you wish to purchase to make sure you have the items and habitat they require.

Choosing an Aquarium

The two basic types of aquariums to choose from are Glass or Acrylic.

Glass aquariums are much easier to clean and harder to scratch. Acrylic aquariums are much lighter in weight then glass aquariums but can scratch if rocks fall onto it from the inside. Most glass aquariums have a slight green tint to them because of the plate glass used. You can buy a sapphire glass fish tank which is much more expensive but has no tint. Acrylic aquariums have no tint and are very clear.

You must also choose a stand for your aquarium. Choosing the right Aquarium Stand is very important becuase water filled aquariums are extremely heavy. Water weights about 8 pounds per gallon. A 20g fish tank can weigh as much as 200 pounds when filled with water and decor.

Aquariums come in many different sizes, shapes and viewing angles. Be sure to measure out where your fish tank will go while considering the viewing angles. Many aquariums come with a stand already built to the right shape, just make sure where you put the stand and aquarium that the floor can support it.


Fish need water at specific temperatures depending on what type of fish your keeping. Most tropical fish need the water temperature between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Check your fish I.D. book for the right temperature for your fish and set your heater accordingly.

Heaters come in different sizes according to the amount of gallons your tank is. Buying an underpowered heater can result in poor fish health due to fluctuating temperature getting to cold. Fish can be stressed to death if the water is to cold so be sure to keep them nice and cozy at all times. Most people strive to have no temperature changes especially in the saltwater hobby because corals are very sensitive to temperature change.


The substrate you use will depend on what type of set up you have. The sand or gravel you keep is very important. It holds the micro organisms and bacteria you need to break down the harmful toxins like ammonia, nitrite and nitrate that is built up from fish waste and decaying food.


All aquariums will require some sort of filtration. The filtration you use will depend on what type of set up you have, budget and fish load.

There are three main parts to the filtration system - mechanical, biological and chemical. The mechanical part is usually some sort of filtration sock or pad to filter out the large particles. Filters also need some sort of biological filtration which turns harmful ammonia and nitrite into less harmful nitrate. Chemical filtration will remove things like nitrate, phosphate and other elements not desired in the water.


You almost cant go wrong when decorating an aquarium as long as everything you put into the tank was made to go in a fish tank. Just be sure to consider whether or not your fish will need hiding places or open areas for swimming.

Choosing your fish

Fish can live a long time so be sure to get fish that will not outgrow your tank. Read up on the specific fish you intend to keep and be sure you system is adequate to house them. Some fish need more attention then others and have very specific daily feeding needs while others can go weeks on end with time release fish feeders.

Fish also need proper tank mates. Some fish cant be mixed with others or the result can end in fish being eaten or killed. Its never fun to watch a $10 grouper eat your prize $100 goby.

Choosing healthy fish from a pet store can be hard. If it looks sick it probably is. Compare the same species to each other and pick the fish that looks the most active, colorful and healthy. Ask if they can feed the fish you wish to buy to see if it will take food and is eating. If the fish is expensive and delicate you can sometimes have them hold the fish for you for a week so you can see that its healthy and thriving before you buy.


For a Saltwater Coral Aquarium or a Freshwater Planted Aquarium lighting will make or break your set up. Without the proper investment for lighting in these tanks will lead to poor results and most likely death in plants and corals.

For fish only tanks the lighting does not need to be as powerful. The purchase cost is less and the energy consumption is much less.

Be sure to read up on the species you plan to keep and make sure you have proper lighting for their habitat.

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Aquarium Tip

If you use a digital thermometer be sure to have a mechanical thermometer to check the digital about once a month. Batteries should be replace every 3 to 6 months.