Aquatic pets are just as fulfilling as furry or feathered pets. Fish transport you to a different world as you interact with them. They may remind you of a joyous family vacation to the beach. As you submerse yourself in their world, your body relaxes, your blood pressure and heart rate drops, and a feeling of peace overcomes you. They are different and interesting since they are not land animals. Yet, they are social, and recognize your face. They ask you for food. In this way, fish are like all pets, they depend on you for quality shelter, food and attention. So, research, planning and preparation will not only ensure the happiness of your pet, it will ensure your family’s ability to know and love your pet for many years.
The first decision you will need to make is where the aquarium system will be placed in your home. Once you have picked the space, keep in mind the décor of the room. There are a wide variety of aquarium types from which to choose. With custom sizes, shapes, and cabinet colors your can easily add a piece of aquatic furniture to your room. With the space and décor in mind, find a reputable aquarium dealer to purchase your aquarium, stand, and supplies. An experienced aquarium professional will help you consider the following points: location, size, budget, inhabitants, and type.
LOCATION - Measure the space you have for the aquarium. It is very important to remember to have an electrical outlet nearby. If you do not have one, hire a certified electrician to install one. If the space is located close to windows, doors, or heating/cooling vents, you may want to reconsider the location. These things can affect algae growth and temperature of your aquarium, making it an unstable environment for your fish. It is ideal to place your aquarium against a weight-bearing wall so that the weight does not cause your floor to sag.
You will need to calculate weight. Will your floor support the weight of all these system components: aquarium, canopy and stand, gravel, decorations, filtration, and water? Consider that water weighs just over eight pounds per gallon. Adding the water weight to your other system components, you can estimate approximately 10 pounds per gallon for your system. To give you an idea of how quickly the weight can add up, consider that a 200-gallon aquarium system is like having a small car in your living room. Can your floor hold that much weight? It’s best to check with a contractor/builder or structural engineer if you decide on a large aquarium that’s not on a ground floor supported by a concrete slab.
Finally, think about how you will maintain your aquarium. Will it be located close to a water source and drain? You do not want to have to haul buckets of water up and down a flight of stairs or through several rooms. Every foot you have to travel with water increases the risk of water damage to you home. For this reason, location is one aspect aquarium maintenance companies consider when negotiating the price to service your aquarium system.
SIZE - Unless your heart is set on keeping one betta fish, choose an aquarium at least 30 gallons or larger. The larger the volume of water, the more stability you will have with constantly changing water conditions. Basically, bigger is better. If you are considering a marine aquarium, do not make the mistake of getting one less than 30 gallons. (This is probably how the myth that marine aquariums are difficult to maintain got started.) If you are not an experienced marine hobbyist, starting a small aquarium is almost always predestined to fail due to changes in water chemistry that can occur due to overfeeding, unnoticed death, and temperature fluctuations or too much light in the room where the aquarium is placed.
Larger aquariums will also give your more flexibility with filtration and inhabitants. If you choose a 50-gallon or larger aquarium, you have several filtration options (to be discussed in our next newsletter). A larger tank will give you a broad selection of fish species and invertebrates from which to choose. After all, the fish are the star of the show! If you are drawn into the hobby by a certain species of fish, you want to make sure your set-up decisions support that species. Some species of fish are more expensive to keep than others; so it is wise to discuss budget and inhabitants together.
BUDGET & INHABITANTS - The common mistake when purchasing an aquarium is made when you consider only budget or only inhabitants. If you purchase the aquarium based on your budget alone, you may end up with an aquarium that is too small for the inhabitants you select. If you purchase the aquarium based on inhabitants alone, you may find that your budget cannot afford proper maintenance and care for your inhabitants that require special equipment or food. In either case, the end result will be an unsuitable environment for the fish and will greatly reduce your chances for success.
Fish type and aquarium size are other pieces to the puzzle that aquarium maintenance companies consider when negotiating the price to service your aquarium system. Some fish require more frequent maintenance and the environments in which they live may be more or less complex. A reef ecosystem is much more complex with a variety of factors that influence the environment compared to the simplicity of a single-fish betta tank for example. These are the same considerations you as the owner need to make when purchasing your set-up.
The initial set-up cost is going to be determined by the type and size of fish and plants that you are planning on keeping as well as the cost to decorate the aquarium. There are many costs involved other than the aquarium and stand. It is important to include maintenance items such as food, light bulbs, filter media, and medication. Also, the monthly costs, which are reflected in your utility bills may be minor in a small system, but need to be considered when dealing with the more powerful pumps and lighting associated with a large aquarium.
TYPE - The final consideration is aquarium type. Two major types of aquariums on the market are glass and acrylic. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. The key is to match your personal criteria (location, size, budget, and inhabitants) to the aquarium type best suited for those criteria.
Acrylic aquariums have many advantages over glass:
Modern glass aquariums available today are becoming much more attractive. Glass has a few advantages over acrylic:
With clearer bent glass, furniture-quality cabinets, and competitive prices, acrylic aquariums are not always the logical choice. Again, you should weigh the options and choose either acrylic or glass based on your specific needs. No matter your choice of aquarium, there are several options to consider when choosing system components. In our next newsletter, we will discuss filtration options.