Fish keeping is a great hobby. Not only do you get plenty of relaxing and calming hours looking at your pet fish swimming tranquilly inside a tank, it can also provide beautiful entertainment. Aquariums are a great way to teach young children some science – ecosystems, anyone? All those are possible without the added responsibility of petting and grooming and exercise other more popular pets require. It’s no wonder then that fish are very popular among pet owners and hobbyists. In fact, fish is the third most popular choice for pet owners, just coming behind dogs and cats.

But setting up and maintaining an aquarium isn’t as easy as looking up aquarium for sale and throwing some fish in. You will need to do your research and ensure you plan things out very carefully before embarking on your fish-filled journey.

Luckily for you, we have you covered.

Fishy Considerations

What should you consider first before buying an aquarium and your pet fish? Well, as Drs. Foster and Smith noted on their website, you need to ask if you have the following to spare:

Fish may be lower-maintenance than the usual cat and dog. But that doesn’t mean you can just chuck them in a tank and leave them for the rest of their God-given lives. Fish need attention, too. And you will  need to feed them, give them vitamin supplements, clean out tanks, replace filters and so many other things that can impact your finances. So before taking the plunge (pun intended), make sure you check the following areas of concern:

  • Start up cost.
  • Fish type.
  • Aquarium size.
  • Aquarium placement.
  • Filters.
  • UV sterilizers.
  • Aquarium lights.
  • Heaters.
  • Thermometers.
  • Test kits.
  • Chemicals.
  • Food.
  • Supplements.
  • Health control.
  • Aquarium plants.

Starting Up – Start up Cost

Feeling overwhelmed yet? No one can blame you, really. But don’t be discouraged just because it seems like there are so many things to consider and to do. We sorted them out and simplified things to make it easier for you to be nearer your aquatic dreams.

Let’s start with the start up cost. Starting a new aquarium can be expensive. This is because you have to buy an aquarium and all the equipment that comes with it. That includes filters, lights and even décor. Not to mention the actual fish (and those can go from very cheap to insanely expensive depending on type.)

We have an article about the cost of starting up and maintaining an aquarium if you want to go ahead and check that out.

But basically, you need the following and the expenses will look a bit like this:

  1. Complete Aquarium Kit (with 29-Gallon glass aquarium, fluorescent lighting, filter, cartridge, 200 watt submersible heater, fish net, thermometer, food and water care samples, set-up guide) – $168.44
  2. Stand – $85.00
  3. Fish – $75.00
  4. Gravel – $15.00
  5. Plants – $35.00 (I had a combination of real and plastic ones because I wasn’t sure how well I can keep the real ones alive)
  6. Additional filter cartridges – $45.00 (good for a year)
  7. Carbon – $7.00
  8. Chlorine Reducer – $5.00
  9. Replacement Bulbs – $20.00
  10. Ammonia Test Kit – $9.00
  11. Rocks and Driftwood – $40.00
  12. Algae Scraper – $5.00
  13. Siphon – $8.00

Total Cost: $517.44

Here’s a good rule of thumb: the bigger the tank, the higher the cost. Just take a look at this 29 gallon tank versus this 55 gallon aquarium, for instance. Both are made by Marineland. But the difference in price for the 16 gallon difference is already over $200. Imagine how many fish you can already buy with a couple of hundred dollars. Now a 75 gallon aquarium will set you back $600 if you want filters and lights to go with it. Just a tank will cost around $300.

On that note, let’s take a quick detour and let us show you how you can buy a cheap aquarium for sale online.

Finding a Cheap Aquarium for Sale

So, of course you want to save money. You might even find some pet supply stores offering $1 per gallon aquarium for sale. Don’t be tempted! There are ways to get your aquarium at even cheaper rates if this aquarium owner is to be believed.

Where can you find cheap aquarium for sale?

  • Classifieds.
  • Freecycle.
  • Craigslist.
  • Local Fish Clubs and Forums.
  • Friends and Family.
  • Amazon.

Once you’ve found a great fish tank at an even greater price, make the deal.

  1. Prepare your questions.
  • Tank size?
  • Any accessories?
  • Negotiable price?
  • Location?
  • Delivery?
  • Any fish?
  • Measurements?
  1. Contact the seller.
  2. Ask for a picture if you don’t already have one.
  3. Close the deal if everything is acceptable.

Here’s a pricing guideline for used tanks to keep you straight:

  • $1 – $2 per gallon for complete set ups.
  • $0.50 per gallon for bare tanks.

The Used Tank Inspection Checklist:

  • Does it look like the picture on the ad?
  • Is the glass in good condition (i.e. no cracks, no scuffs, not cloudy)?
  • Are the silicone seals holding well? Are they watertight?
  • Is the tank drilled?

Tanks to Avoid:

  • Reptile tanks

Aquarium Types – Freshwater vs. Saltwater

It doesn’t really matter what set up you have, fish can be calming whether they swim in saltwater or freshwater. However, if you’re a newbie, it’s best to start with a freshwater aquarium set up. For one, it’s usually cheaper.

Maintaining salt levels add up to costs and require a bit more skill. Also, taking care of freshwater fish is generally easier, too.

Here’s a nice write up about starting a freshwater aquarium easily.

Aquarium Placement

The choice of aquariums can also be limited by the space you have for it. Whatever size you end up getting, make sure to:

  • Place it in a sturdy, level support surface.
  • Place it where it won’t be in danger of being bumped or knocked over.
  • Place it away from vents, windows or doors.

The Filtration System

Filters are important to your aquarium but can be very confusing to set up. You need them to keep the tank clean and maintain the good health of the inhabitants.

They come in three types:

  1. Biological Filter.
  2. Mechanical Filter.
  3. Chemical Filter.

You can check out this article we have about how to choose which one you need.

Various filter combos are also available like:

  • Canister Filters.
  • Power Filters.
  • Wet/dry Filters.
  • Fluidized Filters.

Most likely, you’ll a combination of two or more different kinds depending on your aquarium set up.

Other Aquarium Equipment

Filters aren’t the only things you have to worry about. You also need to check the following out.

  1. UV Sterilizers – prevent free-floating algae, bacteria, viruses, fungi and some parasites.
  2. Lighting System – essential for maintaining live plants and marine animals that need light for food.
  3. Heaters and Thermometers – because fish have specific temperature requirements.
  4. Test Kits and Miscellaneous Chemicals – for maintaining good water quality and balance.
  5. Food and Supplements – because your fish need to eat and keep healthy, duh!
  6. Health Control.

Fish Buying Guide

Once you have your aquarium set up, whether it’s a miniscule 5 gallon or a huge 90 gallon aquarium, you’ll have to cycle it for at least 3-4 weeks. Let it run without any fish to ensure the nitrogen cycle is complete. Then, it’s time to go fish shopping.

How you want your fish to look:

  • Alert.
  • Active but not skittish.
  • With clear eyes.
  • With full, but not bloated stomachs.
  • Able to breathe steadily.
  • Clean.
  • Colorful.
  • Without unnatural spots or slime.

As this guide so helpfully points out, you shouldn’t buy any fish without finding out the requirements for it. Make sure that you have the right tank temperature for the fish you chose.

A Note about Live Plants

To be honest, I didn’t really feel brave enough to get live plants until I felt skilled enough to care for it. My initial aquarium set up was filled with the plastic kind instead. But if you want your aquarium to look and feel more natural, there are hardier plant species that you can get to help you along. They do have the advantage of controlling algae and improving water quality so it’s good to have them in there.

Just make sure that your lighting system has enough power to actually sustain plant life. That means you need at least 1.5 watts for every gallon of water. Higher is better.

Fish are great pets. But like any other pet, they require care and commitment. Hopefully, the list above has helped you in your planning. Have fun fishing!