The Real Cost of Set up and Maintaining an Aquarium

Set up and Maintaining Aquarium: How much does it cost?

How much does it cost for “your friend’s house”?
(Image: Jchessma / CC BY)

A few months back, I saw an ad for an aquarium for sale. I’ve always wanted an aquarium for my apartment. The building doesn’t allow dogs or cats or any of the four-legged pet variety. And frankly, I didn’t have the time to spare to walk or play with a canine. So having a pet fish seemed like a nice middle ground.

I didn’t really have a lot of money to fund the hobby. So I what I was hoping to do was find some cheap fish tanks. I figure I don’t need (or have the room for) a 75 gallon aquarium anyway, as nice as that looks. I didn’t want a small 5 gallon one either because I’m a bit clumsy. Yes, I do think I’ll bump into the tank accidentally and end up killing all my fish.

So I settled on a 29 gallon aquarium and went looking. Now, I don’t want to discourage anyone from having an aquarium. To the contrary, getting one was one of my better decisions. There’s something very relaxing about staring at my fish swimming. That’s not to say it didn’t cost me a pretty penny.

If you’re not willing to invest and go all the way with (reasonable) money and the time, then maybe owning a pet really isn’t for you, fish or otherwise. If you don’t do things right, your pet/s will suffer for it. So take heed.

Anyway, here’s what I needed to start my aquarium and how much it cost me. Again, I settled on a 29 gallon aquarium that I set up with freshwater.

1. Aquarium Kit – $227.58

I opted to get the Marineland (Aquaria) Biowheel 29 Gallon Aquarium Kit from Amazon. It came with the following:

  • 29 gallon glass aquarium.
  • Fluorescent lighting.
  • Filter.
  • Cartridge.
  • 200 watt submersible heater.
  • Fish net.
  • Thermometer.
  • Food and water care samples.
  • Set-up guide.


2. Stand – $85.00 (I had a good friend of mine make one for me).

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: $576.58

Now, bear in mind that the above is just the initial set up cost. I still needed to buy fish food monthly and medication for the fish, as needed. I also decided to buy some vitamins for my pets because I wanted to keep them in optimal health.

As you can see, owning fish for pets isn’t exactly cheap. It is a big investment. But just because you can’t cuddle your fish like you can dogs doesn’t mean they don’t demand and deserve the same level of care.

A fish tank isn’t a novelty item or a toy for children. It requires as much attention as any other pet and you’d be better off knowing and understanding that before you make a commitment to get one for yourself.

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