How to Purchase a New Aquarium

If you are thinking about buying a fish tank, make sure you purchase the right size for what you want. The setup for small fish tank is the same as for big tanks, so take a moment to think about where you'd like it to go, and how much space you have.


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    Decide whether you want to go with a cold water (goldfish), tropical freshwater, or saltwater aquarium. All three are very specific to the kinds of fish they are suited for, and require slightly different setups.
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    Decide on which species you would like to keep. This will help you to determine what size aquarium you will need. The smallest you should go is 5 gallons (19 liters).
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    Find out the dimensions of the aquarium you are looking to purchase, and find a suitable place for it in your house. Remember to include the space you will need behind your aquarium for the equipment and cords.
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    Go to a fish store where aquariums are sold, either in person or online, and browse the different kinds of tanks available. Tanks come in acrylic or glass, and there are pros and cons to both.
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    Choose a stand/hood (lid) that will fit the tank you like. Make sure that everything comes in the size of your measurements - some types only come in specific size ranges.
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    Ask what sort of deals the seller may be offering for new tank setups. You may be able to get a good price on a bundle of the tank and necessary equipment. (See Things You'll Need below.)
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    Plan on total setup taking a period of a full day or two, and don't plan on stuffing your new aquarium full of fish right away. The key is to stock it very slowly after the tank is cycled.
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    Read How to Set Up a Freshwater Aquarium to get an idea of what you're going to face once you get your tank.


  • Glass tanks are much harder to scratch (but it can be done) and are less expensive than the acrylic. They are also heavier.
  • Think of the size and number of fish. It makes it easier to choose your aquarium.
  • Larger tanks are more stable and easier to manage for beginners, so beginners should buy at least a 10 gallon tank.
  • Acrylic tanks are lightweight, shatterproof and have rounded corners that look a little bit nicer than the glass tanks, but they are considerably more expensive, scratch very easily, and prone to discoloration.
  • This information should start you off but you should also get some books on how to take care of your fish. Check at your local library.
  • There are some general guidelines for the number of fish you can comfortably put in a tank. Overcrowding leads to illness and death in the fish, so be aware of your space limitations.
    • Tropical freshwater tanks: 1 inch (2.5 cm) of fish per gallon size of the tank. For example, in a 10-gallon tank you could have five 2" fish, or ten little 1" fish. However, you could not have two 5" fish or one 10" fish. The inch/gallon rule does not apply to larger fish.
    • Saltwater tanks: 1 inch (2.5 cm) of fish per 5 gallons. If quantity is your goal, this may not be the option for you.
    • Goldfish: 20 gallons for the first goldfish and 10 gallons for each additional goldfish.


  • Do not clean the inside of the tank with household cleaners. Doing so can contaminate the water and kill your fish. Only use water or special chemicals made for cleaning a fish tank.
  • Don't overcrowd your tank. The old saying that a fish won't outgrow its container isn't true, and crowded fish will get sick and die. Happy fish are healthy fish with plenty of space. Plan accordingly when choosing the tank of size.

Things You'll Need

  • Aquarium
  • Aquarium stand and cover
  • Filter and related accessories
  • Light(s)
  • Gravel
  • Water conditioner
  • Thermometer
  • Heater (for tropical fish)
  • Rocks, plants, etc.
  • Test Kit

Article Info

Categories: Aquariums