How to Start an Aquarium Shop

Five Parts:Planning the storeGetting the supplies togetherBreeding fishCaring for the fishStarting sales

Thinking of starting an aquarium store? With a little determination, creativity and money you'll be able to make a profit in no time. Here is how to set up your own home business.

Part 1
Planning the store

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    Start by planning. Research is the key to success. Investigate how you will lay out your store, price your fish, what kind of fish you will sell and which breeders to contact. Or maybe you would like to breed your own fish. Breeding aquarium fish is one of the steps to becoming a skilled aquarist.

Part 2
Getting the supplies together

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    Gather supplies. Listed in the "Things You'll Need" section below.
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    Know your fish. Learn as much as possible about the fish you want to sell.
    • Are the fish peaceful, semi-aggressive and aggressive?
    • Know which fish will be compatible with other fish, how large fish will get and how quickly, what the fish will eat whether they are herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores.
    • Know what the fish need their water temperature at for survival, best growth, and breeding.
    Do your research on fish you order and make sure you have good knowledge on the fish you order and sell because the customers will have lots of questions. Be able to answer them quickly, easily and correctly. Your answers and suggestions to their questions about the fish may very well be the thing that brings them back or turns them away, and keeps their other fish alive or dead.

Part 3
Breeding fish

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    Make sure the tank setups are working. Fish from a breeder might be ill. If you see signs of illness, remove the fish to a hospital tank. Check your fish daily and change the tank water often. Note: Commercialize your fish tanks as much as possible, but maintain happy fish. Healthy tanks attract customers.
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    Begin breeding and stocking your tanks. Before you add expensive tropical fish to your new tanks, you will need to go through the cycling process. This process is to avoid "new tank syndrome." You should cycle your tanks with a few hearty fish.
    • Add easy breeder fish such as guppies and mollies. Once these have a stable population in your tanks, start buying different types of fish. Stock up on food and medications.
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Part 4
Caring for the fish

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    Keep healthy fish. This can be a challenge. Once your tanks are set up and cycled through, you will need to care for the fish. Maintaining healthy fish will include these tasks:
    • Regular aquarium cleanings and water changes
    • Regular filter maintenance
    • Regular feedings, using a variety of healthy foods
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    • Recognizing any odd behaviors in your fish
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    • Inspecting your equipment
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    • Many problems start with water quality. The quality of the water can be compromised when the decorations-rocks, gravel, plastic plants-are added. They may contain limestone which will make the water alkaline. You will forever struggle with maintaining the pH balance in your tank. Make sure the decorations you use are clean, appropriate and of a quality material.
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Part 5
Starting sales

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    Start up your shop. Once you have the amount of fish and tanks that you want, open your store up. Make sure to obtain the right permits before attempting this step. Read up on starting a small business.[1]


  • Know your general plants and their needs (Lights/Fertilizers) and what types of fish do well in similar conditions.
  • Quarantine fish before putting them in the tanks, when customers realize you have healthy fish they'll want to come back.
  • Don't sacrifice quality when tempted to buy cheap heaters.
  • Making each tank maintain itself with the right types of fish and other living things will reduce your maintenance workload some but not all. Still it is worth it to let algae eaters to the first line of defense and other cleaning shrimp, snails and fish provide an added layer of self maintenance.
  • Test Often. Daily. Keep everything in balance as much as possible (According to the normal "Cycle" of a tank). Don't change the pH unless you know what you are doing.
  • Keep the price of your fish low, but high enough to make a profit.
  • Know what fish are aggressive and which are not. You don't want to send 3 fish home with a family and the children watch the bigger one eat the other two! (Unless they are feeders)
  • Know that goldfish are some of the worst fish as far as keeping water clean and that you will likely have to filter their water 2 to 3 times as much as the others.
  • Certain fish eat their fry. It's a good idea to separate the fry from the adults.
  • Divide your store by the various types of tanks you will have. (Freshwater Hi Temp/ Low Temp, Saltwater, Brackish water, Goldfish tanks, etc..)
  • Colored gravel and fake plants will make your tanks more eye-pleasing to your customers.


  • Maintaining fish takes experience! Learn as much as you can before attempting your own business.
  • Be prepared! Setting up a store requires money, time, energy and the necessary permits. "As a new business owner you will need to know your federal tax responsibilities."
  • Lock up! Get an advanced security system. Small shops are key targets for burglars.

Things You'll Need

  • 20 gallon (75.7 L) fish tanks
  • Heaters
  • Under gravel filters
  • A power siphon for water changes
  • A faucet where you can connect the siphon
  • Gravel
  • Fake plants
  • Water treatments
  • A test kit that analyzes the pH balance, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, hardness/alkalinity, etc.

Sources and Citations

  1. For help in how to start your own small business, it is recommended that you visit the U.S. Small Business Administration Website,

Article Info

Categories: Aquariums