How to make money from Aquarium fish

A Gold fish: The most elegant fish for beginners
A Gold fish: The most elegant fish for beginners | Source

updated 29th March 2012



Are you an aquarium enthusiast? Do you know how to take care of the fish in an aquarium? Have you kept fish for at least one year? If your answer is yes to all the questions, then you can make some money from your hobby. If you have not started this fascinating hobby yet, read my hub on how to make your own glass tank and get started. Here are some tips on how you can turn your skills into a cash cow. Note that Enthusiasm comes before the money.

There are basically two main kinds of aquaria – fresh water and marine. You will have to choose one of these aquatic habitats and get started on your hobby. I found Marine tanks too involving technically and preferred to specialize in fresh water fish so I will tell you what I know.

An aquarium has four major components:

1. The glass tank

2. The light unit

3. The air pump

4. The water filter

You can buy all these components ready made from your local pet store. But if you are a Do It Yourself (DIY) enthusiast like me, you are likely to want to make the ones you can. You can definitely make a glass tank. Follow my instructions here for a small 15” X 9” X 9.” Once you have the skills, you can make whichever size you want. The next common standard sizes are:

a. 24 X 12” X 12,”

b. 30” X 15” X 15”

c. 36” X 18” X 18”

You can use quarter inch glass (thickness that is) for all the above tanks but you will have to increase the thickness of the glass for any tank larger than the last one.

Ensure that your tank does not leak by carrying out a simple test. Line a table with old news papers and place your tank gently on it. Now pour water gently into the tank. If it leaks, you will see the newspaper turning wet along the edge somewhere. Follow the water trail until you identify the spot. Use a marker pen to indicate the offending spot and empty the tank. After drying it thoroughly, mask the areas that should not be smudged with the silicone adhesive and then apply the adhesive firmly by spreading it with a wet finger. Wear surgical gloves to avoid contact with the silicone. I have used a bare finger without ill effects but the instructions on silicone tubes discourage it. I like glass tanks with a glass cover that allows one inch opening on two sides – the extreme left and right. You will need it to feed the fish besides passing the air tube.

Now that you know how to make a fish tank, what stops you from making some for your friends and relatives for money?

The light box

Light boxes can be purchased at your local pet store too. But again the DIY would rather make them. After all, if you are planning to sell them with the tanks, you will get a better profit margin if you had made them yourself. Manufactured light boxes are made of plastic. I have used plywood and thin strips of wood to great effect. I have seen a pet store that makes light boxes from the same glass as the tank but I have never done it. They look too square and have to be opaqued to stop too much light leaking to the outside. But you can use whatever material you fancy.

Another pet store used fiber-glass to make the light boxes. Fiber-glass gives you more flexibility with shapes. I have also not made from fibre-glass because I found wooden ones working well for me. The only problem is you have to spend quite some time giving them a smooth finish by sanding and paint work. Use whatever material you fancy. Only remember that this hub is about making money so consider your margins. And you do not have to do everything yourself. If you know a craftsman who takes instructions well, make some orders. That is what I did when I really needed many wooden light boxes of varying sizes. But I left the paint work to myself. If you sand the box really well, you can spray paint with spray cans. Otherwise paint several layers with a brush, making sure to sand each layer lightly for a smooth finish.


The light box needs to fit snugly on the light box. I favour a light box design that protrudes outside to fit like a hat. It needs only sink half an inch. It should also have an opening for feeding the fish without having to lift the entire unit. The opening should coincide with the glass cover openings mentioned above. Fit a Fluorescent tube with a switch. Bulbs get hot and interfere with the environment in the aquarium.

Now that you know how to make a fish tank and a light box, what stops you from making some for your friends and relatives for money?

The Water filter

There are several kinds of filters. Some are electrically operated and serve the function of a pump and a filter. These are immersed in the water and are difficult to camouflage. This is one reason why I have never used them. The other reason is that I have never reconciled with the idea of inserting electrical components into water no matter how well they are insulated. If you fancy this kind of filter, buy one because it is not the stuff for DIY enthusiasts, unless of course you work in a filter factory.

I have always used an under-gravel filter. It looks like an upside tray with holes and an air turret on one end – a very basic but equally efficient piece of technology. If you want to make one, I will allow you but not just yet. You have to purchase one, use it and see how it functions. Later you can make your own with fibre-glass (or an upside tray with holes) and test it. If it keeps your aquarium water crystal clear for a week, you have passed the test.

Let us agree that you don’t have to make everything. You will find that undergravel filters are fairlly cheap at your local pet store and you can add a 15% or even 25% markup without making them out of reach of your new clients.


The Air pump

In an aquarium running with an under-gravel filter, the pump is the heart. It pumps air into the turret at the bottom of the filter and then up the turret and out. As the air moves up the turret, it forces water up with it, thereby creating a vacuum under the gravel. More water moves from above the gravel and through the gravel to fill the space under the filter and the cycle continues. As the water moves through the gravel, it is filtered – that simple.

You will never be able to make an air pump so plan to buy the right size for the size of aquarium it is going to serve. The last two tanks above require twin outlet pumps for efficient filtration.

Now that you know how to make a fish tank, a light box and fit it with a pump and filter what is stopping you from selling to friends and relatives?

As you have seen above, the under gravel filter needs gravel to function. Besides, the aquarium will look most unnatural without the gravel. The gravel should be the size of 3 to 5 millimeters in thickness. You can go up to six millimeters (quarter inch), but anything bigger unless sprinkled judiciously for aesthetic effect will not work. Your pet store will sell gravel in pounds, but if you know where to get the right size for free, go for it. I have noticed that some builders use a sieve to throw away just the size that I need. You can get it for free from them as long as they are not in on your idea of making fish tanks for sale.

Aquarium plants

The manufactured aquarium plants cost too much in my part of the world. Maybe it is because your country is the one exporting them, in which case you will buy as much as you need without complaining. But if you are near my part of the world you might have to be wise and make your own. Well, not exactly make. You can shop around for plastic plants that are meant to mimic indoor plants and select the ones that will look real in an aquarium. By cutting them to the right sizes you can make fibre-glass bases to anchor them in the gravel and your are good to go. This is something I have done. Manufactured plastic aquarium plants look very real and are designed to mimic known aquatic plants. If you want a really authentic look, buy them, add your mark up and make a profit.

Aquarium Fish

Am sorry I do not know of anyone who has made their own fish. At least I can't, so you will have to depend on God’s creations, available at your local pet store. Let them know that you intend to be a regular customer and they might give you a trade discount. You will have to prove it though by turning up several times with good orders. For a start, buy only what you need until you know how to quarantine and maintain healthy fish. Fish have several contagious illnesses (to other fish not you) so you will need extra storage to isolate new fish and sickly fish.

This information is meant to sensitize you on how to make money with Aquaria. Here is one last money making option that has been saved for last because it is the best.

Charge to clean your client’s fish tanks

This is really where the money is. You sell the aquarium with all its components then you tell your client you can offer monthly service. I know many people who what the beauty of an aquarium without wanting to be involved in the cleaning. Charge them! Healthy fish need their gravel cleaned and 10 to 20% of the water changed every two weeks. So you fix a monthly rate and keep all the appointments without fail. However, write an agreement that removes leaks and dead fish from you liability. After all you cannot know what the your clients and their visitors put in the tank when you are not there. Once the client signs the agreement, make an offer of free fish food as enticement. I have given my clients free fish food for over fifteen years painlessly. A fish’s stomach is really small, but this is only between you and me.

Set a figure that is worth your time and add more clients as you gain confidence. Train a helper, or helpers as you need them and you will be able to service two or three different clients in opposite directions of your town at the same time.

Good luck with this business. Be sure to read my hub on how to clean a fish tank effortlessly soon.

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