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Aquarium's for Beginners

Updated on June 28, 2012
Fishbowl on shelf. Photo Source: Shanna11
Fishbowl on shelf. Photo Source: Shanna11

Welcome to the fascinating, rewarding world of aquariums! From fishbowl's to thousand gallon tanks and saltwater to freshwater, becoming a fish owner is an exciting, but also sometimes tricky world. There are lot's of decisions to make when it comes to setting up an aquarium and a few things all beginners should know.

Read this Hub and consider what you want in your aquarium or fishbowl. Consider the types of fish you want, the care you can provide them and if you're ready for the time it takes to be a fish parent. An aquarium can be a great statement piece for a sophisticated room, or it can easily be a project to help teach your children responsibility- there's a huge world of possibilities packed into one simple glass bowl or tank.

This hub is meant to help guide you through the process of picking and designing an awesome aquarium!

Bowl or Tank

The first thing you need to consider as a beginning aquarium owner is whether you want a bowl or a tank. A bowl is usually much smaller than a tank-- on average, about one to two gallons. The downside to bowls is that you can't easily attach a filter to oxygenate and clean the water, so your choice of fish is extremely limited, and even betta fish (fish that can live in un-filtered water) will do better in filtered water.

Tanks on the other hand come in many shapes and sizes, short and square, tall and rectangular-- you can find all sorts of tanks to fit on shelves, desks, counters and more. Another benefit of tanks is that filters can easily be attached, providing clean, oxygenated water to your fish family.

Saltwater or Freshwater

The second thing you need to consider is whether you want a freshwater tank or a saltwater tank. If you truly are a beginner, I highly suggest getting a freshwater tank. Saltwater tanks are harder to care for and the fish are much more expensive. You're more likely to kill a saltwater fish than you are a freshwater fish as a beginner, so by starting out with a freshwater tank, you'll save a lot of money!

Let's face it, you're probably going to kill one or two fish or maybe several fish as a beginner. When I got my first aquarium, I killed three fish all within days of each other. Don't let it discourage you, because sometimes it just happens. Now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be careful and cautious with your fish!

Types of Fish

Now, let's consider the best part of your aquarium (in my opinion). The fish! Hopefully you've decided on a freshwater tank by now, and know what size and dimensions fit into your budget and space. A good rule of thumb to follow as you pick out your fish is one inch of fish per gallon of water. It's possible to squeeze by with more fish for less space, but that's terribly cruel to the fish.

Don't go out and buy your fish right away. Consider what kind of tank you are creating first. I have a friend with a marvelous black and white tank. All the décor and rocks are black and white and so are all the fish, too! You can be super creative with your aquarium, or keep it simple and classic.

Make sure you are aware of the sizes the fish will grow to be. Buying a ton of tiny fish who will grow to be five inches or longer as adults is a bad idea! You should also be aware of breeding habits, preferred water temperatures and what kinds of other fish they get along with. A betta is a great centerpiece for many tanks, but will not get along with goldfish or tetras, for example.

Aquarium Decor

Now consider your aquarium décor. By now you should know what types of fish you want and what kinds of habitat's they prefer. If they are tropical fish, consider purchasing a heating pad that will sit beneath the gravel in your tank. Your tank will probably need the following things:

  • Gravel
  • Silk plants (or real plants-- but those can be tricky!)
  • Filter
  • Tank background
  • Cave or other hiding place

Most fish prefer caves or silk plants and feel secure knowing they have a place to hide if they feel uncomfortable or are giving birth. Aquarium decorations can be really cool! Another friend of mine bought only decorations that looked like ancient ruins, so her tank looks like a lost, underwater city. Again, the possibilities are endless!

My 3.5 gallon aquarium setup. Simple, small and perfect. Photo Source: shanna11
My 3.5 gallon aquarium setup. Simple, small and perfect. Photo Source: shanna11

Cycling Your Tank

This is THE most important thing that aquarium beginners need to be aware of. The nitrogen cycle is a naturally occurring cycle that turns harmful ammonia into harmless byproducts. It takes about six weeks for this cycle to begin in your new fish tank, and will begin with the presence of bacteria.

If you can, buy your tank and food a week before you get your fish. Fill it up, plug it in, and let it sit for a week, adding a tiny bit of food to help start the cycle. Buy your fish, and introduce them. For the first two weeks or so, do 20% water changes. Remove 20% of the water, and add fresh water, to help reduce the stressful or even deadly ammonia buildup, under the bacteria become present enough to do it themselves.

You can take water samples into Petco and have the levels of ammonia and other chemicals tested free of charge at any time, so if a fish dies unexpectedly, you can try to pinpoint a cause.


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    • profile image

      Adriana 3 years ago

      I bet they aren't seeing each other rellay. I think that once the glass is wet and standing in the tank they are each seeing their own reflection and wanting to fight it.MM

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 5 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Some very good points, Shanna. I would add that you can also buy ammonia rocks to add to your filters which help reduce ammonia in the water. Good hub. Voted up.