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The Best Fish Tank Sizes For Every Occasion

Updated on November 14, 2012

Fish Tank Size

What are the best fish tank sizes for your home, your office, or your child's first pet fish? The fact it, there is an appropriate size of aquarium for every occasion. What you need to do is figure out what you intend to use the aquarium for, how many fish you want, and how much effort you want to put forward. Once you do that, the choice will become clear.

For example, if you want a lot of fish you will want a 20 gallon tank or larger. If you want to create a coral reef even bigger is better. Are you just looking for a nice home for a betta fish? If so, a nice 2 gallon might be perfect.

To make it real simple, here are the recommended fish tank sizes for every occasion.

Single Fish Tank

To create a nice home for a single fish like a colorful betta fish or goldfish, a 2 gallon tank is plenty of water to create a suitable environment that will keep your pet healthy for a long time.

Small fish tanks like a 2 gallon tank are very attractive and come in many shapes, none more popular than the classic hexagon or octagon tanks that offer viewing from all sides. The nice thing about these little tanks is that they are easy to care for and clean and they take a minimum of space, so you can fit an aquarium on a desk, a night stand, or even a counter top.

The other nice thing is that, unlike a plain fish bowl, a 2 gallon aquarium will allow you to use a filter to keep the water clean. That is a good thing that you won't regret.

Beginner Tank for Multiple Fish

For the aquarium beginner that wants to dabble with a new aquarium but avoid having a huge tank that requires extra care or a more significant aquarium stand, a 10 gallon tank is the perfect place to start.

A classic 10 gallon tank will sit nearly anywhere and doesn't weight so much that a table can't hold it. A general rule for holding fish is that an aquarium will hold about 1 inch of fish per gallon, so a 10 gallon fish tank could support up to 10 small tropical fish, though 8-9 would be even better.

A 10 gallon aquarium is small enough to easily reach all corners and supports a nice variety of fish, but it won't break the budget, as you will find full 10 gallon systems with everything you need for an affordable price.

If you feel confident that you will stick with this aquarium, a 20 gallon tank is a nice upgrade and is still small enough that you can find a spot for it in nearly any room.

Fish Tanks for Saltwater Fish

Saltwater fish are a blast to raise and care for but to really get the most out of them you want to be able to get saltwater aquarium fish that will grow up to be nice specimens, like 3-4 inches long in some cases or even more. Because of this fish size you will want at least a 20 gallon tank.

A 20 gallon tank will only hold a small number of attractive saltwater fish, so if you want more, consider going with one of the big boys - 40 gallons or more. You really can go much larger if you have the space for it, but an aquarium stand is a must for this much weight. With the water, a tank of this size will weigh hundreds of pounds, so support it well.

When choosing a tank for saltwater fish, select a vertical tank - one that is taller than it is deep. This will allow you to add tall coral and really make a statement.

Safety Tips for Aquariums

Before you make your move and set up your new aquarium, adhere to these important safety tips for placing aquariums.

First, don't put an aquarium right in front of an outlet. There is water in that tank and you need to be aware that water and electricity don't mix. Also, make sure there is a drip loop in your cord. That means that the cord goes below the outlet and then back up before it is plugged in. This insures that any water dripping down the cord cannot make it into the outlet.

For support, know that a gallon of water is heavy, and 10 or 20 gallons is really heavy. Use a properly supportive table or aquarium stand to make sure it is supported and won't tip over.

Choose Your Fish Tank

It's time to choose your tank. For a single fish, go with a 2 gallon with a filter. To get your feet wet but avoid going all in or for a small space, check out the 10 gallon tank. If you are committed or going for a saltwater tank, start at 20 gallons and go up from there. These are the best fish tank sizes for any occasion.


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    • justmesuzanne profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      Good information! Voted up and useful! :)

    • CZCZCZ profile image


      8 years ago from Oregon

      Good suggestions and advice for picking the right fish tank. We have a 55 gallon that is just right for us. A larger tank and I think it would end up being too much of a chore to maintain, as it is a 55 requires enough regular work and maintenance to keep a healthy living environment for our fishes.

    • landocheese profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      I agree with your warning on fish in a 10 gallon. 8-9 will work if they are, and will stay, small. The mature size of fish is important.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Shesabutterfly profile image

      Cholee Clay 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin

      It might not be a good idea to put 8-9 fish in a 10 gal tank unless you are sure that those fish are going to stay an inch in size. I own a 10gal tank now and currently have a red finned shark and two other fish.

      I've had a total of 6 fish and an apple snail at one point in my tank and even that was pushing it due to how large my shark and snail got. However if you have all small fish you might be able to make it work.

      And knowing where your fish swim in the tank will create less crowding too. For example if you have top swimmers and bottom swimmers you could probably have more smaller fish in a 10gal as well. Although my fish always seem to swim the whole length and depth of my tank.

      Overall you have some good information:)


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