When setting up a freshwater aquarium, the new hobbyist often wonders what size of tank to purchase. There are many cute, small tanks on the market today, and the new aquarium owner might think that having a small tank is the best way to start. This is not usually true. There are many factors that determine what size tank a person should buy, but smaller is not better!
First, keep in mind that the larger the tank is, the easier it is to care for. This seems like it would not be true, but it is. There are several reasons for this fact. First, a large tank has more water volume to disperse waste. Also, the greater surface area of the water, the more waste is able to breakdown, creating a more stable tank environment. Also, a larger tank is less subject to changes in temperature and water quality than a smaller tank. All of these factors make a larger tank less work to care for.
Another factor that determines which size of fish tank to buy is the type and amount of fish you wish to own. A good rule of thumb is to have one inch of fish per gallon of tank water. Before purchasing your tank, think through the fish you want to put in it. If they are schooling fish, make sure you have a tank that is large enough to house a school of that type of fish. Also, keep in mind that the fish you see in the pet store are probably not full grown. Do a little research to see what size the fish will be when they are full grown. Make sure you get a large enough tank to accommodate the type of fish you want to own.
Of course, another factor to consider is cost. A larger tank is more expensive, and the accessories you will need, such as a filter, light hood, and heater, are more expensive for a larger tanks as well. Also, the location you are going to place your tank is important to consider. Make sure the location is able to support the weight of your tank. Remember that a gallon of water weights eight pounds, so figure out what your filled tank will weigh. Remember to consider the weight of the rocks and decorations as well. Be sure your floor and aquarium stand can hold the weight.
One other thing to consider when purchasing a tank is not just the size in terms of water capacity, but also the shape. Tall, skinny tanks cannot hold as many fish as long tanks of the same water capacity, because they have less surface area at the top of the tank. It is at the surface of the water where the majority of waste breaks down and also where the oxygen comes from. So a tall 55-gallon tank cannot hold as many fish as a short 55-gallon tank because of the smaller surface area.
A good rule of thumb for the beginning aquarium owner is to purchase as large a tank as they can afford both economically and spatially. Do not start off too small—you will regret it very quickly!