Fish tanks are beautiful and often calming additions to many homes. However, there are many factors prospective armchair marine biologists should consider when looking into purchasing and installing a tank.
While many commercially made tanks are available at pet stores or department stores like Walmart, serious buyers should consider having a tank custom made to fit their living space, and then have it professionally installed.
“Our job is to build you a tank that works best for a customer’s area and keep it running, problem-free, to minimize any animal loss,” said Tony Taymourian, CEO and managing director of Beautiful Scales LLC and for the Newhall Aquarium. “I’ve seen everything from people who wanted goldfish bowls maintained to giant aquariums and ponds. Having an aquarium can be quite expensive to buy and maintain, and if you try to get around that by using cheap products, then you won’t have good results. For example, the tank won’t stay clean.”
Taymourian said that while prefabricated tanks will do the job, it is advisable to look into custom tanks since they will be specially made to fit in the desired space and will look better. Often he has found that chain stores do not carry the latest filtration technology or are not suitable for saltwater, and that people who buy the cheap tanks eventually progress to buying a high-quality system anyway.
Aquarium owners can choose between owning a saltwater tank and a freshwater tank. It is more expensive to own a saltwater tank than a freshwater tank because saltwater tanks require more specialized equipment like protein skimmers and live rock to maintain healthy water conditions and the water must be specially purchased. Freshwater tanks are easy to maintain and can usually be cleaned by any aquarium owner, while saltwater aquariums usually require specialized cleaning to prevent harm to the fish.
Some fish enthusiasts, like Jason Martinelli, still think the benefits outweigh the costs.
“I chose a saltwater tank because the fish are more colorful, and everything is more beautiful in the ocean than in freshwater,” Martinelli said. “For a while, I had fish-only tanks with really aggressive fish, and that got boring really quickly because I would always end up with one fish that was stronger than all the others. You can have a lot of variety with saltwater tanks, so I started doing coral tanks.”
Victoria Divito, a merchandise operations leader at Petco, said that many people come into the store looking to buy a small tank but don’t realize that small tanks can only accommodate a few fish.
“The rule is an inch per gallon per fish, so if you have a 10-gallon tank you can have 10 fish that can grow to 1 inch or two fish that grow to be 5 inches,” Divito said. “Adding too many fish will create excess waste and your fish will begin to die because the water levels will be unbalanced.”
She said that many people looking to buy an aquarium also do not realize that they cannot have certain fish together in a tank.
“It’s like high school cliques. You’ve got your nerds and your jocks and some groups just don’t mix together,” Divito said. “The more aggressive breeds of fish will attack the other one, and bigger fish will push around the smaller fish.”
One tip that Divito would like prospective buyers to know is that they cannot add in fish immediately after installing the tank and treating the water. New aquarium owners should let the water sit and cycle for at least 24 hours to let the pH and bacteria levels stabilize. She recommends changing 10 percent of the water once a week and the filter once a month, but never on the same day as that will dramatically alter the water levels.
“Use hard water instead of filtered because Valencia runs on hard water in general so the fish are already used to that,” she said. “Filtered water is soft and you can’t go from hard water to soft water but the fish can go from soft to hard.”
Aquariums may be expensive and involved, but for many people the final result is worth it.
“I’ve got to have a hobby and, if I’m going to spend my money, I’d rather have something that would look good and last forever,” Martinelli said. “It’s a good, peaceful stress reliever and I also get to watch everything grow.”