Aquarium on a Budget

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Category: First Aquarium
Published Date Written by karenlynndaugherty

If you’d like to get into the hobby, but are concerned about the cost, fear not!  I have some suggestions that might help you get started with minimal out-of-pocket expense.

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First, go to the library and borrow some books on starting an aquarium (I particularly like those that are produced by Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, but there are many other quality books out there).  I know this part isn’t as exciting as getting the tank itself, but being educated will prevent you from making some potentially costly beginner’s mistakes.

Plan and Budget

Once you have an idea as to what an aquarium involves, determine the amount of space you have to dedicate to a tank and what your budget is.  For a beginner’s tank with smaller community fish, something between ten and thirty gallons is (in my opinion) the most manageable and economical choice.  They’re big enough to give you a bit of flexibility, but small enough that maintenance quick and easy.  While tiny desktop tanks are very popular right now, they greatly limit what kind and how many fish you can have and are actually harder to maintain than a larger tank because it’s hard stabilize the temperature and chemistry of such a small volume of water.

Of course, if your true love is larger fish, a big tank is an absolute must.  For instance, the minimum tank size I would recommend for even a single Oscar (one of the most popular aquarium fish) is fifty-five gallons, with seventy-five being even better.  There’s no point in getting a ten (or even thirty)-gallon tank for such a large, fast-growing fish.  Even a cute little baby will quickly out-grow the tank and you will have to either give up your fish or buy a bigger tank within a year’s time.  If you can only afford (or have space for) a smaller tank, plan on keeping smaller fish.  And no, a fish will not “just grow to the size of its tank.”  That’s complete nonsense.  Also, these recommendations are only for freshwater, as saltwater setups are more costly to set up and maintain.

Finding a Tank

Now that you know what you want, it’s time to find a good deal.  Check your area’s Craigslist every day for a couple of weeks and see what comes up (a link is posted at the bottom of this article).  Look under the “Community” heading in the top-right corner of the page and click on “pets” to browse the listings.  I’ve often seen aquariums (sometimes complete set-ups with fish included) listed at bargain prices.  Just be sure that the silicone seals are in good shape (and you might want to fill it and leave it in a bathtub for a day to check for leaks before setting it up).  I had some customers that got one in the “For Sale” section of Craigslist by clicking on the “free” link, so you never know.  You can check the classifieds on-line and in the paper as well.

Put the word out among friends and family that you’re looking as well.  You never know what they might have collecting dust in their basement! 

If you can’t find what you want that way (or if you’d be more comfortable with a new tank) shop around.  An aquarium is an investment, so don’t feel that you have to buy one the first place you find one.  I’ve noticed that many independent shops offer better deals and selection than big box stores, so don’t forget to check there as well.  You may want to look outside of your immediate area.  I know that there are some good shops in the Akron area, for instance, so it pays to take your time and shop around.

And Finally…

Unlike most pets, the majority of the cost associated with a fish tank is in its initial set-up, as the maintenance of a moderately sized freshwater aquarium is generally quite inexpensive.  Most require only food, dechlorinator, filter media (replaced on a monthly basis), and the electricity that runs the lighting, filter, and heater.  No shots, no veterinary bills, no flea treatments… fish are the perfect recession pet!

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