Triangle Fish Guy

Custom Aquarium Maintenance and Design

Serving the Raleigh/Durham - Triangle Area since 2010

Choosing the Right Tank

There are exactly one bazillion other posts online dealing with the topic of tank selection (There are. I made a lab tech count.)

That being said it is a very important choice and usually one of the first ones made.

Use this post as a guideline, but don’t take it too close to heart. Just because we don’t USUALLY do something (like having one aquarium visible from three separate rooms) doesn’t mean we WON’T do it. (We did)

Step One- Placement

A properly placed aquarium should not have any direct sunlight shining on or near it. In smaller tanks the excess light can lead to heat and oxygen level problems, in larger tanks the sunlight can turbo charge naturally occurring algae and make it “bloom” out of control. Indirect sunlight can have a similar but less dramatic effect.

Temperature plays a large part in a healthy aquarium too. There are a variety of products available to control temperature in an aquarium from the familiar glass conduction heaters to expensive specially designed refrigeration units called chillers. (The lobster tank at your favorite seafood restaurant has a chiller in it; at least I hope they do.) However it’s best not to solely rely on these gadgets.

Exterior walls, places near air-conditioning vents, windows, dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines, etc… anything that alters the temperature in the room can be problematic. Different species have different temp requirements. However the target temp for an aquarium is usually between 75 and 80 degrees F.

Electricity requirements are sometimes misleading when a more complicated aquarium is set up. For example, a typical saltwater reef tank of about 75 gallons will have up to 400 watts of electricity running through it. Most people don’t have access to wiring diagrams so if said aquarium was plugged into the same breaker as say, a TV or the garage door opener, then it could overload the fuse and throw the breaker. Not exactly a disaster if someone is nearby to reset the fuse. But if not, it could mean hours of uncirculated, rapidly cooling water, that in the best of cases is still contained in the aquarium system and not pooling on the $55 per square foot, hardwood floor. Care should be taken to assure the aquarium power source is uninterrupted. We at The Fish Guy have fried more than our share of lab techs to get a basic idea if an electrical system is stable enough. (Don’t feel bad for the Lab Techs… ok do, they really do have it rough) But any electrical issue that seems out of your league probably is and should be handled by a professional, a professional electrician that is. Don’t call us about it because we’ll just call one and tell them to call you.

It’s also important to note that sometimes the only room in your place of residence or employ that fits all these parameters is the broom closet or the pantry. In which case, the decision must be made. To go ahead and settle for a less than ideal space? Knowing that more time and or money (Hopefully money, call us) will be spent on maintaining said aquarium. Or to abandon the idea of a tank all together. (Seriously call us first though.)

Step Two- Size

The size and shape of a prospective aquarium is often dependent on the target location. Glass and water are heavy. A full 75 gallon tank can weigh up to 750 pounds. Glass is also very breakable, the aquarium should be well clear of any swinging doors, drawers and rolling chairs. Yup, rolling steel bars, level with the tank = bad idea.

Although it sounds like a sales pitch, and it is, the larger an aquarium is the better choice. More gallons means more buffer for waste chemicals and temp fluctuation. Think of standing in a crowded elevator and how significant it would be if someone were to pass gas. Now imagine said gas in a large room. You get the idea.

Step Three- Stocking the Aquarium

Again this decision is dictated in part by the size and placement of a prospective tank. As a general rule saltwater fish and invertebrates should be housed in 55 gallons or higher, but it is by no means impossible to do in a smaller tank. Freshwater fish space can be ESTIMATED by multiplying the total length of all fish desired by two gallons of water. For example if you ultimately want to have five fish in your tank each one about six inches. (5 fish) at 6 inches) X 2 gallons = 60 gallons.

Saltwater is a little more grey area but the same formula can be used with five gallons of water substituted for two gallons.

Another difference between Salt and Freshwater aquariums is the price of the livestock. Freshwater fish tend to be much cheaper than saltwater and are more available to the public. While each livestock theme has its own rewards and challenges, the price hierarchy is roughly as follows from highest to lowest.

$$$$$$$: Reef Tank (live corals/ invertebrates and fish)

$$$$$: FOWLER (fish only with live rock. No live corals but some invertebrates and fish)

$$$$: Saltwater fish-only (not very common, relies heavily on chemical filtration)

$$$: African Cichlid (colorful fish with specific water parameters simulating their unique African rift-lake environment.)

$$$: Freshwater planted (live plants/ freshwater invertebrates and fish)

$$: Freshwater Community (Most common set up to the casual enthusiast. Different groups of peaceful schooling fish.)

$: Goldfish bowl (Goldfish bowl)

Step Four- Lighting and Filtration

Both of these topics are a bit involved to be included in this very basic guide. Each will be addressed in their own in depth Tip and or Trick in the future so keep checking back. In conclusion; warmish, large enough, interior spots with enough space not to get smashed into by anything and enough electrical stability to not start a fire…IF POSSIBLE. If not, call us.

Contact Us

email us

or call us at (919) 633-7436

We're the #1 rated Aquarium Maintenance Company on Angie's List!

Check out our ad in Chapel Hill Magazine and Durham Magazine!

Client Reviews

"Great people to work with. Glad I was able to finally find a solution for my Sunroom!"
"Eric has been nothing but professional! I have been working with him for about a month now and he has been extremely patient with us and I want to make sure that we get exactly what we want. He has sent me several ideas and been working with us every step of the way. We are looking at a March/April install and looking forward to it. I would highly recommend them!"
"They were punctual, friendly, professional, and very qualified. I really can't say enough good things about this service and I highly highly recommend them."
"Eric, the owner of The Fish Guy, called back immediately and even though it was a Saturday and it was snowing, he came over prepared to repair the leak which involved a PVC pipe and joint under the aquarium. He covered the floor completely to protect it, and then cut out the leaking PVC, and replaced it. Working under an aquarium in a confined space is not easy, but he completed the work in a professional and efficient manner. I am very grateful to him for coming out on a Saturday, and not trying to take advantage of the situation."