How to pick a home (tank) for your fish?

If you are new to fishkeeping or are an experienced fishkeeper looking for a new aquarium, the very first decision you have to make is a suitable tank for your needs. The origin of the word ’aquarium’ comes from ’aquarius’ and ’vivarium’, the latter describing a tank. In fact, the first attempt of defining a fish tank is ’marine vivarium’. The tank could also be the largest expense of your entire aquarium setup. It is also probably the most important component as it defines the habitat and boundary in which your aquatic creatures live. This tank will probably be the only world they experience for most of their lives. Hence, it is important that a suitable tank is used in order for the owner and the tank’s inhabitants to have a successful and enjoyable experience.

So how do we actually decide what tank is suitable? What do we have to look at and consider in order to make the best decision? Ultimately, it depends on your ultimate objectives of keeping an aquarium. There are different types of tanks for different needs. However, even if you are not sure about your objectives, it is also good to consider something that will give you flexibility in the future.

Dimensions of tank (length, width, height, thickness, capacity)

The first factor to consider are the dimensions of the tank. Before setting up an aquarium, one constraint is your space availability. It is probably the single most important determinant of what kind of aquarium you can set up and keep. It is also reasonable to keep some space buffer around the tank for ease of maintenance and also to accommodate any possible external equipment such as a filter or light. Most tanks come in standard 1 feet, 2 feet, 3 feet, 4 feet dimensions.

The second factor that will influence the desired dimensions of your tank is the type of fishes and plants and their quantities. This is because the dimensions determine the capacity of your tank and what it can contain inside. For example, you cannot keep too many fishes in a small tank and it also depends on the type of the fish. This is because fishes do need sufficient space to live or they will be stressed. For example, a goldfish might need 10 gallons of water space but that same volume can fit 10 tetras. Also if there are different species of livestock, then it would make sense to give hiding space for smaller sized species like shrimps to hide from larger fishes.

The third factor is maintenance. A smaller tank might require more regular maintenance activity as it is more easily contaminated with waste while a larger tank remains diluted over a longer period of time. For this reason, the larger the tank, the lower the maintenance needed.

Finally, the fourth factor to consider is aesthetics. A tower tank might be more suitable for your home decor as it accentuates the height of your space but it might require thicker tank walls to withstand the higher water pressure that comes with great heights. Other shapes include cylindrical, spherical or bowl shaped which is very popular for outdoor aquariums.

Open or closed tank

This factor will highly depend upon the type of fish that the aquarist and owner wishes to keep, certain species of fish are avid jumpers that definitely needs covered tanks to order to live comfortably and securely, and display their natural characteristics, behaviour, personality and colours,while other species may not need the tank cover, to showcase their true nature, and live happily within an aquarium, due to their natural characteristics.Examples of fish species that need closed tanks would be coming from a vast array of genes such as predatory fish, community fish and also certain livebearers. Species like swordtails from the livebearer family for example, and community fish from the hatchet family, rainbowfish family, bettas and certain tetras will all jump out when they face stress, or find water conditions less than ideal in their living environment. Predatory fish like arowanas, archer fishes, african butterfly fishes for example also can jump out of tanks without covers due to various circumstances.

The second thing to take note of when thinking whether to get an open tank or closed tank is the fact of maintenance, which refers to how easy it is to clean the tank and its equipment, as well as siphoning of waste and leftover food bits from the tank substrate, and maintaining of plants within the tank, if there is any. Tanks with covers will be harder and more hasty to clean and maintain on a regular basis due to the design of the tank with its built in cover, and the cover will need to be completely removed in order for the filter, siphoning, cleaning of tank glass and maintenance of plants be done, while open top tanks can easily be cleaned hassle free and conveniently. The water will also need to be constantly topped up for open topped tanks as they will evaporate constantly due to the lack of a cover, which can cause the need also to use demineralized water that is more expensive and costly to prepare, it can also cause dissolved substances to remain in the tank, that causes water hardness to increase over time after constant top up of tap water into the tank, that is unfavourable for the fish.

The third thing to note is aesthetic, convenience and choice of equipment. Closed top tanks will lose out in this factors as the aquascape cannot be viewed from the top, certain types of aquarium lights like mounted and suspended, as well as clip on type LED lamps or HQI lamps all can only be used on open top aquariums, so can certain type of filters, like hang on back ones, they can only be fitted and used on open top aquariums, making closed aquariums lose out.

The final factor to consider is the type of decorative materials used for aquascaping in a tank, certain driftwood or stone can protrude out from an open-top tank, which gives the tank a more natural look, and plants can also grow out of the water and develop their submerged form, which makes them more pretty than in a closed top tank, with proper maintenance.

It all ends up depending on the users preference whether they want a open or closed tank, it comes down to their personal preference.

Tank set versus separate light and filter

This mainly depends on the users budget, the size of tank that the users wanna own, and also the standard of equipment that users are looking at, and finally the user’s preferred kind of fish that they wish to keep, as well as the fish’s care specifications that is needed, like the diet, space requirement, ph level, preferred water flow, temperature, water hardness and also water cleanliness. Certain tank kits may not be able to fit users preferences and requirements, and may not provide the optimal standards that users are looking for, tank kits often sacrifice quality in exchange for cheapness, and users may end up spending more to upgrade this poor quality components included in the tank kit, for longer lasting ones, that better fit their specifications and suit their needs. Which in summary costs hobbyists to spend more than what is needed in order to sustain their fish’s welfare, and bleed out unnecessary money just to practise their hobby.

The second factor about all inclusive tank kits is that the tanks included with these kits are usually small in size, and cannot house much fishes or decor, which might disappoint certain hobbyists looking to get a full aquarium experience, as they have limited choices of fish to select from, and also they cannot do much aquascaping with the limited room that they work with, which might make their aquarium seem plain and boring in sight, and less beautiful as compared to large sized aquariums.

Glass material (acrylic vs glass vs crystal glass)

The acrylic tank is the clear winner in terms of overall advantages as compared to other tank choices of glass or crystal glass, but they all have their advantages and disadvantages. The first advantage that acrylic tanks have is weight, it is lighter as compared to the other two tank choices and it is easy to lift up and carry around as compared to the other two tank choices. The second factor that acrylic tanks have is its easy ability to be melded and formed into tanks of various shapes, that the other two type of materials cannot do, making acrylic tanks seem more interesting and engaging to users, compared to glass or crystal glass made tanks that are usually only present in square shaped format, within the aquarium industry. The final advantage that acrylic tanks have is its ability to withstand impact from various circumstances such as through accidental dropping or banging for example, it will not break or shatter as easily compared to glass or crystal glass tanks.

There are also obvious disadvantages that hobbyists have to be aware of when they come to choose to use acrylic tanks, such as its expensive cost, easy risk to turn yellow over time, and its risk to be scratched easily during maintenance time as compared to the other tank choices.

Curved tank or straight tank

These tanks all have their differences, with both having its advantages and disadvantages. It all depends on hobbyists preferences and needs. Curved tanks have a more unique look to them and create a more interesting design for hobbyists and provide a totally different viewing perspective for users. But they need larger space to place, and are rarer to find within the market, they also may be harder to photograph and film, as compared to straight tanks. Curved tanks, finally, may also be more expensive to purchase than straight aquariums.


The traditional bracing can help an aquarium to hold larger volumes of water than rimless aquariums, meaning hobbyists can keep more fish in their tanks. However braced aquariums can create aesthetical problems for owners, although they can help to hide the waterline, but their design means that they do not look as beautiful as rimless aquariums that do not have the little plastic edge built at the top, and the glass used in rimless aquariums are of a higher quality, and make the aquarium less blurry and without the greenish hue present in braced aquariums, they are also less accessible from the top as compared to rimless aquariums. All these factors will come into play when deciding the choice of aquarium to purchase. Finally pricing too can make a difference, as braced aquariums use thicker glass, so the cost is more expensive as compared to rimless aquariums.


How we define a good tank depends on our requirements but most importantly, it should depend on the fishes and plants that will be inhabitants of the tank.