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Tank Size and Type

tank size 10g
Small Desktop Aquarium

If you’re just starting out then there is nothing wrong with starting off small and simple.  A lot of people get into the hobby with just a beta fish.  Unfortunately, they are often in bad shape when in the pet store.  Tank sizes less than 10 gallons can actually be more challenging to maintain.  The smallest tank size I would start with is 10 gallons.  You can get one cheaply at any pet store and fit them next to a lamp on any shelf and viola!  You’ve got yourself one nice and inexpensive set up that will provide years of enjoyment!

tank size biocube

Biocubes are great as well and you can get nice stands for them but be prepared to pay a little more.  In the 29-55 gallon tank size range you have a lot of options and will make a great addition to almost any room.  You are making a little bit bigger commitment but it still will be a casual one for most people.  You can move them without too much trouble and some help.  In the 55-90 gallon tank size range you are really beginning to make a big commitment and will require a significant and more or less permanent spot in a room.  You really don’t want to be moving a full 75g aquarium too often.

aquarium size 3
Click on picture to enlarge.
tank size acrylic2
Acrylic Aquarium

Of course as shown in the featured image there are also many custom shapes in many different tank sizes to choose from.  For tank sizes over 90 gallons I would strongly recommend an acrylic aquarium.  The reason for this is that they are long lasting, durable, lightweight and much easier to move when necessary.  They are also very easy to set up custom sump configurations with.  They can also be buffed and repaired with acrylic panels and glue.  I would also generally recommend a sump set up for aquariums over 90 gallons.  When your getting to this level you are talking about a dedicated hobbyist with a big commitment.  If you don’t know your stuff yet then you better learn real fast!

There are literally endless possible combinations of tank sizes and shapes.  Just make sure you plan out the space, the stand, the place for your filtration, and some room between the tank and the wall.  There are plenty of affordable tanks and stands at your local pet store in the 10-50 gallon range that would make great starter tanks and not take up too much space or commitment.  The commitment increases as the tank size increases. Many people who get into the hobby soon find a natural desire for a bigger tank size and to take on more commitment.

tank size talapia

I’ve known many people with numerous large aquariums and some who have even taken their passion all the way up to aquaculture.  There is no limit to where someone can take this and someone starting out now might one day be putting ecologically friendly fish on our plate.


To summarize, if you are a beginner a small tank size is perfect but less than 10 gallons can actually take a little more experience to work.  You can get started really cheaply putting a small tank on a table next to a lamp with a nice little power filter.  Tank sizes a little larger than that will take a little more responsibility but are still fairly easy to maintain and move of needed.  Tank sizes over 55 gallons is a fairly big commitment and you will really need to plan everything out and not act on any impulse.  Beginning with tank sizes 90 gallons and over can get pretty involved and you will likely want to set up a sump along with it and I would recommend an acrylic tank for many good reasons.

Tank Stand Considerations

Tank with Stand
Tank with pre-made Stand

You want to keep in mind that water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon!  So a 10 gallon aquarium will weigh over 90 pounds with the weight of the tank!  So you can not put even a 10 gallon on a flimsy particle board shelf, you need a sturdy and solid desk top at the minimum.  Keep in mind that any stand will have to be sturdy enough to support the tank and the water in the tank for any given tank size.  Many stands that are pre made have a lot of shelving underneath.  These types of stands are fine but you can not put filtration underneath many of them without modification.  Ideally, a stand should have at least 25 inches of clearance underneath it for any filtration or a sump area.  This is especially important for larger tank sizes.  You want a large open space for the sump area.  In medium

Custom Wood Stand
Custom Wood Stand

tank sizes this area could be used for canister filters and other filtration or sometimes just storage.  Have what sort of filtration you want to use in mind when selecting a stand.  You can buy one pre-made or you can make one yourself for any tank size if you are handy.  Of course, there are many skilled craftsmen who would be more than happy to custom make a stand to your specifications.

Cinder Block Stand!
Cinder Block Stand!

You can make a stand out of wood or cinder block for any tank size.  Accurately measured and solidly connected wood 2×4’s, 4×4’s, and panels can make a nice stand.  I’ve even just built a frame, spray painted the frame black, and used black cloth to make a nice skirt all the way around it.  It made an inexpensive, nice looking, easy access and sturdy aquarium stand.

You can set up a nice small desktop tank for as little as maybe $100-$200 at the most.  In the next tank size range you are probably looking at $300-$1000 for a modest freshwater setup.  Any saltwater tank and you can at least double that.  For tank sizes in the 55-90 gallon range you are looking at $1000-$3000 for freshwater and double that for salt.  This is without anything too fancy.  For tank sizes over 90 gallons I would go with acrylic and $3000 would be the starting price with large showcase saltwater tanks easily running in the ten’s of thousands of dollars.

Of course, once you have thought of a tank size it is then time to think about the type of aquarium and fish you will have and what filtration system to use for the aquarium.

In case anyone is wondering at this point I make Aquaripure Nitrate Filters that are ideal for tank sizes 5-500+ gallons and can design a system for any size aquarium or waste reduction system.  We’ll talk more about nitrate control later.

Move onto Fish Compatibility and Selection