Beginners Guide to Fish Keeping and Building your first Aquarium (Part 1)

Tank Sizing

The General Rule of Thumb in Aquarium keeping is the Bigger (or more water volume you have) the better. Water volume determines and gives you  “buffering capacity”. to understand this you should think of the ocean, in the ocean if someone accidentally goes to the bathroom does the rest of the inhabitants start dying off immediately ? No they wouldn’t, the waste product is quickly absorbed or dispersed and the concentration is low allowing the oceans natural bacteria and other organisms to convert the waste (more on this later). Now bring that down to aquarium size. if you have say a 5 gallon tank (relatively small sizes) how much waste  can the tank handle before the water chemistry changes rapidly causing toxic effects ? The answer is not very much. There is more to this equation of which we will explain but for now think of this as one factor when choosing your tank size. The smaller the tank, the less waste you can have which means the smaller the fish or less fish in your tank.

So Tank Sizing is important. Another factor in determining your tank size, is what type of fish tank are you planning on creating ? Are you planning on having larger predator tank (a couple big fish) or are you planning on doing a Community tank (with smaller to medium-sized fish).

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Answering this will also determine what tank size you plan on building. Keep in mind the larger the fish the more upkeep and the more maintenance. Predator fish require a different diet then say Tetras  which east mainly fish flakes and occasionally blood worms.

Fish tanks are measured and talked about in Gallons of water. as we all know for metric people like myself, 1 US Gallon of water is equivalent to 3.8 Litres of water.

So as an example a  standard 20 Gallon  tank is the equivalent  of 75.7 Litres (for those of you who drink 1 litre of water in a  day, this gives you an idea  !)

I recommend if you are completely new to Fish keeping that you buy a tank  size at or around 20 to 30 Gallons to start.

The reason being is that if you get into the hobby and find out that you don’t like it, a 20 to 30 Gallon tank is easier to move and sell than a larger one. Plus you can store it in your garage until you do without much room being needed. Fish stands of  this size of tanks are plentiful.

Weight is also a factor when the tank is full which we will discuss on our next couple of questions.

2. Do I have an area set aside in my house for this tank ?


Choosing the right location for your new tank is also important.

Here  are some things to consider:

Q1: Is there a power outlet Available
Q2: Is the tank going to be in direct sunlight ?
Q3: Is this a high traffic area ?
Q4: Does the temperature change often in the area where I’m putting my tank ? Such as Heating or Cooling Air vents ?

As you can see there are some considerations here.

A1: Power is a must for any tank as the equipment you will buy, Lights, Filter system, Air pump, etc. will require electricity to run your aquarium

A2: Direct Sunlight provides more heat and Algae growth (not wanted) in your Tank. Excess Heat in your tank is harder to deal with then Adding Heat (and more expensive). Algae can cause toxic effects in your tank if it’s allowed to build up too much.

A3: High traffic Areas of your house or areas that are Frequently too noisy may not be the best place to put your tank. Consequently putting your tank in a remote area of your home isn’t good either (ads you may forget about it and not get much value out of your tank). Consider placing your tank in a central place that isn’t high traffic but has up and down times. This will give  your fish the attention that some of them like as well as giving them welcome rest times as well. The Kitchen or Dinning room is a good location as you get to enjoy your fish while eating but at the same time remembering that its time to feed the fish !

A4: Temperature affects fish the same way it does with humans however in water temperature changes can be more dramatic due to the fact that water keeps its temperatures longer then in air. Generally you will want to keep you aquarium temperatures at the levels your fish’s native temperatures. There are quite a range of temperatures that different species can tolerate. The general rule of thumb is that 25-26 Celcius seems to be the magically sweet spot for most tropical fish. I choose to put my tank on my main floor of my 2-story townhouse as I found that my upstairs got too hot or cold depending on what time of year it was (bad insulation I suppose). Like I said before Heat is harder to deal with then Cold (as you can add a heater) howe

3. How much weight can the floor  under this area  in my house/condo/apartment hold ?

This might seem like a silly  question  but there is cause for concern here.

Depending on the size tank you select you may not be aware of the weight of water.

For example:

Heavy Weight20 Gallons of Water weighs in at approximately 167 lbs !! This does not include how much the tank weighs  either. If the tank is Glass rather than acrylic it will weigh more.

So filled, a 20 Gallon tank could weigh up to 200 lbs give or take. This doesn’t include decorations or rocks inside the tank, fish or equipment.

Now 200 lbs is fairly reasonable and most Floor joists should support a tank of this size but lets see what happens when you go to a  55 gallon tank


55 Gallon Tanks weigh in 459 pounds (approximately). That’s starting to get a bit heavier and like I said, doesn’t include the tank weight or stand which could easily add another 100 to 200 lbs or more to that.

Bigger is better when it comes to the tank but having the appropriate Area to place the tank and having a Structural Engineer come to look (if you’re not sure) might also be a good idea.


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