Tis The Season For Gifting Fishtanks

Posted by Aquatropic Staff on December 14, 2022

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The season of gift giving is upon us, and many of us are thinking about new fish tanks, or new fish for our fish tanks, or finally replacing that old light, etc. For those of you looking for a first fish tank set up, here's a few ideas and pointers in regards to the buying of new equipment, we'll get into the set up for these tanks in the next article.

Get the size right.

It seems simple, but the size of the aquarium you choose is the keystone in your building. The most important aspect of size is that smaller aquariums are harder to keep in every aspect but carrying; fishbowls require the most maintenance of any display as they are totally dependent on water changes to keep the water clean. Furthermore, bowls have so little water in them, that even small amounts of fish waste are not diluted very well and thus have a much greater effect on how clean the water remains. These factors have most people leaning toward 10 gallon aquariums for starters and in our opinion, this is the bare minimum for a first tank. However, if your space will allow it, 20 – 29 gallon tanks are frequently priced nearly the same as the 10 gallons, appear much larger, and the extra water volume can really be useful when new fishkeepers are first starting out (and probably feeding too much, more on this in the next article).

40 to 55 gallon tanks are a little more expensive up front, and look much more impressive. They also require a little more thought about where to put them. A 10 or 20 gallon aquarium can sit on most counter or tabletops without much issue as long as that space is flat and sturdy. This being said, water weighs a little more than eight and a quarter pounds per gallon, so a 55 gallon aquarium has just shy of 460 pounds of water in it. There are many benefits to having a 55 gallon (or bigger) display; you can have many more fish, and the water quality is much more stable. Just be sure to plan in a dedicated stand for an aquarium this large, and do not skimp on this. If you think 460 pounds of water SOUNDS like a lot, wait until you SEE that much water on the floor after a cheap / DIY stand breaks.

The next most important item is your filter. While there are a few options, and all of them have their benefits, for most beginners, we recommend a style of filtration called a “hang on back filter.” These are exactly what they sound like. A small filter than hangs on the back of the aquarium. They are easy to clean, and even easier to replace the filter media itself (the stuff that actually pulls fish waste out of the water). Easy maintenance means you or your gift recipient is more likely to actually do the work. When looking for a filter, the most important aspect is again, size. Here there are two elements of size: one, will it physically fit on the aquarium, and two, how much water can it process per hour? The first question is easy to solve, and any local fish store can help by just hanging the filter on the back of your proposed aquarium. The second question is completely based on how big your aquarium is and what kind of fish you have in it. As a basic rule of thumb, you want your filter to turn over all the water in the aquarium five (or more) times an hour. So if you have a 20 gallon aquarium, the minimum turnover you should have is 100gph (gallons per hour). Unless you have very slow swimming fish, like a Betta, more is better, in fact for things like cichlids that like the clean water and flow, we suggest going with the biggest filter that will physically fit on the aquarium.

Heaters are also a very important part of aquarium keeping. In this instance, adhere closely to the recommendations on the heater itself. The tropical fish that nearly all of you are going to keep survive in a narrow range of temperatures (generally in the mid 70s). Most heaters are designed to work in a specific volume of water, and thus under-sizing it can mean the heater works too hard, and will either not be able to maintain this critical temperature, or will burn out prematurely. Oversizing heaters is less detrimental, though they can also suffer from burn out issues by cycling on and off too quickly.

Lights are next on this list, and there are a myriad of things you can do in regards to illumination. Today's LED lights can be had fairly inexpensively, are very durable, long lasting, and add a beautiful shimmering look to most aquariums. Florescent lights are still very popular because they are cost effective, very efficient and easily replaceable. Go with what works for your budget. Most of you will not be doing plants in these tanks to start with, so light intensity won't be a focus (and this is another article).

All that is left after this is décor. You'll need gravel, and stuff. Most of this will come down to personal taste. If you're looking at aquariums as a gift, maybe a gift card to the Local Fish Store will allow the present recipient to make these choices for themselves. Or give you both the chance to visit this store as a field trip together, there is nothing quite like the LFS in January with all the lights and brilliant little fish to help ward off winter a little bit, especially for those of you in the northern reaches of the continent. While there are a million ways to decorate a display, and many interesting things to put in one, stick to things you find in the LFS to start with. Many interesting items that might look great in a tank, like rocks or wood from the yard, or items you find in a curiosity shop can leach chemicals, pesticides and herbicides or just unfriendly compounds into your tank. This is a battle that a new fish keeper doesn't need to fight. Just play it safe, and then do lots of research when you veer from the path.

Aquariums and the stuff that goes with them make amazing presents. The give a lifetime of reward to whoever receives them. They teach science and biology, and reward research, diligence and hard work. Many studies have shown them to be good for mood and learning. Now head over to your Local Fish Store and tell them that Aquatropic sent you.