Aquariums and Fish Bowls Buying Guide

When purchasing your first pet fish , you have to ensure that they get all the supplies  they need to live long, healthy lives.  First and foremost, this includes a proper aquarium that is the right size and shape for the amount and breed of fish you now own.  While fewer, smaller fish could thrive in an equally small fish bowl , larger fish require more room to swim about.  Packing too many fish into a small space can lead to tank pollution, disease and strange fish behaviour, so it's important to do your research before making any big fish tank  purchases.

Choosing the Right Aquarium For You

  • Browse through books  or surf the internet to see what kind of fish you want and what sort of special care they may need.  Salt-water fish and freshwater fish have different requirements, just as different species within those categories do. 
    • Discus and angelfish, for example, benefit from taller, more slender tanks because they are large, tall fish themselves and enjoy swimming both horizontally and vertically.
    • Learn more about salt-water aquarium basics by clicking here for our guide.
    • Learn more about freshwater aquarium basics by clicking here for our guide.
  • Determine where you will place your aquarium in your home.  You need to assess the best areas for placement--no overexposure to light or heat, for example--and work from there.  If you have limited space, that ultimately means a smaller tank and fewer fish.
  • Determine your budget.  Factor in the cost of all the other products you will need to purchase to care for your fish--like food and plants--to help you decide which tank to buy.
  • A typical tank or bowl should include a filtration system, a heater or chiller depending on the type of fish you have and an artificial lighting  system.  A tank may also include a hood which, although it isn't entirely necessary, helps to prevent evaporation and escape by the fish.
  • You can choose either an acrylic  or glass aquarium  in different shapes, from rectangular, spherical to hexagonal.   Once again, this will be determined by the size, amount and species of fish present.
    • If you're only getting a couple of small fish, a 2 to 5 gallon (approx 8 to 19 litres) will suffice.  If you want to house a large community of fish, you're going to need at least 20 gallons.
    • A rule of thumb is 1 inch (2.54 centimetres) of mature fish for every gallon of water for small fish and 1 inch of fish per 3 gallons of water for larger, messier fish.
  • Although you can get away with a small glass bowl containing less than a litre of water, larger aquariums are often better choices because the provide more stable environments.
    • A larger surface area promotes greater oxygenation.

Aquarium Care

For large aquariums:  

  • Large aquariums  should be placed next to supporting walls on an appropriate aquarium cabinet.  Placing them on other furniture pieces--like bookcases or dressers--will damage and possibly break them. 
  • Make sure you place large aquariums on a level surface to avoid cracking.

For all aquariums: 

  • Keep your aquarium away from windows, fireplaces, radiators or anything else  that could cause an overexposure to heat or sunlight.  This could lead to algae accumulation and death for your tank inhabitants.
  • Make sure the electrical outlet you use to power your filter or pump is grounded to avoid dangerous electrical malfunctions. 
    • Do not place the tank near any other electrical equipment for the same reason.
  • Place your aquarium in a place where it can be thoroughly enjoyed!
  • Upon first purchasing your aquarium, make sure you wipe it down with a clean cloth or wet filter wool.  Rinse it with lukewarm water before filling, and avoid using glass cleaners, detergents or any other substance that may prove toxic to your fish.
  • Dedicate a bucket  just for your fish for when you replace tank water.
  • Cycle your tank.  This means you allow for a bacteria bed to establish in your biological filter  that will help to remove fish waste.  In order to properly cycle your tank, maintain it for 4 to 8 weeks by adding no no new fish, doing extra water changes and avoiding overfeeding.

Aquarium Filtration

Filtration systems keep your tank clean and your fish free of bacteria, fungus and disease.  For more information on the types of filters and pumps that are best suited for certain tanks, see our aquarium filters and pumps buying guide

Equipment Checklist

Some important equipment you may need to go along with your new aquarium includes:
Gravel cleaner

Related Products

Pet Care Books 

Fish Food 

Aquarium Plants 

Aquarium Decorations