Good Reader, Are you thinking of getting an aquarium but don’t know where to start?
Do you want to know everything about aquariums?
How much time will you have to invest?
How much money will it cost you?
How to start an aquarium?
Well here you have everything about aquariums, in this guide on the aquarium for beginners I am going to present you in a simple way everything you need to have your own tank.
The goal is that when you finish reading the post you know in broad strokes everything that having and maintaining an aquarium implies. But without going into too many technicalities, just the essentials.
First of all, aquarium hobby is one of the most popular hobby in the world, the total value of the industry is estimated at US$15 billion per year.
In the more than 300 Public Aquariums around the world, the Aquariusphilia moves more than 450 million visits every year as well.
The therapeutic effects of watching fish swimming are already known to many people. In fact, the rhythmic movements of aquatic organisms and the sound of water produce a relaxation effect that reduces stress.
In addition, aquatic pets in fish tanks and aquariums require very little space and time compared, for example, with our beloved dogs or cats.
In this aquarium guide for beginners we will help you understand that an aquarium tries to recreate a natural ecosystem. As a consequence, the living beings that inhabit it need commitment and care to keep their habitat in balance.
The first thing we are going to explain in this aquarium guide for beginners is what aquarium hobby is. Then all the basic concepts necessary to start in the world of aquariums.
What is Aquarius?
Aquarium hobby is the breeding of fish and other aquatic organisms in controlled aquariums that recreate an artificial aquatic ecosystem through auxiliary technical systems. This hobby allows you to bring a small part of aquatic nature into your home, but it goes far beyond what is merely aesthetic or decorative.
You can talk about aquarium hobby as educational, creative, entertaining… there are even studies that claim that observing an aquarium reduces stress.
These therapeutic effects are already known to many people, but it also helps Alzheimer’s patients.
In short, the aquarium world is to control aspects such as water, light, filtering… to maintain optimal conditions for your aquatic guests.
In this Aquarium Beginners Guide I will explain the basics, everything about fish tanks that you need to know to get started in this exotic world.
Aquariums for beginners: All about fish tanks
The first thing I must tell you and that you must know is that an aquarium, its fish, its plants are living beings that need your commitment, a maintenance agreement. Like with a dog or a garden, but easier, even.
But keep in mind one thing, you can only be a beginner, novice, inexperienced, dummie, apprentice, neophyte … for a limited time.
And that period is the most beautiful, in which any new experience and/or knowledge is most enjoyed.
Aquarium hobby will always allow you to continue learning and expanding knowledge, but it will be difficult for you to get excited like when you are a novice.
So enjoy, Beginner!
The definition of Aquarius is simple:
Water tank where live aquatic animals or vegetables are kept.
But healthy or living organisms will not last for a short time, if we do not add the necessary technical components to recreate a natural aquatic environment -light, filter, heater, etc-, but we will see this later.
First we are going to see the aquarium itself, the tank, the urn, and start at the beginning. The first decision you have to make is the place where you are going to place your fish tank, but first write down these tips:
Where to put the aquarium?
- 1. Do not place it near a window, because it will affect the temperature, favor the proliferation of algae and disrupt the hours of light.
- two. Avoid the proximity of air conditioning and heating, since sudden changes in temperature can harm the fish in the aquarium for beginners.
- 3. Must be accessible for maintenanceand have a plug for electrical devices nearby.
You have to decide the place before you install it, because the space will determine the size of the tank, which will be the next decision you will have to make.
The next decision is the size of the deposit. You have beginner tanks in all shapes and sizes, from 10l nano aquariums, like the one you see here, to multi-thousand liter bespoke tanks.
If you want to see a sample of what aquariums are on the market, you can click on the button under the image.
What you have to take into account is the size of your tank will affect the characteristics of the rest of the necessary equipment.
For example, a 200L tank requires a larger filter than a 60L one.
Although it may seem contradictory to you, a large beginner aquarium is easier to maintain than a small one.
The more surface area a tank has, the smoother the mismatches, and the easier it is to maintain.
A small urn is cheaper and easier to locate, but it is a mistake to think that it is easier.
The aquarium for beginners should not be below 80 liters.
The bigger an aquarium is, the more margin for error you have, and you can expand it step by step.
- I advise you that the height of the aquarium isover 60cm. You will facilitate maintenance and lighting.
- Wide I advise you to bebetween 35-50 cm.
- The physical space and your budget will condition the length.
How to calculate the capacity of an Aquarium?
Use this simple formula to calculate the volume of a tank:
Height x Width x Length (cm) / 1,000 = X Liters
For example, if we have a tank that is 60 cm high x 40 cm wide x 50 cm long:
Regarding the price of the urn, it is evident that it depends on its size. For a quick reference, in this link you have a 135 liter tank for less than €150 on Amazon aquariums.
However, the most common among those who start is to buy a complete aquarium kit, with all the necessary equipment to start in the fastest and easiest way. Below you can see some beginner aquarium kits that you can buy in the Amazon online store.
beginners aquarium kit
These simple aquariums are a perfect option to enter the aquarium hobby for beginners without having to make a large investment.
Below you have a small sample of the complete fish tank kits that you can buy in the market.
Types of Aquariums for beginners
cold water fish tank
Experts recommend this type of aquarium for beginners because it is the easiest to maintain. You have many choices of fish that can inhabit this type of beginner tank.
They require a stable temperature around 18-20 o C, a filtering system and water oxygenation.
Perhaps the most classic type of aquarium, the Tropical Aquarium maintains a warm water temperature, between 24-28 o C.
You have many species to choose from, just like aquarium plants, but be careful not to overcrowd your aquarium, it’s a typical newbie mistake.
marine fish tank
The Marine Aquarium is more difficult to maintain, which is why it requires a little more attention and more technical means than the freshwater aquarium.
Marine fish are also more sensitive to any change in their environment.
Also called «Dutch Aquarium», its main protagonist is the cultivation of aquatic plants, even dispensing with the presence of fish.
If you want to know more about the planted aquarium, you can see our guide on the aquarium with natural plants. You can also stop by our special dedicated to aquarium plants for beginners. There we will solve all the doubts related to the planted aquarium.
The type of ecosystem you want to recreate in your fish tank you have to decide based on the difficulty of maintenance, and the type of species you want in your aquatic micro-world.
The water in the fish tank
Water is a complex element, and you have to learn a couple of basic things for the success of your aquarium:
- 1. It is common to think that the water from the supply network is suitable for fish, but it is NOT. Care must be taken since this water contains substances such as Chlorine or chloramine, which are very toxic to fish, plants and beneficial bacteria. For this you have tolet the tap sit for several days or use a product that ends up with chlorine.You also have to control the basic parameters, which you will now see, before using that water in the fish tank for beginners.
- 2. You have to keep in mind that different species of fish require different water qualities. For example, freshwater fish ask for soft and acidic water, while marine fish need a salt supplement.
Regarding the basic parameters, you must know them to control them, and thus maintain the necessary conditions for your aquatic friends.
Basic water parameters
It is measured on a scale from 0 to 14:
- Acidic: From 0 to 6 we have acidic water, being more acidic the closer it gets to zero.
- Neutral: 7 on the pH scale indicates neutral water.
- Alkaline: Above 7 the water is alkaline, being more alkaline the higher you go on the scale.
Appropriate pH values depend on the species inhabiting the aquarium for beginners.
The scale that covers from 0 to 20, is measured in or dH, and in general we can find:
- Soft: Below 8o dH.
- Semi-soft-semi-hard: Between 8-12 o dH.
- Hard: Above 12o dH.
- If the value drops below 4 or dKH, the pH of the starter tank becomes more unstable.
- Above 4o dKH the pH remains stable.
Other parameters of the water of a fish tank
These are derivatives of the biological process of fish and plants, and the decomposition of organic matter.
I’m talking about Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates.
To keep these harmful elements under control, we need the filtering system that I explain in the next point.
Obviously the chemistry of water is much more complex, but for now you don’t need to know more. Do not feel overwhelmed, because we all learn little by little.
For the analysis and control of the different water parameters there are different devices, more or less sophisticated. From test strips to precise and expensive digital meters. But the most practical solution for newbies is usually to get a multi-test for €30-50.
By clicking on the button under the image you can see an example of the different aquarium water analysis kits that you can buy on Amazon.
In a beginner aquarium, as in nature, the biological cycle of living things produces different wastes.
In the natural environment, these wastes are easily diluted, but in a tank they accumulate until they reach toxic levels.
For this reason, it is necessary to have a system that filters the water and retains solid waste particles. Also, aquarium filters should harbor a colony of beneficial bacteria that remove toxic waste.
A filtration system that purifies the aquarium water 3-4 times an hour, and removes biological debris before it becomes dangerous, is a must.
This point is vital, and I recommend that your filtering system «is left over» and has a capacity of liters / hour higher than what your tank needs.
In other words, if you have a 100-litre tank, then you need a system that filters between 300-400 liters/hour as a minimum.
The RAE dictionary has the following definition for the term Filter:
Porous material, such as felt, paper, sponge, coal, stone, etc., or a mass of sand or small stones, through which a liquid is passed to clarify it from the materials it carries in suspension.
In the market you will find several types of filters that we will see later, and different filter materials.
But first you must know the three kinds of filtering that the water of an aquarium for beginners needs:
They require regular cleaning to reduce nitrate buildup and promote aquarium stability.
These types of filters are not generic and are used according to the specific needs of the water.
For example, when we want to get rid of drug residues in the water, we put activated carbon. Resins and peats are also used in the aquarium for beginners.
Bacteria spread over the entire surface of the filter, so it is best to use highly porous materials that offer more surface area.
The important thing is to know that these bacteria transform ammonia into nitrites, then nitrites into nitrates, and the latter disappear with regular water changes.
Let us now see what the cycling phase is, essential before introducing fish.
Aquarium Cycling is a tough test for any beginner in the aquarium hobby. A difficult exercise in patience for these days when life goes by so fast.
Many are surprised when they find out thatOnce the tank is assembled and working, we must let it mature.
It is known as Aquarium Cycling, and it is the time it takes for the bacteria to colonize the urn and be able to take care of the biological waste.
Without cycling, fish would die in the beginner aquarium from elevated ammonia and nitrite levels.
This maturation period usually requires 30 to 60 days. Yes, you read correctly, up to 60 days.
An aquarium is cycled when it has zero ammonia and nitrite levels, and the nitrate level begins to rise.
It is recommended to keep thenitrate level between 5-15 mg/l. To control it, carry out regular water changes and prevent it from exceeding 30 mg/l.
For bacteria to colonize the aquarium they need food, that is, ammonia, and there are three ways to provide it:
- 1. Fish food: Adding a few flakes each day, which when decomposed becomes food for bacteria.
- 2. Adding Ammonia: Ammonia can be added to the aquarium chemically, but it requires a thorough control of the aquarium water parameters for beginners.
- 3. Resistant fish: Add fish capable of withstanding high levels of ammonia. Many of us consider him little friend of animals.
There are also accelerator products for this process, which neutralize certain substances and favor the growth of the beneficial bacterial colony. In this link you can see an example of this type of products.
As a beginner that you are, take advantage of this time to delve deeper into this art of aquarium hobby, and broaden your knowledge.
Depending on the situation of the filtration system we can distinguish the following types:
The internal aquarium filter, also called «submersible», is the filtering system that is placed inside the tank, taking up valuable space. It is typical of the small beginner aquarium.
The water enters through the base, and after passing through the filter material, it is returned to the tank through the upper part.
They generally only use mechanical filtration, but we can add biological material to increase their performance.
If you press the button under the image you can see the different models and prices available for this type of filter on Amazon.
Cascade or backpack
This system hangs from the outside of the tank, and usually offers more space for filter material than the internal filter.
The cascade filter has greater efficiency and avoids the loss of space inside the aquarium, but aesthetically it is still visible.
It is normally used in the medium beginner aquarium, and its maintenance is usually much easier than the internal filter.
Click on the button below the image to see the different models and prices of waterfall filters on Amazon.
It is the best and most efficient, it is totally external, and it has a larger container for the filter material.
Click the button below the image to see the offer of external filters on Amazon
The water is introduced through a tube, which passes through the bottom-up filters and a pump returns it to the urn.
Although it is more expensive, the canister filter does not take up space in the aquarium for beginners, it is very simple to clean and we can hide it in the cabinet.
Filter maintenance and cleaning
How often to clean your own tank will tell you, but as a guide, once a week or 15 days.
But this cleaningIt can NOT be with tap water, since it would kill the biological filter.
If you use tap water as is, the chlorine would kill the entire colony of friendly nitrifying bacteria.
To clean the filtering materials you should ALWAYS use the water from the aquarium itself.
Normally, the one that is withdrawn is used in the partial changes that are part of the periodic maintenance.
- You can clean the mechanical filter every time you do the partial water change, eliminating all possible residues.
- You have to clean the biological filter when it is saturated, and do it gently to keep most of the bacteria.
- Chemical filters must be changed every so often indicated by the manufacturer.
Oxygenation of the fish tank
In nature, the extensive surface of the water and its movement provides the necessary oxygen for aquatic beings.
But in an aquarium the surface of the water is very limited and it is necessary to promote oxygenation.
The easiest way to increase oxygen levels is to agitate the surface, but without stressing the fish. To do this, an air pump called an aerator connected to one or more diffusers is used.
Many people mistakenly believe that it is the bubbles in the aerator that supply the oxygen. But in reality it is the movement on the surface generated by the bubbles that supplies the oxygen to the water.
By clicking the button below the image you can see beginner aquarium air pumps on Amazon.
In recent times, the aerator pump is being replaced by modern filters, as they are much more efficient.
Very rapid gill movements, and fish gasping at the surface indicate a possible lack of oxygen in the tank.
The aeration function, in addition to providing oxygen to the aquarium for beginners, ensures thermal stability, since it shakes the hot and cold layers.
Oxygen and Temperature in the tank
There is a close relationship between the temperature of the water and its oxygen concentration. The lower the temperature, the more oxygen.
|Temperature||Available Oxygen||Minimum Acceptable Oxygen|
|10 o C||11.3 mg/l [od]||08.8 mg/l [oma]|
|20 o C||9.2 mg/l [od]||7.8 mg/l [oma]|
|25oC _ _||8.2 mg/l [od]||7.5 mg/l [oma]|
|30oC _ _||7.5 mg/l [od]||6.9 mg/l [oma]|
Temperature – C. / Oxygen concentration – mg/l
o.d. / oma
Although most fish could accept a minimum oxygen concentration of 4-5 mg/l,it is recommended that in beginner aquariums it should never be lower than 7-8 mg/l.
Another determining factor in the tank is temperature, and in this aquarium manual for beginners we cannot skip it.
Whether it is a hot or cold water fish tank, the aquatic environment must have a thermal stability that you must recreate. It is important for the health of the fish to avoid sudden changes in temperature.
The question is not to keep it at an exact temperature but to maintain a stable temperature in the tank within the range required by the chosen fish.
Keep these two points in mind:
- 1. The temperature of your aquarium is totally influenced by the climate of your area and/or room.
- 2. Cooling water is much more complicated and expensive than heating it.
Different species of fish have different preferred temperature ranges. Some adapt to a wide range, while others need very specific temperatures.
Thermal control equipment in a fish tank consists of the thermometer, and heaters/coolers governed by one or more thermostats.
Thermal equipment is not totally essential in every aquarium for beginners, butI recommend its use to maintain a stable temperature.
You have these types of thermometers for your aquarium:
- Glass: The classic thermometer commonly known as «Mercury thermometer», is actually tinted alcohol. It is placed inside and they are quite accurate.
- Sticker: It is an adhesive sticker that is placed on the outside and is very unreliable. I do not recommend it because they are very inaccurate.
- Digital Thermometer: They are the best, as they are the most accurate. You have a wide variety to choose from, with multiple functionalities such as maximum and minimum, internal and external reading… I recommend that you choose one with the submersible probe.
Click on the button below the image to see the offer of aquarium thermometers on Amazon.
Heaters and Thermostats
It is important that the heater is located away from the thermostat, and in a place where there is good water circulation, to distribute the heat in the best way and maintain a homogeneous temperature throughout the aquarium.
As for the power of the aquarium heater, it depends fundamentally on the difference in temperature between the aquarium for beginners and the room. Keep in mind that the filtering and lighting system add heat.
Click on the button below the image to see the offer of aquarium heaters on Amazon.
NEVER connect the heater outside the water, because it heats up very quickly, you can burn yourself and damage the device.
As a general rule, you can assume that the tank has as many Watts as liters, that is, a 100-liter aquarium – a 100-watt heater.
- If we choose a heater that is too small, it would always be working, shortening its useful life and increasing the electricity bill.
- If we choose one that is too large, it could heat the water too quickly, harming the fish.
In the case of discovering some type of imbalance in the temperature of the aquarium, when correcting the deviation, do not cause sudden changes, and do it gradually.
types of heaters
In heating systems for aquariums we find these 3 types:
- Internal: The most used heater, it is placed inside the water, and it is basically a resistance inside a glass tube with a thermostat.NEVER light them out of the water.
- External: It is more modern and effective, it also does not take up space inside the tank because it is connected to the external filter outlet hose.
- Background: We have the heating mat, which is generally placed under the tank, and the heating cable, which is placed insi