Choosing Your Aquarium Size, Material and Style

Portrait of boy looking through aquarium glass
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With the measurement notes you made while determining the aquarium location in hand, shop around for the size of tank you have figured out you have room for, along with the stand to display it on. If you are looking at buying a complete all-in-one aquarium/cabinet/stand/light hood/canopy combination, make sure you have ample room for this type of unit if you are limited on space. If just measuring the total height of the tank and stand, it's a good idea to consider the extra space needed on top for adding a light hood/canopy in the future, if you are not purchasing one at this time.

What happens if you buy the tank and stand, then later buy a light hood and find you are short of space to put it on top of the aquarium?

Tank Size Considerations

As far as size or gallons, a basic 20-55 gallon tank will work fine. However, keep in mind that smaller tanks, below 55 gallons, require more maintenance and care. Water quality changes can occur more rapidly and they can get dirty a lot faster, thus requiring more frequent cleaning and water changes. Another factor to consider is gallonitus. Gallonitus is our definition of a tank size disease that most aquarium owners get when they constantly find they want something bigger!

Tank Material Considerations

Aquariums today are being constructed with one of two basic materials, glass or acrylic. Acrylic is stronger and more lightweight, but the surface has a tendency to scratch if you are not careful. Glass is less expensive, but it is more prone to breakage and cracking, and is heavier.

If you are one of a number of the consummate do-it-yourselfers out there, here are our instructions for building your own 55-gallon glass tank(s) like we did.

Tank Style Considerations

Besides the standard rectangular style of the aquarium, there are a number of other innovative designs on the market today, like the Tenecor acrylic Flat Back Hexagonal, Hexagon, Quarter Cylinder, Pentagon and Vista Corner units, the All-Glass Aquariums Bow Front, Corner, and Hexagon units, and Marineland has their Eclipse Series.

Shop around and see what you can find, these are just a few of the top brand name aquarium manufacturers. If you can't find the style of tank you would like to have, a custom-designed aquarium may be for you. These are more costly, but if you are limited to an odd sized or shaped space for placing the aquarium, this offers you a multitude of options in design based on your own specifications. We have even seen a series of tanks that were connected by acrylic tubes that allowed the fish to swim from one tank to another, sort of like the gerbil mazes that you see in pet shops.

Ok, the next step on your "to do" list is to decide what kind of system you want, fish only or a reef tank, and what type of filtration method you are going to use. We will discuss this topic in detail later, but until then to learn more about selecting a tank location, style, size and more about getting started, refer to our Choosing an Aquarium Style & Type Resources, and go over our checklist of items you will need to get started.