Beginners Aquarium Guide

tropical fish aquarium

If you're looking for a fascinating, fun and rewarding hobby, than look no further than tropical fish aquariums.  There are so many different types of aquariums, species of fish and much more, ensuring there is something for everyone.  Whether you want a giant high tech saltwater reef aquarium, or a small basic betta fish tank, the aquarium hobby is a lot of fun, and you can also learn a lot of interesting facts about underwater creatures. 


If you are unsure of what type of aquarium you want, you should probably spend some time online browsing aquarium forums, a good one that I have found is Tropical Fish Talk.  Check out some of the members tanks and read information about the various types of aquariums and fish to find out what seems like the best fit for you.  But, to get you started, here is some information on the most popular aquarium types.

Freshwater Aquariums

In general, freshwater aquariums are easier and cheaper to setup and maintain. For this reason, many people choose this as their first setup.


Freshwater Community Tank

A community tank is an aquarium housing multiple species together. This is a great way to get a wide variety of color and patterns into your aquarium, and also keep every part of the tank active. However, special care must be taken to ensure the species are compatible with one another to avoid fighting and stress. Different species of fish prefer to swim in different parts of the water column. You can use this to your advantage to choose fish that prefer different parts of the tank, ensuring there is activity in every part of your aquarium. For example, zebra danios love to swim near the surface, most barbs like the middle of the water column, and cory catfish prefer the bottom of the aquarium. By placing these three species together in one aquarium, you'll have fish moving around in every part of the tank, making sure there is also something to see!


Freshwater Species Only Tank

While a colorful and diverse community tank can be amazing, never underestimate the potential of a species only tank. One great example are malawi cichlids. These fish are available in a wide variety of bright colors, more like your average reef fish. You can stock a malawi cichlid tank with yellow, blue, orange and pink fish giving a beautiful mix of colors, all with one type of fish in the tank.


Freshwater Planted Aquarium

There are many beautiful aquatic plants, and introducing them into your aquarium not only gives a more realistic look, it actually helps the fish immensely. For starters, plants do a wonderful job of removing nitrates and phosphates from an aquarium - which typically can only be removed with time consuming water changes. A thriving established planted aquarium can often go for 6 months between water changes, once it reaches that "natural balance."


Nano Aquarium

There are loads of tiny aquariums available, but many of them are simply too small to house any fish responsibly. You've probably seen those betta fish crammed into tiny cups in the pet store - just because they can survive in something that small, does not mean they will thrive. And it certainly is not humane. Pet stores love to tell people that betta fish usually live in puddles in the wild, making people feel less guilty about keeping them in a tiny bowl. In reality, these "puddles" are irrigation ditches in rice farms that are typically 12 inches wide, 8 inches deep and often hundreds of yards long. We're talking about 1500+ gallons of water - certainly not a "tiny puddle" as they would have you believe. NO FISH should be in an aquarium undred 2.5 gallons, and that is really only for an advanced aquarist who can properly monitor and maintain all of the right levels in the tank. The thing to remember is - the more water you have, the more stable it is. That means it's harder for problems to develop, and if they do, it happens much slower, allowing you to make the necessary corrections before the problem gets too bad. On the other hand, in a 1 gallon aquarium, a problem can reach a critical point in an hour, leaving your poor fish struggling, or even dead.


For more information on aquariums, check out the wikipedia article:

saltwater reef aquarium

Saltwater Aquariums

There are many different types of saltwater aquariums you can set up, but I will cover the most common options out there.

Fish Only with Live Rock ( FOWLR )

First off, in order for this to make sense, you have to know what live rock is. Live rock is old dead corals that are home to billions of beneficial bacteria that clean the water naturally. It is BY FAR the best filtration method for a saltwater tank. A fish only with live rock tank, is simply that - an aquarium that houses fish, but no other creatures (like invertebrates such as crabs, snails, corals, etc.). Live rock is generally home to many small invertebrates, feather dusters, worms, etc. most of which are helpful to an aquarium.

Reef Aquarium

This is one of the most challenging types of aquariums, but can also be the most rewarding. The amazing array of colors that can be found in a reef aquarium is second to none. From basic soft corals like mushrooms, leather corals and zooanthids, up to the much more difficult hard corals, reef aquarium host a whole set of challenges all their own. The water quality must be kept perfect at all times. Even the slightest deviation from normal can cause massive loss of corals very quickly. Corals also need high intensity light in the proper spectrum - different species requiring varying amounts of light, adding another complexity to the puzzle.