Thinking about keeping fish? Here are a few more thoughts on getting that aquarium perfect for you


Any healthy aquarium is a joy to own. The calming abilities are well documented along with many other mental health benefits. But what do YOU want from a tank?

You’ve been inspired by something fishy recently, to be reading this. What was it? Was it a colourful, fresh-looking aquarium with lots of activity? Was it an image of a natural habit in a documentary? Or maybe you were caught by the character of charismatic pufferfish in a public aquarium.

On almost every occasion, when a brand new fishkeeper walks out of an aquatics shop with their first aquarium it’s a rather generic set-up. You will have your choice sand or gravel but it is normally gravel. You will have your choice of a few ornaments but they often look little thought out.

It’s the every-day tank and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s exactly how I started, and how nearly all the population of fishkeepers did.

Fish keeping brings with it a very steep learning curve. Within the first year that generic set-up has changed layout six times. The gravel has been changed once, some fish may even have been changed, but you’ve found your style.

If you spare a few hours before you make a purchase, I think you can find your style straight away. It will save you more money and time than you would imagine.

It’s not a glass tank thing so much – most styles can develop within the same sized aquarium, given a tank of around 60ltr or more. However, if you’ve been inspired by a larger, characterful fish you’re the kind of hobbyist that will buy three or four tanks in no time, each slightly larger than the next. That’s very costly! If you want one, or just a few ‘pet’ fish then really do consider the largest tank you can accommodate as your first tank.

Look here to get a taste of different predators:

Mostly, its about what goes in the tank. If your aim is to see vibrant colour and movement, my first question is – live plants or fake plants?

The examples above are easily achievable. If you like the fake plant look on the right then you are in luck. This is the easiest style of tank to maintain. If you want a tank as full as this example you will want a stronger filter (if the tank is 60ltr, get a filter for a 100lt tank. When buying a kit tank you may be able to upgrade the filter, or buy a second, small filter) because the flow has many obstacles. If you are happier with an open look then the ‘normal kit’ will suffice.

Look here for step-by-step advice:

You think it has to be live plants? Then you need to consider the substrate on the bottom of the tank. Most successful planted aquaria use a nutrient carrying substrate. A few are completely gravel based, most are soil based – either as gravel-sized pellets or as soil placed under gravel. Spend the extra money here to start with and you won’t have the normal troubles that beginners face with plants dying and you will save the money of buying replacement plants.

Have a look at this simple – but stunning – planted tank:

And plants to avoid:

If it was nature which has inspired you to read up on keeping fish then have a look here for a step-by-step guide to creating a biotope:

For any potential fishkeeper wanting to avoiding commonly made mistakes, have a look through this feature: