Feeling the pinch in every one of your pockets? We show you how to cut the cost of fishkeeping while still enjoying the hobby to the full.
Costs have risen significantly and cutbacks are having to be made in every walk of life. Yet that doesn’t mean we have to give up on what we love doing most — and that’s maintaining our aquariums.
It’s all about adapting our thinking and doing things in a more cost-conscious manner. So check out our tips to keep your fish thriving on a budget.
Reducing those energy costs
1. LED lighting means lower running costs. There’s no heat, so no chiller needed.
2. More efficient pumps mean lower running costs.
3. Clean filter pipes, as blocked pumps use more lecky!
4. Air-powered filtration is mega-low wattage.
5. Use a condensation cover on your tank as it keeps the heat in.
6. Match freshwater fish to your local tap water, so there’s no need to buy any RO.
7. Fit insulation to the rear and side panels of the tank to keep the heat in with one of the foam 3D backgrounds on the market.
8. Get a tank that’s acrylic, as it’s a better insulator than glass.
9. Turn your heater down. Even tropicals go through seasonal fluctuations, so set it at their lowest winter tolerance and leave it to summer heatwaves. It might even trigger breeding!
10. Have the light on for less time.
11. Fit a dimmer to LEDs as these use less electricity and help the bills.
Reducing your start-up costs
12. Collect leaves, wood and rocks locally.
13. Build your own sump. Buy a scratched old tank and put baffles in using silicone sealant. You could even make them from plastic.
14. Buy dead rock as this stuff from the ocean was once live. Buy six lumps of dry, dead rock and one lump of live and, over time, it will all become live again.
15. Buy a shallow tank and thinner glass is cheaper due to less pressure resistance.
Some drastic cost cutters
16. Switch from marine to freshwater. Cut out those electricity bills on skimmer pumps, circulation pumps, lighting, salt, supplements, RO and livestock costs.
17. Go temperate. Ditch the heater and go room temperature. Some 30 or more species in the hobby will actually fare better in temperate conditions.
18. Ditch the plants. Live ones need bright light for a fixed period each day. Go fish only and light the tank when you want to view it.
19. Switch to the Walstad method. This ultra low-tech style of planted tank involves using only garden soil as a substrate and doing no water changes.
20. A smaller tank will mean less heat, light, décor, livestock and water.
21. Stand your tank on breeze blocks. They are cheap but strong.
Then around the house...
22. Insulate whereever you can around your house and your heater won’t have to work quite so hard to heat the tank.
23. Put a brick in your toilet cistern to save water. Then you’ll have more of it spare for water changes!
24. Water the garden with old tank water — though this works only with freshwater.
25. Place your tanks away from those draughty windows and doors.
26. Collect rainwater. It’s natural and ideal for softwater set-ups. Pre-filter through carbon first.
27. Eat less. There will be more cash for fish and you’ll become more healthy.
28. Sell the TV! Save power and the fish are more entertaining.
29. Keep small fish. They are cheaper to buy, house and feed.
30. Go to club auctions. Fish and dry goods are always a bargain at these places.
31. Buy second hand. A bit of algae might be hiding what is actually a good piece of kit.
Food for thought
32. Don’t specialise in expensive aspects of the hobby, like Koi or reef tanks. These can make even the rich very poor the further they get into it.
33. Shop around. Find the best bargains and ask around for price match deals.
34. Subscribe to PFK. Get a free gift into the bargain and save some money too. Check out our latest subscription offer.
Here’s how to make money!
35. Breed fish. You’ll never become a millionaire if you do, but you may be able to swap them for food or credit at your local store.
36. Breed shrimp. There’s a ready market for colourful freshwater shrimp and they are easy to breed.
37. Frag corals. Sell clippings of your existing corals and swap for others, or help pay for running costs.
38. Plant on wood. Tie moss, Java fern or Anubias to bogwood. Get it growing, then sell it at an inflated price.
The cheapest fish tank to set up?
This would have to be a set-up containing White Cloud Mountain minnows. These fish are only about £1 each, eat small amounts of food and tolerate soft or hard water. They don’t need a heater, room temperature being fine, and in summer you could move them outside where they could gorge on Daphnia and mosquito larvae.
Filtration couldn’t be simpler, with either a small internal canister filter costing around £10 or a sponge filter run by an air pump using just two watts.
You can even breed them, meaning endless free fish.
What we DON’T advise you to do...
1. Import your own fish or corals. You might be breaking the law.
2. Risk your fish’s welfare. If you can’t afford to offer your fish what they need to thrive you must pass them on to someone who can.
3. Take native plants or fish from the wild. It’s illegal.
4. Steal from an aquatic shop! They will catch you!