Ten ways for aquarists to save money!


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We'd all have more tanks if we could. But if you're anything like us, you'll have discovered that all that electricity, feeding, hardware, as well as all those plants and fish, soon starts to add up.

Anything that helps ease the running costs of a hobbyist is welcome, right?
New PFK staff writer Steve Baker looks at ten ways that you can shave the odd few pence here and there from your monthly bills...

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Some like it hot – But you might be surprised at how cool your tropical fish can go. Though the tropics don’t have seasons as we know them, they do have temperature fluctuations through the year.

In the Pantanal, Brazil, it is not unknown to get a frost in the evening at certain times of the year and when fish are roaming the shallow, flooded fields they encounter temperatures much lower than you may expect.

During June to August average temperatures can be as low as 18°C. So, check up on the demands of your fish, you may be ok to turn the heater down from 27°C to 24°C or even 22°C and that would make a large difference to the heater usage (but do it slowly, One degree per day).

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Wasting light – If you aren’t growing plants there’s little point having the light on when you’re not watching. Many people will have the light on while they are out or at work, maybe leaving it on for the fish but many don’t really need it at all. We want it to see the fish. No matter what lighting you use it’s going to be cheaper if it’s on less.

Efficient equipment – I’d never looked at wattages before as closely as I do today. There is a real balance to find here.

Most budget equipment is based on old technology, nothing wrong there, it’s tried and tested, and teething problems have been ironed out making it cheaper and easier to produce. The downside is that more up-to-date technology does push for efficiency so you may find that buying a modern, new tech external filter will save you running costs and return the price difference (from a budget filter) within just a few years.

Plus lighting - LEDs are always going to save running cost over older T5 and T8 lighting for equal brightness.

 Credit: Shutterstock Credit: Shutterstock

Scavenging the floor – It’s well covered that you can collect your own leaf litter and wood from the right trees so research which ones can be used and make sure they are well dried. Soak leaves in boiling water to kill any bugs, pour boiling water over branches and twigs. You can boil up Alder cones to make your own blackwater extract (humic and tannic acids) too.

Buy in bulk – I wouldn’t suggest buying big tubs of food. By the time you're halfway down, who knows how many vitamins have broken down? Still, many other things can be bought in volume to offer better value.

A bag of universal filter floss will save lots compared to purpose cut, manufacturers replacement floss. Starting a tank? Why not buy filter maturing bacteria from the pond department? It costs less and goes further while doing the same job which is also true if you look at pond medications, additives and sponges.

Be a fish chef – You can make your own foods for many fish species. Nature offers some free ingredients like stinging nettles, clover leaves and dandelion leaves for the veg selection. Many larger fish can be fed on earthworms (but wash them first) or home-grown Daphnia will feed smaller fish.

Or you can raid the supermarket veg for peppers, lettuce, courgette, sweet potato, tomatoes and others plus most seafood mixes are cheap and can be blended down to feed small fish. You can always add garlic for a health boost too.

Make it yourself – Some equipment we buy is so simple yet we still pay for it to be made and transported, we pay for the manufacturer, the wholesaler and the seller to take their profit.

Why not cut the bottom off a small pop bottle, attach a hose to the top and make yourself a gravel hoover? There are many tutorials on-line, too, from making canister filters out of a bucket to making an LED luminaire. 

 Credit: Shutterstock Credit: Shutterstock

I love cheap scrubbers – Purpose bought algae sponges are dear. Consider using an old filter sponge or a cheap scouring pad from the supermarket – just make sure it has no detergent in it. As a tip, the cheaper ones don’t tend to.

 Credit: Shutterstock Credit: Shutterstock

Fish stock – To be really frugal you can search online sales pages and fishy classifieds to find privately owned, tank bred livestock. Mollies, Guppies platies and common Ancistrus are everywhere, Corydoras aren’t that uncommon, Malawi cichlids are easy to find and sometimes you’ll find something more unusual.

Become industrious – If you can breed fish at home or grow heaps of plants then you may find a local shop willing to exchange a small amount of credit to supplement your food and treatment expenses. Don’t expect too much for run of the mill stuff, but every little helps.

Finally we have a bonus tip which will literally put money back in your pocket.

Spend in the right places - Buying online could be worth good money if you’re smart about it. For instance, if you buy the your fishing supplies through the cashback scheme ‘mustard jar’, your earned rewards can pay for the supplies themselves. It’s too easy not to do.