Want to bring the outdoors in and set up an aquarium in your home? Great idea! But, where do you get started? Our experts break down all the common misconceptions about owning a fish tank.
Written by Charlotte Tallman
Saltwater Tanks are More Vibrant
“Freshwater tanks are much more popular than saltwater tanks because they are easier to set up and easier to maintain,” says Ray Phipps of Fish N Phipps, an Alamogordo-based aquarium store that provides supplies and tank cleaning in Las Cruces and surrounding areas. “Sometimes people want a saltwater tank for the beauty, but they just don’t realize freshwater tanks can be just as vibrant as saltwater tanks.”
Ray likes to build natural looking underwater lake scenes in freshwater tanks, adding items like rocks and water grass before adding the fish. He says it is easy to be creative when owning an aquarium because there are so many decorations and tank products to fit any home and personality. “There is just so much you can do to tanks and you can always change it up,” he says, adding that he often includes holiday mementos in his customers’ tanks when servicing them.
Freshwater tanks are also cheaper to build and maintain. Aquariums require equipment to adequately provide fish with a proper environment, and expenses include the tank and stand, hood and light, heater, filter, gravel, decorations, water treatment, net, and cleaning supplies. Ray says the cost of saltwater tanks increase as more equipment is needed to maintain the ocean environment, and specialty tanks are often needed for the added weight of live sand and coral. Then there is the cost of the fish and fish food. Fish can range from inexpensive to very expensive for special or rare species, and saltwater fish typically fall on the more expensive side compared to freshwater fish.
“Right now, Glo Fish are a trend that is going strong,” says Lisa Hernandez, district manager at Pet’s Barn. “Glo Fish are very colorful, and they are non-aggressive (or semi-aggressive) which means they can be in community tanks. Some of the colors they come in are starfire red, moonrise pink, galactic purple, cosmic blue, sunburst orange, and electric green. Glo Fish are fluorescent fish that were originally developed for research many years ago. The vibrant colors are not dyed or injected which means they will retain their color for life.”
Other popular freshwater fish include guppies, black mollies, goldfish, platies, and green swordtails. “Picking out the fish can be the best part,” Ray says. “They add so much to this underwater world that you have built in your tank.”
Smaller Aquariums Are Easier to Maintain
Pick the space you want to fill in your home, then plan for maintenance. “Most customers are surprised to learn that larger tanks often require less maintenance than smaller tanks,” Lisa says, adding that so many variables arise when building an aquarium, there is no way to pinpoint exactly how much maintenance is needed until all the details are determined. “The aquarium services at Pet’s Barn helps our customers choose the aquarium that best suits their needs, and we also sell all the products to set up and successfully run a tank once purchased.”
No matter what size aquarium you choose, be sure that you can place it somewhere with a level, sturdy support surface, and where it is not in danger of being bumped into or knocked over. You should also keep your aquarium away from heater vents, windows, and doors.
Everything Must Be Removed From a Tank to Clean It
There are no hard and fast rules about how often to clean your tank. It depends on several factors, including size, filter system, and number and type of fish. If you opt to have someone come in and clean the tank, create a schedule that works for you based on their recommendations. If you want to clean the tank yourself, plan to do something weekly or bi-weekly, monthly, semiannually, and yearly.
Weekly or bi-weekly cleaning includes removing about one-fourth of the water and replacing it with treated water, then vacuuming clean the gravel and sponging or scraping excess algae from decorations.
If your aquarium is established and the fish are healthy, water only needs to be tested once per month for nitrate, ammonia, and pH levels. Use that time to clean filter cartridges and check air stones for build-up, and either clean them by boiling in clean water or replace them. Twice per year, turn off and unplug all the equipment and give it a thorough inspection and cleaning as necessary.
Deep cleaning, in which everything is removed from the tank and scrubbed clean, should be avoided except under special circumstances.
“Depending on your aquarium, you might need to spend more time maintaining it than you would others, but in the end, it is worth it,” Ray says. “I have had a tank since I was six years old. I’ve spent my life staring into tanks and I’ve loved every moment of it, and I think you would too.”
Many studies have shown that getting an aquarium may be a great way to relax!
It’s easy to be creative when owning an aquarium because there are so many decorations and tank products to fit any home and personality.
want more ideas?
Aquariums can be a beautiful addition to any home, visit one of these retailers to see more.
Fish N Phipps
1600 S. Valley Dr.