Getting yourself into a new hobby is always exciting. If you are a beginner there is a lot to learn, a lot to see and there are tons of questions that may arise. Most popular question We ever heard from aquarium beginners is: “What kind of fish tank should be my first one?”
If you were learning to drive you would not want to hit top speed in the first ride. No, you would probably want to take it slowly and be sure that you can control it. Keeping aquarium is not different. Don’t do what experts do. Try first something that almost anyone can do.
Size of Aquarium
It’s a common question: “Is it okay if I get a large aquarium in the beginning or will it be too hard?”. The truth is. If you are beginner – the bigger is better. To some limits of course.
The thing is. Bigger aquariums have more water and larger water masses are more stable. It is easier to maintain stable water temperature, it is easier to control ammonia, pH and other parameters of water. And for most beginners we would suggest to get as large aquarium as you can afford. In terms of money and space in your house. With some limitations as we said before.
If you get too large one it might take much too long to perform weekly maintenance as there will be larger surfaces to clean, and more water to change. You might get frustrated by doing this job.
And so. In a compromise to make it easy to maintain stable aquarium and not to quit it because it takes too much time. Our suggestion is that 80 to 150 liters (20 to 40 gallons) should be the best choice as beginner’s aquarium.
Glass or Acrylic?
Definitely glass for beginners. Acrylic aquariums are easier to get scratched if cleaning is performed without extra caution. Don’t ruin your aquarium in the first months. Take the glass one and no worries. Scrub like a bulldozer if you like it.
Freshwater, Saltwater, Reef?
On the one hand cold-water fish are easy. Just put them in a tank with water temperature close to room temp and that’s all. No heaters, no worries if power failure occurs.
On the other hand tropical aquariums are easy too. You add a heater and there are no worries if room temperature is going up and down. Aquarium has stable temperature because the heater does its job.
However, we would recommend cold-water aquarium for the beginners because cold-water fish are much more resistant to water parameter changes.
Artificial of Live Plants?
Live plants are huge part of biological processes occurring in an aquarium. They are absorbing CO2, Nitrates, Ammonia and other toxins. Many fish do require them as source of food or as hiding place. On the other hand, they absorb oxygen during nighttime, require special lighting conditions, make aquarium cleaning more complicated.
There are lots of pros and cons of live plants and aquarium is incomplete without them. However, if you are a beginner it would be better to start with artificial plants. There are more trouble than benefits with them, and it takes experience to deal with them.
There will always be time for you to add some live plants to your tank. Don’t rush. Try to concentrate on your fish in the beginning. If you wish there is no problem with adding one or two live pants just to see what happens. And if it goes well – add some more.
We are looking for fish that are resistant to water parameter changes as maintaining water balance might be the hardest part for the beginners.
If cold-water then it is definitely goldfish. They are comfortable in huge range of water temperature and are one of most popular fish in aquariums. Popularity results in loads of literature to read. Internet is full of articles starting from feeding, continuing to breeding and ending with medical care for goldfish. Do not choose a rare variety. You will lose benefits of having lots of literature and help available. And the fact is – rare varieties are often harder to keep.
If you chose tropical aquarium, then in the beginning get some of smaller fish like guppies or neon tetra. If you have larger aquarium try some labyrinth fish. They are famous for capability to survive in aquarium with low dissolved oxygen level. Great examples for beginner friendly fish might be Betta Splendens or some kind of Gouramis. Again, don’t choose too rare variety as explained before.
Of course there are a lot more to know about getting a beginner friendly fish. However, if you want to get it started and that’s it – our advices above are all you have to know at this point.
Mario’s first aquarium was 60 liters (~15 gallon) freshwater with goldfish in it. We guess it was a very good choice for a beginner. Although it might be larger.