What do I need to know before getting an aquarium?

April Kennedy April Kennedy
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An aquarium is a great way to add natural greenery, light and a energising life into a home. Aquariums flourish in a carefully controlled lighting environment, so a home aquarium has the potential transform a dark room into a special green space with light and a gentle, watery ambience.

But it's important to know what you're getting into. After all, it can be notoriously tricky to keep fish alive and plants thriving. You're creating a mini ecosystem here, and that means that the tank should partially self regulate itself with the right combination of fish, plants and working together. In addition, the fish-keeper should fall into the daily habit of observing the tank and learning to watch for any behavioural changes in the fish.

It sounds like a lot of work, but the payoff is that fish-keeping is a surprisingly relaxing and addictive hobby once you get started. Welcome to the world of fish enthusiasts!

Does my rental contract allow an aquarium?

Many rental contracts disallow pets, but the regulations regarding fish can be ambiguous. Most often landlords are fine with fish-tanks in general, but some may have restrictions on the size and weight of the tank. After all, you're dealing with an object that has the potential to cause water damage.

Water spillage will occur no matter how careful you are when cleaning. The tiniest splashes tend to sit and pool under the tank. This is of particular issue with larger tanks that sit flush on the ground. This has the potential to create wood swelling and carpet stains or even mould issues. It's best to put a protective plastic layer beneath the tank. The weight of the water is also an issue because rental tenants move more often than owner-occupiers, and a large tank is particularly time consuming to empty, move and refill.

Caring for your fish tank

Aquariums require a lot of maintenance, but don't let that scare you off. The biggest task is changing a portion of the water regularly. The specifics of all this however depends greatly on the size of your tank. The pH level of the water should also be monitored, cleaning the water filter and fish should be observed for any changes in colour and dead foliage from plants should be trimmed.

But the most important part of maintaining a healthy aquarium is getting into the daily habit of watching your tank and noting any changes in habitat. Watching the watery ebb and flow of the plant life can turn into an extremely relaxing part of your day. Your fish will get to know you too. So don't be surprised if a whole school of fish trail across the tank when you cross the room!

Small or large tanks

A very small tank can be very easy to maintain, particularly if it's filled with a hardy breed of fish. This can be a great option for a small child or a busy adult. Medium sized tanks can be an easy addition to a room while a larger tank can act as a room divider or feature in itself like this one by tank, by Aquarium Architecture. One important benefit of the larger tank is that it often creates a more stable ecosystem for the fish and plants. This is because a larger body of water will naturally soften the impact of the drastic fluctuations in water temperature and pH levels that cause many a smaller aquarium to fail.

Find some friendly fish

The first consideration in looking for a breed of fish is to decide if you are going to have a saltwater or freshwater tank. Salt-water tanks possess almost fluorescent fish with incredible hues, but they are so hard to maintain that most home aquariums are fresh-water. This is definitely the way to go for a first time fish-keeper.

The next step is to find a collection of fish that can live in harmony, both with the plants and each other. Some prefer different levels of water acidity or may outgrow the size of the tank while others may be overly passive, aggressive or territorial. Consult your pet-shop owner or google for the right combination of species. This is animal life after all, there's nothing quite as heartbreaking as waking up in the morning to discover your fish count has dwindled and one looks particularly fat!

Add some greenery

Java moss is one of the most popular aquarium plants. It's extremely hardy and can be bought cheaply to easily fill a tank with vast expanses of lovely greenery. They can survive a wide variety of water temperatures and levels of water acidity.

There are also thousands of other varieties. Some thrive when attached to wood logs, while others may be happy to float freely in the water. The key consideration is to choose a plant that can thrive under the temperature of your lights and the relative softness of the water.

Aquarium costs

 Corridor, hallway by Diapo

Helical glass staircase around giant fish tank


The most expensive initial investment is the tank itself. If you have the money, this can add a luxurious feature to this home like this incredible aquarium staircase by Diapo designs. Aside from the cost of the tank, expenses can run as high or as long as you want depending on the fish breeds you prefer. But it's absolutely essential to invest in good lights, water filter, a decent pH testing kit, food and set aside special cleaning cloths and buckets that are only used for the tank. Reusing household cloths will introduce foreign chemicals to the water and likely kill your plant-life.

Plants are cheap, while some of the more expensive features can be large rock features. These add natural variety and entertainment for the fish. Some might consider just using natural rocks, but these really do need to be thoroughly cleaned and soaked before use. This is not recommended for the beginner as foreign sediments and life can easily affect other life in the tank.

For more inspiration on natural interiors, check out this Ideabook: Benefits of having a living wall in your home

Do you have an aquarium? We'd love to know. Tell us in the comments below!
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