Planning An Aquarium
Setting up an aquarium is a task that takes time if it is to be done properly. Rushing into things and purchasing 'on the spot' will only encourage problems later on. It is far better and more involved to take your time and make sure you have it right from the start.
The first thing to do is to spend a little time window-shopping and decide what type of aquarium and/or fish you would like to keep. It may be that you already have an idea of the kind of aquarium you want, even if this is the case, a little window shopping may change or reinforce your ideas.
The time you spend working out what you want is also a good time to visit a few local retailers and assess which one(s) are better than others. Before you purchase anything it is wise to find a good retailer and stick to them for all your initial equipment and fish.
Finding a good retailer
Knowledge is the key to successful fish keeping, you don't need to know everything about fish keeping - even the best experts could not claim this - but an available source of good advice and knowledge is vital.
A good retailer will be staffed with experienced people who will endeavour to help you as much as possible without selling you everything they can. In fact, it is far more profitable for a retailer to have happy customers who keep returning than to make a few big sales and never see customers again due to dissatisfaction.
So how do you tell a good retailer from a bad one? Firstly, they should be willing to talk to you about various choices and be able to explain how things work and why they are needed without forcing a sale. Bear in mind though that there are quite a few items that are needed to start an aquarium properly, although these are discussed later on.
Many retailers give out advice and fact sheets about various aspects of setting up an aquarium, this is always a good sign of a retailer which is interested in getting knowledge to the customer. Observing staff talking to other customers is also a good way of assessing their suitability. If possible, speak to some of the customers and see what they say about the retailer - most fish keepers are fairly friendly people and will give you good advice.
Check for guarantees on livestock, most good retailers offer 48 hour or 7-day guarantee's and this is also a sign that they want you to be successful. A good retailer will also not allow you to buy a large number of fish when you start your aquarium. The reason for this is explained later on but ask them how many you could put in your aquarium to begin with. If the answer is along the lines of 'as many as you want' then go elsewhere. In short, a good retailer will be just as willing to make sure you get it right and do things properly as they are interested in making a sale.
Choosing a location for your aquarium
Once you have an idea of the kind of aquarium and/or fish you want to keep and you have found a trustworthy retailer it is time to work out the best place to put your aquarium. Although you may have a place in mind, there are a number of conditions that should be satisfied before the aquarium is placed. Making sure you have a suitable location will prevent problems later on.
A good location should be based on minimising the external influences on the aquarium and providing suitable space for maintenance to be carried out. There are obvious considerations such as space for filters and/or any other equipment to be housed, although these can usually be placed in a suitable stand or cabinet beneath the aquarium. Electrical sockets should also be nearby although not in a place where they are likely to get wet.
The main consideration should be based on the welfare of the fish and minimising any stress caused by external influences. Vibrations from televisions or stereos, doors opening and closing and people constantly walking by will all cause fish to become stressed.
Sources of heat such as radiators or fires may cause fluctuations in the aquarium temperature that will cause harm to fish. Direct sunlight can also warm up the aquarium and may cause algae blooms in the aquarium.
Based on these points, doorways, conservatory's, and hallways are not suitable locations for an aquarium.
Selecting a suitable aquarium
Individual budgets and the area in which the aquarium is to be located will largely limit the choice of aquarium. Although most aquariums are a simple rectangular shape there are a number of different shapes and sizes also available. In some cases aquariums can be made to fit a particular location at little extra cost. Triangular aquariums are also available to fit in the corner of a room.
The aquarium should be large enough to stock all the fish you wish to keep although stocking levels are based on a number of factors, not just aquarium size. In many cases, larger aquariums are easier to look after than small aquariums. The reason for this is because a larger volume of water is more stable and any pollutants are diluted to safer levels in a large volume of water.
Aquariums and cabinets can either be bought separately or together. In most cases a combined aquarium and cabinet has a far better appearance. Some aquariums come with built-in lighting, filtration and heaters. Although this limits flexibility, the equipment is ideally suited to the aquarium size and works out far cheaper than purchasing separate units.
When choosing the aquarium attention should be given to the ease of use. Hoods should be easily opened and removed and access to the aquarium should be suitable for maintenance. There are a number of well-designed aquariums available but there are also many that are badly designed and hard to access.
Although more expensive, a well-made aquarium and cabinet will stay in good condition for far longer than a cheaper version. An aquarium cabinet is not just a stand for the aquarium, it will become a piece of furniture which is difficult to move or change once installed.