An aquarium is not particularly decorative; fish have the advantage over other pets in that they do not make dirt or noise. If you want to dedicate yourself to aquarists as a hobby, you first have to bear the high acquisition costs. An aquarium, including accessories, costs 90 to 3,000 euros. The advantage, however, is that the running costs are relatively low. If not money, an aquarium does eat up time: the tank has to be cleaned at regular intervals, and the fish and other aquarium inhabitants have to be fed. In addition, a regular check of the water parameters is necessary.
Costs of the aquarium tank
You have the largest expenses when purchasing the water basin or aquarium basin, including accessories. Large pools cost more than small ones. A freshwater aquarium costs between 90 and 1,000 euros. The price depends on the accessories included and the capacity of the aquarium.
A saltwater aquarium is significantly more expensive. On average, up to 3,000 euros are incurred for this. You can save if you are on the lookout for used aquariums and used aquarium accessories. You can find these, for example, on online second-hand markets such as eBay, rebuy, etc.
If you take over a complete aquarium with fish stocks, be sure to check whether its inhabitants actually harmonize and do not have too different demands or, in the worst case, even antagonize each other. If you are a beginner in aquaristics, it is worth asking a specialist dealer for a complete package that contains all the components you need for the initial equipment, such as the pump, filter, lights, and cover.
You also need a special aquarium cabinet. Don’t underestimate how much a filled aquarium tank weighs! A normal piece of furniture cannot bear this weight.
Before you put the fish in the aquarium, you must first provide the necessary basic equipment. The following basic elements are important and relevant to the acquisition costs:
- aquatic plants
- to shine
Other useful accessories are heating rods, a CO2 system, and a sludge vacuum cleaner. However, you do not necessarily need these for every type of fish.
Pump and filter are usually already included in every aquarium. They keep the water in the aquarium moving by circulating it. Cleaning bacteria also ensures that the water quality is maintained. They metabolize toxic excretions from aquatic plants and aquarium inhabitants.
The task of the filter is to keep algae growth in check and to filter particles out of the water. An internal filter is sufficient for smaller aquariums with a volume of up to 120 liters. If the aquarium is larger, an external filter is more suitable. Filters must not be put on a timer as they must operate 24 hours a day to maintain good water quality.
The aquarium lighting simulates sunlight, so it is advisable to set a regular day-night rhythm. Finding the right level of lighting is essential: too much light leads to algae growth, but if the lighting is too low, the aquatic plants cannot grow properly.
The optimal lighting duration is between 10 and 12 hours a day. You can regulate this with the help of a timer. The prices for fluorescent tubes (T8 tubes) start at around 10 euros.
Aquatic plants are very important in aquaristics. They improve the water quality, look pretty and offer hiding places for the aquarium inhabitants. Planting with fast-growing plants such as:
Corals are very decorative, but they require a lot of care. Approximately 2 to 3 plants should be planted for every 10 liters of water. When planting, also pay attention to which species go together and, of course, whether they thrive in freshwater or saltwater. If you would like to increase the plant growth of demanding species, then invest in a CO2 system.
The choice of substrate influences how well the plants grow in the aquarium. It consists of two layers: gravel at the top and nutrient-rich soil below. Colorful gravel looks particularly pretty. The corners of the pebbles of aquarium gravel are rounded. The use of rounded gravel is particularly essential when keeping bottom fish.
Decorative elements have more than just an aesthetic purpose. They also serve as a hiding place for the aquarium inhabitants. Typical decorative elements are, for example, stones and roots.
Make sure that all decorative elements consist exclusively of natural materials. However, this does not mean that you can collect any sticks, stones, shells, etc. in nature and put them in the aquarium! This could upset the delicate aquarium ecosystem. It is better to use offers from specialist retailers, such as:
- lava rock
- slabs of slate
- mangrove roots
Roots are especially important if you want to introduce catfish to your aquarium. You should budget around 50 to 200 euros for all the basic accessories. If you buy the accessories in a combination package, the expenses will be lower.
It is also recommended to purchase one of the following:
- Mulmsaugers (to clean the aquarium)
- Landing net (to move fish)
- Water tester (to maintain water quality)
Depending on which fish you want to keep in your aquarium, you will need additional heating elements. Sensitive fish depend on a constant water temperature.
A heater makes life more comfortable for your fish because, among other things, it balances out temperature fluctuations between day and night. Fish are cold-blooded animals, which is why they cannot cope with fluctuations of just a few degrees. Furthermore, you have to purchase care products for water treatment. How often you have to use this depends on the water quality and the needs of the fish.
Another important purchase is a replacement basin. You need it for offspring or to quarantine sick aquarium inhabitants. The expenses for such additional purchases add up to an average of 100 to 300 euros.
The aquarium inhabitants
What animals you can have in your aquarium depends on the size of the aquarium tank. So, think in advance about which fish, crustaceans, etc., you want to keep and then get the right aquarium for you.For example, only invertebrates or shrimp should move into small tanks with a volume of up to 60 liters (nano aquaria).
It takes a few weeks until the water balance in the aquarium is stable. During this break-in period, regularly check important values such as water hardness, acidity, etc. If these values remain constant over a period of at least four days, you can initially use resistant animals such as catfish.
Once the first stock has settled in, more demanding fish can move in about four days later. Continue in this way until you have housed all the animals you want to use. Research the needs of your future pets in advance and whether the desired fish species get along or have similar requirements.
Fish from different origins must not be mixed. Get advice from an aquaristics specialist or do your own research on the living conditions of different fish and which species harmonize.
The acquisition costs of fish are very different. For the most commonly kept species, you pay between 0.50 and 25 euros per fish. But fish with rarity value can cost up to 300 euros per piece. Popular and well-known “beginner fish” are, for example:
- Neons (about 0.50 euros)
- Guppies (about 1.50 euros)
- Armored catfish (2 to 10 euros)
The running costs of the aquarium depend on the following:
- the size of the pool
- the demands of its residents
- the installed accessories
The average monthly costs are between 18 and 62 euros. The electricity costs make up the largest part of the running costs. You should budget EUR 50 to 230 per year for electricity alone (applies to aquariums with a maximum volume of 400 liters). The electricity price can vary from region to region.
The power consumption increases with the size of the aquarium and if you have installed unusual high-tech accessories. The water costs are comparatively low and are hardly significant. They are only 1 to 12 euros per year. Using a CO2 system will cost you around 8 to 15 euros per month.
Another cost is the fish food. You spend about 2.00 to 15.00 euros on this every month. Plant fertilizers and water care products cost around 10 to 80 euros per year. The exact sum depends on the number of fish, the fish species, and the size of the aquarium.
You don’t need to factor in veterinary costs, as most vets don’t treat fish anyway. If a visit to the vet is necessary, it costs a maximum of 60 euros. Fish do not need vaccinations. Frequently occurring diseases such as parasite infestation have to be combated by fish keepers on their own. The expenses for the corresponding medication are around 5 to 15 euros.
As the owner, you also carry out the regular health check. You can find the relevant information in specialist shops or in specialist literature. The replacement of dead animals and dead plants is another expense.
Maintaining an aquarium is time-consuming.
The maintenance effort varies extremely depending on the size of the aquarium. Small aquariums need to be cleaned more often than large ones. Because of the constant water values (and the greater freedom of movement), fish generally feel more comfortable in larger aquariums.
Depending on how big and dirty the pool is, you may need to change the water one to four times a month. When changing the water, do not replace all of the water, but only replace about ⅓ to ¼ of it with fresh water. Cleaning the aquarium also includes vacuuming up sludge and other dirt.
The procedure takes between 30 minutes and 4 hours. Exactly how long you need depends on the interval at which cleaning takes place and how thorough you are in changing the water and caring for the plants. Of course, there is nothing wrong with simply removing dead plant parts as soon as you notice them. That’s pretty quick.
Be careful not to overfeed, as the leftover food will deteriorate the water quality, and you will have to clean more. Apart from feeding the fish and cleaning the aquarium, there is little to do unless you are preparing offspring, fighting heavy algae infestation, or your fish is ill. All of this causes an increased maintenance effort.
Compared to other pets like dogs or cats, it takes little time. The running costs are also manageable. Of course, you can’t cuddle fish, crabs, and other aquarium inhabitants, but they are beautiful to look at and have a calming effect.
Saltwater aquariums are significantly more expensive to purchase and maintain than freshwater aquariums. The reasons are that, on the one hand, the aquarium tanks are usually larger than those of freshwater aquariums and, on the other hand, have more exotic or demanding inhabitants. Comprehensive knowledge is required to “manage” a seawater aquarium.
For a 200-liter saltwater aquarium, including fish stock, you have to reckon with expenses of 2,000 to 3,500 euros. This sum does not include the costs for plants, fish food, fertilizer, etc. The running costs are also higher than with a freshwater aquarium. You should budget between 250 and 350 euros per year for electricity alone.
If the aquarium has a leak, there are usually two options: repair it or buy a new one. If the leak is caused by a crack in the glass, a new tank should definitely be purchased. Otherwise, there is a risk that the disc will break due to the high pressure.
If the water leaks out of a silicone seam, it may be possible to repair it. For this, you need aquarium silicone and a (makeshift) tank for short-term resettlement.
First, move your aquarium inhabitants. Make sure their shelter is clean. Because some silicones don’t bond well together, it’s a good idea to completely remove the leaking seam. Of course, you have to drain the water first.
Before you apply the new silicone, the joint must be completely dry and free of dirt. When grouting, make sure that both panes come into contact with silicone and observe the prescribed drying times. If you want to relocate your aquarium stock to a new tank, proceed gradually if the leak allows you to do so.
For example, if the leak is in the upper part, you can lower the level to just below the leak and temporarily seal the spot after it has dried. The drained water can already be put into the new aquarium. Set up the new tank as described above and gradually move equipment, plants, decorations, and finally, the residents.
Holiday with an aquarium
Like every pet owner, fish owners are also faced with the question of how to reconcile animal care and vacation. If you travel in summer, make sure that your aquarium is not in the blazing sun and that it cannot otherwise overheat. If necessary, adjust the parameters of the heater.
To ensure the welfare of your fish, you should not travel when you have young fish. These require daily feeding and more intensive monitoring. In addition, you should not get any new fish in the period before departure. At worst, these could bring in diseases that break out while you’re away.
Don’t forget to feed the fish, of course. Usually, a neighbor or acquaintance can be found. It may also be worth purchasing a programmable feeder. Such a device costs between 20 and 50 euros in specialist shops.
- If you are a complete newbie to aquariums, you should not start with a saltwater aquarium right away. Try fresh water first.
- Fish use their lateral line to orient themselves. That is why rectangular aquariums are more suitable than round ones.
- Smaller aquariums mean less cleaning effort.
- Nano aquariums (10 to 60 liters volume) are not suitable for fish, only for invertebrates such as snails or crustaceans such as shrimp or dwarf crabs.
- How big the aquarium needs to be depends on the fish stock and how much space you have.
- The optimal location for an aquarium is bright but without direct sunlight. Of course, it also makes sense to put it in a place where you can watch the fish well.
- Too much food harms the fish more than it is good for them because excess food can rot and worsen the water quality. There are various recommendations on how often you should feed fish. Some experts recommend 1 to 3 small portions of food per day. Others think it is sufficient to feed the animals only every 2 to 3 days. It is best to determine the actual individual food requirements of your fish.
- Provide varied feed and enrich it with vitamin supplements if necessary.
- Do not collect decorations for the aquarium in nature, but only buy them from specialist retailers.
- Allow the aquarium to run for at least three weeks without fish to ensure stable water values.
- Use different aquatic plants.
- Do regular water changes. The temperature of the new water should match the water temperature in the aquarium.
- Do not interfere too much with the aquarium’s ecosystem by cleaning the tank too often or constantly pruning plants.
- Check with your household contents or liability insurance whether glass breakage and water damage are included in the insurance cover. Increase this if necessary.
- Fish are living beings. Like any other pet, they need to be properly cared for and treated with love.
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