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A Cheapskates Guide To The Aquarium Hobby


Many of the tips below are well known by experienced hobbyist. I present them here for the less experienced people. They can save you quite some money. Given the length of my other articles, I have decided not to go into any great detail here. Links are provided where possible, or if you still have questions, do a search on the internet, or ask in one of the forums listed at the bottom of my homepage.




The Freshwater Nano-Tank.

A tank or glass container that is under 5 gallons. Mostly used for plants, but one or 2 small fish can be added. Minimal investment, minimal space usage, minimal equipment, and minimal maintenance. It doesn't get any easier than this.

Advice on nano tanks:
Ideas for your own natural micro-habitat:


Buy a used aquarium.

Used aquariums can be found at second-hand stores (hock shops), garage sales, and sometimes through friends. They can be a lot less expensive, and sometimes even free! You should check the tank over well to make sure it doesn't have any cracks. If possible, check for leaks. Small leaks can usually be fixed using silicone.


Go to the grocery store for fish food.

Many vegetables and certain seafood can be used as healthy supplements for fish. Peas, lettuce, zucchini, and cucumber are good additions for fish that need some plant based foods. Fish, shrimp, crab, and clam meat can also be used. The food should be chopped into bite sized pieces. Any new food should be introduced in small quantities to be sure that the fish will eat them. If they don't, remove the food from the tank after 1/2 hour.


Grow your own live fish food.

Some fish seem to really appreciate live foods, and for some, it seems indispensable for breeding. You can grow and harvest your own with minimal , or no cost at all. Brine shrimp, Daphnia, Cyclops, fish fry, and some insect larvae such as mosquito larvae and bloodworms can be raised fairly easily. Insect larvae can be raised in barrels outdoors. Guppy fry can be raised in the main tank, or in a separate tank if the adults are in danger themselves. Cyclops can be raised in a jar. You can collect safe ones from vernal pools, those puddles that form in the spring when the snow melts, and last at least until June. Here are some links for raising Brine shrimp or Daphnia.

To raise brine shrimp:
To raise Daphnia:
For tips on raising other creatures:

Live food should not be collected from lakes or ponds that contain fish, since they may introduce parasites or pests.


Re-use floss or filter cartridges.

Plastic filter sponges can usually be rinsed in tepid dechlorinated water, and re-used many times. Floss can be rinsed in the same manner and re-used if you don't have any to replace it with. It is not recommended to re-use floss more than once, as it becomes quite clogged with captured particles, and greatly loses its' ability to filter. Even plastic filter pads should be thrown out if they seem to be too clogged after rinsing.


Don't use charcoal if you don't need to.

Charcoal is used to remove impurities from the water. But in a well maintained aquarium with regular water changes, it usually isn't needed. By all means, use it after treating the fish with medication, as well as after any accidental introduction of toxins. Water changes should also be done in such circumstances.


Don't be lazy.

Feed your fish on time. Do the water changes when you are supposed. Clean the filter. The routine maintenance of aquariums is a must, and delays can cause your fish to suffer, or under extreme circumstances even to die. Avoid the costs of medications, additives, and replacing dead fish or plants, by keeping their habitat at optimal conditions.

If you find the routine maintenance of the tank too difficult or time consuming, then you should perhaps reconsider whether having fish is worth it to you.


Educate yourself.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Through books, aquarium societies, and the internet, a wealth of information is available for your research. Learning the do's and don'ts before you've done or didn't can save you alot of cost replacing fish, plants, or equipment, or buying medications and other additives. While owning a few *good* books is encouraged, many can also be obtained from the local library if your finances can't cover them. Again, the discussion forums listed on my home page are also a good resource as well.



Many sites on the web give instruction on a variety of do-it-yourself projects for your hobby. From making your own aquarium to decor to filters, many things can be made at home for a lot less than it costs to buy them retail. And the satisfaction of making something yourself is always a treat.


Join an aquarium society.

Most major urban centers, and even many not-so-major ones, have aquarium societies. It is a very good idea to join them. As well being a good resource to learn about the hobby, fish, plants, and equipment can be obtained cheaply at auctions, or even free through trading with fellow members. Fees can range from 10-75$, but if you are becoming a dedicated enthusiast, the cost will be well offset by the deals and knowledge you obtain.


Let everyone know you are into fish.

The long time experienced fish keeper can often obtain fish or equipment for free, trade, or low cost, simply by being known as an avid aquarist by his/her friends and colleagues. Tell your friends your fish stories. Offer advice when you hear of a newbie with a problem. Just get into it. While it may seem selfish, it is actually also beneficial to those you help, so really it's a win-win situation.


Don't be afraid to ask for things at Christmas too. :)




Home Page Are Your Fish Really Suffering From Disease? The Worms! A Cheapskates Guide To The Aquarium Hobby
Copyright to author. Email for questions. Comments eagerly invited.
Last Updated: August 01, 2008