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What if I have a Tank Smaller than 10 Gallons | Home Fish Aquarium Guide

Home Fish Aquarium Guide

Fishkeeping Information and Resources for the Home Aquarium



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What if I have a Tank Smaller than 10 Gallons

So you’ve been looking around and most everything you see suggests that you really need a ten or twenty gallon tank. What if you have a smaller tank, and WHY oh WHY do they sell smaller tanks?

Well, there was a general rule at one point that you could have 1 inch of fish per gallon of water in your tank. For very small freshwater fish that can be a decent estimate (you need to test your water anyway.) But a ten inch long fish wouldn’t do too well in a 10 gallon aquarium would it? So, the fish/gallons really depends on what kind of fish.

Why do the sell smaller tanks? Well, apart from the marketing reasons… it IS possible to keep fish in smaller tanks. Unfortunately it’s more likely to be that you will have severe water quality problems that occur quickly.

Let me put it this way. If you add 2 small fish to a 20 gallon tank it will take quite a while for them to produce enough waste to make it very toxic. By contrast in a 2.5 gallon tank they will be swimming in dangerous ammonia and nitrites VERY quickly. The bad things just get diluted more in a larger tank.

Beyond that, if your filter breaks or fails somehow a larger tank should be able to go longer without it being a major crisis than a smaller tank.

So, I think the rule with the smaller tank is to do your testing regularly to make sure everything is working and be prepared for emergency action (major water changes, addition of Prime to detoxify Ammonia/Nitrites).

The bottom line is there is less margin for error because there is less water to dilute the waste products.

So, if you go into it with the understanding that you have set yourself up for a slightly trickier approach to fish keeping, then that’s fine go ahead and start with a smaller tank. You just need to realize that you need to be on top of things!

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    January 10, 2009 - 4:55 PM