How to start an aquarium on a budget a complete guide4 minute read

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Some aquariums can get very pricey depending on what you put in it. There’s been many times when I’ve tried to convince someone to start a fish tank, but ask “isn’t it expensive?”. So I thought I’d put together a how to guide to starting an aquarium on a budget.

First off you’ll need a tank and something to put it on, obviously. Many times friends or family have an old tank sitting in their garage or shed, so first I’d start there. But the second way to get a tank is Craigslist. When I had all 10 tanks going 6 of them I got from Craigslist. People sometimes giveaway old tanks with a stand in the “Free stuff” section. Other times people are selling them for cheap. I got a 60 gallon cube tank with a filter, and stand for 50$. The guy even gave me a bucket full of gravel and decorations for free. Now I do want to add I highly recommend filling the tank up and letting it sit outside over night to double check there are no leaks. As far as a stand you can use other things besides an actual aquarium stand. My 20 gallon is on a bed side type dresser drawer. Just be sure it’s solid.

Next you’ll need some form of substrate. I personally love sand, I think it really adds to the natural look of a tank. You can get a 50 pound bag of pool filter sand at Home Depot or Lowes for 10$. Or if you prefer gravel, you can get a big bag of garden pebbles for about the same price. I have used both. Be sure to rinse well before putting into the tank.

Now for the lighting. Fish tank lights are really expensive. But the way around this is by simply getting shop lights. I have a 4 foot double bulb shop light on my 55 gallon that i paid 20$ for at Wal-Mart, and it works fantastic. They make all different sizes that will fit your size aquarium.

You may want some decorative items on your tank. I personally do not like fake decorations in my tanks, but some do. You can get some cheap stuff at Wal-Mart. Or you can go the more natural looking route like me and get driftwood or rocks from a local creek. Also I HIGHLY recommend live plants in all fish tanks. Many local fish stores (LFS) have great bundle plants for good prices (I.E. 3 for 5$). Sometimes you can find live plants in creeks as well, but be sure they’re true aquatic plants, clean and parasite free before putting them in your tank.

You’ll need a good filter for your tank. This is the most important part of your fish tank. I highly recommend NOT going to cheap on this. Depending on your size tank you can find a good priced HOB (hang on back) filter online. I recommend getting 10 gallons over your sized aquarium, for example if you have a 10 gallon tank get a filter for a 20 gallon tank.

A heater is optional but I recommend getting one. Especially if your house is cooler. Even it your house isn’t normally cold, I really recommend getting a heater as it keeps your tank at a consistent temperature. Pricing depends on your size of tank. You can find cheap heaters online.

Last but not least, the fish! If you’re looking for cheap freshwater fish, I recommend feeder fish. Many fish stores sell Minnows, Guppies, Mollies, Platties 10 for a buck or two. These are hardy, pretty awesome fish that I have in one of my tanks. Alternatively, you can spend a little more on one or two exotic fish – check out Odd Ball Fish online for some ideas. You won’t get the same density, but the variety of colors, oddities and general wackiness more than makes up for that.

Side notes: You will need to remove the chlorine from your tap water. You can do this by purchasing a dechlorinator or letting the water sit for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate.

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