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What’s the Ideal Shape & Size for a Fish Tank?

Ideal Shape & Size for Fish Aquariums San Diego, CA

Fish tanks come in many shapes and sizes, but not all of them can be described as being the most adequate for either aquatic species or their human keepers. The main goal of the aquarium hobby is to replicate natural ecosystem conditions in an enclosed artificial environment. With such a goal in mind, the best habitat size and shape for freshwater species wouldn’t be a tank at all.

A very large garden pond that can hold about 50,000 gallons of water would be perfect for tropical fish. In the case of saltwater species, an artificial lagoon with 100,000 gallons would do the trick. Naturally, very few aquarists have the space or budget to maintain such ecosystems. How this translates into tanks is that width and ample water volumes are vital to keeping fish, plants, and invertebrates happy. The aquarium experts at Aquatic Warehouse, a leading provider of freshwater and saltwater aquarium supplies, explain what the ideal shape and size is for a home aquarium.

Large Rectangular Tanks Are Always Better

Fish will enjoy better and healthier lives when they have plenty of water to swim around in. This is pretty easy to understand, but aquarists also benefit from tanks that hold more water. In a saltwater tank, beginners can make mistakes with regard to overfeeding or incorrect dosing, and such mishaps could be deadly in tanks that hold less than 40 gallons because there’s not enough volume for the fast dissolving of contaminants. As for rectangular tank shapes, they’re the closest to a natural habitat we can provide aquatic species with. For example, narrow cylindrical tanks can be stressful for many species that aren’t genetically predisposed to swimming up and down.

Minimum Tank Sizes

Prior to bringing a new aquarium home, you have to ensure there will be enough space to accommodate it. Unless you’re prepared to handle the challenge of keeping a nano aquarium, here are the minimum dimensions you can start with:

  • Freshwater – 25 gallon tanks measure 24 x 12 x 20 inches
  • Saltwater – 40 gallon tanks measure 36 x 13 x 20 inches

Tanks that are smaller than 20 gallons will require very frequent water changes, and you’ll have to keep a close eye on water chemistry measurements. Nano tanks may look really cute, but they’re more difficult to maintain because their reduced water volumes are prone to contamination and evaporation.

Cube Tanks

There’s no question that cubic shapes can be very aesthetic for reef tanks, but seasoned saltwater aquarists will tell you they’re a bit more challenging to maintain. Because corals and plants grow to larger sizes, not many reef species will be happy in a 24-inch cube, and large pieces of coral or live rock will take up significant space. The extra depth presents a challenge in terms of aquatic plant maintenance.

Small Tanks

If you don’t have much space to work with, a smaller aquarium could be a sensible solution. But don’t stock a very small tank with a goldfish. The best species would be a Betta splendens, a few minnows, or a couple of guppies. Don’t forget to add at least a couple plants.

Once you’ve chosen your tank’s size and shape, you’ll need to purchase several supplies to maintain the aquarium. Whether you need a dosing pump, filtration system, LED lighting, heaters or coolers, or any other aquarium supply, Aquatic Warehouse has it all. We’re located in Kearny Mesa, or you can order the supplies you need from our website and have them shipped to you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call today at 858-467-9297.



Contact Information

  • Address: 5466 Complex Street Suite 204
    San Diego, CA 92123
  • Phone: (858) 467-9297
  • Email: sales@aquaticwarehouse.com
  • Working Days/Hours: Mon - Fri / 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
    Saturday / 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    Sunday / 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM


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