if you were to start from scratch all over again

Mister Krabbs
  • #1
I know there is a sticky that discusses first tank setup and focuses on 10-20g tanks. What I would like to see is a sticky of the same basic idea of setting up a beginners tank, but with a reommended size tank. I say this because I don't think most of you would recommend a 10-20 gal tank because most people are going to want to overstock it.

In other words, even though I am a beginner, I believe it would be better to start with at least a 30gal tank or possibly a 40. I say this because I think most beginners think that they should have at least a dozen 2" fish and a pleco and maybe some extras. I know that I would have preferred bigger fish and at least somewhere near a dozen. I also feel that bigger has a slight stability advantage.

Ultimately I am curious what you experienced folks think about this. Would it be better to start with something bigger than the usual 10 or 20 gallon tank? If so, what would you recommend starting with as far as tank size AND appropriate (hardy beginner) fish for that size tank?

I'm thinking that it would be good to have a recommended startup list of equipment with fish that leaves room for the new person to add a few more fish AFTER he/she accomplishes a healthy startup.


For the record I do understand that startup costs will increase with a larger size tank..... But let's assume this list is for someone who is serious about becoming a beginner hobbyist

Also I am assuming that this would-be beginning hobbyist understands that once the tank and "beginner" fish have been established for a while and he or she has added a few personal choice fish, then he or she could trade or rehome these fish to get more personal choice fish to stock the tank to suit themselves.
  • #2
Hi, although you've been on for a few post just gonna say, WELCOME to Fishlore!

Are you talking about this? https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/stocking-list-for-10-gallons.207629/ . This is so we can give people the information of stocking a 10 gallon if they haven't gotten any fish yet or just planning to do a nano tank setup.

Personally like many people here will agree that the 20 gallon should be the minimum for a beginner. This has to do not only with the tank parameters and how it will be easier to maintain stability but also to do with choice of fish. Many people have a picture in there head of a big aquarium or they see pictures of aquarium with lots of fish. With a 20 gallon long you can do only 1 school of mid-dwellers and 1 school of bottom dweller and then have 1 central piece. A 29 gallon is no better unless you want fish that swims on all level such as guppies, mollies, or platies since a 29 gallon has the same foot print as a 20 long so you can only have 1 bottom dwelling school and 1 mid-dwelling school. The best tank would be a 33 long or 40 breeder or 40 long. However if you can keep a 33 long you can have a 55 gallon since they have the same footprint. A 40 breeder allows you to have 2 mid dwelling schools, 1 bottom dwelling school, and a couple of central pieces.

I started off with a 10 gallon and it failed within 2 months. Then I got a 20 high (I recommend a 20 long though, I got a 20 high for a terrarium then converted it). Then I got a 40 breeder! I wish I had gone with a 40 breeder. A 10 gallon should only be for if you have had a good experience with another tank or if you are a breeder and use them as breeding and grow out tanks. Otherwise as a beginner its best to start off with a 20+ aquarium. Also I really don't like kits because they don't come with the best equipment. For those who like plants you have to upgrade the lights so add at least $50+ and the filter normally isn't that good for a fully stock tank.
Mister Krabbs
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Actually I was referring to a thread title Easy first tank startup and guide..... or something like that
  • #4
If I could do it all over again, I'd start with a 50 during the $1 per gallon deal! I know by experience that a small tank seems like it'll be easier and less expensive. In the upfront I guess it is, but it ends up way more expensive when you go from 5 to 10 to 20 long to 29. Parameters are soooooo much more difficult to control in the small tank. I guess water changes are definitely easier, which is good because you do them twice as often.

I'd buy the big tank and big filter at the beginning and have everything a new keeper wants with a heck of a lot less trouble and cost.
  • #5
Not listen to the lfs workers when they say "sure you can have 5 African cichlids in your 20 gallon tank. They are just juveniles after all." Or "yes, those cute little yoyo loaches would be great for your 10 gallon tank."
Get on a great forum like this to learn more beforehand instead of by trial and error.
Buy a bigger house that has more room for fish tanks, lol.
  • #6
Personally I think there is some benefit for beginners to start off with a small tank. I started with a 36 gallon which I think is fine. Personally I think a 20 long up to a 36 is good for a beginner. The reason I say this is a smaller tank will hopefully keep a beginner from going out and buying some bigger more expensive fish and killing them. Beginners are going to have bumps in the road and it's better to have these bumps with cheaper fish because if someone goes and kills a 20-40 buck fish that's more likely to discourage them from the hobby as opposed to a few 1-2$ fish.
Mister Krabbs
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
So that's pretty much what I am looking for from you experienced members. You just said 20 gallon long up to 36g. I totally get what you are saying about size/cost of fish.... killing expensive fish would be discouraging.

Ultimately I am asking all of you to "pretend you are a newbie" and tell the rest of us newbies what you think the best size tank, which filter, lights, etc, etc would be to start with. Like I stated in my original post, I really don't think you would recommend a 10 gallon tank to anyone and possibly not even a 20g...... but this is just my opinion. I am a newbie, as in only going on my second week of cycling my very first tank. I know already if I were to start over I would have at least a 40 gallon tank. I feel stuck with my 10 gallon for now anyway.
  • #8
It's hard to revert back to the mind of a newbie and still make solid recommendations. For instance, when I was a newbie, I did start with a 5 gallon and that seemed perfect at the time . I have also since upgraded a bunch of times until I reached the point I am at now.

I think everyone, including you, hit the nail on the head by saying smaller does not equal cheaper or better. In a lot of cases though, it does spark a passion to do right by the fish, plants, etc. There are a billion different items, gadgets, thingamajigs, and doodads in the aquarium world and it is hard in the beginning to identify what is worthwhile and what is worthless, or what is critically necessary and what is not.

Maybe a rite of passage to fumble at first?

I think a completely solid setup including critical doodads as a newbie is a 20 gallon long tank (minimum), a filter that turns the tank volume over 8x times per hour, a master test kit, seachem prime, and a confirmed stocking list (by experienced keepers). The other stuff (lights, plants, decor, fertilizers, etc) can come once the fish keeper decides what type of tank they really want, and can maintain.
Ken Ooi
  • #9
I wish all of us have the 'hind sight' to choose the best aquarium for our needs and the right types of fish for it. I'm always fascinated with marine setups and how I wish I started straight into it but as I read more articles and books about how difficult it could become I'm convinced it's not for me. Imagine trying to do water changes and having salt water pre-mixed at the right salinity. As with fresh water, my regrets were to start with goldfish which I do not have the space to house them indoors so the aquarium is out there under the sun growing algae within a week. At least with the tropical tank I have a small 46 liter tank and 2 other nano tanks. The advantage rather than combining them all into a 30 gallon tank is that they have 3 different environments and disease doesn't start in one tank and kill every thing in it. The main tank suffered a catastrophic event as I introduced fish I bought from the LFS which were infected by a virus causing me to lose 1/3 of my stock within 3 weeks. Many of prettiest fish were lost. With separate tanks you can house different fish as I couldn't put a Betta in my all Mollies tank so it's kept in a Nano tank with schooling fish. Yes, small flame Tetras and Minniows, plus Red Cherry Shrimps.
Mister Krabbs
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
So if I could go back 3 weeks and start all over......

40g tank
HOB filter
2 heaters ADJUSTABLE
Fluval Q1 air pump with 2 check valves
At least 1 wood block bubbler (because it makes very small bubbles)

Seachem PRIME and STABILITY (I'm using API products, but it seems the majority here likes Seachem)

Obviously gravel and decoration are more of a personal choice thing..... but don't forget that hiding spots are important to many fish.

Stocking..... I would do the exact same thing that I did last week. Came here for suggestions, did Internet searches to learn about the suggested fish, put a stocking plan together and post it here for final "approval"
s hawk
  • #11
I still consider myself newer in the hobby less than a year with real tanks. But I would like to chime in offering a different perspective. I am a college student and have money, space, time, and other resource constraints. I started with an aqueon minibow 2.5 with guppies, and upgraded to a 5.5 that had pearl danios, and currently ember tetras (guppies died, danios rehome)

1. Bettas are your friend in college. Set up a tank properly for them and they will work great in a college sized tank.

2. TSS+, prime, and a liquid test kits are also your friend

3. I didn't know glass aquariums were cheap (when small) and went down to 2.5g. The premade kits are nice, but an HOB with standard aquarium, DIY mesh cover, and a light aren't much more expensive if your smart.

4. If you don't want a Betta get a 5 gallon or larger and pay attention to all stocking factors. Yeah I enjoyed my pearl danios but they were stressed and too big and too active for my tank.

5. While barebottom is nice and easy to clean, substrate is really nice.
  • #12
I would still consider myself new but far more knowledgable than when I first started thanks to this forum.

If I could start all over again I would have gone somewhere else and bought a larger tank for a start. I would have ignored all their advice in terms of stocking too.

I wouldnt have gone to the nearest LFS, because they have given me some shocking advice on hindsight!

I would have done my nitrogen cycle research FIRST!!!

I would never have bought Mollies. Ever. I just had no love for them.

Liquid test kits and prime are everything.

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