Should Beginners Start Small?

DrogJustDrog
Member
I was recently at an LFS, and I mentioned possibly getting a bigger tank instead of struggling so much with my tiny 5.5 gallon. My mother insisted I "start small" but now I am really wondering if it would be better for beginners like myself to start off with a 10-20 or even 30 gal. tank.

I feel like it would make cycling the tank feel more worth it with more of the options you have with stocking the larger tank. That's just my feeling on it, any thoughts?
 
alven
Member
I'm a beginner and I have a 10. It's pretty easy to maintain when you think about it. WCs are a breeze and I know how to look after the tank. A 20 also seems beginner friendly as well. I can do WCs on both...not too much headache, but IMO tank size is a personal preference depending on the future fish.
 
Broggy
Member
if you feel like you know what you are doing. bigger tanks are easier than smaller ones in many ways, but it probably feels overwhelming to other people, because they think 30 gallon tanks are HUGE. if you do get another tank, what would you do with it?
 
JLAquatics
Member
DrogJustDrog said:
I was recently at an LFS, and I mentioned possibly getting a bigger tank instead of struggling so much with my tiny 5.5 gallon. My mother insisted I "start small" but now I am really wondering if it would be better for beginners like myself to start off with a 10-20 or even 30 gal. tank.

I feel like it would make cycling the tank feel more worth it with more of the options you have with stocking the larger tank. That's just my feeling on it, any thoughts?
I would agree that a good medium sized tank is perfect for the beginner. A large tank over 55 gallons seems too daunting for a first time fish owner, so I believe a 20 gallon long, 29 gallon, or even up to a 40 gallon breeder make for the best setups for the beginner in my opinion for a few reasons;

1. There is more wiggle room pertaining to water parameters. Very small tanks have much less water than larger ones. Hence, a minor mistake such as forgetting water change day or overfeeding your fish by accident could have very negative impact on the aquarium with ammonia spikes. It would be much easier to keep parameters stable for your fish, which is why a somewhat larger aquarium is the way to go.
2. More wiggle room pertaining stocking. What happens if you get so many of this fish and so many of that fish, only to realize that your tank is overstocked? This is too often seen with beginners and first timers, which is why having a larger aquarium will allow more choices within reason regarding stocking your tank.
3. You don't break the bank. Very large tanks over 40 gallons are very expensive. The equipment is outrageous for a beginner (not quite sunk into the addicting hobby just yet :smug:) and the cost to maintain such an aquarium only increases. Yes, a 5 or 10 gallon aquarium is the cheapest, but there are the other problems with them that I listed above.
PS. If you go with a small setup, stick with a single Betta. A single Betta in a 10 gallon would be very manageable for a beginner, but for community tank setups the beginner should stick to the larger suggestions mentioned above. Never try a tank under 5 gallons unless you are very experienced hobbyist. A tank under 5 gallons should only house small snails and shrimp, fish should not even be considered in my opinion.
 
alven
Member
Broggy said:
if you feel like you know what you are doing. bigger tanks are easier than smaller ones in many ways, but it probably feels overwhelming to other people, because they think 30 gallon tanks are HUGE. if you do get another tank, what would you do with it?
I agree. Tank size also varies depending on the fish you want to keep.
 
Betta'sAnonymous
Member
They certainly are easier for things like parameter stability. Big water doesn't go bad as quick. Not to mention the stocking. The easier beginner type fish are great, but most require a school, which you can't do in a 5.5g. But for a non fish person, yeah i get where "start small" makes sense.
 
AggressiveAquatics
Member
I’d say a 29 gallon is the perfect beginner size
If you start small especially in a 5 gallon you have VERY limited options and you can only have 1 fish
 
alven
Member
A 20 long seems like a nice choice too. You have quite the options.
 
  • Thread Starter
DrogJustDrog
Member
Broggy said:
if you feel like you know what you are doing. bigger tanks are easier than smaller ones in many ways, but it probably feels overwhelming to other people, because they think 30 gallon tanks are HUGE. if you do get another tank, what would you do with it?
I have no clue... there are so many things I wanna do. Probably make a planted community tank.
 
darkcat
Member
I started by a 5 gallon, planning to get a betta ONLY! However, while I was in the petshop, I saw all these adorable fishes and I bought it. And guess what happened. My tank was overstocked!! So by my experience, I would recommend a big tank because you can add more plants and decorations, you also don't need to do a lot of wc than the smaller tanks. If you have a bigger tank, you can add more fishes without upgrading!
 
JLAquatics
Member
AggressiveAquatics said:
I’d say a 29 gallon is the perfect beginner size
If you start small especially in a 5 gallon you have VERY limited options and you can only have 1 fish
aIvinn said:
A 20 long seems like a nice choice too. You have quite the options.
That's great, you both agree with me on the perfect sized aquariums for a beginner!
 
dwc13
Member
Years ago I started out with a 10G aquarium. Within a week, I realized I should have gone with a 20G (or 29G). As others have mentioned, a bigger volume of water is generally more forgiving when issues arise (e.g., too low/high water temperature, "accidental" overfeeding, ammonia spikes, etc.). It can also allow you to eventually keep a larger school of the same fish or perhaps bigger fish.

Of course, the ultimate considerations are typically resource-based, including budget, time, and space. If you're a minor, you should also understand the perspective of your parent(s) / guardian(s). They might be supportive of your interests but also reluctant to take over should you decide its not what you thought it would be.

In the end, though, it's better to start small than not start at all.
 
Pfrozen
Member
imo 20g is the perfect size for beginners. 10g tanks and below can be difficult. I just set two 10g tanks up with identical filtration and one cycled in a week while the other is still cycling and being stubborn several weeks later. I've had easy 10g tanks and I've had hard 10g tanks... 20g is about big enough to start seeing consistency and predictability which is what you want

eventually they all become mature and easy to maintain if you have the experience of course but give yourself some time before you dive into nanos
 
Mudminnow
Member
I feel like there is a sweet spot for tank size and ease of maintenance. In my opinion that sweet spot is between 20 and 40 gallons. Smaller than 20 can be less stable, and one is always tempted to overstock it. Bigger than 40 can start to be a chore. It means bigger water changes and more time cleaning equipment. Plus, big tanks can be uncomfortable to work in after a while. (I'm a tall person, and I can't even reach every spot in my 150 gallon.)

So, if I was to recommend beginner tank sizes, I would say between 20 and 40 gallons.
 
Betta'sAnonymous
Member
I decided when we got our 29 that it was maybe the perfect tank for freshwater, non-cichlid fish, because you can keep almost ANYTHING in there!! And water changes aren't anywhere near overwhelming.
 
Dechi
Member
Beginners should buy the biggest tank can afford. The bigger the tank, the more stable the aquarium is and the less problems you will have.

A 5 gallon tank is a lot harder to manage than a 20 gallons. And a 20 gallons is harder than a 75 gallons. And so forth.

This is because very small mistakes will have a much bigger effect in a small volume than in a bigger volume. Think about if you drop 1 ml of black paint in a glass of water compared to dropping 1 ml of the same paint in a kid’s pool. Which will leave a bigger trace ?
 
Pfrozen
Member
Betta'sAnonymous said:
I decided when we got our 29 that it was maybe the perfect tank for freshwater, non-cichlid fish, because you can keep almost ANYTHING in there!! And water changes aren't anywhere near overwhelming.
Good point. The 20 limits me on what I can keep. I wouldn't mind a 29 to be perfectly honest
 
alven
Member
20/29 seems like the perfect size imo. Then again 10s are for people like me who are obsessed with their betta. = )
 
Betta'sAnonymous
Member
Pfrozen said:
Good point. The 20 limits me on what I can keep. I wouldn't mind a 29 to be perfectly honest
I decided in the future that may be the only tank size i ever buy again...unless i need more fry tanks if i get big into breeding my gudgeons and plecos...
 
Pfrozen
Member
Betta'sAnonymous said:
I decided in the future that may be the only tank size i ever buy again...unless i need more fry tanks if i get big into breeding my gudgeons and plecos...
Can't go wrong with a rack of 10s for the gudgies!

Well OP it seems we've reached a consensus lol. 20-29g would be the best I think according to the people who responded. 10g was my first tank too but it was actually more work to maintain than my 20 :)
 
86 ssinit
Member
29g is a great beginner tank. It’s also a very useful tank and will be kept for years. Oldest tank I have is a 29g. Probably 30yrs. Just a great tank. Most anything will live in this tank. It’s been a community tank,planted tank,turtle tank, shrimp tank and now a grow out tank for young discus
AF45BB3E-AD0E-46AB-8513-BC52E8B3B44A.jpeg
just a great tank :)!
 
alven
Member
Discus are some pretty fish too, but I can't keep them rn. :/
 
Noroomforshoe
Member
aIvinn said:
20/29 seems like the perfect size imo. Then again 10s are for people like me who are obsessed with their betta. = )
In a 20-29 gallon, your betta could thrive in a tank with other fish in it. If you wanted.
 
JLAquatics
Member
A 29 gallon aquarium is a perfect size for a thriving community tank as everyone else agrees. Here is my own 29g, just don't mind the extra plant growth currently.
My community aquarium is very stable and houses plenty of small fish, shrimp and snails which all coexist peacefully with each other. You truly cannot go wrong with a 29g aquarium. :)
 
HupGuppHup
Member
10G can be very easy and cheap, but only if you have a lot of restraint with stocking. Most of us dont though, especially if it's your only tank - so 20G is usually the better option - you can do a lot more with it.
 
Patman0519
Member
DrogJustDrog said:
I was recently at an LFS, and I mentioned possibly getting a bigger tank instead of struggling so much with my tiny 5.5 gallon. My mother insisted I "start small" but now I am really wondering if it would be better for beginners like myself to start off with a 10-20 or even 30 gal. tank.

I feel like it would make cycling the tank feel more worth it with more of the options you have with stocking the larger tank. That's just my feeling on it, any thoughts?
Knowing what I know now I would go right after 75 gallons minimum,easier to up from big already and when fish grow out in a large tank and the big tank has a problem and you have to jockey fish trying to get a 6in chiclid in a 55 with other small fish because a eerie thing.
 
pagoda
Member
Personally speaking from my own experience of having a small flat, thus not alot of room for large aquariums but having had large ones in the past....the smaller aquariums, say 20 gallons and under, are not what I would class as "beginner". Reason being that the lower volume of water can be a real pain in the backside to get "just so" and are quicker to experience water quality issues, especially during initial cycling where curveballs and potholes appear overnight.

The larger aquariums are easier to cycle, easier to maintain longterm by virtue of the greater volume of water diluting the spikes thus allowing you more time to not just notice the change in fish behaviour/body language but to actually cure the problem before it gets too far gone and fish start to die.

As much as the "start small" is logical, it is not always the best way to go as a first aquarium cos when you get problems they tend to happen very fast and in greater magnitude with usually devastating results compared to the larger aquariums.

I have 5 aquariums, all 17 to 20 gallons and three are "odd" shape (hexagonal) and compared to my past much larger aquariums, they can be and often are hard work to get right sometimes...even after over 40 years of fishkeeping they still chuck the occasional curveball at me. I can deal with it fine, but someone new to the pastime could quickly get out of their depth with very fast.
 
carsonsgjs
Member
I think going with a relatively small tank for a beginner is probably the better option. There is the old ‘bigger is better’ argument in terms of keeping parameters stable which i agree with to a degree but you need to have have gained the experience and knowledge necessary to keep a tank running healthily in the first place. A beginner, unless they have done a load of research beforehand (which we have seen not to be the case many times), wont have that. Theres still a lot of bad advice being given out as well so you have to assume that a beginner is going to act on that advice initially.

therefore, make the mistakes and experience the learning curve when the stakes are reasonably small, and not just in a financial sense. If you can keep something like a 20g going well, then you can move onwards and upwards.
 
Catappa
Member
JLAquatics said:
A 29 gallon aquarium is a perfect size for a thriving community tank as everyone else agrees. Here is my own 29g, just don't mind the extra plant growth currently.
My community aquarium is very stable and houses plenty of small fish, shrimp and snails which all coexist peacefully with each other. You truly cannot go wrong with a 29g aquarium. :)
I love the look of your tank!
 
darkcat
Member
I'm still a beginner because I only had fish for 3 months but I've upgraded my tank from 5 gallon to a 20 gallon and I realized I should start with that. So I would recommend you getting a 20gallon.
 
Cawafuoshi
Member
I wouldn't say you wasted money or time getting a 5.5 gallon first. Everything you learned from keeping it applies to the bigger tanks as well in some way.

What are you struggling with, btw?

Whenever you decide to go bigger, the 5.5 gallon will make for a good enough quarantine tank for either plants or fish or both.

It seems your mom needs convincing, and for someone not in the hobby "29" can just sound $$$, huge, heavy without considering the aforementioned benefits.


While my 5.5 g is severely limited in fish I can keep, I experiment with plants, lighting schedules, fertilizer regimes, practice with scaping ideas all to be applied down the road to something bigger and "better". I love the fact that my wc are done within 2 minutes just using a measuring cup.
 
HupGuppHup
Member
Cawafuoshi said:
I love the fact that my wc are done within 2 minutes just using a measuring cup.
Great point - water changes get to be a fair bit more work after 10G
 
Cawafuoshi
Member
Hamoncan said:
Great point - water changes get to be a fair bit more work after 10G
One could probably look at the bright side and say they become more rewarding?! :D
 
  • Thread Starter
DrogJustDrog
Member
Cawafuoshi said:
I wouldn't say you wasted money or time getting a 5.5 gallon first. Everything you learned from keeping it applies to the bigger tanks as well in some way.

What are you struggling with, btw?

Whenever you decide to go bigger, the 5.5 gallon will make for a good enough quarantine tank for either plants or fish or both.

It seems your mom needs convincing, and for someone not in the hobby "29" can just sound $$$, huge, heavy without considering the aforementioned benefits.


While my 5.5 g is severely limited in fish I can keep, I experiment with plants, lighting schedules, fertilizer regimes, practice with scaping ideas all to be applied down the road to something bigger and "better". I love the fact that my wc are done within 2 minutes just using a measuring cup.
My tank won't cycle. So I can certainly attest to everyone saying larger tanks cycle easier with my own smaller one being quite stubborn.

First time I tried to cycle it, I accidently poured a whole bunch of fish food in there but I tried to use API quick start to help it cycle.

Three months and I had nothing but 4.00 ppm of ammonia in there.

I'm trying again, this time with another product (Nutrafin) and I only have 2.00 ppm ammonia in there. It's only been about a week so I am not too concerned though I am praying I won't have the same issue I did last time.
 
Magua
Member
DrogJustDrog said:
wondering if it would be better for beginners like myself to start off with a 10-20 or even 30 gal. tank.

any thoughts?
I’m a beginner and I started with a 29 gallon and planted the heck out of it on day 1. I’m so glad I did...cycling was shockingly easy as is upkeep on bigger tanks, I think. I’ve since adopted a sickly betta in a 3 gallon and it’s way more work to keep the water parameters healthy!
 
alven
Member
Noroomforshoe said:
In a 20-29 gallon, your betta could thrive in a tank with other fish in it. If you wanted.
Yeah I know...I'm just not interested in doing that yet.
 
Andyc1983
Member
I started with a 29g. The bigger size means more stable conditions which would be helpful for a beginner.

If you are like me you will want to 'experiment' with your first tank and a 29g allows you space to add different decor / plants /fish / invertebrates etc.

I would like a bigger tank now but 29g was probably right for me as a beginner.

If you did get a bigger tank the small one could make a good quarantine / hospital tank
 
Candace
Member
Usually people who enter the hobby with a small tank end up with Multiple Tank Syndrome, I started with a 10g, then it was a 10g and a 5g, then it was a 20g and a 10g and now I have a 40g, 20g and 5g XD
 
MoshJosh
Member
Bigger tanks are more forgiving when it comes to parameters, more forgiving of mistakes. They are typically a bigger investment up front though. . .
 
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