Five ways to save money on your aquarium

by Owen James

Bad times in the economy needn’t mean you forsake your aquarium hobby. Sure, if you’re worried about your job then this probably isn’t the time to set up a huge saltwater reef tank. But there are ways you can save money with more modest tropical freshwater aquariums.

If you have any more tips to add after reading, please drop us a line in the comments below!

1. Use plants instead of a filter

Setting up a new tank to grow plants? If you’re already spending money on decent lighting and a good quality substrate to help ensure your plants thrive, you may be able to save money by skipping the filter.

On her excellent natural aquariums website, Rhonda Wilson explains how she uses plants to keep her tropical tanks naturally sweet:

There are several reasons why I enjoy natural aquariums as opposed to those that are mechanically filtered. I find the equipment to often be distracting from the beauty of the tank. I’m interested in the interaction of different factors that make up a living system.

I know some people really like to play with all the aquarium equipment and that’s OK if you like to collect equipment. I prefer collecting different types of plants, fish and invertebrates to go in my tanks.

Here’s one of her articles explaining how to set-up a natural aquarium.

2. Use rabbit or guinea pig droppings as plant fertiliser

Filled your tank with plants but worried about the cost of expensive German fertilizers? Some plant enthusiasts swear by using rabbit or guinea pig droppings as targetted fertiliser tablets.

Dry them out in the sun, and then bury a couple in the substrate near big specimen plants like Amazon Swords and Cryptocyrenes. Go slow at first, and don’t overdo it.

Don’t use any other animal waste as it won’t be appropriately constituted and could pollute your tank.

3. Build your own DIY stand

Most aquarium stands are absurdly expensive for what they are – four or five pieces of machine cut, man-made wood, stuck together with screws

If you’re at all handy, there are loads of guides on the Internet on how to build your own stand. Here’s a few to get you started:

4. Get your fish for free

Ever moved house and had to give your fish away for free? I’ve done this more than once, and I know others have as well.

Generally you’re forced to push your homeless fish onto aquarium-owning friends, or even return them to a shop who reluctantly takes them off your hands then sells them the next day. (A man’s got to make a profit, I suppose.)

This is the age of the Internet, however, and there are countless opportunities for you to advertise your need for particular free fish in your local geographical area. Craigslist and Gumtree are two ad services, or you could simply post your requirements in an aquarium forum.

If you’re after livebearers you will be inundated with offers. I bought three supposedly female platies last summer. I now have about 20 platies in one of my tanks, and they’re still breeding. I can’t give them away fast enough!

5. Turn down the temperature

Many tropical freshwater fish are quite happy at temperatures of 21°C / 75 degrees Fahrenheit, yet are kept at 26°C or higher. A few do require higher temperatures, most notably discus and some South American tetras, so be careful.

If you check the lower safe range of the fish you keep, you may find you can bring the temperature down by a few degrees, which may stop the heater going on at all for most of the year in a centrally-heated house.

A few fish kept as tropicals, such as White Cloud Mountain Minnows, actually prefer no heater at all – an indoor unheated tank will suit them fine, which will save you buying a filter. And coldwater fish like goldfish certainly shouldn’t be kept in heated tanks (but people do).

Got a reef tank? The blog glassbox-design posted some tips on cutting costs earlier this week.

Check out Katy's Tropical Fish Guide for more aquarium info.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vince 02.02.11 at 12:58 pm

You really gave me a good idea on this one. I never thought that you can use rabbit or guinea pig droppings as aqua plant fertilizer for
Nature Aquarium.

I guess, I will have to try this since I am looking for a way to minimize the cost substrate and fertilizer. :)

Clayton 10.13.11 at 10:44 pm

For small tanks, you might think your goldie is fine, but they get huge. 30 gal. or more. Also, CLEAN ALL FISH POOP!!!! Ammonia is terrible, so cycle your aquarium! Fish are fun to name, and it may sound psycotic, but get to know your fish, talk to it.

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