Freshwater Aquarium: Beginner's FAQ

Created on 28 Oct, 2018
Last Update on 03 Feb, 2023

Beginners setting up their first aquarium, most likely don't know which specification is best suited for them. For example:

  • which aquarium size? large or small?
  • planted or non-planted?
  • which substrate? fertilized or non-fertilized?
  • fishes or shrimps?
  • standard or fishless cycling?
  • tap water or distilled water?

This article aims to raise these questions and answered them.

Which aquarium size?

Proponents of big tanks usually mention that larger water volume is more likely to maintain stable water parameters, while fluctuations are more likely in nano tanks.
Although this is true, it is also true that beginners often make wrong decisions causing such stable parameters to actually be bad parameters or even causing some permanent damage to the equipment. In such cases, beginners would have a hard time and costly expenditures to solve the issue. Besides, when testing new configurations it is interesting to have quick response time. Since beginners tend to test several configurations in order to better understand their impact, quick response time might be actually a good behavior.

Therefore, starting with a nano tank is a good way to reduce costs and increase the learning speed.

Planted or non-planted?

Bacterias available at the media filter are capable of quickly reducing ammonia up to nitrites and than nitrates. Nitrates, on the other hand, are quickly removed from the water by healthy plants (which can also remove other unpleasant substances, like chloride). In case of non-planted aquariums, the nitrates should be removed by regular water changes.

The problem with plants, however, is that they require an additional care:

  • light intensity
  • substrate type
  • preparation of roots into the substrate
  • CO2 levels
  • macro- and micro- nutrients availability

All these items require some level of trials and errors, but after doing such fine adjustments there shouldn't be much headaches. Some plants are reasonably tough and can endure a wide range of parameters, therefore being suited for beginners.

Further Reading