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How Much Does a Fish Tank Cost? (2024 Price Guide)

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By Lindsey Stanton

planted tropical aquarium

Many people get fish because they are easier and more affordable to care for than other pets. Although some fish are an affordable and low-maintenance option, don’t expect all fish tanks to be the same way.

In fact, it’s impossible to predict just how much a fish tank will cost to buy and maintain without more information. For example, the type of fish inside the tank, tank size, and whether the tank will be filled with saltwater or freshwater all affect the price dramatically.

Roughly, you can expect to pay around $500 to get your saltwater tank set up and around $400 per year to maintain it. For a freshwater tank, you are looking at around $200 to set up and $100 per year for maintenance.

To learn more about prices for a variety of fish tanks and different factors that affect their cost, read on. This price guide can help you determine how much you need to budget for your new fish tank. Let’s get started.

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How Much Does a Fish Tank Cost? – It Depends

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how much a fish tank will cost, either to buy or to maintain. A number of factors affect the fish tank cost.

Here are the main factors that affect how much your fish tank will cost. It’s great to consider these factors before purchasing your fish so that you can select the species that best fits your experience levels and financial abilities.

Aquarium Size

aquarium cleaning
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

The biggest expense for first-time fish owners is the aquarium. Obviously, the larger the aquarium is, the more expensive it will be since it requires more materials. The size of your aquarium should be determined by the type of fish you get and how many.

If you know you cannot afford a 50-gallon tank or you don’t have enough space for one, you need to look for species that are much smaller and can thrive in more compact aquariums.

Fish Needs

Similar to the size of the aquarium, your particular type of fish may have specific needs and requirements. For example, some fish are much more sensitive to water temperature. If you have a fish with more specific needs, expect to pay more for equipment and cleaning supplies.

On the other hand, some fish are low-maintenance pets. Goldfish, for example, have been famed for their notoriously simple needs and requirements. Always select a fish with needs that match your skills, lifestyle, and financial means.

ryukin goldfish
Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

Water Conditions

Water conditions dramatically affect how much the tank will cost to maintain. For example, saltwater aquariums require more parts and tools, making them more expensive up front to maintain than freshwater aquariums.

Always Do Your Research

Because of these factors, one tip is crucial before buying an aquarium: always research the aquarium and the fish inside the aquarium. Researching these two items will ensure that you get a fish and aquarium that matches your financial means and skill level.

How Much Does a Saltwater Fish Tank Cost?

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Image Credit: Vojce, Shutterstock

Saltwater tanks are a great choice because they house some of the most beautiful and fascinating fish. However, saltwater fish tanks are not great for beginners because they are more expensive and require more effort to maintain. Here is how much a saltwater fish tank will cost:

Initial Costs: ~$500+

What You’ll Need:
  • Aquarium
  • Stand (table will do if large enough)
  • Saltwater mix
  • Live rock
  • Water filter
  • Jew flow or powerhead
  • Lighting
  • Water test kit
  • Chemicals
  • Protein skimmer
  • Net
  • Algae scrapper
  • Thermometer
  • Siphon
  • Hydrometer

Before bringing your saltwater fish home, setting up the aquarium is always best. Saltwater aquariums require more parts because there are more aspects to maintain, such as the chemical balance and the pH level.

To begin, make sure you purchase a large aquarium. Saltwater fish need larger aquariums than freshwater ones since saltwater has less oxygen. For the fish to breathe properly, they need more space. You need at least 60 liters or 15 gallons for most saltwater fish, though the bigger the better.

Furthermore, you need to get a power head, chemicals, a water testing kit, and lighting. The quality of the products you buy will also affect the price tag. You could easily expect to pay $500 for all of these parts, which does not even include the fish.

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Image Credit: Vojce, Shutterstock

Maintenance Costs:  ~$400 – $600

What You’ll Need:
  • Food
  • Saltwater mix
  • Filter cartridges
  • Water test kit
  • Placement bulbs, tubes, etc.
  • Medication (if needed)
  • Electricity

To maintain your saltwater system, you have to buy more salt, chemicals, and water testing options. Additionally, you have to monitor the water temperature and clean the water. One factor affecting maintenance costs that people don’t think about is that saltwater aquariums need electricity, which will increase your electricity bills.

On top of the aquarium maintenance costs, you have to feed the fish. Saltwater fish can eat frozen or fresh meat, like worms or shrimp. However, some saltwater fish are fine with regular fish pellets or flakes.

For fish that do not require special diets, you can expect to pay around $400 a year for maintenance and food. However, the price can jump up as high as $600, if not more, if you have to feed your fish special food.

aquarium plant divider How Much Does a Freshwater Fish Tank Cost?

aquarium with cichlids
Image Credit: Frantisek Czanner, Shutterstock

Compared to saltwater aquariums, freshwater aquariums are much easier to care for. Plus, they are far more affordable. Hence, freshwater tanks are an excellent option for beginners since they are more accessible and affordable to maintain yet can house several stunning fish.

Primarily, the type of fish and how many fish you want inside your tank will affect your costs the most. Maintenance is much easier since you don’t have to maintain the water conditions as carefully.

Initial Costs: ~$100 – $500

What You’ll Need:
  • Aquarium
  • Stand (tables should work for most freshwater tanks)
  • Gravel
  • Filter
  • Lighting (optional)
  • Decorations
  • Water test kit

If you just want a single fish inside a small aquarium, you can easily spend less than $100. Plus, your maintenance costs will only be about $5 every 3 months or so. We recommend getting a small tank with a couple of fish. It will create a much more enjoyable environment for your fish than a simple bowl. At the same time, it will still be affordable and stunning to look at.

Many freshwater fish do not have intense needs, but tropical freshwater fish may need warmer water. Except for tropical fish, you shouldn’t need a heating system. You can add lighting, but it is optional if your tank is placed in an area with good natural light.

At the very high end of the spectrum, you can pay $500 for a freshwater aquarium, but that assumes you get all the best accessories for your fish. You can pay as little as $200 to $300 and still get a good setup.

large planted tank with sand amazon sword plant angelfish cichlids
Image Credit: Joan Carles Juarez, Shutterstock

Maintenance Costs:  ~ $100-$200

What You’ll Need:
  • Food
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Water test kit
  • Replacement parts
  • Medication (if needed)

Maintaining your freshwater aquarium is easy. You need food, cleaning products, and power if you run light, heat, or a filter. Of these optional features, the filter is the only one that should be used for all freshwater fish.

You could easily expect to only pay around $100 to $200 for your yearly freshwater aquarium maintenance costs. That is pretty affordable, especially in comparison to saltwater maintenance!

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Conclusion

How much a fish tank will cost to buy and maintain depends mainly on the type of fish and aquarium you want. Most importantly, saltwater aquariums are notoriously more expensive than freshwater aquariums. Using a freshwater tank is best if you don’t want to spend a fortune on your fish.

From there, research fish that match your space availability and budget. Some fish will be more expensive than others because of their rarity and specific needs. By researching the fish, you are more likely to create an aquarium that fits perfectly inside your home.

Remember that you get what you pay for no matter which fish or aquarium you settle on. For your fish to have the best life possible, don’t hesitate to splurge on the best products for their aquarium.


Featured Image Credit: S-F, Shutterstock

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