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How Much Does a Fish Tank Cost to Buy and Maintain? (2023 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 certain fish can certainly be a really 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.

To learn approximate prices for a variety of fish tanks and different factors that affect their cost, read on. This price guide can help you know 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 size. 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 fish 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 very 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 apparatus and cleaning supplies.

On the other hand, some fish are very low maintenance. Goldfish, for example, have been famed for their notoriously simple needs and requirements. Always select a fish with needs that match your skills, level of effort, 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 tend to require more parts and tools, making them more expensive up front and to maintain than freshwater aquariums.

Always Do Your Research

Because of these factors, one tip is crucial before buying an aquarium: always do your research, both on 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 effort levels.

How Much Does a Saltwater Fish Tank Cost?

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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 both initially and recurringly:

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, it’s always best to set up the aquarium. 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 enough aquarium. Saltwater fish need larger aquariums than freshwater ones since saltwater has less oxygen. For the fish to breathe properly, they need more space. For most saltwater fish, you need at least 60 liters or 15 gallons, though the bigger the better.

Furthermore, you need to get a jet flow or power head flow, 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, and that does not even include the fish themselves.

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 will have to buy more salt, chemicals, and water testing options. Additionally, you have to monitor the water temperature and clean the water. One factor that affects maintenance costs that people don’t think about is that saltwater aquariums often need electricity, which will make your electricity bills go up.

On top of the aquarium maintenance costs, you will have to feed the fish. Saltwater fish can need frozen or fresh meat, like worms or shrimp. That being said, some saltwater fish are completely 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 diet. However, that price can jump up as high as $600 if not more if you have to feed your fish special food.

How Much Does a Freshwater Fish Tank Cost?

aquarium with cichlids
Image Credit: Frantisek Czanner, Shutterstock

In comparison to saltwater aquariums, freshwater aquariums are much easier to care for. Plus, they are far more affordable. Hence, freshwater tanks are a great option for beginners since they are easier and more affordable to maintain yet can house a number of stunning fish.

The benefit of a freshwater tank is that it has a much lower cost. Primarily, the number one factor to affect freshwater tank costs is the type of fish and how many fish you want inside your tank. Since you don’t have to maintain the water conditions as carefully, maintenance is much easier.

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

The initial cost for your freshwater fish tank can be really low. If you just want a single solitary fish inside a small aquarium, you can easily spend less than $100. Plus, your maintenance costs will really only be about $5 every three months or so.

We recommend opting for a small tank that has a couple of fish in it. This larger freshwater community will create a much more enjoyable environment for your fish than a simple bowl. At the same time, it will still be affordable and absolutely stunning to look at.

Many freshwater fish do not have intense needs, but tropical freshwater fish may need warmer water. With the exception of tropical fish, you shouldn’t need a heating system. You can opt for lighting to make your fish easier to see, but this 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 this is assuming you get all of the best accessories for your fish. You can pay as little as $200 to $300 and still get a really 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 super easy. You will need food, some cleaning products, and maybe power if you decide to 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 freshwater aquarium maintenance costs per year. Super affordable, especially in comparison to saltwater maintenance!

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How much a fish tank will cost to buy and maintain depends largely on the type of fish and the type of aquarium you want. Most importantly, saltwater aquariums are notoriously more expensive than freshwater aquariums. If you know you don’t want to spend a fortune on your fish, opt for freshwater.

From there, research individual fish that match your space availability and budget. Certain 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.

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

Featured Image Credit: S-F, Shutterstock

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