Fish Tank Shape

cube fish tank, cube aquarium

Cube Aquarium

When selecting the perfect tropical fish tank, be sure to think about the fish tank shape. Tropical fish tanks come in a wide variety of shapes. Some of the common fish tank shapes are rectangular, bow front, corner bow front, half cylinder, cylinder, bullet, hexagon, flat back hexagon, cube, and pentagon aquariums.

Several of the tanks mentioned above can be found in most tropical fish stores. The bowfront aquarium, rectangular, corner bowfront aquarium, corner aquarium, and cube tanks are very common while cylinder aquariums, pentagon tanks, and bullet aquariums are usually made of acrylic by custom aquarium manufactures.

Fish Tank Shape and Dimensions

There is more to the tropical fish tank shape than just how it looks. There are several dimensions that play a huge role in the performance and success of your tank. Length, width, and height need to be considered when selecting your home aquarium.

Length refers to the measurements from left to right.

Width refers to how “deep” the tank is from front to back.

Height refers to how “tall” the tank is from bottom to top.

Aquarium Footprint

So, why is this important?

30 gallon hex aquarium, 30 gallon hexagon fish tank

30 Gallon Hexagon Aquarium

The area at the bottom of the tropical fish aquarium is referred to as the footprint of the tank. A tank’s footprint is equal to the length x width across the bottom. The size of the fish tank’s footprint is important because this area provides the living areas or territories of the fish you keep. Tropical fish especially cichlids require more livable footprint space to establish their territories in rock work and other aquarium decorations.

The height of the tank also plays a role in what type of fish you can keep. Higher tanks “usually” have smaller footprints. Aquariums advertised as “tall” would have less footprint space but hold the same volume of water. An example is the standard 110-gallon tank that is 60 x 18 x 23 inches (L x W x H). It will hold the same volume of water as the 110 Extra High, which measures 48 x 18 x 30 inches.

Do you see the difference in the size? The standard 110-gallon fish tank is 12 inches longer, but 7 inches shorter. The standard 110-gallon tank has a larger footprint. Again they both hold 110-gallons of water but the 110-gallon Extra High has less livable space for most fish. You will often see aquariums advertised as 150-gallon High or 150-Gallon Tall. So the shape (tall or long) will influence which fish species and the number of fish you can keep.

Surface Area

Another important aspect of aquarium shape is the surface area. The surface area of your aquarium tank is referring to the area at the top of the aquarium. Again we measure the L x W x H of the tropical fish tank. Surface area is important because the larger the surface area, the more gas exchange is occurring.

Gas exchange is simply carbon dioxide being released from the water in exchange for oxygen. This process occurs when you add an air stone to your tank, install aquarium filters (especially power filters) or running power heads. Surface agitation or turning the water over releases potentially harmful gasses(to your fish in the water) and oxygen is introduced to the water column. Too little oxygen in the water combined with high levels of carbon dioxide can be deadly for your pet fish. So wide and long tanks would provide you with a larger surface area and less gas exchange problems.

Maintenance and Decorating

bowfront aquarium bow front fish tank, bowfront tank

Bowfront Aquarium

When you shop for your tropical fish tank, keep in mind that you will have to clean and decorate the tank. The deeper (higher) the tank, the harder it is to reach the bottom. Especially if you have short arms like me! So if you select the 150-gallon Extra High tank (48 x 24 x 30) remember that is will be over 30 inches to the bottom once you get your aquarium tank on the stand. Occasionally you may want to redecorate (aquascape) your tropical fish tank, or catch a fish. Regular maintenance may require you to vacuum the gravel or scrape the glass. This being said, deeper or tanks referred to as “High” are more difficult to clean.

Fish Tank Shape and Available Space

Many tropical fish keepers select a fish tank based on the available space they have in their home or apartment. Let’s say you have an empty six-foot space in the corner of your living room. You begin shopping and see a beautiful home aquarium that is advertised as a 92 Gallon corner tank (48 x 34 x 24). This tank will fill the empty spot where nothing else really fits. Another example is you have a narrow three-foot space where a 37-gallon column tank will fit nicely (20 x 18 x 24).

The examples above are perfectly normal in this hobby. Fish keepers want to find the largest aquarium they can fit in their living area and budget. I would like you to please keep in mind the aquarium footprint and surface area when planning out your tank purchase and setup.

Fish Views

The fish tank shape will determine the quality of view inside of the tank. Odd shaped aquariums alter the view of the fish inside. Bow front aquariums, corner aquariums, hexagon tanks, and cylinder aquariums are beautiful looking tanks, but when you view the fish from certain angles everything is distorted. Some larger bow front tanks will offer a better view but will still have a section at each end of the bow that alters the view.

The best viewing of your tropical fish will come from the flat panel aquariums such as cube aquariums and rectangular tanks.

Fish Tank Tips

When considering Fish Tank Shape remember that:

  • The larger the surface area and footprint of the tank, the greater success you will have with your tank.
  • Odd shaped tanks will alter the view inside of the aquarium. Flat panel tanks offer the best view.
  • The shape of your aquarium will impact the type and number of fish you can keep.
  • Tall tanks limit the available swimming area for certain tropical fish.
  • Taller tanks are good for Angelfish due to their size and swimming patterns.
  • Consider the depth of the tank when you plan on having a planted fish tank. The taller the tank, the less light plants on the bottom will receive.
  • Shorter tanks are far easier to maintain and decorate.

Do you need to see the dimensions of some of the most common tropical fish tanks? Read more about Fish Tank Size here. Useful chart on bottom of page.

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