Selecting tropical fish before the tank purchase.

bolivian ramSelecting tropical fish before you purchase your home aquarium will greatly reduce potential problems in the long run. Tank selection should be a rather simple process wouldn’t you think? In reality it can be rather easy and many do not run into any problems as long as they plan things out before hand. The people that usually have problems in the long run usually do not even consider what type of fish they want to keep before they purchase their tropical fish aquarium.

Let’s say you go out and purchase a standard 10-gallon aquarium. You get everything set up, and you take your first trip to the Local Fish Store (LFS). You come home with a new Oscar as a pet fish. The 16-year-old fish store employee helps you by selecting tropical fish appropriate for you tank and told you that it would be just fine in your 10-gallon tank. Everything starts off great, the fish is healthy, eating well, and swimming around just waiting on you to feed him again. Then, after a few weeks, you say to yourself “Wow, this little Oscar is not so little anymore!”

Did you know that the Oscar could grow to a length of 18 inches? 

Question: Do you know the length and width of that standard 10-gallon tank?

Answer: A standard 10-gallon tank is 20 inches long x 10 inches wide.

So, now you have a potential 18-inch fish in a tank that is just 20 inches long by 10 inches wide. So you would now have two choices. You could either sell your beloved pet fish or you could purchase a larger aquarium. Then you have to start the whole process and expense over again of selecting a new tank. So before you purchase a tropical fish tank, have an idea of what type of fish you would like to keep.


Many Local Fish Stores do actually have qualified employees, but on occasion you will run into the above scenario. I’ve kept fish for nearly 23 years and I have seen a lot of the above selling tactics. I want you to be knowledgeable in selecting tropical fish before you walk into the local fish store. My goal is for this site to help you in this process.

Tropical Fish Facts

If you plan on keeping smaller fish (starter community fish) such as guppies, mollies, swordtails, neons, or tetras for example, most will work fine in a standard 29-gallon tank.

If you plan on keeping cichlids, you must consider the overall footprint of the tank because most cichlids are very territorial. You will have much more success with a longer aquarium such as a 55-gallon tank, which is 48 inches x 12 ¾. Most cichlids will claim a spot on the tank bottom hiding in the rock work or other decorations. Therefore the longer the tank, the better chance of success with cichlids.


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