How to Choose the Perfect Sized Tank for a Beginner’s Planted Freshwater Aquarium?

Aquarium keeping is a popular hobby, offering a whole new world of tranquil beauty and natural wonder right in your living room. Based on the type of fish, plants, and aesthetic you hope to maintain, the size of your tank and its components will vary greatly. This comprehensive guide will help you navigate through the common factors you should consider when deciding on the perfect sized tank for your beginner’s planted freshwater aquarium.

Understand Your Fish Species

The first step in choosing the right tank is understanding the specific needs of your proposed fish species. Fish, like any other living organisms, have unique attributes and requirements. Some fish species require more space than others, or thrive in specific water conditions.

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When selecting species for your first aquarium, it’s important to stick to hardy, adaptable fish that don’t have demanding requirements. Examples of beginner-friendly species include bettas, goldfish, platies, and guppies. A smaller species, like a betta, could be happy in a 10-gallon tank, while goldfish generally require at least 20 gallons of water because of their size and waste production.

Account for the adult size of the fish, not the size when you purchase them. Some species will grow considerably and become cramped if the tank is too small for them as adults.

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Consider the Plants

The second vital component of your tank will be the plants. Planted aquariums are not just aesthetically pleasing, they also provide shelter for fish, aid in maintaining water quality, and contribute to a balanced ecosystem.

Plants, like fish, have diverse needs. Some will grow to towering heights, while others remain small and compact. Some require intense lighting conditions, while others can thrive in lower light. The type of plants you wish to keep will have a direct impact on the size of your tank.

For instance, tall plants such as jungle val and Amazon sword need a tall tank for optimal growth. On the other hand, carpet plants like dwarf hairgrass can be kept in a shallow tank. Remember that plants also need substrate to root in, and certain plants require specific types of substrate to thrive.

The Importance of Lighting

Lighting is fundamentally important for a planted aquarium. It fuels the photosynthesis process in your aquatic plants, ensuring they grow healthy and strong. The size of your tank will affect the amount and intensity of lighting you need.

Smaller tanks generally require less powerful lighting. However, if you want to grow light-demanding plants in your aquarium, you’ll need to invest in a stronger light system, regardless of tank size. LED lights are often a good choice as they’re energy-efficient and can provide full-spectrum light, which encourages plant growth.

If you opt for a large aquarium, ensure your chosen lighting system can provide even light distribution across the tank.

The Role of Filtration

Filtration is vital to maintain a clean and healthy environment in your aquarium. A filter will remove waste, excess food, and potentially harmful chemicals from the water. The size of your aquarium will dictate the type and power of the filter you choose.

Smaller tanks might do well with a simple sponge or hang-on-back filter, while larger aquariums often require canister filters or sumps. The key is to ensure the filter can handle the volume of water in your tank and keep it clean.

Remember that both fish and plants contribute to the biological load of the tank. More fish and plants will require a more robust filtration system.

Tank Size and Maintenance

Lastly, consider the maintenance involved with different tank sizes. Smaller aquariums might seem less intimidating for beginners, but they can actually require more diligent maintenance. This is because changes in water parameters, such as temperature and pH, can occur more rapidly in smaller volumes of water.

Larger tanks offer more stability, but also require more effort to clean and more water to refill. They also weigh more and take up more space in your home. Consider your willingness to maintain your tank when deciding on its size.

Aquarium keeping is a rewarding hobby that can bring much joy and serenity. A well-planned and well-maintained planted aquarium can become a beautiful centrepiece in your home. Remember to research thoroughly, understand the needs of your chosen species, and consider your capacity for maintenance before making your choice. Happy fish keeping!

Tank Equipment and Accessories

The next step to consider is the equipment and accessories necessary for a healthy and thriving planted aquarium. This includes heaters, air pumps, thermometers, and tank lids, among others. Each component plays a crucial role in maintaining the correct environment for your aquatic life.

An air pump, for instance, will help circulate oxygen in the water and keep the environment conducive for both the fish and plants. The heater plays a key role in temperature regulation, ensuring the water temperature remains stable and suitable for the inhabitants. The thermometer will assist you in monitoring the temperature, allowing you to take action if the water becomes too cold or too warm.

A lid is also important in a planted tank setup. It helps to reduce evaporation, maintain a stable temperature, and prevent fish from jumping out. Moreover, it also protects your fish and plants from dust, debris, and other potential hazards entering the aquarium.

The equipment and accessories you choose must be suitable for the size of your tank. For example, you will need a stronger heater for larger tanks and an air pump that can handle the volume of water in your tank. Remember to also consider the space available for these accessories, both inside and outside the tank.

Your Aquarium’s Location

The location of your planted aquarium can also influence the size of the tank you should choose. Larger tanks require sturdy support due to their weight when filled with water, gravel, plants, and other decorations. A 20-gallon tank, for instance, can weigh over 200 pounds when full.

The location should also provide adequate lighting for your aquatic plants to thrive. While artificial lighting is essential, natural sunlight can also contribute to the growth of live plants. However, be cautious to avoid direct sunlight, as it can lead to overheating and promote algae growth.

Remember to choose a location where you can comfortably perform maintenance tasks. This includes water changes, cleaning, and feeding the fish. A location that is easily accessible yet safe from high traffic areas in your home is ideal.


In conclusion, setting up a beginner’s planted freshwater aquarium involves several considerations. The size of your tank plays a crucial role in determining the type of fish and plant species you can cultivate, the equipment needed, and the maintenance required.

Remember that your ultimate goal is to create a balanced ecosystem for your aquatic life. This means understanding the needs of your fish and plants, providing appropriate lighting and filtration, and ensuring regular maintenance.

Keep in mind that patience is key in aquarium keeping. It can take time for your aquarium to stabilize and for your plants to grow in fully. Don’t rush the process; instead, enjoy each step as you learn and understand more about this fascinating hobby.

Choosing the right sized tank for your first planted aquarium can seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and careful planning, it can turn into a rewarding experience. Take your time, do your research, and most importantly, have fun as you step into the wonderful world of planted tanks. Happy aquarium keeping!