Types & Sizes Of Aquarium Explained: Guide To Pick The Best One

We’ve all seen that aquariums come in different kinds of shapes and sizes and you can certainly pick one for yourself depending on your hobby and obviously the amount of space you have in your room to accommodate one. 

Sometimes deciding which one is the right pick for you can become a little confusing with all the available options and their different maintenance requirements. Since an aquarium is pretty much a permanent thing, it’s really important to make an informed decision before getting yourself one. 

Lucky for you, in this article I am here to explain what are the different types of aquariums and what do they require in particular. Besides, you will also get an idea of the maintenance difficulty in each section that will help you to choose the best tank based on your expertise in aquarium keeping.

There are 3 basic sections in this article–

  1. On the basis of tank setup
  2. On the basis of purpose
  3. On the basis of location

In every section, there are a set of questions you can ask yourself and this will guide you right through to the best possible choice of the fish tank.

So, without losing any time, let’s get this show on the road– 

What Are The Different Types Of Aquariums?

A) On The Basis of Tank Setup

In this section ask yourself what kind of tank water you desire.

  • Is it a freshwater tank or perhaps saltwater?
  • What kind of heating situation are you thinking of?
  • Do you only want to keep fish or maybe you are looking to have coral reefs?

Now, check out the 6 most important types of aquarium tank setups under this section–

  1. Warm water aquarium
  2. Cold water aquarium
  3. Nano aquarium
  4. Brackish aquarium
  5. Saltwater  aquarium
  6. Reef  aquarium

Let’s discuss them in details–

1. Warm Water Aquarium

This is one of the most popular freshwater aquarium types because it usually mimics tropical conditions. Moreover, it can accommodate a wide variety of colorful fish such as guppies, tetras, angelfish, etc. 

This kind of tank is the best type if you are a beginner. However, in this tank setup, you will need a heater to always maintain a constant temperature which is mostly around 24 to 28 degrees Celsius.

Besides, it needs some weekly usual aquarium maintenance like proper water filtration, a balanced amount of nutrients, and regular water quality inspection to grow the fish with ideal health. 

2. Cold Water Aquariums

It’s another freshwater aquarium type that requires very low maintenance. If you are picking freshwater fish that prefer cooler temperatures then this option is the best for you. The temperature range is usually between 18-20 degrees Celsius.

The fish that like cold water like goldfish, rosy barbs, guppies, mollies, and white minnows are the best choice for this type of tank.  However, the cold loving fish varieties are not high in number so the choice of fish is limited but still maintaining a cold water aquarium is a lot easier than the warm water one.

3. Nano Aquarium

The name gives away that these aquariums are smaller in size which is around 2-10 gallons at tops. So, if you have limited space in your home this is the aquarium that will be the eye candy of your room.

You can have various kinds of small sized fish including tropical fishes, zebra fish, paradise fish, guppies, dwarf shrimps, and snails. However, the downside is, smaller aquariums need much more maintenance than the larger ones. 

Since the amount of water is less, it can fluctuate very easily and cause the fish to die. So, regular monitoring of the water parameters is a must. This is why smaller tanks are more compatible if you have some experience in fishkeeping

4. Brackish Aquarium

Brackish aquarium is where the water is a mixture of freshwater and saltwater. So, the water is a little bit salty but still not too much. This aquarium is very interesting and you can keep mudskippers, archerfish, and gobies in here.

In addition, it can be decorated with aesthetic rocks and aquatic plants to give it a more natural kind of look. But there’s a catch, this aquarium setup needs a deep knowledge about how the whole system works.

Besides, the salinity level should be properly maintained by regularly testing the water parameters otherwise the aquatic creatures will not survive. So having some expertise in this section will be better before getting this type. 

5. Saltwater Aquarium

It can be called a small window to the ocean because saltwater aquariums can house a diverse range of exotic fish and invertebrates with the addition of vibrant coral reefs. However, setting up a saltwater tank needs a high level of experience with an adequate amount of investment.

This is because it needs an advanced filtration system and special light settings to maintain the ocean like water chemistry which comes at a cost.

Besides, regular water changes and making sure the water parameters are in ideal condition is a frequent job for the aquarists having a saltwater aquarium. 

6. Reef Aquarium

It’s basically focused on keeping coral reefs. A variety of fishes are also included in this tank but the center of attention is the coral reefs. However, this type of tank is very complex to maintain and requires a lot of patience.

This is because they require advanced equipment and the undivided attention of the aquarist to maintain the marine ecosystem. The reef tank needs very powerful lighting systems, calcium reactors, and protein skimmers as well.

Besides, it’s very challenging because not only do you have to manage the light intensities and nutrient balance, but also you have to carefully place the corals to the right placement otherwise they might get damaged.

B) On The Basis Of Purpose

In this section, ask yourself whether you want to keep a single species of fish or a different kind of variety mixed in the same tank.

Or are you only looking to breed your fish or treat the sick ones?

Now, check out the 5 most important kinds of fish tanks under this section–

  1. Fishbowl
  2. Single species tank
  3. Community tank
  4. Quarantine tank
  5. Breeding tank

Let’s discuss them in detail–

1. Fish Bowl

It’s the most traditional fish bowl that is small and doesn’t have any filtering system. This is one of the reasons why it needs to be looked after very carefully. Without the space for a filter, the water gets dirty pretty fast and that’s why it needs regular water changes.

Bettas are pretty hardy fish this is why they can be kept in the fish bowl. This is the best option when you don’t have either space for an aquarium or money to spend on it. Because it practically takes no extra space as it can be kept over any furniture and it doesn’t need you to spend any money on tank equipment.

However, the downside is, that you can only keep a small number of fish in the bowl and they might find it hard to adjust at the beginning as there is very little space in the bowl. This is why it’s better to get a bowl that’s comparatively larger in size.

2. Single Species Tank

This is the one when you are dedicated to displaying only your favorite particular species of fish in your tank. This type of tank is relatively easier to handle because, here you only have to focus on the requirements of one species of fish.

Yes, the betta fish bowl is also a single species tank but here we are talking about the most basic setup of a tank with all the necessary equipment such as filters and hardscapes unlike the fish bowl.

Most commonly discus fish, angelfish, and cichlids are the top choices for this setup. These tanks can be of various sizes based on the number of fish they can accommodate.

3. Community Tank

This is the exact opposite of a single species tank where a lot of fish varieties are kept in an environment that suits all of the species in the system. The interaction of vibrant fishes makes the community tank look so amazing.

This is why it needs a very careful setup and a smart choice of fish so that the various species are compatible and have friendly behavior as well.

Because any aggressive species of fish in the community tank might pose a threat to all the other species of fish, especially the small sized ones. However, some popular fish species that are mostly non-aggressive like tetras, goldfish, etc can be kept together in the tank.

In this case, the tank size needs to be big enough and it’s also better if there are aquatic plants that provide a hiding spot for the small fish if they feel threatened.

4. Quarantine Tank

This tank is usually a temporary tank to prevent the spread of disease from a sick fish. Also, it’s used to introduce a new type of fish in the already established aquarium.

These kinds of tanks are mostly kept without any substrate or decorations because the main focus here is to keep the tank clean and healthy without any unnecessary things. Besides, the more things you add to the aquarium the more maintenance it will need.

Quarantine tanks provide a temporary habitat for any sick fish during its treatment so that it gets the proper treatment and its progress can be observed more closely.

5. Breeding Tank

It’s used for the reproduction of fish in a controlled environment. Breeding tanks are not that deep and have a lot of places for the fish to hide. In this tank, the selected fish are kept and they are fed a diet that is rich in protein to stimulate the breeding process.

Besides, the temperature and water parameters of the tank are also well maintained according to the needs of the specific fish. Mostly only 2 fish are kept in the breeding tank, obviously one male and one female. Later when the fries have arrived the parent fish are taken out of the breeding tank and put back in their main Aquarium.

The fries are kept there because the main focus of this tank is to protect the tiny fries from the adult fish until they reach a certain age and size when there is no risk of predation. 

C) On The Basis Of Location

Are you looking for an aquarium that you can keep on top of your furniture?

Or do you want to install it on the wall or put it in the cabinet?

In this section, I’ve enlisted 4 most popular aquariums based on their location–

  1. Stand-alone aquarium
  2. Cabinet aquarium
  3. Wall aquarium
  4. Floor aquarium

Let’s discuss them in detail–

1. Stand- Alone Aquarium

These kinds of tanks are usually small and designed to be placed on top of other things such as a table, or other furniture. However, it must be ensured that the tank is placed in a secure place and over a flat surface where there’s no risk of accidental knock over.

However, these tanks can weigh a lot because they are made of glass and besides the water, hardscapes and substrates can add a lot of weight to the tank. So if you think the furniture on top of which you have put the aquarium cannot withstand the load, you can get a stand specially designed for aquarium support.

These stands come in various styles and sizes so you will have plenty of options to choose from. A decent aquarium stand has enough space to accommodate the aquarium stuff like food and cleaning tools and helps us to keep these in a nicely arranged system. 

2. Cabinet Aquarium

If you are looking for an elegant look and you also have some space in your room to spare, you can opt for this cabinet style aquarium. You can also create a concealed built-in storage to keep aquarium supplies like cleaning tools, and fish foods.

If you can install some nice lights then the whole cabinet on your wall will provide a wonderful and aesthetic feature of your living room entertaining all the guests with live interaction of vibrantly colored fish.

3. Wall Aquarium

Some aquarium enthusiasts have built-in aquariums in their rooms. These types of aquariums are large sized and they become the centerpiece of the room decoration.

Wall aquariums are built by professionals to maintain the structural integrity of the walls and plenty of fishes are very carefully chosen according to the size of the wall.

Besides, wall aquariums need advanced filtration systems and specialized lights in order to support the large volume of water. Besides the maintenance and cleaning also requires professional help.

4. Floor Aquarium

They are the new trends in high- end building these days. However, this is not easy to install because a floor aquarium needs very careful designing, planning, and engineering construction in order to distribute the weight of the whole setup equally in the structure. 

Also, it requires an advanced filtration system and high light settings to ensure a stunning display of colorful fish. Besides, the floor construction also should be heavily done otherwise it won’t be able to withstand the weight of the aquarium.

These kinds of aquariums cannot be regularly maintained because of their large volume; this is why they also need professional help for regular maintenance. 


Doesn’t matter if you choose a cold water aquarium or hot water, saltwater or freshwater, a single species tank, or a community tank. All of these picks will equally present their appeal and entertain your mind with beautiful fishes and their interactions.

But the bottom line is, before getting a tank, make a plan where you want the tank to be set up and select what kind of fish you want there. Make arrangements for the type of water the fish feels comfortable in, and bring in the maintenance supplies and fish food. 

Add some decorations and aquatic plants, as well as some hardscapes. Your aquarium journey is ready to sail. I hope the discussion of various types of aquariums was able to provide you with some ideas for selecting the right kind of tank based on your interest, expertise, and the space of your house.

Howard Parker

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