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What Size Aquarium Tank Do I Need?

by David Rains
What Size Aquarium Tank Do I Need?

Tank size is one of the most critical steps when it comes to reef keeping. Before you jump into buying your coral, you'll need to do a bit of homework. The type of coral you want to keep will make all the difference in the tank size you will need. There are three recommended sizes for first-time reefer:

  • 30 gallons for a small tank
  • 40-gallon Breeder for a medium tank
  • 75 gallons for a large tank

The bigger the tank, the more stable the water parameters will be, and the more costs will be associated with maintenance. The main goal with selecting the correct tank size is about getting the best learning experience without causing undue financial or time distress. Below are a few things to consider to help you pick just the right tank.

Tank Volume

Volume refers to the total volume your aquarium system holds. You usually want to get the largest volume you can afford and fits in your desired location. Larger tanks have better water stability which determines how well your tank runs and grows. The larger the tank, the longer it takes to shift levels one way or another, lowering the risk of making irreversible mistakes for first-timers. 

Initial Budget

Consider all of the things you'll need to buy to set up the tank. Below are a few things you will need to begin. 

  • Reef-Capable Light
  • Sand
  • Heater
  • Protein Skimmer
  • Filter Media
  • Salt
  • Test Kits
  • Thermometer
  • Food
  • Wavemaker/Powerhead

Many of these will cost you roughly the same amount regardless of what size tank you get, but some will increase, like your protein skimmer, if you get a larger tank. Consider how much it will cost you at the initial set-up to help you determine what size tank to get. 

Monthly Budget

Set-up is not the end of your costs. After that, you'll have consistent monthly fees - food, test kits, and salt. These items can last you a decent amount of time, especially if they're adequately budgeted. The larger the tank, the more consumable salt you will use.

Tank Installation Location

The more important question - where exactly do you plan on placing your tank? Consider the following: 

  • Is it in the best viewing location, or stuck in a hallway with no one to view it?
  • Is it accessible for maintenance? Deep aquariums can be tough to work on without side access.
  • Will it get direct sunlight? Possible algae issues.
  • Draughts and HVAC vents. Will these cause temperature control issues?
  • TV and stereo speakers – Are these close by to cause fish stress from constant vibrations?
  • Are there sufficient electrical outlets close by? Overloading electrical outlets can lead to a fire.

Tank size should be partially determined by the space you have to house it. 


Just like any other pet, a saltwater aquarium is a commitment, and time is part of that. That begs the question, do you have enough time in your schedule to dedicate to the maintenance of your tank. The larger the tank, the more care it will require, especially over 100 gallons. 

Want to learn more about proper tank sizes? Contact us today with any questions you may have; we're happy to help. 

by David Rains

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