Aquariums can be an expensive hobby, especially if you intend on keeping saltwater fish. But you do not necessarily need to buy an incredibly costly setup in order to keep your fish happy. (We'll keep this quiet, but yes, you can go cheap.)
A thirty gallon tank can be found online, for example on Craigslist, for as little as thirty dollars, and sometimes you may be really lucky and locate one for free! Larger tanks aren't so abundant on Craigslist however.
Oftentimes, filters and other items are included with your aquarium purchase, which makes your life easier. Make sure you clean out the filter and are certain it's the right size for the tank. This same advice applies also to the heater.
Even keeping goldfish properly (not in a bowl) can become expensive, although goldfish themselves are relatively cheap to purchase. Having a proper aquarium isn't a cheap pastime any way you look at it, but buying used may save you some hard-earned cash.
Now, for the fish!
Fish Worth a Small Fortune
The rarity of the specimen and its uniqueness will determine the price of the fish which can range from $1,000 to as high as $400,000! Yes, this is really the expensive fish section of the article!
• The Platinum Arowana - At around $400,000 the Platinum Arowana is the most expensive fish on this list. It's so valuable that an ID chip is implanted into it! They are found in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa and their coloring is the results of a genetic mutation. They require at least a 300 gallon tank and a great deal of food and can reach the size of 35 inches and live to 50 years. At lest you'll get your money's worth, right?
• The Peppermint Angelfish - With another price cut, perhaps you could afford the Peppermint Angelfish. This very exotic fish sells for around $30,000. It's a deep water fish with stripes of red and white (for therein derives its name.)
• The Freshwater Polka Dot Stingray - Much less in price at about $1,000 is the Freshwater Polka Dot Stingray. Another genetic mutation species, this stingray had a u-shaped head instead of a normal round head. Astonishingly, this fish wouldn't be able to survive in the wild because of this misshapen head and, in captivity, must be hand fed—believe it or not!
• The Candy Basslet - At $1,000 the Candy Basslet is one of the most colorful marine fish found in the Caribbean but mostly off the coast of Curacao. Easy to care for but hard to acquire, breeding has been successful in captivity, which may bring down its price and allow the average home aquarium owner to own these beauties.
The Cheap Fish Seats
As mentioned above, the aquarium setup usually costs more than the fish and it's not uncommon that a $10 fish can cost $500 to keep! Also consider that even though you may find a fish for $2, check with your pet shop for recommendations as to how your fish is grouped. You may have to buy 4 or more in order to establish a grouping for the particular fish you've selected.
The Smaller, the Cheaper, Right?
If your budget does not allow a large tank with extensive filtering, you may want to go smaller on the fish. Rosy Red Minnows ($1 a dozen) or White Cloud Minnows ($1.29 each) fare well in a 10 gallon tank and they don't require a heater. If you add a heater you can keep these small fish which are good for beginners. They are Zebra Danios, Platies, guppies and Molies and all should be bought in groups of 3.
• Zebra Danios - These sell for about $1.50 each but shop around because prices vary everywhere!
• Platies - They average around $1 to $3 a piece, dependent upon which platy you buy. There are Mickey Mouse, Sunburst, Red Wag, Green Lantern Platys, etc.
• Guppies - These can range in price from $5 and up with plain guppies being cheaper. There are many types of guppies, the more expensive are from the 'fancy' grouping.
• Mollies - These are 'brackish' fish, meaning they're saltwater mixed with freshwater fish. Again there are many, many varieties, and they are as follows: Marble Lyretail Molly, Harlequin Sailfin Molly, Golden Sailfin Molly, Gold Dust Molly, Gold Doubloon Molly, Black Molly, Balloon Molly, Platinum, Lyretail Molly, Dalmatian Molly, Black, Lyretail Molly, and the Black Sailfin Molly. That's a lot of Mollies. Prices vary, so check all outlets.
• Neon Tetras - These are another cheap aquarium fish that are colorful and easy to see because they are a grouping fish. At $1.89 each, these jewels of the aquarium must be grouped with at least six in a tank but the more the merrier! Tetra types include the Cardinal Tetra, Neon Tetra, Black Neon Tetra, Rummy Nose Tetra, Glowlight Tetra, Bleeding Heart Tetra, Lemon Tetra, Penguin Tetra, Black Phantom Tetra, Black Widow Tetra, Splashing Tetra, Congo Tetra and the Buenos Aires Tetra.
Fish can be expensive pets but they needn't be if you shop around for the best buys in fish and aquarium rigs. And don't forget, no matter how cheap a fish may be, many fish have to be grouped in quantities of four or more. More importantly, ask your pet store about fish compatibility. You don't want to have one fish looking at another as a prospective dinner "guest."
By Tom Matteo
About the Author
Tom Matteo has been a freelance writer since 1992. He specializes in hardware and software reviews for computers and gaming systems, and occasionally writes about such topics as animal behavior and care. Tom resides in Bethlehem, PA with his wife Tina and his beloved cockapoo, Angel.