This is probably something which most beginners to this hobby ask themselves and it is a very valid question. A lot of people recommend that beginners start with the largest aquarium which they can both afford and fit into the designated area.
This is very good advice however it can also be confusing as well as off-putting. People sometimes look at the large aquariums as well as the required equipment, see the cost and then are put off.
The reason that a lot of people recommend a large aquarium to start with is due to the fact that it is easier to maintain water quality in an aquarium with more water volume. The way I explain this to people is in relation to a cup of coffee!
In a cup of coffee if you put a spoon full of sugar in there it will taste quite sweet however if the coffee was in a bucket then the coffee would not taste as sweet – if you could taste it at all.
The same is with an aquarium where nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate is the sugar.
So am I different or do I recommend the same.
Actually I am different – I recommend that people start with an aquarium size which is correct for them and their budget. If a new aquarists budget will not stretch to a 100 gallon aquarium then get a smaller one which is within budget. As long as it is known and understood that water quality is slightly harder to maintain in a smaller aquarium then why not get a smaller aquarium. It is better to get a smaller aquarium in my opinion than not get one at all.
If you are a beginner and do get a smaller aquarium then you will need to be vigilant with your feeding, your stocking levels, your water top ups as well as your water testing. As time progresses your self confidence and knowledge in the hobby will increase and this will make it easier.
Smaller aquariums in my opinion can actually be more interesting than the larger ones. In a small aquarium as you are not able to put as many corals, fish etc in as you can with the larger aquariums you can watch and study the aquarium inhabitants more closely. It also has the added benefit that the required equipment will not cost you as much.
As time progresses you may wish to invest in a larger aquarium or you may wish to downsize and go nano – or even pico however at the beginning, as said any aquarium is a ‘best size’ aquarium to start with as long as it is known that smaller aquariums require more careful management.
On a final note – when I say small aquarium I do not mean an aquarium which is very small – I would not recommend that any beginner start with an aquarium which has a water voluem which is less than 20 gallons.