Should You Purchase A Used Fish Tank Or Not

Purchasing a used fish tank or even a complete [tag-tec]saltwater aquarium[/tag-tec] system can save you a great deal of money as long as you are careful. As we all know this hobby can become expensive if you allow it to.

When considering this area you need to consider the following :

  • What was previously kept in the aquarium.
  • How long has the aquarium been empty.
  • Has the aquarium ever been treated with a copper based product (Only viable if you are hoping to keep corals and invertebrates)
  • The condition – there may be scratches and abrasions.
  • Is a stand included and if so is it suitable for both the purpose and the decor of your home.
  • If it is a complete setup then exactly what is included and will you be able to care for and maintain everything
  • Is all the equipment documentation included.

Of course some of these items above are common sense but there are some which might not cross your mind. For example it is important to know how long the [tag-ice]aquarium[/tag-ice] has been empty for as the silicon sealant may have become brittle – in this instance you can insist upon a wet run to ensure that there are no leaks. Another important one is whether the aquarium has ever been treated with a copper based product. Copper based treatments are commonly used in fish aquariums for the treatments of diseases such as ich, velvet etc. If you are going to or hoping to keep corals and/or invertebrates then no matter how much you clean it how can you be sure you have removed it all. After all the hard work and money spent you do not want to lose anything due to this.

When looking for a used fish tank there are some great bargains to be had especially when it comes to complete systems. I should know I sold a system of mine a fair few years ago which was absolutely stuffed with hard corals (sps) etc. It was filtered via live rock with a in sump DSB. It had an attached frag tank, halides, calcium reactor, computer controller etc. This system had the lot. It cost me well into the tens of thousands to setup over the years and I sold it for a fraction of that. I was downsizing due to a new member of the family shortly coming into the world. The chap that bought my old system got an absolute bargain.

Another thing that you need to think about is that with purchasing second hand you do not have the ability to be able to customise it to your requirements. For example are the overflows in the perfect place for you, is the aquarium the exact size you were hoping for, etc.

To get the perfect aquarium for your needs then you might need to do some searching and waiting – great more patience needed!

Ok, so you are sure that you want to purchase a used fish tank and I can’t blame you – it is a great way to save some cash so what do you do when you have bought it.

There are 2 aspects here – is it a complete system including fish, corals etc or is it a dry aquarium?

Lets cover both.

Dry Aquarium

In this scenario it is actually quite straight forward. All you need to do is find the product, go and have a look at it, get it wet so that you can test for leaks and purchase it if it is satisfactory.

Now you need to get it home (unless you can get it delivered). Dependant upon the size of the aquarium you might need to take someone with you as even without water they are very heavy.

Once it is home put it in a safe place and get ready to give it a really good clean. It will probably be covered in all types of things. Scrape as much as you can off being careful not to damage the sealant and then clean all the glass. The best thing to clean it with is vinegar and water using a 4 to 1 solution. Give it a really good clean (do it more than once if needed) and once done let it dry naturally and then rinse it vey well.

That’s in in this scenario – you are now ready to move onto the next stage – you are on your way!

Complete System

This scenario is different as there is probably life involved. At times of course you can pick up entire system which do not include and fish, corals etc but in my opinion not that many.

When you have found a system you are interested in you will need to go and visit it. Make sure that you go in a big enough vehicle so that you can get the entire system home with you if you do in fact make a purchase. Of course you can go back another time to collect it but this does depend upon the distance.

In this scenario you will easily be able to test for water leaks as the aquarium will be full.

If you are happy and make the purchase then now comes the fun bit!

You will need to drain as much as the water from the aquarium as possible and retain these in food grade quality containers so that you can take it home with you. You will need to catch all the fish and bag them up – the same goes for the corals. If live rock is included then this could go in the water containers above – it is up to you.

Once everything is dismantled and in the vehicle then you are good to go. Regularly stop and check the water temperature in the containers to see how fast they are cooling.

Here comes the fun part you are home and now have to go into reverse. You will need to do this part quickly but carefully. The first aspect and the most important one is getting the fish, corals, invertebrates, live rock etc back into the aquarium again. They will be in shock so you will need to be careful.

Once everything is unpacked and the aquarium is full (you probably wont have had time to aquascape it completely but that can wait for another day and a lot of the equipment will not be completely connected) leave the aquarium in complete darkness to assist the livestock in recovering. Make sure that the skimmer is running and that there is some water movement in the aquarium.

You will probably be very tired by now!

Over the next few days you can get everything right and as you want it. Hopefully you will not lose anything but prepare yourself as this can happen – capture and transit is a very stressful time for the marine life.

I think that purchasing a used fish tank can be very good as long as you are careful. You can get some great bargains if you look for them especially if it is a complete system – Ebay for example is a great place to look.

If you are on a tight budget or want to save a bit of cash along the way then go for it – the cash you save can be spent on corals and fish later on.