Small Aquarium, Large Aquarium – Which Do You Choose

After the decision has been made that you want to keep a saltwater aquarium of your own then the researching phase begins.

Part of this research is to ascertain what size aquarium you actually want to have.

There are a lot of factors to be taken into consideration when choosing the size of the aquarium – one of these is the space available to you.

There are a lot of places (and people) who state that you must choose the biggest aquarium which you can afford and fit in. This is true to a degree as the larger the aquarium the easier it is to maintain excellent water quality and the more room for expansion (and corals) you have in the future.

There is a point which I in my opinion I believe is forgotten when choosing the aquarium size and that is that it is not the size of the display aquarium which is important – it is the volume of water in the entire system.

A lot of people nowadays are starting to understand the importance of this and are actively implementing sumps as well as other containers into the aquarium system purely to increase the physical amount of water.

Lets have a look at the two aquariums – large and small.

The Large Aquarium

The large aquarium when on display can be a fantastic centre piece, attract a huge amount of attention and be your pride and joy. It allows for expansion over time as your family of corals and fish grwo. You will be able to keep more and believe me they fill up rather rapidly.


They need a lot more of everything. They require more lighting, cleaning, maintenance, water circulation, live rock etc – practically more of everything and with this there is a cost associated.

The Small Aquarium

The small aquarium is perfect to fit into practically anywhere in the home. It can become home to a number of corals, fish and inverts and before long it will be at capacity

There is another however coming…..


You can watch the corals and fish more closely, you will be more selctive over the corals you choose and will get the satisfaction over watching the grow. You will require less equipment therefore the running costs will be a lot lower.

My aquarium is not large by any means, however on the same hand it is not small. It is about average. It is 44″ long, 32″ tall and 24″ deep. Tied to this is two sumps to increase the water capacity.

The aquarium previous to this was 72″ long, 24″ hign and 24″ deep again with a sump installed.

The previous one and probably the one which I got the most enjoyment over was a 24″ high, 24″ long and 24″ deep aquarium. A 2 foot cube. There was no sump under the aquarium, however there was a lot behind the scenes. This aquarium was nect to the garage wall so I drilled through into the aquarium and set up a bank of aquariums and containers provising various aspects – housing equipment, additional filtration and adding extra water volume.

I have both enjoyed and had success in all of these aquariums, however I believe that I gained the most from the smaller aquarium. The aquarium fitted into the house better and the water quality I had was simply amazing. Corals grew like wild fire and had to be regularly trimmed. I only had a few fish in the display aquarium – not due to filtration but due to physical swimming space and I was very selective over what I purchased as I know I could only have a few.

I got huge satisfaction over this aquarium. I knew the corals individually as I had less of them.

And then I moved house and had an idea.

Let’s get a bigger aquarium.

The old aquarium was left going whilst the new one was researched and built. When it was ready everything was transferred and the old one shut down. Again the new aquarium was very successful and due to the extra size I was able to keep more corals and fish. Over time I had a large amount of corals and in my opinion the aquarium looked amazing yet looking back now I believe that I had to many corals and I was not able to enjoy them all as there was to much to see.

I then was asked to look after an aquarium for my brother in law and over time it became apparant that it was to be a permanent fixture. I thought long and hard and eventually decided to close the larger one down and concentrate on bringing the new aquarium back to life. It had been neglected for a while unfortunately.

It is a good size (not to large and not to small). I have a small amount of corals in there and not to many fish. Under the aquarium is a good sized sump which increases the water volume. To date this aquarium is doing quite well and is recovering nicely over time. In a short while I expect to have this aquarium back to looking its best and all the corals to be healthy, growing and vibrant.

I suppose that the moral to this post is that you should not necessarily go out and find the largest aquarium you can find. Find the size you are comfortable with (both your heart, head and your bank balance) and then look for possible ways in which the aquarium water volume can be increased.

Doing so will allow you to be able to maintain the water quality better (It does not mean that you should not perform the required care and maintenance though). It will also allow you to have an aquarium which although has fewer corals and fish in it you can enjoy them potentially more as there are less of them, you can watch each one individually grow, you can learn about them and you can get huge satisfaction from it.

Of course you can get the same from a large aquarium, however as said there is more for you to look after.