When our aquarium technicians are out in the Aquarium Quest vans, they encounter a lot of questions from people they meet. One of the most common questions we hear is, “Which kind of aquarium is easier to maintain, freshwater or saltwater?”

For the beginning aquarium hobbyist, it probably makes sense to start with a freshwater tank. While you still have to maintain correct water chemistry, freshwater fish tend to be a bit more hardy and forgiving of some variability in their environment.

IMG_7621However, for the experienced hobbyist or for professional aquarists (like us), saltwater isn’t necessarily more difficult… just different. In fact, no two fish tanks are exactly the same, which keeps our work interesting every day. We maintain both saltwater and freshwater tanks, including many different variations of each.

In this post we’ll talk a bit about different kinds of freshwater aquariums, and then we’ll follow up with information about different types of saltwater tanks in our next post.


Freshwater fish tanks can be generally divided into cold-water and tropical varieties. Cold-water fish, such as goldfish, do not require the aquarium water to be heated. Koi, often found in decorative ponds, are another example of a cold-water species.

More common among Aquarium Quest’s freshwater clients are African cichlid tanktropical fish tanks, which need to be heated. Tropical freshwater fish include different kinds of tetras, guppies, mollies, angelfish and rainbow fish, just to name a few. We also maintain specialty aquariums for discus fish, cichlids and even brackish tanks (fresh and saltwater mixed).

Depending on the size of the aquarium, you may choose to keep a few larger fish, or have schools of smaller fish. Some people only include freshwater species that would occur together in nature. Another option is to create a “community” tank, in which you cultivate a community of fish that are compatible in an aquarium setting but may not be found together geographically.

Most freshwater aquariums have a base of pebbles at the bottom, with natural or man-made rocks and plants to provide a comfortable habitat for the fish. Some of the most beautiful tanks we maintain are planted freshwater aquariums. This means in addition to fish and rocks, the aquarium features real, growing aquatic plants as you would find in a lake or river.

In our next post we will talk about some of the different types of saltwater aquariums.

Questions about your aquarium or need help setting up a new one? Contact Aquarium Quest. We design, install and maintain aquariums throughout Pinellas County and Tampa Bay.

Aquarium Choices: The Sea’s the Limit (Part 1)

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