Addicted To Aquariums

If am not sleeping, I am thinking about the tank, cleaning the tank, testing the tank, watching the tank, researching improvements to the tank, scouring the local fish stores for stuff for the tank, photographing the tank, dreaming about the next tank, talking about the tank, reading other people’s experience with their tanks….Is this obsession?


In the hobby of fish keeping there are different levels of dedication and enthusiasm. Some people will have an aquarium in their living room and never give it anymore thought than they would the design of their coffee table. To these people, an aquarium is an ornament; something that goes with the leather sofa or the designer blinds. To others it is so much more; it is an addiction.

The addiction starts innocently with one small tank and a few fish, which are sometimes not the best matched tank mates. Then one day you decide to separate your fish into different tanks. Why not pick up another tank to house them? After all, your mother, father, spouse, or whoever you live with won’t mind another small tank, will they? These fish will die if another home can’t be found.

Your sense of urgency seems well founded so it’s off to the local fish store to do some tank shopping. Once there, a myriad of options become available limited only by your budget and imagination. Instead of picking up that 20 gallon breeder you swing a great deal on a 55 gallon tank. Your mind races to rationalize your new purchase. The new tank cost more than you were expecting to spend, but think of how much happier your pets will be in their new gigantic home!

Under the cover of the night, you and a partner smuggle the aquarium into its chosen spot in your home. Once it’s set up no one will tell you that you can’t have another tank…. right? “This is the last one… I promise.” As the old saying goes, it’s always better to plead for forgiveness than to beg for permission, right?

Your fish seem to love their new environment so much so that they begin to breed. For the first time you have little fry swimming around in your tank and a sense of accomplishment floating around your head. But wait? Where do these babies go? You guessed it! A new tank is on the way.

The cycle continues. After spending countless hours fiddling and modifying your tanks you realize that you need more space for your hobby. In fact, you were unable to resist that trio of breeder tanks that you saw at the local fish store last month. After all, things are getting cramped in that 55 gallon tank and it would only be fair to give all the fish their own tank space, wouldn’t it?

In the fish hobby everything grows exponentially. The number of fish you keep, the number of tanks, fish food, lighting, maintenance time, and so on. The deeper you get yourself into the hobby; the more your budget will be tapped. At one point you will have to decide whether to pay the mortgage or to install that salt water set up you’ve always wanted. If this is the case you should read the definition of addiction right away.

Definition: Addiction

A behavioral pattern characterized by compulsion, loss of control, and continued repetition of a behavior or activity spite of adverse consequences.

For some reason there are hobbyists who cannot say no. They eat, breath and sleep fish. All conversations lead to fish and every last penny is earmarked for some fish related product. These “addicts” always want more and they have plenty of excuses as to why they need to keep expanding the size of their fish fanaticism. For Example:

  • I’m breeding these fish for sale; I’m going to be rich!
  • These are such rare “specimens” I had to get them!
  • I’m just babysitting these fish for a friend.
  • I need to finish my thesis on “Rapid speciation in African cichlids”

If you think you may have a serious addiction to fish keeping here are some tips to keep things in perspective and help keep you out of AA (Aquariums Anonymous).

  • Have a plan. How many fish tanks do you need? For what it’s worth, be realistic. If you could only have one dedicated bio-tope, what species would you like to keep? Can they all be contained in just one community tank? Will you need to expand this setup over time?
  • Set a fish budget and stick to it. All hobbies must have a financial limiter attached or one runs the risk of your hobby becoming an obsession. There is always a better filter/lighting system/substrate/acrylic tank or fish food etc… Know when to say enough is enough.
  • Spend more time with your existing setups. Sometimes we grow bored of our tank setups and yearn for something new. Try and rearrange the tank decorations or relocate the tank to a different part of your home. Resist the
    impulse to buy yet another new tank.
  • Dedicate some space in your home for a fish room. Do not start adding tanks in the kitchen or bedroom. Do not leave filters, hoses, tanks, sponges, foods and other fish paraphernalia around the house. Keep everything in your fish room.
  • Use a spreadsheet to keep records of your aquarium hobby. A spreadsheet can be used to keep a running tab on expenditures, or to keep a detailed history of your water chemistry, a stock list, or even breeding schedules.
  • Enjoy other people’s aquariums. Rather than face financial ruin, go and visit some of your favorite aquarium hot spots. Local fish stores being the most obvious choice but there are other places to get your fish kicks. The local zoo may have some aquariums to visit. If they don’t you could always suggest that you be put in charge of the new facility. You could also find out if any hotels, restaurants or casinos in your area have tanks setup. These are usually awesome aquariums as the business’s can afford truly stunning display tanks. Friends and family may also be in to the hobby and this can be great excuse to visit them. If they don’t have any aquariums….. I’ve heard they make great gifts!

It is not ours to judge the habits of fellow hobbyist, but one thing is for sure, we can all relate to the trials and tribulations that we all go through in our passion for fish keeping. We can empathize with those who have gone overboard; their houses nothing more than homes for fish and massive tanks. But in the end we all dream of keeping more fish! Just be careful when crossing the fine line between hobby and addiction!







4 Responses to “Addicted To Aquariums”

  1. Morgoth on 08 Jun 2008 at 8:47 pm #

    I’m just starting this hobby, I am glad I ran by this article!
    I also do have an addictive personality and I’ll have to make sure I know when to call it quits. 5 gallon tanks are just so small

  2. shankar on 17 Jun 2008 at 11:52 am #

    You have hit the nail on the head! Very well written indeed and you have captured the exact feelings and thoughts of an addict! I am new to this hobby (4 months) and am thinking of a second aquarium now and then but I realize I am getting hooked to it. So I have told myself to wait for a year and see if the ‘fever’ passes:-) If not, I will probably go for a second tank! The problem with this hobby though is that it is so damn fascinating and addictive in the first place ( or is that what all addicts say anyway:-)

  3. TJ on 22 Jun 2008 at 8:15 pm #

    Oh wow… I think this is what is happening to me.
    I got a saltwater tank(75 gals) and got 1 pair of clownfish. At first, the set up was only like live sand and some corals. Months ago, I heard that my fish are going to die if I didn’t put any anemone. So…I went to the fish store and spent like 200 bucks on live rocks and corals. In total, I spent about 1000 to 3000 dollars on my saltwater tank. Glad I ran into this article. It stopped my “addiction”.

    Fish I have right now:

    2 Clown fish
    2 Blue Tangs
    1 Mandarin Dragonet
    2 Emperial Angels
    and lots of seafans, polyps, anemones, and a baby clownfish =)

  4. Marcel on 03 Jul 2008 at 3:56 pm #

    Be careful TJ!
    Salties seem to get hit the hardest! So much potential to burn through your life savings lol! Sounds like a sweet setup , how about some pics of your obsession?


  1. Digital Artist September 1, 2012 7:24 pm  Reply

    You are disciplining in amazing easy to the point language what i had passed 5 years ago..and till now i dream of the day i would get my salt water tank.. however my addiction was stopped by family pressure and other side problems.. i wish i can get a fish tank again..

  2. Anonymous March 13, 2013 3:46 pm  Reply

    that is a lovely tank you have there :)

  3. Tank lover. January 12, 2014 8:39 pm  Reply

    This is right on the nail…I started with a 1 gallon for a tetra. Then, because it was too small, I went with a 5 gallon, then he died, then I got an angel fish and a molly, again this was too small, so I got a 10 gallon, then jumped to a 20, then a 35 gallon, always upgrading filters. When I had the 35 gallon, the pleco I had in it OBVIOUSLY grew up a lot so I needed a tank for it, so I got a 40 gallon for him. Then, I sold the pleco and the 35 gallon because I moved…Then a year later I bought a 55 gallon for cichlids, and that is why I have right now, went from sponge, to HOB, now canister, and being reading about wet/dry!…My cichlids are having LOTS of babies, and where do those babies are going to live? I got a 35 gallon for them! LOL, it is insane!…

    I think this cycle can go on and on, however, I learned the hard way, I think the best way to approach the aquarium hobby is to RESEARCH A LOT! and I mean IT. before you get the fish you actually want, either freshwater or saltwater, and then, drive around checking MANY fish stores, and see the stock products they sell, then, go home, and READ, and READ, and READ about those species requirements and all. If after READING and LEARNING so much about fish, products, pumps, lights, filters, UV sterilizers, reactors, skimmers, rocks, substrate, corals, food, test kits, diseases, electricity bill, etc….AND you still FEEL like you WILL love having those little creatures in your home.

    Then figure out if you have the money and time for it. If you do, then, go ALL the way in, it is going to cost a lot, BUT paying that much amount of money IT WILL anesthetize you AND remind you (hopefully) for a LOOONG time what this hobby actually entitles. If you go bits by bits, you will probably spend WAY more.

    I want a reef tank BUT now I know I can NOT afford it, so I stay with the cichlids. This is it for me.

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