Saving Money on Aquarium Supplies

June 24, 2009

A home freshwater aquarium with lots of fish.As an avid aquarium hobbyist, I am always trying to find ways to save money while making a great home for my fish. I have several tips that I would love to use here:


  1. Buy aquarium tubing in bulk. It is always worth it to get the 25 feet, even when you don't think you will need it. For example, if you have a tank on an aquarium stand and are running a pump, under gravel filter, or aerating decor into the tank, each line will need to be 4-5 feet depending on the height of the aquarium.
  2. You are never too good to find a great deal through Wal-Mart. Believe it or not, they actually have great supplies there. The aforementioned aquarium tubing is one example, but other supplies such as Melafix (wide-spectrum antibacterial ointment) or Aquasafe (water decholorinator) will be much less expensive here than at PetCo or PetSmart. Gravel is a great buy here too. Also, I ordered my very first water test kit through the website and had it shipped to store (free shipping).
  3. Get a set of measuring cups/spoons instead of expensive water-testing equipment to measure out portions of medications.
  4. Find a local fish store and ask for their advice as opposed to advice given at corporate chains. I have nothing against corporate chains, mind you, but employees at respectable local fish stores can give your questions and concerns their complete attention and can follow-up with sound advice.
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  6. Also at the local fish store is fish food is sometimes sold in bulk. A one-half pound bag of fish food costing $12 is a better buy than half that amount at the same price anywhere. Keep extra fish food in the fridge.
  7. Never underestimate the use of good, brand new resealable containers (i.e. Tupperware) just for the aquarium hobby. This includes small containers for storing fish food or pitchers for pouring water into the tank. NEVER use soap in any container that is designed for fish use only.
  8. Know what you are looking for. I recently purchased a 5-gallon kit for a single molly (fish) and the cost was approximately $35. The kit came with a hood, light, filter, and some tubing. If bought piecemeal brand new, the tank would have been approximately $10; the hood would have been approximately $10; the light would have been hard to find, but still would have cost around $15; the filter would have been approximately $20.

    In total, it would have cost $55. None of the cost is including the price of a heater, gravel, decorations, etc. Sometimes at local fish stores, kits are sold including items that would cost more than if the tank and the equipment was sold separately. There is a lot to be said for "shopping around" for the best deal, but when dealing with live animals you never want to get sub-par quality.
  9. Fake plants are expensive; real plants are cheap. Fake plants can range in price from anywhere between $3-$30, depending on the size (small, medium, large, x-large) or type (plastic, silk, silk-like). In this scenario, check out PetCo or PetSmart for "betta bulbs". These bulbs were originally designed to grow in smaller tanks, but will grow indefinitely if kept in the proper conditions. A 3-5 pack of bulbs costs around $3, and while there are no guarantees that any of them will grow, the company that manufactures the bulb does make an offer to replace the bulb/refund your money if the bulb does not sprout within 14 or so days.

    Real plants will eat nitrates and keep fish healthy. They act as a natural filter in the water and keep water conditions perfect. Plants also act as a barrier between more skittish fish and more aggressive fish.

Thank you for reading and happy aquarium keeping!

By Jenni from Lincoln, NE

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4 More Solutions

This page contains the following solutions.

February 4, 2011

I needed more plastic plants for my aquarium, but they are $3.00 to $6.00 a piece. Too expensive! So, I bought some "dollar store" foliage for $1.00 and washed them before I put them in the tank.

Craft Foliage for Aquarium


July 29, 2005

Instead of the more expensive sands and other substrates at the fish store, go to your local hardware store. For natural sand, use play sand; for black sand, use black sandblasting sand; for white sand, use white pool filter sand.


Catherine Forman
April 16, 2006

So you've decided to swim with the fishes (so to speak). After you've set up your aquarium, there are some supplies you may want to keep on hand.

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