Updated: Jun 6
Where Can I Put My Aquarium?
It may seem pretty straight forward to choose a spot in your home or business for your new aquarium. “It would look great right here” is about all the forethought that seems necessary. However, moving a full aquarium after you realize the spot you choose doesn’t work is not only hard work, but can be risky to the integrity of the tank and the lives of your inhabitants.
In this article, I will detail all the factors you should consider when choosing a location for your new aquarium. Keeping these caveats in mind will prevent future headaches, and allow you to choose not just a good spot, or even a great one, but the perfect place to build your aquatic ecosystem.
Factors To Consider
The factors to consider when choosing a location for your aquarium are; (1) available space, fit, and access to equipment, (2) structural integrity of the floor and stand or furniture, (3) electrical power availability, (4) traffic, (5) direct sunlight and excessive tank light, (6) temperature from drafts, air vents, and appliances, and (7) design.
Definitely one of the most obvious factors, making sure your aquarium fits in the corner of the room or along your planned wall without sticking out into a doorway is crucial. It is important to measure the space for length, depth, and height. If you haven’t purchased the aquarium yet, I recommend outlining the space the aquarium would go using masking or painter’s tape. You could also construct a 3-D model of the aquarium from cardboard.
Fit refers to the bevels, or space left between the edges of the wall and the aquarium. Be cognizant of the width of space between the aquarium and the corner or the doorway. Do you want the tank to fit right up next to the adjacent wall, or leave several inches of space?
For ease of access to equipment hanging from, and underneath the tank, I recommend leaving at least three to six inches of space between the aquarium and the wall or doorway on all sides. This not only looks better in my opinion, but you’ll thank yourself when you have to install or uninstall equipment.
Water weighs approximately nine pounds per gallon. Including the weight of the tank and equipment, this could result in hundreds of pounds resting atop the tank stand. Quality stands made for aquariums are always a safe bet. They are designed and reinforced to hold the necessary weight. If you want to place your tank on grandma's old bar cart, you may have a problem with anything above 10 gallons (100 lbs.).
There are lots of furniture options for pieces not designed for tanks, but are built well enough to accommodate them. These really only work for smaller aquariums, less than 20 gallons (200 lbs.). Once you get into the 30 to 50 gallon range, you are looking at 500 pounds of weight. In these situations, you want to guarantee, 100%, the furniture is designed and reinforced to carry that amount of weight. The best way to accomplish this is through a quality aquarium stand.
If you're planning on putting your tank in the kitchen or bathroom, and it is less than 20 gallons (200 lbs.), solid vanities and countertops usually work fine.
Once you have decided what the tank will rest on, you’ll also want to consider the integrity of the floor beneath. Again, if the tank is less than 50 gallons (500 lbs.), you shouldn’t have an issue. However, you might want to have your floor professionally inspected before installing a 300 gallon (3,000 lb.) tank in your early 20th century bungalow.
When considering the placement of your aquarium, locate your power outlets. You may find the perfect spot for your aquarium, but the nearest outlet is on the other side of a doorway or 20 feet away. The latter can usually be solved with a strip outlet with a long cord. If there is no outlet on the wall where you want to place the aquarium, there is not much you can do other than run a cord under the carpet, over a doorway, or have a professional install an outlet in the wall.
Regardless of how close the wall outlet is, you will want a grounded strip outlet with surge protection and plenty of outlets. Two outlets on the wall is not enough for all your equipment. Surge protection and grounding is crucial to prevent damage to the equipment and your home. Be sure to purchase a quality device that can handle the amount of joules you’ll be using. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you go to plug in your fifth piece of equipment and the device trips and shuts off.
I don’t recommend skimping on any of your aquarium equipment, but the strip outlet is arguably the most important because all the equipment depends on it functioning properly.
Let's say you’ve decided to put your aquarium next to the banister by the stairs, near the front door. The tank fits in the space and there is even a wall outlet. You get the tank setup, filled, and fish added. Everything is going great.
Then your kids invite friends over and they start pouring in and out of the foyer. Winter comes and everyone is putting on large coats by the front door, arms flailing. It's time to walk the dog and she starts jumping around in excitement. You bought a new couch and the front door is the only entry big enough to bring it into the house.
There are lots of ways traffic can affect your aquarium, putting it at risk of breaking, or over exciting your inhabitants. You don’t have to sequester the aquarium away in the farthest reaches of your home, never to be seen. I do recommend taking a few minutes to write a short list of what moves through your home. Consider the activity of your house during different times of the day, week, month and year. Also consider uncommon events, like moving furniture or hosting holiday parties.
Excessive light comes in the form of too much light hitting the aquarium, usually direct sunlight, and too much light emitted from the aquarium.
Direct sunlight reaching the tank, even for just five minutes a day, can cause algae blooms and may heat up the tank if exposed longer. When placing your aquarium, be sure to observe the light coming in from nearby windows. Observe the potential aquarium location in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
In the northern hemisphere, south-facing windows let in the most light. In the southern hemisphere, north-facing windows let in more light.
Another issue with excessive light can occur if your aquarium is located in a bedroom or a place you prefer to be dark at certain times. I have two planted tanks whose lights are on until 11 pm, located in my living room. If the lights were at full intensity at 11 pm, this would be too much. However, with the use of a dimmer, the lights decrease throughout the evening to a comfortable intensity, then eventually turn off at 11.
Tanks with nightlight features can be great in your bedroom, giving some ambient light to the space. They can even provide white noise as the filter hums and the water trickles. Be aware of larger aquariums in the bedroom however. Larger tanks means larger equipment and motors resulting in more noise. It can easily go from white noise to preventing proper sleep. It's difficult to determine just how loud your setup will be before it's all plugged in and working. The general idea is that canister filters are quieter than hang-on-back filters and sumps, and larger tanks are generally noisier than smaller ones.
Throughout the year, the temperature will fluctuate in your home. Even near the equator, temperature can fluctuate daily. These fluctuations are exacerbated when your aquarium is placed near a window, especially a drafty one, or an air vent. When deciding where to place your aquarium, consider taking the temperature of the surrounding area with an infrared thermometer throughout the day. If the temperature changes more than ten degrees you may have an issue. You can redirect air vent flow with vent covers. Windows can be replaced, but that is an expensive solution; it depends on how bad you want your aquarium in that particular spot.
If you’re placing your aquarium in the kitchen, consider its placement next to appliances. Dishwashers can let off steam as they run, the back of a refrigerator can get pretty warm, and we all know what an oven does.
Finally, and by no means of least importance, is design. All of the above factors are practical and functional considerations. They are to be taken into account to make sure the aquarium functions properly. Design is all about how the aquarium looks. Just because your aquarium will fit in a certain spot doesn’t mean it should go there if you can’t see it, or it looks out of place.
Your aquarium should stand out in your space, while blending in with your aesthetic. Consider adding a gallery of hanging art around your aquarium, using it as the focal point. If you have space next to the aquarium, add a small seating area from which to enjoy the tank, or add a houseplant to compliment the life inside the tank.
If you have two locations you're deciding between, each as functional as the other, but their aesthetics are different, consider how the aquarium will look next to these different design concepts.
There are many factors to consider when deciding where to place your aquarium. Each as important as the last. For some, design is paramount, for others, the exact placement along the wall may be crucial. The key is to consider all the factors as they are all tied to the success of your aquarium. If the light is too bright, the stand is too weak, there is no outlet, the tank gets too warm, or you hate the corner it's in, you won’t be able to enjoy your creation.
Don’t be afraid to place a model of your aquarium in the potential space and “live with it” for a few days or even weeks. I moved my 10 gallon and stand setup to three different locations for several days each before I finally decided where to place it.