Whether you’re setting up an aquarium for the first time, or moving an existing tank into a new home or apartment, it’s a good idea to put some thought into where to place your fish tank. While there may be several open spaces in your home, apartment, or office to choose from, not all of them may be suitable for your aquarium.
If you're looking for some help deciding where to put your fish tank, this step-by-step guide will lead you through the process of choosing the best location for your new aquarium.
Aquarium size matters
This may seem obvious, but the size of your aquarium will play a big role in deciding where to place it. And we're not just talking about whether or not you have a space big enough to fit the physical dimensions of your tank. Size also plays a big role in the weight of your tank. The larger the aquarium, the more water it will hold, which can translate into a lot more weight! Weight is a very important consideration is deciding where to place your fish tank.
Nano and desk-top aquariums are very popular. They don’t take up much room and are perfect for apartments, office tables and kid’s bedrooms. These tanks can be only a few gallons up to about 20-gallons. But did you know that a gallon of water weighs almost nine pounds?
That means a five-gallon desk-top aquarium will weigh over 45 pounds! And a twenty-gallon aquarium will weigh close to 200 pounds when it's full of water, gravel and ornaments! You will need to find a location that can fit the dimensions of your tank but also its weight.
Kit furniture from places like Ikea is usually of pressboard, which is fine and it may look nice, but it is generally not designed to support heavy loads. It may support your aquarium at first, but over time the particle-board components can weaken and break. Simple tasks like cleaning the aquarium glass or changing water puts even more shifting forces on the “soft” wood particles and can be a recipe for disaster.
Another potential trouble spot is a child’s dresser or chest of drawers. A dresser can support a small aquarium but the extra weight could make the dresser top heavy. If you add in a curious child climbing on an open drawer, it could easily cause the dresser to fall forward due to the weight imbalance.
The best option to support your fish tank is a purpose-built fish tank table. These tables are specifically built to support the weight of an aquarium. They often also have storage compartments for your fish tank equipment.
However, even with a specialty fish tank table, your home’s floor must also be strong enough to support the weight of your aquarium. This is especially true with large, heavy aquariums. Some floors are also uneven, which can cause the stand and aquarium to twist under its own weight. This will force the silicon seams to pull away from the glass, causing a catastrophic leak. If the floor is uneven, level the aquarium stand before placing the aquarium on top. Never level the aquarium by placing shims under the tank, which can put undue stress on the glass.
The bottom line is to make sure that your aquarium is in a location that can handle the weight and is placed on top of a purpose-built aquarium table that is designed to support the weight of a heavy aquarium. For your convenience we have included links below to some of the best-selling aquarium stands on Amazon.
Last update on 2022-10-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Avoid Areas Subject to Extreme Hot and Cold
Water temperature directly affects the biological processes of all aquatic life. This includes fish, plants, snails and even the bacteria that help keep the tank clean and healthy. Your tank’s aquatic life thrives when the water temperature remains stable. Areas that are subject to extreme fluctuations in temperature are not ideal locations for your aquarium.
While an aquarium heater will increase the water temperature if the room temperature is a few degrees below the optimal temperature, it can’t compensate for extreme cold. If your aquarium is placed near an air conditioner or HVAC duct, it may get a direct shot of cold air. A lot depends on the type of cooling system and temperature dynamics in the room. While moddern HVAC systems are designed to “gently cool” the room without sending out a blast of frigid air, older air conditioning systems may not be so friendly and could rapidly chill the area around the vent. The same applies for heating. The area around a freestanding wood stove is not ideal for an aquarium.
In the “old days” aquarists were told to never to put an aquarium near a window. The logic was the sunlight would overheat the water and thus placing an aquarium directly in front of a brightly lit window “could” cause a temperature increase. However, in today’s climate controlled homes and offices this is pretty unlikely. You can find aquariums installed in aquarium shop windows, glass-enclosed car dealerships and exotic tropical hotels. The best advice is to take the time to check out potential locations and see if they are subject to temperature extremes.
Electrical safety and aquariums
Aquariums need electric power for the filter, heater, and lighting. That means your fish tank will likely need a minimum of three electrical sockets. For most desktop tanks and tropical aquariums this is all you’ll need to power the tank. Your standard 15-amp household outlet with a high-quality power strip will easily provide the necessary electricity for your aquarium.
However, you should make sure to mount the power strip off the floor and away from potential water splashes to prevent electrocution and/or short circuits. You should also make sure all the power cords are configured in a drip loop. This will prevent water from running down the power cord and into the electrical outlet. This simple safety precaution should not be ignored. See the YouTube video below for a detailed discussion of how to set up a drip loop.
If you’re setting up a reef aquarium the power requirements are even greater. You will need a power supply capable of handling one or more return pumps, wave makers, protein skimmer and reef lighting.
If you're building an automated aquarium you’ll probably need to run a wireless hub or controller to synchronize all the hardware. Dosing pumps and remote sensors will also need a power supply. You may even be running a chiller to keep the reef water cool.
For more complicated aquarium systems it is best to “map out” the power requirements and assemble a safe power strip configuration that is not overloaded. Saltwater “creep” always seems to find electrical outlets so be sure to keep outlets and plugs free of salt crust. Crusty outlets can arc and start a fire!
Is there a freshwater supply source nearby?
Like electricity, you’ll need fresh water to regularly fill, clean, and top-off your aquarium. The closer you can locate your aquarium to a fresh water source the less water carrying you'll have to do. And, as we've discuss, water is heavy so carrying it isn't very fun!
Aquariums lose water through evaporation. This is especially true in the warm summer season or if the aquarium is in a low-humidity environment or climate controlled home or office.
You’ll obviously need water to fill up the aquarium when you set it up. But that’s not all. The aquarium will “drink” quite a bit of water every week. It will need weekly top-offs. Some reef aquariums even need even daily top-offs to compensate for water loss due to protein skimming and evaporation.
Topping off your tank, as well as your regular water changes, will go much smoother if you have a water source close by. Ideally you should be able to blend hot and cold water to match the aquarium water temperature.
In office buildings a janitor’s mop room will often have hot and cold water. However, carrying a bucket of water from the basement or other side of the office can become tedious. If distance is unavoidable, a small cart for transporting a bucket of water can make things much easier! You can even run a hose from the water source to the tank, using a ready-made aquarium hose kit.
Is there a water disposal source nearby?
It may seem ironic but once you fill your aquarium with water you’ll also be taking water out of it.
Water changes are one of the most effective ways of keeping your fish tank's water clean and clear. Water changes need to be done every 2-4 weeks. This involves removing water and replacing it with new freshwater or artificial seawater. The filter and ornaments will also occasionally need to be removed from the aquarium and scrubbed clean.
A kitchen or laundry room sink are ideal places to work. Though, you may want to keep in mind that some of your family members or co-workers may not appreciate “fish water” being near dishware and food preparation. Cleaning up afterwards and off-hours maintenance can help solve these objections. Dirty aquarium water can also be poured into the toilet and flushed away. A janitor’s room often has a mop bucket dump station, making water disposal easy.
Avoid high traffic areas
Since aquariums are made of glass or acrylic, they can become scratched or chipped by a variety of common objects like vacuum cleaners, brooms, toys, and just about anything solid. Aquarium stands can also be damaged by objects that rub against the finish. Aquariums and fish tanks, especially smaller ones, can also be accidentally knocked over.
When choosing a location for your aquarium, think about who and what travels near the area. This is especially important in a public or business location when people and materials may frequently pass by your aquarium.
In your home it might not be a good idea to place the aquarium next to a busy hallway, for instance. Entrance doors are also not a great location as people often come in with arms full of bags, packages, and household supplies that can make it easy to bump into the aquarium.
Bottom line, make sure there is plenty of open space around your aquarium to avoid bumps, scrapes and difficulty moving past the tank.
Choose the best viewing location
It may seem strange what we put choosing the best viewing location at the end of our list on deciding where to place a fish tank. However, the reason is because the best viewing location may not be the best spot for the aquarium. Some items on this checklist, like electrical safety, can’t be compromised! Other categories are going to be a trade-off between what's ideal vs what's practical.
Obviously one of the reasons we all have aquariums is to look at them. However, not everyone agrees on what the best viewing location is. For some, a darkened room is the most desirable for viewing a reef aquarium. While other people may like a more prominent location in the family room or office that can be seen by more people.
Since no two aquariums are the same, only you can decide on the best location for your tank. Follow the 7 steps above and you will be well on your way to determining where to place a fish tank in your home or office.