How Much Time Does Fishkeeping Take Up?

To make fishkeeping as rewarding and enjoyable as it can be, you will have to be prepared to spend a lot of time maintaining your tank and observing your fish.

Tank and water maintenance will definitely take up a good chunk of time. But they are crucial to the health of your aquarium.

It’s important to know that the amount of time you spend on your aquarium depends on what species of fish you have in your tank. Research, thoroughly, what your fish need before you add them to a tank. Don’t take on the responsibility if you don’t feel you have the time to spend on it.


Researching Your Tank

You will need to do adequate research on what type of tank you are going to have. This can take a long time because you want to be sure you know what you are doing before you go ahead with any purchases.

First of all, you will need to determine if you want a freshwater or a saltwater tank.

Freshwater Tank

Beginners will usually want to purchase a freshwater tank as they typically require less demanding maintenance and lower costs.

They require maintenance every 2-4 weeks

Saltwater Tank

Saltwater aquariums will take up more time and money as they require additional equipment, more work during water changes, and specialized lighting.

They require maintenance every 1-2 weeks.

Before you purchase a tank, you need to research a few things:


Prices are going to vary depending on the type and size of tank that you get. However, it will probably cost at least $150 or $200 to get started with a tank and some equipment. Put time into finding a tank that is within your budget and still of good quality.


Spend time measuring up the area that you want to put your tank so that you can be sure that the tank you buy is going to fit there. Research the different needs of different tanks. Smaller tanks are typically far more difficult to manage than larger ones. This is because the low volume of water means that the levels change more drastically. This is why, surprisingly, smaller tanks will take up much more time than larger ones.


It is important to know that when your aquarium is filled, it is going to weigh around 200 pounds if it is larger than 15 gallons. Don’t cut corners and rush the process of finding an adequate stand for your tank. Take time to find a supporting table for your tank to sit on comfortably, without the risk of it breaking.

Making a checklist could help you be sure that you are prepared in every area before you go ahead and purchase a tank.

Researching Your Fish

Perhaps the most important part of fishkeeping, researching the fish you want to add, should take up quite a bit of time. You want to perform thorough research so that you can be sure that you meet the needs of your fish and don’t run into any issues. Ask some questions before you purchase your fish:

What are its water parameter and temperature needs?

All fish have different water needs, and getting it right is crucial to their health. Some can tolerate a range of water parameters, but some have specific pH, alkalinity and temperature needs in order to survive. Take time to talk to your local pet store worker about the fish’s needs.

How big will it get?

This will help to determine what tank it will need or if it will fit in the tank you have. Often, the fish you purchase aren’t fully grown yet so they may grow a little bigger. Some will even double or triple in size. It is important that you know this so that they don’t outgrow your tank.

Is it peaceful or aggressive?

If you want to put your fish with other tank mates, this is crucial to research. Spend time learning about the type of fish you want to purchase, and what other fish it gets along with or doesn’t get along with. If you don’t research this, your fish could get into nasty fights and even kill or eat one and other.

What habitat does it need?

Spend time researching your fish’s natural habitat so that you can recreate that in your tank. Your fish may need an open water habitat, rock structure, fallen trees or plant beds.

How long will my fish live?

Plan what fish you want to add to your tank, knowing how long they might live for. Some smaller fish should live for 5 years or more, medium fish could live for 15 years or so, and large fish can live for 20 years or longer. Make sure that you are prepared to keep your fish for as long as it needs. You should also find out old your fish is from the pet store.

What does my fish eat?

Most fish will eat basic flake, frozen or pellet foods that you can buy in the pet store. Some species need customized feeding methods or live foods. Bear in mind that purchasing a species that has more unique feeding needs will take up more time. You will need to plan accordingly.

How many fish can I add?

The amount of fish you add depends on the size of tank you have. Be realistic about how many fish you can handle. Less is usually better so that you can give the attention required to each of them. Also, some fish are solitary and would prefer to be alone, while others do best in groups. More fish can be much more time consuming.

How Long has the fish been at the store?

You don’t want a fish that has just arrived at the store as it needs time to stabilize so that it doesn’t get sick and stressed. If it has just arrived, wait a few days until you take it home.

Setting Up the Tank

Preparing your tank is extremely time consuming, but worth all the work.

Setting up a freshwater tank can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day. You will have to set up the stand and tank in the chosen space. Then, you will add the gravel, water, filter and heater.

Preparing a salt water tank can take up to a week. You have to prepare the water before you can add it and install the sump, filter, and heater.

The whole set up can, and should take a long time so that you can be sure it is right for your fish.

Cycling the Tank

The longest part of the aquarium process is also one of the most important parts: cycling the tank.

This is where you build up healthy bacteria in your tank so that you can remove harmful toxins that your fish produce.

It can take up to a couple of months.

It is best to do this without your fish, so hold off on purchasing them until the cycle process is complete.

After about 6 to 8 weeks the ammonia and nitrate levels should have dropped to trace levels, and it will be safe to add your fish.

Adding the Fish

Adding your fish can take a couple of hours as you need to do it slowly and carefully so that you don’t stress them.

You should turn off or dim the lights in the aquarium and make sure there are plenty of decorations and plants for your fish to hide in.

If you are adding more than one fish, add them one at a time. You should introduce them in batches of about 2-4 so that the tank doesn’t get overwhelmed.

It can be a good idea to quarantine your fish once you get them home, so that if they are sick or diseased it doesn’t affect the other fish or the chemistry of your tank. This can take about 2 weeks.

It takes about an hour to acclimatize your fish to the tank. You will have to let the unopened bag with the fish float on the surface for about 15 to 20 minutes. This will help your fish get used to the temperature.

Then, you have to scoop some water from the tank into the bag, so that it’s about 50% tank water and 50% pet store water. Let the bag float in the tank for 20 more minutes or so.

Once acclimatized, you can carefully add the fish to the tank using a net. Monitor them for some time after to ensure they are not showing any signs of illness or aggression with your other fish.

It is important to take your time when adding fish to their tank, if you rush the process it will make your fish extremely stressed and could cause them to get sick.

Feeding Time

How and what you feed your fish depends on the breed. Again, this is why it is important to research your fish breed thoroughly, so that you can ensure they are getting the nutrients they need.

Most fish should be fed 1 to 2 times a day.

If your fish eat flakes, pellets or other pet store bought food, then the feeding process should not take long. Maybe about 10 minutes all together.

You should ensure that all the food is eaten before you leave. If there is any left, take it out of the tank so that it doesn’t break down into toxins that harm your fish.

If your fish have a more specialized diet, you may have to even make your own food for them. This will take up a lot more time.

Tank Maintenance

You should do a daily 10-minute visual check of your tank. Make sure the filter, lights and any other equipment you use are all running properly. Check the temperature of the water. Make sure your fish are all looking healthy and happy.

Water Changes

Exactly how often and how much water should change in your tank depends on the size and type of tank you have.

Typically, you will want to do a 10% to 15% water change every week. If your tank is stocked full, make it about 20%.

This should take about 30 minutes or so.


You should do a general cleaning of your tank every two weeks or so. It’s a good idea to do this while doing your water changes.

Wipe down the tank surfaces to remove any dust, dirt or algae with a damp cloth or aquarium safe cleaner.

Shake off the plants to remove any debris.

Wait about 15 minutes and then siphon the substrate.

This will take about 25 to 30 minutes.

Individual Fish Care

You may have to allot more time caring for your fish if they are breeding, if they get sick or if they are fighting with other fish.

You never know when something might come up with your fish that requires you spending time focusing on them.

Sometimes you will have to isolate fish from fish they don’t get along with, or treat sick fish with medications. Also, you often have to isolate babies from their parents when breeding. It can be time consuming to help new babies grow and thrive as you have to monitor them extremely closely.

Running a tank as well as an isolation tank adds a lot of time to fishkeeping, but it is necessary when problems arise.


Fishkeeping is a time-consuming hobby if you are going to do it right. You will need to spend a lot of time learning about your fish’s needs, attending to them, and keeping your tank healthy and clean.

Different species have different requirements, and some take up more time than others.

Be sure to be prepared for how much time your tank is going to take up before committing to it. Cutting corners to save time will often end up harming your fish, they are living creatures and they deserve your time and attention.

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