I thought I would post some info about different kinds of fish tanks and fish tank designs. I have found choosing an aquarium difficult in the past just because of the huge amount of choices that are available.
Basic Tank Information
Most people know (even beginners) that the main materials that tanks are typically made of are glass and acrylic. In some smaller tanks you can find some made of plastic too. The most popular and most readily available tanks are constructed out of glass. Acrylic tanks are not seen quite as much as glass tanks and they tend to be much more expensive than glass tanks. Most likely the size, shape and cost will dictate which kind of tank you will be purchasing. Here are some pros and cons of both glass and acrylic tanks.
*Cheap and readily available
*Easy to care for (doesn't scratch easily)
*Can be modified such as painted or drilled
*Glass panes can be swapped out and resealed
*Harder to stain or discolor
*Breaks easily (compared to acrylic)
*Limited in shapes and sizes
*It is not a good insulator
*It is typically sealed with silicone which can wear and eventually fail
*It is much lighter than glass
*Much more resistant to breaking
*Shows colors much better than glass
*It is a great insulator (keeps a more steady temperature)
*Comes in my different shapes and sizes
*It is easily scratched
*It can discolor and stain
*It is typically more expensive
*Some fish and invertebrates can scratch the tank themselves
*Certain shapes and curves can distort the view
Tank Shapes and Sizes
Well once you have picked between glass and acrylic comes the next choices of tank size and shape. The most common tanks are rectangular in shape (Duh). But that is not the only choice. There are also tanks hexagonal tanks and bowfronts style tanks. There are even wavy glass tanks and tanks with a 90 degree angled back and curved fronts that can be used in the corner of the room.
As most people know tanks come in different sizes. Sometimes people get an aquarium and don't take into consideration the size of the tank. Another thing people do is get a small aquarium to try and minimize the investment they put into the aquarium. These are all things that should be avoided. It is best to figure out what you would like to keep in the way of fish. In most cases the biggest tank you can afford and fit into your home will be the best choice. At the same time though bigger is not always better. When it comes to stocking levels and fish tank size you can't just use gallons to measure how many fish can go into the tank. You also have to look at surface area. A good example of this is a 20 gallon high tank vs a 20 gallon long. Both tanks hold 20 gallons but one has the potential (in theory) to house a slightly higher bioload. The 20 high measures 24x12x16 whereas the 20 long measures 30x12x12. This means that the 20 gallon long has more usable room for most fish. Because most fish swim forward they will have those extra 6 inches to swim. This might not seem like much but when you take into consideration of the fish's size it substantial. The larger surface area also allows for better oxygen exchange which in turn also increases the amount of oxygen available for fish to utilize.
Another thing to take into consideration when selecting the size tank you want is what you are wanting to keep in the way of photosynthetic life like plants. The height of a tank will also dictate the lighting you will use on the tank. Basically the deeper the tank is the less amount of light will reach the through to the plants. For example, if you are wanting to keep some glossostigma as a carpeting plant in the aquarium it will make it easier to have a more shallow tank so you don't have to worry about the amount of light penetrating the water. But this is normally not a big problem with most tanks under 20-24 inches tall.
Tank shape and size also has a big impact on how the tank looks, as well as how you will plant it and aqua-scape it. Here is an example, you have a 55 gallon tank measuring 48x12x21 and a 40 gallon measuring 36x18x17. The 55 is long and narrow while the 40 gallon is short and squaty. The 55 gallon could have a nice long "flowing" planted tank while with the 40 gallon you could have a tank with much depth and contrast. But in the long run the 40 gallon has more room for plants than the 55 gallon when you take into consideration the amount of floor space you get with the 40 gallon. The 55 has 576 square inches while the 40 gallon has 648 square inches of floor space.
To be continued.....