For all of the new people (or old people alike!) out there, I thought it'd be cool to have a thread where everyone shares the tips they've learned over the years about the hobby. It could be a good reference for people just starting out!
1) Do it right the first time. Don't plan on upgrading later, as in the long run, this usually costs you more! You can also get great things in the Swap and Shop forum used. Sometimes used is just as good as new!
2) Make sure you know the demands of your plants. Some plants need CO2 and high light to survive. Some plants you can grow in a closet, and still others are just plain weird and might not grow well for you. You might go through tons of plants just finding some you like and can grow.
3) An aquarium "emergency fund" is a good thing to have. Something is going to break, and it's probably going to be expensive. Make sure you have money saved up to fix it.
4) In-line heaters. I'm thinking about upgrading to these things because the big tube things not only look like crap in the tank, but I feel the need to throw them out the window on occasion. Of course, the inline ones may be just as annoying. Either way though, equipment so simple as getting warm and heating the water is a major annoyance.
5) Before you buy anything from your LFS (maybe with the exception of livestock), make sure you check online. Even with shipping, sometimes you can get a better deal. If your LFS is nice though, consider supporting them!
6) Be prepared for frustration. It's a great hobby, but tubes are going to fall off, heaters are going to break and nuke all of your fish, CO2 canisters may fly across the room, or aquarium leaks could give you 50 gallons on the floor. The good days outnumber the bad by far though.
7) Put something unique in your tank. Guppies and the like are great, but it's your
tank. Shrimp are awesome little dudes that can be acquired for cheap. There are some exotic fish out there that won't break your budget.
8) Your aquascapes won't be Amano-caliber unless you're an artist or have a knack. I have no art talent and I've gone through my fair share of scapes that look like total crap and still look like total crap. You don't have to have a jaw-dropping tank to enjoy plants and fish. If you're like me and don't have an art or design bone in your body, it can take a lot of practice before you're good.
9) You don't need ADA stuff to have a beautiful tank. It's nice stuff, but it's expensive. I think it takes more creativity to try to integrate and hide green Eheim tubing and a standard-issue tank. Consider it a challenge.
10) Check valves. Seriously. Check valves.
11) Be kind to fellow hobbyists. If you see someone looking for a plant that you have, offer it to them for shipping. If you're well off, offer it to them for free. Word travels quick of generous people around here. If you treat others fairly and make any transaction that went bad right, you'll quickly get a positive reputation around these parts.