Cheap Fish Tanks - 5 Tips to Get You the Best Deal

July 06, 2016 1 Comment

Cheap Fish Tanks - 5 Tips to Get You the Best Deal

Fish tanks are expensive. It can be very discouraging for a newcomer wants to get involved in something like a saltwater tank and then finds out how expensive the hobby is to get started. Is there such thing as cheap fish tanks? There definitely is if you know where to look and are patient to wait for good deal. Today's post breaks down 5 tips to get you the best deal on cheap fish tanks.

#1 - The dollar per gallon sales

A few times every year, the chain pet stores, namely Petco, have a dollar per gallon sale. These dollar per gallon sales have tanks from 10, 20, 29, 40, and 55 gallon tanks all selling for $1 per gallon. You might actually get lucky in your area and have 75 gallon tanks available for $1 per gallon. These tanks are made by Aqueon, which is a quality aquarium manufacturer that has been around for years. You need to be aware of when these stores have their sales, but luckily there is one site that publishes the dates of these sales.

While you will get the tank itself for cheap, you may still be spending quite a lot of money on suitable equipment. For those looking for a cheap fish tank that has most or all of your equipment need. There is a better option.

#2 - Buy Used

Buying used is the best way to acquire cheap fish tanks. There are three sources I'm going to list here and explain why they are great way to get a tank

  • Craigslist
  • Aquarium Clubs
  • Friends and Family

Craigslist can be a cheap fish tank goldmine. You will want to search for "fish", "aquarium", and "tank" and then look at all the recent listings. Craigslist is a real-time classified so check often. With Craigslist, the larger the tank, the better the deal as many of these people selling are looking to off load their aquarium as soon as possible. Here are a few examples of craiglist listings that I found looking around:

  • 180 gallon 6 foot long aquarium complete reef setup with lacquer stand and canopy - $750
  • 120 gallon 6 foot long reef ready aquarium with canopy and stand - $450
  • 46 gallon bowfront tank with canopy and stand - $99

Aquarium clubs are another great resource. The advantage with aquarium clubs is that you will usually get a high quality setup that is complete and well taken care of. You would need to check on the forums of these clubs to see if there are any tanks anyone is selling. You can check out our list of aquarium clubs to see a list of clubs in the US that are close to you.

Friends and family are potentially an avenue to get a free tank. A lot of the time these aquariums are sitting in an attic in a garage. Friends and family are usually happy to have you take their tanks. This was actually how I started out in the hobby many years ago from a 65 gallon aquarium that was sitting in an uncle's garage unused. Nothing beats a free fish tank. You never know what is out there unless you ask around.

#3 - Know What Questions to Ask and What to Look Out For

Buying a used fish tank requires a some due diligence on your part to ensure you purchase a good tank. Here are a few questions to ask and what to inspect.

Questions to ask:

  • Ask for dimensions and references dimensions with this calculator - It is common for Craigslist posters to post the incorrect tank volume
  • Ask what the aquarium was used for and what it housed - do not purchase a tank used to house rodents or reptiles as these tanks may not be watertight or have damage to their seals
  • Has the tank been drilled - watch for glass patches if they have been covered up
  • Ask for a leak test - if the seller balks consider walking from the deal as most sellers should not mind this request
  • Glass or acrylic tank - Acrylic tanks will be easier to repair scratches

What to inspect:

  • What does the glass look like? Is it scratched, cloudy? How bad is the damage?
  • Check for cracks - obvious cracks are easy to see but check for hairline cracks as well. These can go unnoticed and can hold water, but spell long-term disaster
  • If glass, check the silicone seals - look for beads that are solid and pliable
  • If drilled, inspect the drill sites for cracks 
  • Bring a flashlight with you - this will allow you to inspect cracks and scratches more easily
  • Look at the stand for signs of warping, cracks, or mold damage. Scratches or peeled finish is fine as you can refinish the tank.
  • For acrylic tanks, inspect the bracing and for visible signs of bowing. 

#4 - Don't Purchase the Livestock

Often times you will see a listing where the seller is trying to sell a complete setup with fish, coral/plants, live rock, etc included. I would advise against purchasing the livestock unless you are experienced with handling an aquarium move. Moving an aquarium, especially a large aquarium is one of the most stressful activities you can undertake in the hobby. If the seller has a rare fish or coral that you want, consider purchasing it separately and quarantining it until your tank is established. I would not factor in the price of livestock on a listing. Try to negotiate with the seller to purchase only the equipment. Often times, the seller can give the livestock to a local fish store or advanced hobbyist who has the means to handle the move. If you chose to purchase livestock, the safest livestock to purchase would be live rock. Live rock can be stored in a black tote from a hardware store with a power head and heater. Corals can be safe to purchase as well, but given the availability of frags these days, I would recommend just getting frags from a local reefer when your tank is ready.

#5 - Prices Are Negotiable

Prices for listing are often not firm - especially on craigslist. If you find a listing that is new and listed under the title of a moving sale or "must sell quickly" jump on it right away. The newer the listing, the better the chance you will have at negotiating a better price. Many of people who list on Craigslist just want to get the aquarium out of their hands as soon as possible versus getting the best price for it. Even if they have a price listed, ask the seller what they would take for it to get it off their hands that day. You would be surprised how often you will get a lower number than what it is originally listed for. The worst thing that can happen is they say no and you just wait another week for a good listing to pop up. People exit the hobby all the time and good deals are literally a dime a dozen especially if you live in a big city.

Negotiating off an aquarium club listing is harder to do because often times the seller is willing to wait it out or knows the value of the equipment they are selling. For these listings, it may be better to consider purchasing separate components of the setup as these sellers are more open to doing this. This is a really great way on getting quality equipment. The best equipment to buy used would be:

Cheap Fish Tanks are Easy to Find if You Are Patient - Tell Us Your Story

Tell us your story below in the comments about how you purchased a cheap fish tank. We also know that not all listings will include the equipment you want or need so after you purchase a used tank you can come check out our aquarium supplies for new equipment from top-quality brands. Let us know your thoughts and stories in the comment below.  See you next time :).



1 Response


July 22, 2018

Appreciated your site. Long ago used to have two 55 gall. salt and loved the hobby. Now retired but want to set up one good salt aquarium and need some $ saving tips

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