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Do I Need a High or Long Aquarium for Tropical Fish?

Goldfish in aquarium

Keeping fish seems like a pretty simple way to enjoy pets, right? For the most part, that’s true, but different fish do have different requirements, and some things that seem obvious aren’t always so.

For instance, you may think all fish aquariums are pretty much the same. But in addition to size, they come in two types — tall, vertical tanks and long, horizontal tanks.

Horizontal tanks are the ones you see most often, but in some cases, a higher tank makes sense. Here’s what you need to know about when your fish should be in a high versus long aquarium.

The quick answer

If you want to keep a community of fish, then a horizontal tank is always going to be the answer. It provides more swimming length, as most fish swim in a roughly horizontal line, not up and down.

It also ensures fair distribution of available area between fish that prefer the water at the top, middle, and bottom of the tank.

So when is a vertical tank a good idea? If you are only keeping a single specimen or a few small fish and want to include live plants or aquascaping, then a smaller, vertical tank can be an excellent choice.

Pros of vertical aquariums

A vertical aquarium can take up less space in your home if you live in a small space. Most people have more vertical space available than surface area. Just keep in mind that if you’re short on space, you’ll have to stick with species and quantities of fish that can be kept healthy given that limitation.

Because male betta fish tend to be aggressive and kept in solo tanks, they are a great option for someone who doesn’t have a lot of room for an aquarium.

Red betta

Another benefit of vertical aquariums is that they allow more height for growing plants. If you’re thinking about aquascaping, a taller vertical aquarium can allow for plants that may not fit in a horizontal tank.

Pros of horizontal aquariums

If you’re going to be keeping more than a few bottom dwelling species, then you’re going to want to make sure they have plenty of space at the bottom of the tank. These species are not going to use vertical space, so a tall aquarium just doesn’t make sense for them.

Snail in aquarium

Species that live at the bottom level of an aquarium include:

  • Loaches
  • Cory catfish
  • Plecos
  • Snails

Aside from creating more bottom-level space, a horizontal aquarium also has more surface area at the top of the tank, where the water meets the air. This allows for better oxygen-exchange, which is essential for the health of your fish.

Again, a single fish or a few small fish will be okay with a smaller area available for oxygen-exchange, but if you will have a large community or larger fish, you’re going to want that horizontal space to allow better oxygen levels in the water.

In addition to space for the fish, a horizontal aquarium gives you more space to add décor, which is part of the fun of setting up an aquarium.

Fish with aquarium decorations

You can find various aquarium sizes available at The Tye-Dyed Iguana by clicking here. We’ve also got many cool aquarium decorations, like skulls, statues, reefs, and castles.