As some of you may have seen in the Introductions section, I am brand new to the hobby and in the process of setting up my very first tank.

When I started this process all I knew about my setup was that "I want to start a fresh water aquarium". I started doing research to narrow down my choices, but felt somewhat overwhelmed at the enormous amount of information I needed to digest. I decided to make this journal and document my research and all my decisions (both good ones and bad ones!) hoping it will help other overwhelmed beginners with their own decisions about their first tank. I will try to go into some detail on my decision process so that other beginners can make their own choices. For those of you who are experienced, expect to slap yourself in the forehead frequently and roll your eyes repeatedly as you read through my journal! If nothing else, my decision-making process is certain to provide some comic relief.

Please bear in mind I knew next to nothing when I started. The first decision was tank size. I looked at tons of fish profiles in the aquarium wiki and almost every fish I saw and liked had a minimum tank size of 10 gallons or more. My first impression was to go for 10 gallons, as I feared (incorrectly) that a bigger tank would be too much for a newbie. Then I got some feedback from this forum that told me the opposite: bigger tanks are easier to maintain. So, I was told to get the largest tank my budget could afford (It was only here I learned that tanks come in standard sizes!) Unfortunately my choice was limited not only by budget, but also by space. In the end I chose a 29 gallon because the two likely spaces I had for the tank would not fit anything much wider than 30". Petco was having their "$1 per gallon" aquarium sale so I bit the bullet, ran out of the house before I could change my mind, and bought my 29 gallon for $29. No turning back now!

All the research I made suggested that having real plants in the aquarium has lots of benefits: plants contribute oxygen to the water and they help get rid of substance like ammonia and nitrites that are harmful for fish. Having a lush tank, however, would have probably required the addition of CO2, nutrients, more difficult maintenance, and in general just seemed to increase the learning curve considerably. I also feared that the stronger lighting needed would, in the hands of a beginner like me, surely lead to algae all over my tank. So, to try to get the best of both worlds I decided to have only low-light "easy to care" plants.

My next step was to start shopping for equipment. I will write about those choices next!