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5 Easy Tips to Save Money in the Fishkeeping Hobby

The fishkeeping hobby can be a little expensive, especially in the beginning when you’re starting with nothing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy having aquarium fish if you have a smaller budget. Learn about 5 of our favorite money-saving hacks to get the best bang for your buck.

1. Get More Out of Your Test Strips

This trick works with our Aquarium Co-Op ammonia test strips and multi-test strips, but our founder Cory also did this for years using other brands of test strips while working in fish stores. Get a sharp pair of scissors and cut the test strips down the middle so that both halves have all the necessary reagent pads. By splitting them in two, you double the number of tests per bottle and still get accurate results. This hack allows you to test more frequently for peace of mind whenever you notice something is off. For more info on how (and how often) to test your aquarium water, read our water testing guide.

cut test strips in 2


2. Use These Simple Algae Scraper

Cory also used to run an aquarium maintenance business, and too many times, he would show up to the client’s location and realize that he forgot his algae scrubber. Thankfully, you can use an old gift card or credit card as the perfect algae scraper. It is gentle enough for both glass and acrylic tanks and works best on straight walls (rather than curved surfaces) with softer algae types. The cards have multiple scraping surfaces, so when one side wears down, you can easily flip it around and use another edge. Just be aware that the cards will delaminate after using them for a while, so we wouldn’t recommend using your driver’s license or other important documents. For more tips, read about our top 5 ways to clean algae from your fish tank.

gift card as algae scraper


3. Get Cheap Rocks for Your Hardscape

If you’re starting to plan out your first aquascape, you may be shocked by the high cost of dragon stone, seiryu stone, and other popular aquarium hardscape. The price tag increases even more if you have a large tank to fill up. When Cory was setting up his 800-gallon aquarium, one of the places he went shopping was at a landscaping supply store where they have piles and piles of different types of rocks in an outdoor yard. You can do a quick search online to see if the rocks are safe for aquariums or will change the water parameters. Most rocks are only 10-20₵ per pound, so once you weigh all the rocks, you may find yourself only paying $6 instead of $60. Give them a good rinse at home to remove all the sand and debris, and they should be ready for scaping.

picking rocks from landscaping supply store


4. Make Your Own DIY Breeding Caves

We sell pleco caves and apisto caves to help you save time and make things easier for you, but if you are short on cash and need some caves to breed fish, there are many ways to make your own. Some hobbyists get a 6-inch length of PVC pipe (with a 2-inch diameter) and put a cap on one end to form a pleco cave. If you have a bunch of small river stones, you can create a little cave by gluing them together with super glue or a hot glue gun. A flowerpot or half of a coconut shell with a hole drilled on one side can also work. If you have a whole fish room of cave spawners and want to make a ton of caves, you can also consider using terracotta clay to build your own, as long as you have a pottery studio nearby that is willing to fire the clay for you so that they fully harden and become waterproof.

DIY pleco caves and apistogramma caves


5. Get Two Foods for the Price of One

Most fish foods fit a specific kind of feeding style. With a floating food, the top dwellers get first dibs at mealtime. With a sinking food, the bottom dwellers take the lion’s share, especially if the top dwellers are not willing to swim down to take a bite. However, Repashy gel food allows you to switch up how you feed it, based on what species you keep. If you make the gel food as per the manufacturer’s directions, it becomes a great sinking food for plecos, corydoras, platies, and any fish that will eat from the ground. However, if you have nano fish or babies like rainbowfish fry that can eat from the water surface, just sprinkle some of the raw Repashy powder into the tank for them to consume. Eventually, the powder will slowly sink and coat the surfaces of plant leaves and the substrate so that other small species like dwarf shrimp and snails can reach it. When you feed the Repashy gel food, the adult animals will crowd around it and potentially outcompete the juveniles, but the powder will spread all throughout the tank so that babies and scavengers can constantly graze on it all day long. To learn more, read about how to pick the best foods for your fish.

Repashy powder


If you are new to the fishkeeping hobby and want to learn more great hacks like these, check out our library of articles geared to give you the best tips and tricks we wish we knew early on in the hobby.

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