One of the very first pets that many children experience is fish.
They’re often bought from stores that have no business selling fish and don’t live very long.
However, the joy of having a fish sometimes leads them to invest in higher-quality fish and better tanks.
The children start to learn about the various diets that fish have and how to keep their water healthy and safe for them.
Before they know it, they’re looking at expensive fish tanks to house their collection of fish.
The average fish tank costs anywhere from $100 to over $4,000.
Several factors can influence the price.
You may wonder why it costs so much to house your fish.
Here are 10 reasons why fish tanks are expensive.
Why Are Fish Tanks So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Glass Type
One of the reasons fish tanks are expensive is because they use a certain type of glass.
Glass is a relatively cheap material to use.
However, the type of glass used in fish tanks isn’t.
There are two main types of glass used in the production of fish tanks.
The cheapest type of glass is plate glass.
It’s thinner but not very durable.
It’s also not meant to hold large volumes of water.
As such, it’s best for smaller tanks of store-bought fish with small life expectancies.
The one advantage of plate glass is that you can modify it.
If you want to drill holes in it, for example, to connect two tanks together, then you can.
However, you shouldn’t expect this type of glass, or tank, to last long.
The most expensive type of glass for fish tanks is tempered glass.
Tempered glass is more durable because it’s thicker.
It uses a unique process of extreme heating and cooling to develop its strong nature.
One of the advantages of tempered glass is that it doesn’t shatter into large shards of glass.
Instead, if it breaks, it shatters into tiny bits that are relatively harmless.
Its tempered nature also ensures that it can carry a decent amount of water within it.
The problem with tempered glass is that you can’t drill holes into it.
This can cause it to shatter since those areas are now weak.
If you want to attach another tank to it, then you’ll need a specific type of tank for that process.
Tempered glass is expensive to make.
It requires more time in a factory and has a very precise process that the laborers need to follow.
Since it includes more production steps, it’s costlier to make.
As a result, the price of tempered glass is higher than plate glass.
Fish tanks are expensive because they use tempered glass which is more expensive to make.
2. Acrylic Tanks
If you want to try and save a little money, then you might choose an acrylic tank instead.
However, even this plastic is on the expensive side.
If you prefer plastic fish tanks, then acrylic tanks are premium-grade in that category.
Acrylic lasts longer and, in some cases, can be even stronger than tempered glass.
That’s because it has a thickness and density that allows it to survive dents and damage a bit better than glass.
That said, acrylic tanks are expensive because it takes a lot of work to smooth and round out acrylic.
The plastic is extremely tough.
If you happen to have bought a tank with thick walls, then it’s even tougher to cut the acrylic.
Manufacturers will need special tools to cut and round out the edges.
Then they’ll need to put everything together, which means they’ll need a special type of glue that works with acrylic and doesn’t wash off in the water.
Acrylic tanks do have a few advantages, however.
They’re lighter than glass tanks and can hold a high volume of water.
Unfortunately, they can sometimes be just as expensive as tempered glass tanks.
Due to their difficulty in shaping, acrylic tanks can be expensive.
Another big factor that adds to the expense of the fish tank is its thickness.
Water is very heavy and applies pressure to the containers it rests in.
When you add fish to a tank, it generates even more pressure since there’s added volume inside of the tank.
The general rule of thumb is that the larger the tank, the thicker the walls need to be.
That’s why tanks at large aquariums have very thick walls.
It has to hold the water.
If the walls are too thin, then the pressure can make the walls fail and a leak can spring.
The thickness makes a tank more expensive because it uses more materials.
If you’re already using expensive materials in your tank, then you can expect the price to be even higher since you’re using more of it.
Manufacturers don’t mix and match materials just to generate thickness.
It has to be the same material throughout to give it its best integrity.
Fish tanks are expensive because they use a lot of materials to make thick walls.
4. Low Volume Production
Another reason fish tanks are expensive is that not many manufacturers make them.
They’re not produced in the same quantities that dog toys or cat food are, for example.
Fish are the third-most-popular pet.
Since there’s less demand for them, there’s also less demand for their products.
People also tend to hold onto their fish tanks.
Even if they don’t buy more fish at that moment, they might in the future, and since fish tanks don’t deteriorate that fast when cared for, they can just use their old ones again.
Because of that, there isn’t a lot of demand for fish tanks.
At least, there isn’t high enough demand to warrant mass production.
This means that the production of fish tanks is small.
The limited volume impacts its prices.
Even with as small a demand as there is, the supply is even lower.
That means the prices for the tanks are high.
If fish ever become more popular and the demand for fish tanks increases, then manufacturers might start mass-producing tanks, which might bring the prices down.
However, at the moment, the demand isn’t there.
Because fish tank producers release a limited number of fish tanks, it keeps prices high.
5. Packaging Costs
The cost of making a fish tank isn’t the only thing adding to the price of the tank.
Manufacturers also have to pay packaging costs.
Fish tanks are extremely delicate and require a lot of care during the transporting process.
Even acrylic tanks need protection.
As such, manufacturers spend a lot of money on protective packaging materials.
The last thing they want is to have the product arrive broken.
That’s a waste of their materials and money.
Whether they buy form-fitted packaging, packing peanuts, or other types of insulation, the company spends a good amount of money on packaging costs.
As a result, you may notice that the price of the fish tank is high.
If it isn’t, then your shipping costs might be high.
Fish tanks are expensive because packaging them is expensive since they’re fragile.
6. Shipping Costs
If packaging costs aren’t driving up the cost of the fish tank enough, then shipping costs are.
Fish tanks are expensive to ship.
Whether you buy it directly from the manufacturer or a pet store, you can expect to pay a good amount of money on shipping alone.
That’s because fish tanks are unable to come folded.
They come fully assembled since they’re made that way.
As such, they take up a lot of space.
This means that carriers are unable to fit as many items in their trucks.
As a result, they charge the supplier a higher amount to ship the product.
This ensures that the carrier doesn’t miss out on money even though they’re carrying fewer shipments.
The manufacturer then passes that cost onto the buyer.
This also goes for pet stores.
Stores that buy supplies from a manufacturer will pass the price of shipping onto their customers along with a marked price to generate a profit for the store.
That makes fish tanks extremely expensive at pet stores since you’re buying at elevated prices.
The weight of fish tanks also increases the price of shipping.
If the tank is heavy, then it means the carrier can transport even fewer shipments.
Each carrier has a weight limit that they need to adhere to.
To ensure they don’t miss out on a profit because they have to carry fewer boxes, they charge the manufacturer for the weight of the product.
Fish tanks are expensive because shipping costs can quickly add up.
7. Slow Turnover Rates
Manufacturers keep a close eye on their sales for certain aquarium designs and models.
To stay profitable, they have to be wary of how many tanks they produce at a time.
If they order too many materials, for example, and that particular model doesn’t end up selling well, then they’re stuck with materials that they can’t use.
This wastes money which can cut into their profits.
Because of that, if the company is experiencing a slow turnover rate of their products, then they’ll delay or halt the production of new units.
This means that the prices of the tanks that are out for sale are going to be more expensive since there isn’t a new supply coming to replace them.
The rate at which their tanks sell can influence the price of future tanks.
Slow-moving tanks can cause prices of future tanks to be higher since they didn’t sell as well and manufacturers are looking to make up for costs.
Fish tanks are expensive because slow turnover rates can scare manufacturers into raising prices.
8. One-Time Purchase
Unless you’re looking to upgrade or downgrade your fish tank, there’s a good chance that when you buy a tank, that’s the only tank that you’ll own.
Fish tanks tend to last a long time if they’re cared for and made of high-quality materials like tempered glass or acrylic.
Because of that, most fish owners don’t need to buy more tanks in the future.
They’re not like dog owners who need to buy a new collar for every new dog that they own.
Nor are they like cat owners who have to replace toys when their cats destroy them.
Fish tanks last.
Because of that, they’re not repeat purchases.
Manufacturers are aware of this.
They know that their customers are likely only ever going to buy one tank from them.
They factor that into their math when they’re calculating the price of their products.
Since they can’t rely on repeat purchases, they have to get the most profit possible from a single purchase.
That means a high price on the fish tank.
Store owners also know that they have a limited number of people to sell to.
Most fish owners don’t travel across the state just to buy a tank.
They shop locally.
Once a local fish store sells tanks to all the interested parties in their area, then they don’t have anyone else to sell to.
With this in mind, they also mark up the fish tank at a high enough price that allows them to generate a profit from it.
Fish tanks are expensive because most people buy one and that’s all.
Without being able to rely on repeat purchases for profit, manufacturers and stores have to put a high price on their products to make selling the product worth it.
9. Tank Shape
The shape of the tank also influences its price.
A standard square or rectangular tank is among the cheaper options.
That’s because this shape is easy to make and form.
It doesn’t require additional steps out of the ordinary to make.
However, those who want circular or curved tanks can expect a higher price.
Curved tanks require more work, materials, and expertise to make.
Bending glass or acrylic into the desired shape is a lengthy and expensive process.
Since it takes more time to create these types of tanks, it also sells for higher prices.
Besides the cost of production, there’s also a risk in selling tanks outside of the standard shapes.
The design doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Because of that, manufacturers are aware that they’re selling to an even smaller number of people within a small category of pet owners.
The number of people possibly interested in their new tank shape is small.
That means they won’t generate as much profit as if they had focused only on making square or rectangle shapes.
That said, they also know that some will love the uniqueness of the shape of the tank.
They may be more willing to pay for a unique design rather than the standard square or rectangle.
To ease some of the risks, manufacturers will list the curved tank at a higher price.
Fish tanks are expensive if they’re curved because it’s harder and more expensive to make.
10. Custom-Built Tanks
The final reason fish tanks are expensive is if they’re completely built from scratch.
If you want a wholly unique aquarium, then you can expect to pay a lot of money for a custom-built tank.
Custom-built tanks usually use the best materials because they want the tank to last as long as possible.
Not only are these tanks built to last, but they’re also built to serve as art pieces or conversation starters.
They’re as social as they are about housing fish.
Some people will go all-out with their custom-built aquariums.
They might put them in their ceilings, making them a part of the wall, or even design them in such a way that they become part of the furniture.
Because they’re custom-built, the builder has to order all the materials from scratch.
This is costly from the start.
They then have to call on services from other professionals if their client wants something they’re not familiar with.
For example, they may need to hire a carpenter for furniture or a contractor for a tank that’s built into the wall.
This also adds to the cost of the tank.
Besides the materials, there’s also what goes inside of the tank.
Since it’s custom-made, the individual will likely have a few ideas of what they want to be featured inside of the tank.
It can cost even more money to make the interior.
Due to the size or unique nature of the tank, the individual might also need a special filter or cover for the tank.
That costs a lot of money, too.
If you want the most expensive fish tank on the market, then you need to custom-build one.
How To Save Money On Fish Tanks
Fish tanks are a necessity for anyone wanting to keep fish as a pet.
However, the price of aquarium tanks might put some people off.
Here are a few ways you can save money on fish tanks.
1. Buy Plastic
If you’re just starting with fish and you’re not sure if they’re the right pet for you, then it’s best to buy a cheap, plastic, tank.
You don’t want to buy acrylic.
Instead, go for the standard plastic or plate glass tank.
It’s cheaper than most, and you can always upgrade later if you want to be an official fish owner.
2. Stay Small
One of the biggest factors that make tanks expensive is their size.
You can keep costs low by buying a small tank.
Smaller tanks also mean the walls are thinner which also decreases the price.
3. Look For Used Tanks
You can find a ton of used tanks for sale.
Many people discover that owning fish isn’t quite their thing and put their tanks up for sale for cheap prices.
They just want to get rid of it.
Sometimes they even give the tank away for free.
You should always test the tank before buying it, however, to ensure it doesn’t have cracks.
Fish tanks are expensive because they’re not as popular a commodity as dog or cat toys.
Most fish owners only tend to buy one or two tanks in their lifetime, too, which means manufacturers make less money through repeat purchases.
Finding used tanks or buying small ones can help you save money on your first fish tank purchase.