How Much Does It Cost to Build an Aquarium

The cost to build an aquarium is $50 to $2000+ on average depending on the size, complexity, and materials used. However, based on the factors mentioned in the article, a basic 20-gallon freshwater aquarium setup can cost around $200-$300, while a more advanced 100-gallon saltwater aquarium setup can cost upwards of $2,000 or more.

Here’s a rough breakdown of the estimated costs for a basic 20-gallon freshwater aquarium setup:

  • Aquarium kit: $75
  • Filter: $30
  • Heater: $20
  • Lighting: $50
  • Substrate and decorations: $50
  • Fish and other inhabitants: $50
  • Additional Equipment: $20

Total estimated cost: $295

Factors that Affect the Cost of Building an Aquarium

Size of the aquarium

The size of the aquarium is one of the primary factors that determine the overall cost of the project. Larger tanks require more materials such as glass, acrylic, or other building materials, which will significantly increase the cost.

Type of aquarium

The type of aquarium that you choose will also affect the cost. Saltwater aquariums are typically more expensive to set up and maintain because they require additional equipment and materials to maintain a healthy marine environment.

Type of fish and other inhabitants

The type of fish and other inhabitants you choose will also impact the cost of the aquarium. Some fish species are more expensive to purchase and maintain and may require specific equipment or conditions to thrive.

Type of filtration system

Filtration is crucial for maintaining the health of the aquarium inhabitants. The type of filtration system you choose will affect the overall cost of the aquarium. More advanced filtration systems may be more expensive but can provide superior water quality.

Lighting and heating system

The lighting and heating system are essential to the health of the fish and other inhabitants in the aquarium. Depending on the type of fish and other inhabitants you have, you may need to invest in more advanced lighting and heating systems, which can increase the cost.

Type of substrate and decorations

The substrate and decorations in the aquarium can also add to the cost. Some types of substrate and decorations are more expensive than others, depending on their materials and design.

Additional equipment

Additional equipment such as an air pump or protein skimmer can also increase the overall cost of the aquarium. These pieces of equipment are often necessary for maintaining a healthy aquarium environment and ensuring the longevity of the aquarium inhabitants.

FactorEstimated Cost Range
Size of the aquarium$75 (20-gallon kit) to $400 (100-gallon kit)
Type of aquarium$200 (basic freshwater) to $500-$2,000+ (saltwater)
Type of fish and inhabitants$1-$10 (basic goldfish) to $20-$100+ (exotic marine species)
Type of filtration system$30 (basic hang-on-back) to $150+ (canister)
Lighting and heating system$50 (basic LED) to $300+ (programmable) for lighting; $20-$100 for heating
Substrate and decorations$10-$50 (gravel or sand) to $20-$200+ (live plants and rocks)
Additional equipment$20 (air pump) to $100+ (protein skimmer)

How much is the cost of a 5-gallon aquarium?

On average, a small aquarium kit, such as a 5-gallon aquarium kit, can cost around $30-$50. However, if you choose to purchase each component separately, the cost can range from $50-$100 or more.

How much does a 100-gallon aquarium cost?

The cost of a 100-gallon aquarium is around $500-$1,000 for a basic freshwater setup, while a saltwater setup with advanced equipment and exotic fish can cost upwards of $5,000 or more.

Tips for Reducing the Cost of Building an Aquarium

  1. Opt for a smaller aquarium: A smaller aquarium will require less equipment and decorations, which can help reduce the overall cost of the setup.
  2. DIY equipment: Consider building some of the equipment yourself. For example, you can make a simple sponge filter for a fraction of the cost of a store-bought filter. There are plenty of online resources and tutorials available that can guide you through the process.
  3. DIY decorations: Similarly, you can create your own decorations for your aquarium. For example, you can use natural materials such as driftwood, rocks, or plants that you can collect from your local environment. You can also make your own aquarium background using a simple design and materials such as foam board and acrylic paint.
  4. Buy used equipment: Look for used aquarium equipment online or at local garage sales and thrift stores. You may be able to find equipment in good condition for a fraction of the cost of buying new equipment.
  5. Opt for a simple setup: Keep your aquarium setup simple by choosing low-maintenance fish and plants that require minimal equipment and decorations. This can help reduce the overall cost of the setup while still providing a beautiful and healthy environment for your aquatic pets.


How much does it cost to build a giant aquarium?

Building a giant aquarium, such as one that holds more than 1 million gallons of water, can be an even more significant investment. For example, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, which holds more than 10 million gallons of water, cost $250 million to build when it opened in 2005.

The aquarium features exhibits such as a whale shark exhibit, a dolphin exhibit, and a penguin exhibit. Another example is the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in China, which is currently the largest aquarium in the world. The aquarium cost $2.9 billion to build and features exhibit such as a whale shark exhibit, a beluga whale exhibit, and a polar exhibit.

How much does it cost to start a public aquarium?

The cost of starting a public aquarium is around $1 million to $5 million on average but can vary greatly depending on the size and location of the facility.

For example, the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Utah cost $22 million to build and opened in 2014. The aquarium spans 136,000 square feet and features more than 4,000 animals from 450 different species.

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, which is one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world, cost $3.3 million to build when it opened in 1930. Adjusted for inflation, this cost would be approximately $50 million today.

How much does it cost to rent out the Georgia Aquarium?

The cost to rent out the Georgia Aquarium for an event or private function can vary depending on the specific event details and the time of year. However, on average, the cost can range from $17,500 to $25,000 per hour, with a minimum rental period of four hours.

This cost typically includes access to select exhibits, event staff, security, and basic equipment such as tables and chairs. Additional costs may apply for catering, audiovisual equipment, and other event services.

It’s important to note that these costs are based on the most recent available information and may be subject to change. It’s recommended to contact the Georgia Aquarium directly for up-to-date pricing information and to discuss specific event needs.