Aquarium Vs Fish Tank

Aquarium Vs Fish Tank – The Subtle Differences In 2020


The common usage of these two terms may give you the impression that these two are interchangeable synonyms. But actually, there lies a deep chasm between them.

While the word aquarium inspires a bigger image in our mind, the phrase fish tank makes us think of a container where fishes are kept alive for a short while until they are turned into a curry. 

The fundamental difference exists in the different utility of aquarium and fish tank. An aquarium is for public show or private whereas the fish tank is for culinary purposes.

If we want to define these two terms, it will go like the following.


A transparent rectangular box of water to keep fishes and other aquatic creatures in a maritime atmosphere created by pebbles, weed, thermostat and air-feed is an aquarium.

It can be a building where fishes and other creatures are reared for public display almost in a natural habitat. The public show is the key word here, and so bigger aquariums in the world are called the aquatic zoo.


Fish Tank

A water container is commonly a tank, pool, or bowl where fishes and other underwater aquatic creatures are kept.

A fish tank may be transparent or opaque and there also the thriving atmosphere will be noticed. But the purpose is different now, and this time it is for live fish storage intended for food.


The differences deserve to be specially mentioned are in:

Size & Capacity

Size and capacity matter there. Next, for use, the most crucial factor that separates a fish tank from an aquarium is its size and capacity.

Where an aquarium can be of any size amounting to a building, the fish tank size will be confined to the portable one by one hand. And the capacity of a fish tank should not cross 15 to 20 gallons to the max. 

But one rectangular glass box crossing the capacity limit of 20 gallons should carry the tag of an aquarium. A box featuring 25-30 gallons of liquid capacity is impossible to carry by an average person.

And you cannot create the atmosphere and environment that an aquarium stands for in a box below the said capacity.


The next demarcation line between a fish tank and an aquarium are different habitats. An aquarium gives the maximum emphasis on the factors that ensure to mimic a maritime or natural seabed habitat.

A habitat is having a bed of small rocks looking at a landscape, decorative foliages, plants, and diverse maritime life to inspire an impression of marine balance in the sense of the onlookers.

On the other hand, a fish tank too must have a habitat strewn with pebbles, plants, and some goldfishes but it lacks the intricate and the aesthetic flavor of the aquarium.

Maintenance & Cost

Maintenance and cost are the next two deciding factors. An aquarium will reward you with no return but the feel of aesthetic beauty and a soothing feast for the eyes. There is no monetary gain if you don't take aquarium marketing or selling a business.

Conversely, a fish tank may reward you with its utilitarian aspect. You can store fish to thrive or love until you turn them into food. You can use it both privately and commercially. 

But aquariums can benefit an organization, state, or country financially as the aquatic zoos in the world are growing in popularity regarding visitors paying for expensive tickets

In-depth Demarcations

Aquarium and Fish Tank differ in their types too. Let’s have a detailed analysis of the kinds of the both.

Types Of Aquarium

Aquariums are fairly two types - Public Aquariums more famous to be Aquatic Zoo and Personal Aquarium kept by a hobbyist in his bed-side or sitting-room as a showpiece.


Public Aquarium or Aquatic Zoo:

Public aquariums are larger than life glass houses most often amounting to multi-storied buildings. The interior of such marine sanctuaries are artificially arranged but so neatly and meticulously maintained that those zoos have the look of the near-natural seabed.

The vegetations and tiny details of small rocks and pebbles, maritime lives, and ecology are pretty carefully collected. The collection and maintenance are scrupulous enough to give the onlookers the feel of a natural seabed and ensure the balanced ecology of the whole interior.

These zoos not only amuse and overwhelm the visitors but they are a rare source of research as well. It's not an easy task to go into deep sea always for research on marine biology. At least these public sanctuaries can give the elementary exposure to the taxonomist.

Moreover, the most astounding fact about larger aquariums is that the maintenance cost decreases with the increase in size. It is a no-brainer to understand as the larger aquariums do have a near-natural ecological balance.

The very habitat self-produces the food. So you are free from the hassle of cleaning glasses and providing food. Here you can travel with the most famous public aquarium in the world:

  • The Aquadom in Berlin
  • Shanghai Ocean Aquarium the largest in Asia
  • uShaka Marine World in Durban, South Africa
  • The National Aquarium in Baltimore
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium in California
  • Turkaozzoo, Istanbul
  • oceanographic, Valencia, Spain
  • The Okinawa Churuami Aquarium
  • Dubai Mall Aquarium
  • Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta 

Personal Aquarium

Personal Aquarium is the small miniature of the natural river bed and seabed decorated by pebbles, landscape foliages, available marine fishes and other creatures. It is steeply opposite the public one regarding display and preservation cost.

It is purely a hobbyist whim to maintain a personal aquarium, not the least meant for public display. As is said earlier, being a miniature it cannot self-produce the needed food and support the creatures require to survive. Therefore, you need to supply food, ensure an adequate habitat, and clean glass and water.


Types of Fish Tank

The display of fish tank is a secondary interest if it has any. The primary purpose of a fish tank is to provide the fishes an extension of life so long it is not ready for the sale or cooking.  

The fish tank may be big or small and made of transparent or opaque glasses. To our utter surprise, a fish tank may be dug in the earth.

Whatever the size and wherever it lies, the maintenance of fish tank is proportionate to the size. The bigger the fish tank, the larger the rearing cost of the fishes inside.

The cost of a larger fish tank is exceptionally high as you need to provide food and ensure a healthy atmosphere protecting it from overgrowth of algae.

But if you go too small with fish tanks, you are running the risk of getting the tank water cloudy more frequently than usual. Besides that, there will be a hassle of overcrowding and overfeeding.


How are they superior to one another?

How and why an aquarium is superior to its counterpart is obvious from the discussion till now. It is closer to the original, instructive, and a perfect beautifier.

But where lies the superiority of the fish tank. Let's have those answers in bullet points as they are many and worth noticing.

  • It comes to aid to ease psychological stress
  • Children are pretty fond of it
  • The presence of a fish tank can keep up your productivity
  • A bed-side fish tank may help you enjoy a deep slumber
Downsides of the Both


  • Larger aquariums are cheap to maintain but are too noisy
  • If they leak, it will be a deluge beyond the control
  • The environment is extremely difficult to maintain easily
  • It entails a rock-solid tank to pay for

Fish Tank:

  • And larger fish tanks are too costly to continue at an affordable cost
  • You need to keep a vigil over the tank as it is more vulnerable
  • Fish Tanks are more stanched than the aquariums


Nobody will forbid you to call a smaller size commercial glass box filled with water, pebbles, goldfishes, and aquatic plants an aquarium. 

If it is intended to keep as a decorative showpiece in your place, the chance of calling it a fish tank is very slim.

On the contrary, a bigger size glass box equipped with the same interior habitat used for rearing fishes kept for consumption in no way can be called an aquarium.

So it is the intention you are keeping it is responsible whether it will wear the identity of an Aquarium or a Fish Tank. A large aquarium may have several fish tanks inside it, but a fish tank will never place an aquarium inside.

About the Author Team Chooserly

A passionate blogger! Editor at Chooserly, and a regular author at HuffingtonPost, LifeHacker & Forbes!

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