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55 Gallon Fish Tank: Size, Setup Ideas, Stocking Ideas And More!

55 gallon fish tank
Not too small, not too big, 55-gallon is a standard size aquarium. The 4-feet length of the tank makes it an ideal choice for individuals wanting a larger viewing panel.

For people new to fishkeeping or with little experience, setting up a 55-gallon aquarium may seem a daunting task. Deciding on the right equipment and stocking options can be overwhelming. If you are feeling clueless or wondering how to get the best out of your 55-gallon fish tank – you have come to the right place to know that.

The following article is an effort toward helping new hobbyists set up their first 55-gallon aquarium. Even if you are a seasoned aquarist looking for creative insights for improving your tank setup, we bet you will find it here.

55 Gallon Aquariums – A Brief Overview


Aquariums marked as 55-gallon are generally 48 inches long, 21 inches tall, and 12.5 inches wide.


For the best part, 55-gallon fish tanks are relatively inexpensive. You can get an entire starter kit for $150 consisting of a tank, light, heater, filter, and thermometer.

It’s perfectly suited for people not starting with a huge budget. Moreover, 55 is a standard size aquarium, making it easy to find equipment for.


  • The aquarium’s 1.75-feet height and 4-feet length offer ample space for the fish to swim around and be all active as they want.
  • You can get flexible with the stocking options and have fish for different zones, such as bottom dwellers, mid-level fish, and upper-level fish.
  • The substantially larger viewing panel is a primary factor attracting many hobbyists to go for 55-gallon aquariums.


  • The only notable con that might make you reconsider buying a 55-gallon tank is its width. It’s only 12 ½ inches wide, which is not a lot of space.
  • Due to the 21-inches height, you might face some difficulty when cleaning the tank or catching fish out of it.

Important Tips

  • As we know, it’s a 4-feet long aquarium; you may need two filters installed on each side for better water circulation. It’s not necessary, but it definitely helps to have two filters running simultaneously.
  • You will also need a dedicated stand for your 55-gallon aquarium. Since it’s a lot of water volume, weight of decoration, and gravel, it’s not wise to place it on any other piece of furniture

55 Gallon Fish Tank: Why Is Bigger Better?

55 gallon fish tank
Have you ever thought, why is it so that bigger aquariums are considered to be better than smaller ones? Apart from being an individualized preference, there are mainly two reasons:

  • Any fluctuations in the water chemistry have less impact when the water volume is greater. For instance, if a snail dies in a 55-gallon aquarium, the ammonia spike will not be notable compared to a 20-gallon tank.
  • Water changes for a larger aquarium certainly take more time and effort. However, chances are you will do them less often than doing water changes for smaller tanks.

It is apt to say: the bigger the tank, the more stable it is.

How to Choose Your Aquarium Type and Stocking Options?

With a dozen of aquarium setups and tons of fish species available to pet, the list for stocking ideas can be truly endless. It can make one easily overwhelmed, specifically if you are a beginner. But if you are here, let us make it easy for you.

Setting up an aquarium that is ideal for you comes down to answering one simple question: what is it you are trying to accomplish with your aquarium setup? 

Chances are, you may not know to answer it. So to simplify the matter further, you have to think in terms of the attributes you want and balance them with the level of experience you possess.

Know Your Needs

What are you hoping for the aquarium to look like? Get your preference straight and clear. For instance, you may desire to keep bright and colorful fish. Decide whether you want a fish-only tank or a planted one.

Knowing the key attributes, you must have in your aquarium setup is one of the best ways to go about it.

What Is Your Experience?

Considering your experience level as a hobbyist is crucial. It is to ensure you only sign up for the job that is feasible for your experience.

For example, if you are a beginner, you may not want to deal with fishes that are finicky eaters or hard to maintain. A wise decision would be to set up a low-maintenance fish tank with non-aggressive fish.

We take on the fishkeeping hobby to experience its beauty and have some fun along the way. You certainly don’t want to lose your sleep over maintaining a fish tank. We hope you got the point!

Pro tip: do not obsess over making a perfect choice; you can always upgrade your aquarium setup and re-do it when needed. If you are starting out, focus on enjoying and learning the basics. As you gain some experience, you will have more choices opened up.

6 Best Stocking Ideas for 55 Gallon Fish Tank – Freshwater

For this article, we will only focus on freshwater aquariums as they are beginner-friendly and easy to maintain. So if you are new to the hobby, the following aquarium setups are going to be most suitable.

Livebearer Tank

55 gallon fish tank
Livebearers are peaceful fish and create a great community aquarium. They come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, fins shapes, and lengths. The best thing about livebearers is that you can mix almost any of them.

Initially, you can start your livebearer community tank with Guppy, Swordtail, Platy, and Molly. They are easy to feed; you can give them commercially prepared fish food such as pellets, tablets, seaweed, and occasionally bloodworms and brine shrimp.

Livebearers give birth to live babies, so raising them in a planted tank helps sustain fry. Not only that, a tank full of live plants or even plastic/silk plants gives the aquarium nature’s vibes making the setup aesthetically pleasing.

Ideal Tank Conditions for Livebearers

These are fairly hardy fish tolerant to a wide variety of water parameters. Generally, livebearers do good in hard water.

  • Aim to keep pH levels between 7.0 to 8.4 and temperatures between 74° to 78° F.
  • Always maintain good filtration in your tank and perform at least 10% water change every week or 25% every two weeks.

African Cichlid Tank

55 gallon fish tank
African cichlids are popular tropical fish known for their unique and remarkable behavior. This family has more than 1000 species that give you a wide range of options to choose from.

For the sake of this article, we will be strategically picking up species that are going to look good together in a color combination.

Stocking yellow lab cichlids with purple acei and red zebra can make a beautiful African cichlids tank. You can keep 6 of each for a 55-gallon aquarium. Get all fish of the same size and raise them together. Don’t introduce baby fish to the grown-ups in the tank, as they will be tortured and beaten down.

Also, when you add more fish to your tank, add at least 3-5 at a time. This will spread the aggression and make it easy for the new fishes to survive. Male members of this species are brightly colored, whereas females are of subdued hue. So keep an all-male tank unless you want to breed.

Ideal Tank Conditions for African Cichlids

  • Cichlids love a bit warmer conditions; temperatures ranging from 78-85 degrees are ideal.
  • They like harder water with pH levels between 8.0 to 8.5. You can raise your tank’s pH level by adding aragonite sand or crushed corals to the substrate.
  • African cichlids produce a lot of waste, so you might require over-filtration to keep the tank in optimal condition.

Barb Tank

55 gallon fish tank
There are two ways to start a Barbs tank. You can set up a Tiger Barb community tank containing Glow ones, Green, Longfin, Albino, etc. Or you can mix different species such as Cherry Barbs, Tiger Barbs, Checker Barbs, Black Ruby Barbs, Gold Barbs, etc.

Keep in mind, Barbs are mildly aggressive, and therefore one must avoid stocking slow-moving fish with them. Barbs are active schooling fish so always keep them in a group of 6 to 10.

For feeding, use specialized flake food and live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and beef heart. To identify the gender: female members of barb species have more rounded bellies than males and are larger and heavier. Males are bright in color and usually seen with red noses developed during the spawning process.

Ideal Tank Conditions for Barbs

  • Barbs are tolerant to a wide range of water conditions. Mainly, they are fond of slightly acidic water, so aim to keep the pH at 6.5 and below 8.0
  • Water temperature isn’t crucial for barbs; however, it is advisable to keep it under 68°F to 82°F degrees.

Tetra Community Tank

55 gallon fish tank
Tetras are among the most commonly kept fish as they are cheap and can be found in any local fish store. There is a whole range of Tetras you can choose from, and mix almost any species to create a classic community tank.

Some of the most recognizable and beginner-friendly tetras include red eye, black skirt, serpae, bloodfins, neons, black neons, glowlights, and lemon tetras. You can keep them in a group of 6 or more.

Since most tetra fishes are usually calm and peaceful, they easily get along with other similar-sized community fish. The compatible tankmates for Tetras include rasboras, small danios, friendly barbs, small-sized rainbowfish, and livebearers.

For tetras, always keep a secure lid over your aquarium to prevent them from jumping out of the tank. A moderately planted tank will be the most suitable for raising or breeding Tetra fish.

Ideal Tank Conditions For Tetras

Tetras are naturally habited to soft, acidic water. However, nowadays, they are being raised in water with relatively high pH and alkalinity.

  • In general, most Tetra fish do well when pH levels are maintained between 6.8 to 7.8
  • Keeping water temperatures within the range of 75° to 80° F promotes better results.

Rainbowfish Tank

55 gallon fish tank
The colorful Rainbowfish are favorite among both beginner and advanced aquarists. Some of the common and readily available Rainbowfish include Boeseman’s, Crimson Spotted, Checkered, Lake Kutubu, Dwarf, Desert Rainbow Fish, etc.

However, when it comes to choosing particular species to stock, one must consider the tank’s size. Rainbowfish typically get 3½ to 4-inches long and require adequate space to swim.

For a 55-gallon tank, you can get Boesemani, the red ones. They can grow up to 4 inches long, so getting a group of 6 to 10 Boesemani Rainbowfish is going to be best suitable. As they are schooling fish, getting the best out of their behavior requires a group.

Rainbowfish do quite well in planted tanks. Moreover, if you want the fish color to pop out, go for a dark background and black substrate. Hobbyists planning to breed Rainbowfish, make sure to have more females than males in the tank or at least one female per male.

Ideal Tank Conditions For Rainbowfish

Rainbowfish mainly come from clean water streams and lakes; therefore, having optimal water quality is a necessity for them.

  • Rainbowfish like harder water; you can aim to keep the pH values between 7.4 to 7.6 and 8 being the max.
  • The temperature should be around 74 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • You must do at least 25% of water changes twice a week to promote thriving conditions in your tank.

Angelfish Tank

55 gallon fish tank
The long, gorgeous fins and distinctive colors scales make Angelfish one of the most desirable freshwater fish. There are quite a number of Angelfish species you can choose from based on color or ease of maintenance. Some popular varieties include silver Angelfish, Veil, Koi, Zebra, Marble, Albino, Leopard, and Platinum.

These fish are typically kept in planted aquariums, but you can also keep them in bare tanks or community tanks as per your preference. However, make sure you don’t keep small fish as Angelfish might eat them.

Good size cardinal tetra, lemon tetra, black neon tetra, and cherry barb may get along with them as tankmates. Angelfish have tall and pointed fins, so keep them away from fin nippers.

Ideal Tank Conditions For Angelfish

They are relatively hardy and can adapt to a wide range of water parameters.

  • The recommended pH values for an Angelfish tank range from 6.8 to 7.2
  • Water temperature must be under 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • For a 55-gallon aquarium, you can easily stock 5 to 6 juvenile angelfish.

How to Setup a 55 Gallon Fish Tank?

55 gallon fish tank
Setting up your first aquarium is a fun process. And if you are ready to get yourself involved in it, here we go:

Getting Started

  • The first step is to get your aquarium placed over a stand.
  • Next, wipe off the glass and make sure there are no dust particles in it
  • Now add substrate to the tank.

NOTE: Aquarium substrates are often pre-washed. However, to ensure no dust gets into your tank, you rinse it off a few times until the water runs clear.

  • After adding the substrate, place decoration items in your aquarium, whatever they might be.
  • Next, pour in the water and get the equipment installed.

Now we are over the second step.

Cycling the Aquarium

Cycling your aquarium is arguably the most crucial part of the process. It refers to introducing and building up the colonies of nitrifying bacteria in the water. It is the beneficial bacteria used to break the harmful ammonia (released in fish waste) into less toxic nitrate. This whole process is known as the nitrogen cycle.

There are two ways you can cycle your aquarium – cycling with fish or fishless cycling. The latter is often recommended and is typically a faster way to complete the nitrogen cycle. Here is how to do it:

NOTE: Before getting started, make sure your tank is already set up (water-filled, contains decoration and filter) and doesn’t have any fish in it yet.

  • First, seed your tank by adding supplies from an established aquarium. It helps increase the speed of bacterial growth in the water, reducing the overall cycling time. The common items include driftwood, gravel, decoration, and filter media.
  • Next, we have to increase the ammonia levels in the tank. You can use household ammonia, which doesn’t contain scents, colors, or other additives.
  • The aim is to bring the tank to 2-3 ppm so add enough ammonia until it reaches the stated levels. Make sure it doesn’t go past 5 ppm. You can use a liquid ammonia detector to test the levels.
  • You must keep the tank’s ammonia levels at 2-3 ppm throughout the 4-to-6-week cycle. For that, test ammonia levels daily or preferably twice a day, and as it starts to decrease, add more ammonia and bring it back to 2 ppm.
  • Typically, after two weeks, you will begin to see Nitrite levels spiking up – it’s a good sign.
  • Afterward, reduce ammonia to 1/4 the initial dose and continue the cycle until your detector reads 0 ppm of ammonia, 0 ppm of nitrite, and a nitrate reading.

This shows the completion of the nitrogen cycle, and now you can gradually start adding fish to the tank.

Must-Have Equipments For 55 Gallon Freshwater Aquarium

55 gallon fish tank
For a beginner, choosing the right equipment is not only an overwhelming task but also time-consuming. For the convenience of our readers, we have put into the time and done all the research required.

Following are some of the best equipment you will need for setting up your first 55-gallon aquarium.

Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium Kit – Cheap Alternative

If you are low on budget, instead of buying equipment separately, go for an entire aquarium starter kit. Tetra has one of the best value for money 55-gallon aquarium kit that has everything you need to get started, except a tank stand and gravel.

Tetra 55 Gallon aquarium starter kit includes:

  • One 55 gallon tank
  • Tetra Whisper 60 filter
  • 200W heater
  • Two 24” Tetra hinged hood
  • Stick-on digital thermometer
  • EasyBalance Plus water conditioner
  • TetraMin tropical flakes
  • AquaSafe 6” fishnet
  • Two plant multipacks,
  • One boxwood plant.

This 55-gallon tank from Tetra has a sturdy and durable build. It has a hood that comes with integrated LED lighting. Alongside, you will find the installation and setup of the filter and heater effortlessly easy.

Tank Stand

55-gallon is a moderately bigger tank. And with all the weight of water, decoloration, gravel, and other equipment, it becomes heavier, thus requiring a solid foundation to be placed upon. A tank stand is a must-have essential for a 55-gallon aquarium.

After reviewing many different aquarium stands, we concluded that Aquatic Fundamentals Wood Aquarium Stand is probably the best out there to buy.

  • It comes in black color and is quite sturdy.
  • The stand has a sleek design that looks really attractive.
  • It has two front doors providing easy access and ample storage space to keep pumps, filters, and food.
  • The back of the stand has a large opening that enables you to conveniently route filter tubes and power cords.

The stand is fairly easy to assemble; it comes with hardware and screws included and will barely take you 30-40 minutes to do it yourself.

Aquarium Hood

There is a significant purpose to an aquarium hood or canopy. A secure lid prevents the fish from jumping outside the tank, reduces evaporation, and ensures no unwanted things enter the tank.

There are different types of hoods with distinct designs available to buy. However, if you are setting up your first 55-gallon aquarium, Aqueon’s All Glass Aquarium Deluxe Hood can be a perfect choice.

  • It comes with an integrated fluorescent light consisting of three 15 Watt tubes that adequately illuminate a 55-gallon aquarium.
  • On the backside of the hood, you will find cutouts that can be utilized for a filter or skimmer.

NOTE: This stand from Aqueon comes as a two separate hood that requires the tank to have a divider in the middle.

Aquarium Filter

F filters Filters are undeniable equipment for maintaining aquariums. When it comes to choosing one, there are a plethora of options to opt from. An ideal aquarium filter can be sorted based on the device’s functionality, inhabitant’s requirements, and budget.

If you ask for our top pick for a reliable and efficient filter, we will tell you to go with SeaChem Tidal 55. In the past few years, using different filters, Tidal 55 has come out as one of the top hang-on-back filters for a 55-gallon aquarium. It is easy to operate and provides high-quality water filtration.

  • The USP of SeaChem Tidal 55 lies in its surface skimming functionality.
  • It comes with a submersed pump location that enables the filter to be self-priming. One should always look for this feature specifically when buying a new aquarium filter.
  • Besides, Tidal 55 has a dual water intake, adjustable flow, maintenance monitor, and self-cleaning impeller.
  • Interestingly, it comes with a 3-year warranty that can be extended to 5 years by registering the product on the official SeaChem website.

Lighting System

Aquariums are naturally beautiful, and putting a light over them enhances the beauty and color even more. If you are looking for a light, look no further than the Hygger Aquarium LED Light.

Ideal for both fish-only and planted aquariums, Hygger LED light comes with 7 colors and 4 modes for novices to advanced players.

It’s has a full-spectrum white light you can use during the day and change it to blue at night. Other colors include dark blue, green, purple, cyan, yellow, and red. You can also change the brightness levels depending on your requirements.

  • It comes with extendable brackets to fit the light fixture perfectly in your tank.
  • The LCD display makes it easy to use and apply different settings.
  • It has waterproof grade IP68, so now you don’t have to worry about water splashing over the light.
  • The high-quality light beads make the Hygger Aquarium Programmable LED Light stands out.

Air Pump

Although air pumps aren’t really essential nowadays, having one certainly benefits an aquarium. As it keeps the water oxygenated and allows carbon dioxide to escape, promoting better health in fish.

There is truly an abundance of air pumps in the aquarium industry. However, Tetra Wisher is one of the air pumps that got our eye and proved to be the best and quietest out there.

All thanks to its patented dome shape integrated with suspended motor and internal sound baffling chambers.


If you plan to keep fish that have strict temperature requirements, you are going to need a heater, especially in winter. Sudden temperature drops are uncomfortable for fish and cause severe stress to them.

For a 55-gallon aquarium Marineland Aquarium Heater is a value for money deal.

  • It’s an easy-to-use device that comes with an electric thermostat.
  • The heater is made from shatter-resistant quartz glass that ensures safety for the inhabitants.
  • On top of that, it has an automatic safety shut-off and overheat protection features.

How to Maintain a 55 Gallon Aquarium Without Making a Huge Mess

55 gallon fish tank
For a newcomer, maintaining a 55-gallon tank may seem a daunting task. In reality, bigger tanks are relatively easier to care for and are more stable. Moreover, the same principles apply to it as with a 10-gallon.

Simply practice the following tips, and you’ll be able to make things easy and convenient for you.

  • Regularly monitoring water parameters is the key to healthy and happy aquariums. It includes levels of ammonia, nitrate, nitrites, and pH. You can easily test these parameters using a water testing kit. API Freshwater Master Kit is a reliable product that provides accurate results.
  • Performing regular water changes are crucial to maintaining optimal conditions. Depending on your bioload and species, you may have to do a 25% water change every week or two.
  • Don’t overfeed your fish. On each serving, only give the amount of food your fish can eat in 30 secs. Accumulation of uneaten food particles and excess poop are primary reasons for ammonia spikes and the spread of other harmful chemicals.
  • Avoid overstocking at all costs. It is better to have fewer fish in a tank than more.
  • Equipment upkeep is crucial. One must periodically clean their filters to ensure water filtration efficiency.


We hope now you are feeling confident setting up your first 55-gallon aquarium. One must approach the hobby with a learner mindset instead of being a perfectionist.

As you get yourself involved in the process, you will learn and gain more experience mastering the art of fishkeeping.

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