High vs. Long Tanks
I'm just curious what your preferences are. If given the choice of any tank size and shape, what would be your top pick?
With the fish I keep (African Cichlids) then I would opt for the long tank over high...Now if I was doing saltwater reef then I would perhaps go for a higher tank.
I have a saltwater tank 29g and with the reef structure I have with the Live Rock, there is not a whole lot of clearance to the waterline.
I always go long over tall (I don't keep saltwater, but Taz's point sounds valid for it).
Fish prefer swimming side to side, not up and down, and a longer tank will provide them more room to zoom back and forth.. Some fish like freshwater angels, they can grow very tall, over 10" tall.. so my 12.5" high tank would be horrible for them. In this case height is also very necessary. Even so, you'd want a pretty long tank too for them. Fish like bottom dwellers need a large lengthxwidth, height doesn't affect them as much.
Long tanks also have a larger surface area, providing more area for oxygen and CO2 gas to travel between the air and water.
Also there is more stress on a taller tank vs a longer tank. Water is distributed better over a larger surface vs deeper. This is even more crucial if you are building your own tank. Lighting also has to be good enough to reach deeper tanks. Although each situation would require a particular setup, I opt longer if I have the space.
For freshwater, long is usually better than tall for the same reasons already stated. Like if you have a 60 Gallon Hex tank, your choices are a lot smaller for fish than you would have using a standard 55 gallon.
But why settle for one or the other when you can have both in the same tank 8-)
The differences have been stated. It basically comes down to the intended fish (thinking freshwater here). There are fish that need a long tank and will not be healthy in a tall tank (unless it is large and has length too)--forest fish that swim such as most (but not all) tetra, danio and barb. And there are some fish that can do as well in a tall tank--generally those that are not active swimmers, such as pencilfish, rasbora, some tetra, gourami [length can be important for some species too]. As with everything in the aquarium, the fish should decide this for you.
The point about surface area is significant. The difference in fish behaviour (swimming or cruising) is also related to oxygen content, and the tank surface impacts this. Everything is related.
Length with a good width to add depth and to be able to play around with the aquasacpe. For me plants are the what give an aquarium it's soul.
.. although im a beginner :-D
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