Many people who begin an aquarium maintenance business start out as hobbyists. 

If it brings joy to you, why not bring joy to others and get paid for it, right? Even though I sort of fell into the maintenance business, I started out using it to fuel my hobby. I didn’t think much about the business end of it….they were just more tanks where I could extend my creativity. Back then, I had absolutely no idea of the potential of this business.

If you want to build a business that is going to add to or even replace your current income, though, you’re going to have to draw the line where the hobby ends and the business begins. 

One of the golden rules in business is “time is money”.

If you use the project based business model (which I do) instead of the dollar-per-hour model, you will get paid “X” number of dollars to service an aquarium regardless of the amount of time you spend. Even though this can sometimes work against me, the majority of the time it works in my favor.  

For instance, if I have a 55 gallon aquarium that I charge $75 per month to maintain, I will get paid the same whether I spend 2 hours, 1 hour or 30 minutes cleaning it.  Normally, it will take me the 30 minutes or less.  I can then go down the street to the next tank, clean it in 30 minutes or less and collect another $75 or so.  The faster you can do this (while still doing a good job) the less time you will spend per tank, the more tanks you can fit in your schedule and the more money you can make.

How can you speed up the time it takes to clean a tank?


  • Proper fish selection
  • Proper decoration selection
  • Not over stocking
  • Not over feeding
  • Using properly sized filtration equipment
  • Using properly sized cleaning equipment
  • Keeping on top of maintenance duties
  • Educating yourself

Your favorite fish may be an Oscar. Maybe it’s an Arrowana or any number of the cool monster fish out there. While you would love to share your favorites with the people who peer into your maintenance tanks, they are not the best fish to speed up cleaning time with.  If you have ever kept them, you know why! The bigger the fish, the bigger mess they will make!

This also extends into elaborate decorations. Amazon River basin recreations with live plants are cool, but growing, cultivating and cleaning them are time consuming. 

People just want to see some fishies. 

“Oh look, there’s a red one! I like that one with the long flowy fins. Is that a catfish hiding under that rock? That must be one of those allergy eaters!”

A variety of basic community fish with easy to clean artificial plants is how I built the profitability into my business. It may not be the most challenging aquarium or the highlight of your career, but it will create a solid base of income producing aquariums.

The rest of the list can be learned through education and experience. None of it is hard, you just need to go into it with the intent of building your business to maximize profits.

Even if this means leaving “Bubbles”, your pet Pacu, to enjoy at home!