(Last modified on March 31st, 2020)
Adding a little bit of life to the man cave keeps the room fresh in more ways than one. The white noise of a fish tank helps you calm down. If you add in some real plants, it keeps the air fresher than an air purifier could. It gives your man cave a focal point—something that all man caves require. I talk more about how to give your man cave some focal points on this page. Most importantly…fish are cool to look at. With thousands of species to choose from, there’s plenty of room for customization. No matter what size aquarium you can fit in your cave, what the color scheme of your cave is, or what kind of theme you want to go with…there are options out there for your man cave with a fish tank. Let’s take a look at some of them!
If you need a fish tank in the cave, you’ll want to find a good place to set it. This place needs to be sturdy enough to hold the aquarium. That $20 cabinet from IKEA or Walmart probably won’t cut it. Find something built out of sturdy materials that have a flat surface. If you want to stay away from wood, look for shelves that use aluminum—it’s a lightweight but incredibly strong material…ideal for holding fish tanks! If your aquarium is on the second floor, pay attention to how much weight per square feet your floor can handle. This is particularly easy if you build a man cave shed all on your own and know the exact materials you used (which I explain how to do on this page). Once you have a sturdy place, pick a tank size and grab a filter that will move an equivalent amount of water.
Anyways, once you have somewhere to set it, make sure to find an electrical outlet nearby. You’ll want to keep your wiring to a minimum, but most of the neat tank accessories and essentials require power of some sort. When you get gravel for your fish tank, make sure to clean it thoroughly. Cloudy water stinks, but what stinks even more is accidentally acquiring a fireworm invader that you could have washed out early on. Have all those done? You now have everything you need to set up a freshwater tank.
For man caves, a simple design is best. The point of a man cave is to relax, after all. It’s not meant to be a real aquarium. Cylindrical tanks look very neat, in my opinion—as long as the fish have enough space to swim. Otherwise, the large rectangular tank is best. Never use one of those small ‘betta fish’ tanks pet stores try to sell you. There is not enough space for even small fish to swim in. Even if they claim it’s a good ‘starter’ tank, it’s not something that belongs in your man cave. It’s much better to get a larger tank that houses a lot more buddies than a small tank that makes for an unhappy and sickly zone for one fish. If you want anything more unique, you’ll need to commission it from an artist.
As you choose your filter, think about the noise they make. Low-noise, powerful filters are a little on the pricey side, but well worth it. Bubble fountains also look neat and make the fish happy—as happy as fish can be, anyways. I’ve seen fish playing in or even with the bubbles before. They’re a lot smarter than we give them credit for! Make sure to throw some greenery and ‘hiding spots’ in there—even if everything’s made of plastic. If your fish are allowed to create their own territories, they’ll all be a lot nicer to each other out in the public space. On top of making you fish happy, you can incorporate it into your man cave decor. I talk about finding the perfect man cave themes on this page, and aquarium decor is the perfect way to punctuate whatever you end up picking.
As you choose your new fish roomies, the first thing you need to consider is freshwater and saltwater. If you’re new to aquarium keeping, always pick freshwater. Both types require maintenance, but saltwater is best left to experienced aquarium keepers. All you need to do with freshwater is measure the pH (acidity) of the tank every now and then.
The next thing you should think about is the future of the fish. Getting fish that grow too large for the tank is not only cruel, but it also leads to bad health for the fish. Their scales will scrape off, they become sluggish, and they may even develop illnesses. Even if you think that little catfish looks cool, don’t grab one if it doesn’t fit. It just spells trouble in the long run. Similarly, a lot of fish change their appearance as they mature. The biggest example of this is the phoenix fish, which looks amazing as a juvenile, but loses its trademark fiery stripe once it gets older. If you like the look of the adult, then keep it, but don’t buy it if you’ll just hate it later on.
There are many types of aquarium fish, but the low-maintenance ones that I recommend for mancaves are guppies, cichlids, suckermouth catfish (if you have the proper size), gourami, sword tails, and mollies. These fish form an excellent community and will provide you with a constantly changing environment. Throw in some cleaner shrimp to save you a tiny bit of trouble, even if you still need to clean it every now and then. Honestly, suckermouth catfish are my favorite to throw in. They’re very hardy and also do a good job with cleaning the gravel. Maintaining your man cave stuff is important, and fish tanks are notoriously hard to clean. If you're interested in other low-maintenance but cool stuff for your man cave, check out this post I did.
The best way to enjoy a man cave is to truly care about the fish. You’ve heard of cat people and dog people, but fish lovers are also a thing. They don’t need to be your favorite thing in the world, but you should be excited to name them and watch them make their home in your tank. A man cave with a fish tank is more than a man cave with an accessory. It’s a man cave will little buddies inside—permanent bros that watch over your domain. Watching a fish tank thrive in the man cave is quite relaxing and makes it even more of a special place. It’s well worth the time and effort to maintain a fish tank and find yourself some buddies for life. You’ll know you’re doing the best job you possibly can when your friends leave some tiny, newly hatched bundles of cuteness as a surprise for you.