Apartment buildings vs. houses for SW tanks


Premium Member
Just curious how many people here on RC live in apartment buildings. It seems to me that the logistics involved in this hobby get exponentially more complicated (for tank setups of 90G+) if you don't live in a house where you have a garage for large BRUTE trashcans to store RO/DI water, your own laundry room to install your RO/DI filter, laying out the equipment for large water changes/tank cleanings, building DIY tank stands/canopies, etc.

Do the vast majority of you large aquarium hobbyists live in houses? Do apartment dwellers just hafta WANT IT that much more to make it happen? :D
I live in a city rowhouse, so not lots of space and I do have a downstairs neighbor so I know some of the challenges.

You give up some things when your space is small. Notably, no dedicated "fish room" for in-wall tanks, limited storage for all the reef-related stuff, including buckets and makeup water, and you are limited as to what you can build if you rent.

And you need a REALLY good plan for dealing with floods. I had a massive flood that went down two floors, did $10,000 worth of damage and went into my downstairs neighbor's apartment. My new tank has cement-lined sump space with a floor drain and channels to direct any overflow into the sump space -- all this in a built-in cabinet.

I'm not sure if typical homeowner's/renters insurance will cover tank floods. Probably not. (We just went ahead and did a renovation that we were eventually going to do anyway, so the net cost was not much at all).

If you RENT and don't own, then you have fewer options. You can still do it, but you just have to plan. I've seen lots of apartments with reef tanks, as many apt dwellers as detached homes.
i live in an apartment in san francisco and i'm moving up from a 55gal to a 100gal. it can be done but make sure you double check all of your fittings, don't go for cheap hardware, and always know your water levels and what would happen if your return shuts off or your overflow is clogged.
I rent at a house with hardwood floors... I've had a few small floods (skimmer overflow) but nothing big. I am planning on moving to an apartment in a few months and my tank (25G) is defnitally coming with me :)
I'm in a condo and just in the middle of a 125gal setup. I will go FOWLRASC (Fish only with live rock and some corals :) ), exactly because of the logistics of keeping a reef tank.

My laundry room is big enough for the water for changes and I can fit most of the equipment under the stand. So far it's working pretty well.
im with recife . . . ive got a 90gal FOWLRASC hehehee
im lucky that i have a bathroom close to the tank but i still use tap water and neutraliser so far no probs and everything seems ot be going well as i have plenty of room to do water changes but only in 20L goes so i do 3 bucketloads of a change at a time . . . which is about 20% . . . luckily i got a big open area in front of the tank to do all things technical i need to . . . ooh and im 4 floors up in an apartment . . .
I'm on the third floor of an unsturdy apartment building... I have to use wood blocks about a half inch thick to level out my tank, and my 55 gallon was hell-I thought it was going to go through the floor!!!

that said, my water changes happen out of a 4 gallon bucket, and a one gallon pitcher to and from the kitchen sink... no RO/DI (plumbing issues-and I'm kinda lazy)

no refugium, I did have a leak, but haven't flooded an apartment yet, since the only other out of tank stuff I have had in all three of my apartments with fishtanks is a skimmer.

you haveta learn to cut corners, and not risk floods!!! I'm moving to rent a trailer house soon, so everything should become exponentially easier soon!
Changing water is the messiest aspect of reef keeping. I know many will advocate in favor of RO/DI units, which is fair enough, but most people recomment The Concientious Marine Aquarist as good literature and he says there water conditioners are perfectly acceptable and actually recommended before you go crazy in buying expensive RO units. If you are ok with this, keeping a marine tank is manageable in an apartment.
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=6919806#post6919806 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by Swanwillow
I'm on the third floor of an unsturdy apartment building... I have to use wood blocks about a half inch thick to level out my tank, and my 55 gallon was hell-I thought it was going to go through the floor!!!

How would I determine how much weight the floors could hold? Would the weight of a 90 gallon be enough to break through a floor?
I live on the 11th floor of a building here in Miami Beach and the only thing that scares me is if the power goes out my sump will overflow and i have carpet in the whole apt.
I live in a AWHWF. (Apartment with hardwood floors! lol) I had to go with a smaller set up since I didnt want to have a rodi unit w/bucket in my place. Just dont have room for it. With the 40g I can just get 5 gallons of rodi water from whole foods.
I went with an acrylic tank because I cant risk any water spillage. Every time I work on the tank I lay out a bunch of towels and just try to be really carefull about spilling.
i live in an aparment but on the bottom floor so i dont really have the risk of it falling threw my floor, but the best thing is that the complex pays for water......=)......i use my spare bedroom for all my building and mixing and storage for empty tanks thats why i got 2 bedrooms and not 1
my test: bounce up and down... if you can shake a glass of water on a table a few feet away, smaller is better ;) my son jumping can shake a glass of water from 5 feet away...

or, think of it this way: do you trust the floor to hold a 300 lb person sitting in a chair? 500? I know that my floor can HOLD that, but long term? the floor just, isn't sturdy enough here... specially when you can tell the floor is sinking in the middle ;) I got out my leveler to test, and have the tank against the corner against an outside wall. never could have a tank here not against a wall for sure.
Just use this as a guesstimate. 90 gallon aquarium, 100lbs? 90lbs LR, going on the "light" side, 90lbs...90 gallons of water @ 8.5lbs per gallon..I realize the rock will displace some of the water, but what about a sump, or fuge, added water weight, don't forget to add some subsrate....

So we have a:
aquarium 100
Live rock 90
Water 765
Stand 40
Sand _75___
1070 lbs, not including fish, heaters, powerheads, skimmer

That's alot of weight, and in a 48" X 18" area...

Just something to think about, I am in process of setting up a 150, and this is a huge concern for me!!
i live in an APT. 2nd floor, make sure you are organized and check your floors. i have cbs floors but at my buddy's you can make out the tank from the 1st floor of his townhouse. roof is lower right where his tank is.
i live in a upstairs apartment that is made of cement wall as well as the ceiling. so i was not too afraid to do my 90 gallon. i have a drilled tank so im not too worried about my sump. i did worry when i had my 29 with the hang on box and sump. i have my rodi under my kitchen sink i have the 25 foot role of tubing that i just un ravel once a week for the water change and my water top off system by tunze. so its not too bad.
my wife and i are already convinced that a dedicated room makes so much sense. i am looking forward to when we build our house (after college). i have seen so much on here and making plans for prob at least a 540. some people on here get scared with that size of tank but too me. its going to be a tank that is easier to take care of once you have everything in its place and a maintenance schedule.
if its a apartment complex you shoul dbe fine,probably concrete floors. a 90 weights720lbs or so full of water. However yoursand,rock,eq, and critters will fill some of the safe too.

Just get the ok from management then your covered. Might want renters insurance too?
If I remember correctly, most building codes require that a floor in a residence must be able to withstand 40 lbs per square foot. So, you figure out which of your walls are your load-bearing walls(supporting the floor) and figure out the square footage within that area. Then add up all the stationary weight plus the weight of people that could be there...looking at your tank, no doubt! The best place of course, is to place a tank as close to possible to a load-bearing wall, and if you have wooden joists and not concrete, placed so that the greatest number of joists will support the tank.

I live in an apartment also and decided to keep it small for now. I had a 75 and my 650 square foot apartment turned into a rain forest. I was considering a dehumidifier, but decided it just wasn't worth it so I downgraded to a 29 gal with a 10 gal sump. I make sure there's enough room in the sump to allow the water that will drain into it in the event of a power failure not to spill.
yep, one bedroom with a 55. My biggest headache is not having space for all the gear. another is not having plumbing to accomodate an RO/DI with an automatic shut off. I'm buying the water from my lfs, which sets my teeth on edge with its prices.
5 gallon bucket water changes (not so bad on a 55), but I'd like to upgrade to a bigger tank and some corals. We're holding out to buy a house once we're out of school, but i'm getting impatient. I really ticked off the old lady when I bought another frag of zoos, but they're so easy to take care of, I couldn't resist.