- Frantisek Czanner/Shutterstock/Business Insider
- Keeping pet fish is something of a science. To build a great aquarium for your fishy friends, you need a good fish tank and a few accessories.
- Whether you want to start out small or go big and bold, the SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set is the perfect beginner tank and our top pick for the best fish tank overall.
There is something about a beautifully maintained aquarium that eases the mind and soothes the soul. Lush aquatic plants, natural decor elements, and colorful fish come together to create something amazing that anyone can appreciate and any aquarium hobbyist can be proud of. Keeping a fish tank at home does come with its challenges, but the beauty of a healthy and thriving aquarium is a reward in and of itself.
Whether you are a seasoned aquarium enthusiast or a newcomer, your success in the aquarium hobby hinges on the choices you make when starting out. First and foremost, you need to choose the proper fish tank to sustain the kind of aquatic environment you want to cultivate. From there, you’ll need to outfit the tank with the necessary equipment and decorate it according to your liking before adding your fish and other tank inhabitants.
Fish tanks come in all shapes and sizes – they can even be made from different materials. Before you start shopping for your own tank, you would be wise to learn about the different options available to you. If you have no idea where to start, you’re in luck because we’ve done the hard work for you!
We’ve scoured the reviews to bring you our top picks for the best fish tank overall as well as the top choices in five other beginner-friendly categories. We’ve also included the substrate, filter, and light you’ll need for a planted tank.
Here are the best fish tanks and accessories you can buy:
- Best fish tank overall: SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set
- Best betta fish tank: Marineland Contour Glass Aquarium Kit
- Best fish tank with less than 10 gallons: Fluval Spec V 5-Gallon Aquarium Kit
- Best 20-gallon fish tank: Tetra 20-Gallon Aquarium Kit
- Best glass fish tank: Marina LED Aquarium Kit
- Best beginner saltwater fish tank: SCA Starfire 50-Gallon Glass Aquarium Kit
- Best substrate for planted tanks: CaribSea Eco-Complete
- Best filter for planted tanks: Fluval External Filter
- Best light for planted tanks: Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light Plus Moonlights
Updated 10/24/2019 by Lisa Sabatini: Updated prices, formatting, links, and text. Removed discontinued heater (Hydor Cable Heater). We are currently testing new products, so we’ll update this guide soon.
The best fish tank overall
- SeaClear/Business Insider
If you’re looking for a beginner tank that offers the ideal combination of durability and good design, look no further than the SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set.
When shopping for the perfect beginner tank, there are several things to consider. First and foremost, you want the tank to be well constructed and sturdy. The two most common materials for fish tanks are glass and acrylic. Acrylic is generally the better choice for beginners because it is 15 times stronger than glass but half the weight. It also doesn’t hurt if the tank comes in a variety of different sizes or if it comes as a combo set with all of the equipment you need for set up. Our top pick for the best overall fish tank for beginners that meets these requirements and more is the SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set.
Not only is SeaClear one of the oldest and most trusted names in the aquarium industry, but its Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set comes in a wide range of sizes from 15 to 50 gallons. Constructed from break-proof acrylic, this aquarium is virtually leak-proof and safe for both freshwater and saltwater use. It comes with a fluorescent light fixture and reflector so you can showcase your fish. You’ll need to purchase additional equipment such a heater and filtration system, but most aquarium hobbyists prefer to choose their equipment on their own.
Best Automatic Fish Feeders comments on the durability and unique design of the SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set. Not only is it stronger than glass, but it is clearer and easier to see through as well. Pet Gear Lab confirms the tank’s durability and attractive design. Fishing Picks names this tank its top choice in fish tanks for 2017, commenting on the elegance of the rounded seamless corners and the fact that it is easy to clean.
With more than 300 reviews on Amazon, buyers love the seamless corners and elegant appearance of the tank as well as the fact that it is easy to clean. Several customers commented that the lighting could be better, but that is an easy feature to replace if you want to choose something better.
Pros: Available in sizes ranging from 15 to 50 gallons, made from break-proof acrylic for durability, half the weight of a glass tank, rounded seamless corners, clear view all the way around, easy to clean, comes with a fluorescent light fixture
Cons: Not available in sizes under 15 or over 50 gallons, doesn’t come with a filter or heater, some assembly required, included fluorescent light may not be adequate for planted or reef tanks
The best betta fish tank
- Marineland/Business Insider
The Marineland Contour Glass Aquarium Kit includes everything you need to get started with your betta tank, and it has a unique design that will show your fish off both day and night.
If you’ve never kept aquarium fish before, you should start out with a species that is beginner-friendly. Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are a great option for beginners because they are relatively hardy and easy to care for. One thing to keep in mind is that males of the species are highly territorial and should be kept in a tank by themselves. This is perfect for the beginning aquarium hobbyist, however, because you only need to worry about meeting the needs of a single fish. If you choose to get your feet wet in the aquarium hobby by starting out with a betta fish, we recommend the Marineland Contour Glass Aquarium Kit.
With a sleek, modern design, the Marineland Contour Glass Aquarium Kit is the ultimate desktop tank and the perfect choice for a betta fish. Available in 3- and 5-gallon sizes, this fish tank is constructed from clear glass with rounded corners to give it a unique appearance. The aquarium kit includes a 3-stage filtration system hidden behind frosted glass as well as an energy-efficient LED light fixture and a hinged glass lid for feeding and cleaning.
Heavy describes the Marineland Contour Glass Aquarium Kit as a stylish aquarium with bonus features like a hinged light rail and a hidden filter. Aquarium Advisor speaks to the benefits of the LED light fixture which, in addition to being energy-efficient, contains both blue and white lights. During the day, white lights beautifully illuminate the tank while, at night, blue lights give it a subtle moonlit glow.
Similar to the Marineland Portrait 5-Gallon Aquarium Kit, the Marineland Contour Glass Aquarium Kit offers two options for size and a slightly different lighting system. Either model would be a great option for a betta fish, especially considering that both models are available at a similar price point.
Pros: Made from clear glass with rounded corners, available in 3 or 5 gallons, comes with a hidden 3-stage filtration system, included LED light fixture with white and blue lights, hinged glass lid for easy feeding and cleaning, perfect for desktop use, room to install a heater
Cons: Doesn’t come with a heater, may be difficult to remove and replace the included filter, stock lighting could be stronger, water flow from the filter is not adjustable
The best fish tank with less than 10 gallons
- Fluval/Business Insider
With an integrated three-stage filtration system and included LED light fixture, the Fluval Spec V 5-Gallon Aquarium Kit has everything you need to get started.
Small fish tanks under 10 gallons in capacity are often referred to as “nano tanks.” While maintaining a healthy environment in a tank this small comes with its challenges, a small tank offers certain benefits. It is a great option for people with limited space for a larger tank and it is cheaper to run. Some aquarium hobbyists also enjoy the challenge of cultivating a thriving aquatic ecosystem in such a small space. Our top pick for a fish tank with less than 10 gallons is the Fluval Spec V 5-Gallon Aquarium Kit.
Made from durable etched glass with a contemporary design, the Fluval Spec V 5-Gallon Aquarium Kit is an impressive tank for its size. With an integrated 3-stage filtration system and included LED light fixture, this tank comes with everything you need to get started. Its 5-gallon capacity is large enough for several small fish but not so large that it takes up a lot of space in your home.
Equipped with 37 LEDs to give your tank a gorgeous glow, Aquarium Adviser notes that this tank will keep your fish looking their best while the integrated 3-stage filtration system will keep them feeling their best. The tank comes with a foam block for mechanical filtration, activated carbon for chemical filtration and BioMax Bio rings for biological filtration. The combination of the three will ensure excellent water quality to keep your fish healthy and thriving. Best Reviews includes this tank in its top five picks for the best fish tank, adding that it is small enough for a desktop or dresser but big enough to hold a few fish.
With more than 300 reviews on Amazon, the Fluval Spec V 5-Gallon Aquarium Kit has a strong 4.5-star rating. Buyers love the contemporary design and the strength of the integrated filter, though some say the lighting could be stronger. Overall, however, this product receives excellent reviews.
Pros: Made from durable etched glass, contemporary design with an aluminum trim, included tank hood with LED light fixture, integrated BioMax 3-stage filtration system, filter has an adjustable flow rate, small enough for desktop or dresser, 5-gallon capacity can hold several small fish
Cons: Doesn’t come with a heater, integrated lighting could be stronger, doesn’t include gravel or other tank decorations, included filter may be difficult to remove and replace
The best 20-gallon fish tank
- Tetra/Business Insider
With its classic rectangular shape and ensemble of included equipment, the Tetra 20-Gallon Aquarium Kit is a great option for beginners.
If you are new to the aquarium hobby, you might assume that smaller fish tanks are easier to maintain than larger tanks. In reality, however, the opposite is true. A fish tank is a delicate, enclosed ecosystem and changes in water chemistry can be lethal for fish. Tanks with larger volumes of water allow wastes and toxins to be more diluted, reducing the danger that they might have a negative impact on your fish. For this reason, 20-gallon tanks are what many aquarium enthusiasts recommend for newcomers to the hobby. Our top pick for a 20-gallon tank is the Tetra 20-Gallon Aquarium Kit.
Made from scratch-resistant glass in a classic rectangular shape, the Tetra 20-Gallon Aquarium Kit comes with everything a beginner needs to get started. In addition to a three-stage filtration system, this kit includes a mini heater and an energy-efficient LED light fixture. The kit even includes several artificial plants to get you started in decorating your tank – just add gravel and fish and you are good to go!
Fish Tank Advisor speaks to the simplicity and beauty of the Tetra 20-Gallon Aquarium Kit. This site makes note that the LED light fixture changes colors and the included filter has an adjustable flow rate. This aquarium kit is included in Best Reviews’ top five picks for fish tanks. Not only do the writers comment on the tank’s size, which is ideal for multiple fish, but they also speak to the fact that the kit comes with all of the necessary equipment to get started.
The Tetra 20-Gallon Aquarium Kit has more than 270 reviews on Amazon, and while there is room for improvement, with the quality of the equipment that comes in the kit, it offers great value for the price. Customers love how easy it is to set up as well as the affordable price tag.
Pros: Made from scratch-resistant glass, comes with everything you need to set up a basic tank, 20-gallon size is manageable for beginners, includes a LED hood light, comes with a mini heater, includes several fake plants for decoration
Cons: Included equipment could be better, filter included in the kit may be noisy, may be too simple for experienced aquarium hobbyists
The best glass fish tank
- Marina/Business Insider
Surprisingly affordable for a combo kit that includes all of the things you need to get started, the Marina LED Aquarium Kit is our top pick for glass fish tanks.
Most aquariums are made from either glass or acrylic. While acrylic may be lighter and more resistant to impact, glass is less likely to scratch and it can support more weight. In terms of price, glass also tends to be more affordable than acrylic which makes it a great option for beginner tanks. Our top pick for the best beginner glass fish tank is the Marina LED Aquarium Kit. This kit comes in three sizes – 5, 10, and 20 gallons – and it is made from clear glass in a classic rectangular shape.
The Marina LED Aquarium Kit is perfect for the beginner aquarium because it comes with everything you need to get started. In addition to the glass tank itself, this kit includes a clip-on filter that takes quick-change filter cartridges for easy maintenance. The included LED light module is seamlessly integrated into the tank hood and it offers energy-efficient lighting to enhance the appearance of your fish. Also included is a bottle of water conditioner, a mesh net, fish food, a thermometer, and an aquarium care guide full of advice on how to set up and maintain your new tank.
Best Reviews gave the Marina LED Aquarium Kit its “Best Bang for the Buck” award, commenting that this tank is sturdy and perfectly sized for the beginning aquarist. The site also mentions the fact that the kit includes all of the necessary equipment to get started as well as some extras. Aquarium Adviser says the filter hooks easily onto the back of the tank and it has an adjustable flow rate so you can customize it to suit your tank inhabitants. The site calls this tank simple but versatile, a great choice for a first aquarium.
The Marina LED Aquarium Kit has more than 320 reviews on Amazon and a 4.1-star rating. Buyers appreciate the simplicity of the design and the ease of setup, though there are some comments about the lighting being too powerful for some fish. Additionally, some users who purchased the kit online rather than in-store found the packaging to be insufficient to prevent breakfast.
Pros: Made from clear glass in three sizes, simple rectangular design, comes with a clip-on filter with easy-change media, energy-efficient LED lighting integrated into the hood, comes with extras like fish food and water conditioner, includes an aquarium care guide
Cons: Packaging from online order insufficient to prevent breakage, lighting system could be too powerful for some fish, limited options for sizes, doesn’t come with a heater
The best beginner saltwater fish tank
- SCA/Business Insider
The SCA Starfire 50-Gallon Glass Aquarium Kit is the ultimate beginner tank for aspiring saltwater aquarium enthusiasts.
Cultivating a thriving saltwater tank is a unique but rewarding challenge. When it comes to keeping the water quality in a marine tank high, you need more than just a standard filtration system. You’ll need a protein skimmer to remove organic wastes from the water column as well as a system of powerheads to facilitate water flow. You will also need to work out a system for performing water changes without changing the salinity of the water or causing the tank to overflow. If you’re looking for the perfect beginner tank to help you break into the saltwater aquarium hobby, we recommend the SCA Starfire 50-Gallon Glass Aquarium Kit.
The SCA Starfire 50-Gallon Glass Aquarium Kit includes a rimless 50-gallon tank with a classic cube design and a heavy-duty cabinet with plenty of storage space. The aquarium itself is highly durable so you never have to worry about cracks or leaks, and the cabinet offers unwavering support. Also included in this aquarium kit are a protein skimmer and return pump, a sump system, and a filter with all of the necessary media for three-stage filtration. All you need to buy is your choice of fish or other marine inhabitants and a lighting system customized to their needs.
Aquascape Addiction calls the SCA Starfire 50-Gallon Glass Aquarium Kit its top pick for the best all-in-one reef tank, and that’s exactly what it is. In addition to the premium 50-gallon glass tank, this aquarium kit comes with a heavy-duty cabinet and all of the equipment you need to get started. A detailed review from 55 Gallon Fish Tank strongly recommends this product to beginner saltwater enthusiasts, making note that the unique Starfire Glass from which it is made is ultra-durable and algae resistant.
Though it comes at a hefty price, buyers and numerous review sites agree that the SCA Starfire 50-Gallon Glass Aquarium Kit is the best comprehensive aquarium kit for beginning saltwater enthusiasts.
Pros: Includes a 50-gallon rimless aquarium, made from durable and algae-resistant Starfire Glass, comes with a heavy-duty cabinet for storage, includes a 3-stage filtration system and filter media, comes with a protein skimmer and return pump, includes a sump system
Cons: Requires a significant amount of assembly, cabinet stand does not come pre-assembled, installation of equipment may require additional connectors, doesn’t come with a light, protein skimmer doesn’t come with a removable cup
The best substrate for planted tanks
Loaded with 25 nutrients, including those that live plants need most, CaribSea Eco-Complete is the only planted tank substrate you’re going to need.
When it comes to keeping aquatic plants alive, it all comes down to the substrate. In a typical freshwater aquarium, gravel or sand are the top choices for substrate because they are inexpensive and attractive. These substrates do not provide any nutrients, however, which makes them a poor choice for a planted tank.
The best substrate for a planted tank will not only provide rooting material for the plants themselves, but it will also contain essential nutrients like calcium, potassium, nitrogen, and magnesium. Our top pick for the best planted tank substrate is CaribSea Eco-Complete.
CaribSea Eco-Complete is our top pick for planted tank substrate because it is attractive, easy to use, and contains all of the nutrients live plants need. This substrate can be added directly to your tank without rinsing, and it comes in the form of tiny porous grains that absorbs waste products more quickly than other substrates. Simply put, it is the best all-in-one substrate on the market, and it even comes in a “live” version infused with beneficial bacteria.
A reviewer at Aquarium Adviser comments that CaribSea Eco-Complete contains everything needed to support aquatic plant life with the added benefit of a new formula that promotes enhanced root development. Fish Tank Setups praises this formula for the fact that is nutritionally complete and there is no need to add extra chemicals or fertilizers.
With more than 1,1000 reviews on Amazon and a solid 4.3-star rating, CaribSea Eco-Complete also carries an Amazon’s Choice award. Buyers love the rich black color and the nutrient content, though there are some comments that it has a distinct odor at first.
Pros: Contains more than 25 nutrients to support plant life, does not need to be rinsed and won’t cloud water, porous granules to absorb wastes, cost-effective compared to other options, new formula supports root development, dark color is attractive
Cons: May have an odor when you first open the bag, could affect aquarium pH (tends to be a little alkaline)
The best filter for planted tanks
Available in many sizes with options to customize both the filter media and flow rate, the Fluval External Canister Filter is a versatile choice for any planted tank.
Filtration is incredibly important in any aquarium but particularly so in a planted tank. In a planted tank, a filter helps to remove both solid and dissolved wastes from the water column before they can negatively affect your water chemistry. Filtration also helps to limit algae growth which is good for your plants because algae compete for the same nutrients.
Though filters come in many forms, we recommend canister filters because they offer high-quality filtration with options to customize both the filter media and the flow rate. Our top pick for the best filter for planted tanks is the Fluval External Canister Filter.
Though it may be at the higher end of the spectrum when it comes to price, the Fluval External Canister Filter is unmatched in performance and versatility. This filter comes in many sizes, and it has plenty of room for several types of filter media. With options to customize both the filter media and the flow rate, this filter enables you to find the perfect setting for your planted tank. As an added bonus, it features quiet operation, a powerful motor, and high-quality construction.
A review from Fishing Picks describes this canister filter as powerful and reliable, noting that the filter itself is quick and easy to setup as well as simple to maintain. The Aquarium Guide writes that the Fluval External Canister Filter offers multi-stage filtration and excellent productivity, not to mention the endless options for customization with different types of filter media.
On Amazon, buyers say they love the filter’s simple setup and excellent performance, though there are some comments that it may leak if not properly assembled.
Pros: Powerful three-stage filtration, comes in many different sizes, simple to set up and maintain, advanced motor for strong flow rate, customizable media filter and flow rate
Cons: Requires some assembly, may leak if not properly assembled, can be somewhat expensive depending what size you choose, output nozzle doesn’t have a height deflector
The best light for planted tanks
The Finnex FugeRay LED Light comes in seven different lengths and has both daylight and moonlight LEDs.
Even though they live underwater, aquatic plants are still photosynthetic organisms, so they require a certain amount of light to provide the energy. The best lighting for a planted tank would be full spectrum, similar to natural daylight, at an intensity that matches the plants you plan to cultivate.
Aquarium lighting comes in many different forms, but we recommend LED because it is energy-efficient, affordable, and easy to customize and control. Our top pick for the best LED lighting system for planted tanks is the Finnex FugeRay LED Light.
The Finnex FugeRay LED Light comes in seven different sizes ranging from 12 inches to 48 inches long. It features an ultra-slim body equipped with high-output LEDs – 660nm true red LEDs that are ideal for supporting photosynthesis. The fixture has a splash guard and a separate on/off switch for the integrated moonlight LEDs. Overall, the unit delivers up to 40,000 hours with an LED spread of 120 degrees Fahrenheit and a unique design to keep the unit from overheating.
High-quality tank lighting systems are never cheap, but the Finnex FugeRay LED Light offers a mid-range price with high-quality features to match. Tropical Fish Care Guides comments that the fixture is very bright and works well for low- to mid-level plants. Build Your Aquarium praises the light’s ultra-sleek design and minimalist look as well as its quality and longevity.
With over 650 reviews on Amazon, the Finnex FugeRay LED Light has a 4-star rating. Buyers love the slim and sleek profile as well as the combination of daylight and moonlight LEDs. There are some comments, however, about diodes dying out after two years and the clamps being tricky to use on rimmed fish tanks.
Pros: Slim and sleek design, up to 40,000 hours of light, available in 7 lengths, equipped with daylight and moonlight LEDs, includes a moisture-resistant splash guard, 660nm true LEDs for photosynthesis
Cons: Clamps may be tricky to use on rimmed tanks, some diodes may burn out after 2 to 2 ½ years, only two color settings (white and blue)