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Best Fish Tanks For Beginners – Select Your Starter Aquarium

So, you’ve decided to get into the increasingly popular fish keeping hobby! That’s great news, and soon you’ll be joining a worldwide club of enthusiasts. But before you begin looking at what fish you’re going to buy, you’ll need a great aquarium to keep them in. And we have you covered!

In this guide, you can learn what makes the best starter aquarium for a freshwater community setup. Discover how to choose the perfect fish to suit your new tank, and check out our reviews and recommendations of the best fish tanks for beginners that are currently on the market.

Quick Comparisons Of The 6 Best Fish Tanks For Beginners

IMAGE BRAND DETAILS
tnk-table__imageMarina LED Aquarium Kit
  • 5, 15, and 20-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • LED lighting module included
View Product
tnk-table__imageAqueon LED 20 Gallon Aquarium Kit
  • 20-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • LED lighting module included
View Product
tnk-table__imageFluval 5 Gallon Spec V Aquarium Kit, Black
  • 5-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • 37 Brilliant 7500K daylight LEDs
View Product
tnk-table__imageMarineland 5 Gallon Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit
  • 5-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • Mood lighting with timer
View Product
tnk-table__imageTetra ColorFusion Half Moon Aquarium Kit
  • 3-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • Mood lighting with timer
View Product
tnk-table__imageSeaClear 20 Gallon Deluxe Hexagon Aquarium Combo
  • 20-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • Strip light fitting and reflector
View Product

What Is A Starter Fish Tank?

A starter fish tank is designed to make it super-easy and straightforward to set up a new aquarium, even if you know nothing about keeping fish. Starter fish tank kits take much of the guesswork out of taking your first steps in the fish keeping hobby by providing you with everything you need.

Marina LED Aquarium Kit, 20-gal

Starter kits typically include:

  • A glass or acrylic tank
  • A filter unit and pump
  • A heater and thermometer
  •  A lighting unit
  • Substrate
  • Silk or plastic plants

Some kits also contain water test strips, water conditioners, decoration, and fish food.

Most manufacturers include a full set of instructions on how to set up the tank correctly, including guidance on cycling your new aquarium. All the components that are included in the starter kit are designed to work in conjunction with each other, so you don’t have the worry and hassle of trying to choose separate lighting units, filters, etc. Most times, you can swap out certain components of the kit at some point in the future when you have more experience.

As you would expect with a complete kit, starter fish tanks are quite expensive but are often the most economical way of getting started in the hobby.

What Are The Different Types Of Starter Fish Tanks?

Aquariums for beginners in three designs.

There are a variety of options to choose from when it comes to starter fish tanks. You can choose the size, shape, and design of a tank that suits where you want to keep your aquarium and that appeals to your personal taste. There’s a wide range of prices, too, so you can pick a starter kit that perfectly fits your budget.

Starter fish tank kits are generally aimed at either the tropical or cold water fish keeper. So, before you go shopping for your new aquarium, you’ll need to decide what kinds of fishes you would like to keep.

For example, if you want to keep a couple of fancy goldfish as pets for your kids, you won’t want a kit that includes a heater. Tropical fish do need a heater in their tank, but there are more fish species that you can choose from.

Before you buy a starter aquarium, be sure to research the requirements of the fish species that you are intending to keep. Some fish need a long, shallow tank with plenty of open water swimming space, whereas others will be content in a taller, heavily-planted tank.

What’s The Best Fish Tank Size For Beginners?

Fluval 5 Gallon Spec V Aquarium Kit

When you’re taking your first tentative steps in the fish keeping hobby, it can be tempting to go for the smallest tank you see. After all, surely maintaining a small tank is going to be much easier than looking after a larger one?

So, you may be surprised to hear that that isn’t necessarily true. We recommend that a 5-gallon tank is the smallest tank size for a beginner. That said, I would always go for a 20-gallon tank or larger if you have somewhere suitable to put it.

How so?

Well, tank size relates directly to the water chemistry within the aquarium and the degree of maintenance that’s involved.

Why Start With A Larger Tank?

A fish tank, whatever its size, is an enclosed ecosystem, and its residents need stable conditions if they are to remain healthy and thriving.

Beautiful aquarium in the living room.

Essentially, a large tank that contains a large volume of water is much less prone to unstable water parameters than a smaller tank with a lower water volume. Therefore, you will find it much easier to keep the water conditions on an even keel in a large tank than a small one. That means less maintenance work for you and a healthier environment for your fish.

What’s The Best Tank Shape?

Fish need oxygen to survive, and they derive the oxygen that they need from the water in their environment via gaseous exchange. If there isn’t enough oxygen available to support the number of fish in your aquarium, your pets will become sick and they may even suffocate.

So, you can help to supplement oxygen levels by using an air stone. Living plants also give off oxygen as part of the process of photosynthesis. However, the shape of your tank is a major factor when it comes to determining the amount of renewable, available oxygen in the water. Essentially, the more water surface area that’s available, the more oxygen there will be for your fish.

Many beginners wrongly assume that a 20-gallon, hexagonal tank will have more oxygen than a 15-gallon rectangular, shallower tank. But that’s not the case. The 20-gallon tank contains more water than the 15-gallon aquarium, but it has a smaller surface area. The rectangular tank has much more surface area and, therefore, the water it contains is better oxygenated.

How To Pick Your Fish Tank

Positive brunette girl looking at tropical fish in aquarium

Choosing a fish tank can be confusing, and there’s a lot to consider before you make your final decision and part with your hard-earned cash.

Fish tank starter kits can be quite expensive, and we want you to make the right decision. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the things that you need to consider before you go shopping for an aquarium.

What’s Your Budget?

First things first; how much do you have to spend on your new aquarium?

You’ll obviously have a figure in mind for the kit itself, but there are a few other factors that you’ll need to bear in mind too. First of all, although you want to buy a decent-sized aquarium, you need to know that the bigger the tank, the more it will cost to maintain in the long-term. That cost relates directly to the volume of water that the tank holds and the number of fish that you want to keep.

Hand Holding Tag Colored Vector Illustration

Basically, the more water in the aquarium, the larger the heater, filtration unit, and lighting rig you’ll need. You will need to buy more water conditioner to treat the fresh water that you add to the tank each week, and that can be quite expensive. Then there’s filter media to replace periodically. Generally, the larger the filter cartridges or other filter media that you need for your system, the pricier it tends to be. And if you have lots of fishes, you’ll need to buy more food for them than you would if you just had one betta in a nano tank.

Then there are running costs to take into account. The larger the setup, the more electricity it will use to power everything.

Size And Species Of Fish You Want To Keep

Before you do anything else, you should research the species of fish that you want to keep. Some kinds of fish need much more space than their size would suggest, and many species grow to be two or three times their juvenile size as adults.

For example, tetras don’t tend to grow much, and a small group will be happy in a smaller tank. Goldfish, on the other hand, grow rapidly and will quickly outgrow a small aquarium.

How To Reduce Nitrate In Your Aquarium - Aquarium aquascape with fishes.

But a bigger tank doesn’t mean that you can have more fish. Some species are extremely active and need plenty of space in which to swim. Others are territorial, demanding a tank with enough space to create their own territories. Overcrowding should be avoided at all costs. Cramming too many fish into the tank leads to stress and outbreaks of disease, and it also places an increased bioload on your filtration system.

Where Will You Keep Your Aquarium?

When deciding on the best place to keep your fish tank, there are many factors to consider, including:

  • You want the tank to be placed somewhere that it can be seen and enjoyed, but it mustn’t be in the way, especially if you have young kids or pets in your household who could bump into the aquarium and knock it over.
  • Place the aquarium well away from direct sunlight, heaters, aircon units, etc. so that the water temperature remains stable. Many species of fish are extremely sensitive to sudden changes in water temperature and may suffer from temperature shock if the aquarium is exposed to strong sunlight for part of the day.

Little happy boy holding a plastic bag with new fishes he bought at the zoo store for his home room aquarium feeding and taking care of pets

  • Don’t put the tank close to windows or draughty doorways. Again, a chilly breeze blowing over the tank through an open window or doorway can cause cold spots in the aquarium, which will stress your fish and potentially retard plant growth.
  • There must be enough power points for the heater, filter, lighting unit, etc. so that you don’t have trailing cables that could present a tripping hazard.
  • Make sure that the floor is level underneath the aquarium. If the floor slopes or is uneven, the tank may tilt and uneven pressure will be placed on the seals, which could cause the tank to leak or even crack when you add the extra weight of water, substrate, etc.

Read more about how to correctly position your fish tank in the informative guide at this link.

Once you’ve decided where you’re going to keep your tank, measure the space so that you know what size of aquarium you can accommodate. Now, you will have more idea of what fish species you can keep.

Glass Vs. Acrylic Aquariums: Which Is Better?

Fish tanks are generally made from either glass or acrylic. Each of these two materials has advantages and disadvantages, so the option you choose is really down to your personal preference.

Pet shop aquarium

Glass

Glass tanks are very sturdy, scratch-resistant, and cheaper. Glass tends to maintain its clarity too, making a glass aquarium a good long-term purchase.

The main disadvantage of a glass tank is that it will crack if dropped or knocked. Also, glass is inflexible, making it more likely that joint sealant will split or come adrift if placed under stress.

Acrylic

Acrylic aquariums are often more expensive than glass tanks. However, acrylic is lighter and less likely to break or crack when placed under stress, which is an important consideration if you move home frequently or live in an area that is prone to earthquakes.

The main disadvantage of acrylic is that it does scratch very easily, which can make cleaning the surfaces efficiently somewhat tricky. Unless you’re very careful when wiping algae from the surface, your view of your fish eventually becomes cloudy and obscured by scratches.

Weight Of The Tank

Glass sides and a glass tabletop, Clean landscaping and live plants fish tank
Image Source: www.tropicalfishcareguides.com

A fish tank is extremely heavy when it’s full of water, fish, substrate, etc. Glass aquariums are heavier than acrylic, and that’s crucial when deciding where to put your new fish tank. I recommend that you buy a purpose-built aquarium stand or cabinet to go with your new tank. I’ve seen several regular cabinets bow and split under the weight of a fish tank, one of which collapsed altogether!

Are you planning on keeping your fish tank in your bedroom? If you are, then you need to take into consideration the kind of flooring that you have. In most homes, the upper stories have floorboards laid across beams. Ideally, you want to place your fish tank at the edge of a room, as that’s the area where the floor is strongest.

You can work out the weight of your fish tank by using this tank weight calculator.

Kit Inclusion

As previously mentioned, the big advantage of buying a fish tank starter kit is that you get everything you need without having the hassle of trying to assemble all the pieces yourself.

aquarium equipment in front of white background

Even the most basic kits typically include a filtration system and lighting unit, and many come with a heater, thermometer, fish net, substrate, aquarium decorations, and fish food.

Top 6 Fish Tanks For Beginners Review

So, now that you know more about choosing a beginner aquarium, let’s take a look at six fish tank starter kits that we recommend for newbies to the hobby.

1. Marina LED Aquarium Kit

Marina LED Aquarium Kit, 20-gal
  • 5, 15, and 20-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • LED lighting module included
Check The Price

 

The Marina LED Aquarium Kit comes in 5, 10, and 20-gallon tank sizes and is a really good-value purchase for anyone who’s just beginning their fish keeping journey.

With this kit, you get a glass fish tank with a clip-on, HOB style filter unit that comes with a supply of quick-change filter cartridges. Other items that you get with the kit include a bright LED lighting module that’s incorporated into the tank lid, a fish net, a water conditioner, a thermometer, some fish food, and a biological supplement to kick-start the aquarium cycle.

The main drawback to this tank is that if you want to keep tropical fish species, you’ll need to buy a heater separately.

PROS CONS
  • Competitively priced when compared to many other similar units
  • Integrated LED lighting unit
  • Sturdy glass aquarium
  • Heater not included

2. Aqueon LED 20 Gallon Aquarium Kit

Aqueon LED 20 Gallon Aquarium Kit
  • 20-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • LED lighting module included
Check The Price

 

The Aqueon LED 20-Gallon Aquarium Kit includes a glass rectangular tank, a five-stage filtration system, a fish net, a thermometer, some premium fish food, a submersible preset heater, and some water conditioner. There’s also a manufacturer’s set up guide so that you can get your fish tank up and running quickly and easily.

A good quality, energy-saving low-profile LED lighting unit is integrated into the tank hood and features cool white light modules that provide plenty of light for your fish and for most species of medium-light plants. We love the lighting effect that really makes your fishes’ colors pop!

The hood includes a convenient feeding hatch, as well as handy breakout sections.

The main downside to this tank is that the filter cartridges are quite expensive to replace.

PROS CONS
  • Heater included
  • Integrated LED lighting unit
  • Five-stage filtration system
  • Filter cartridges expensive to replace

3. Fluval 5 Gallon Spec V Aquarium Kit, Black

Fluval 5 Gallon Spec V Aquarium Kit, Black
  • 5-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • 37 Brilliant 7500K daylight LEDs
Check The Price

 

This beginner tank from Fluval is a fabulous nano tank that’s a perfect aquarium for bettas and other nano fish species. The aquarium has an impressive 7,000K LED light unit that produces super-bright lighting that really brings out your fishes’ colors and boosts plant growth.

Excellent filtration is essential for healthy fish, and that’s catered for in this tank via a three-stage filter system that provides mechanical, chemical, and biological filter media to keep the water crystal clear and healthy. Also, you can adjust the pump flow for good surface movement and oxygenation.

The kit includes a glass aquarium with a cover and an integrated lighting system, a low-voltage transformer, a powerful pump, and filter media. However, you do need to buy a 50w nano-heater if you want to keep tropical fish, as a heater is not included with the tank.

The rectangular shape of the tank allows for some nice aquascaping, and the unit looks great when displayed on a desktop.

PROS CONS
  • Super-bright LED lighting unit
  • Three-stage filtration system
  • Adjustable flow
  • Filter basket not removable
  • Heater not supplied

4. Marineland 5 Gallon Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit

Marineland 5 Gallon Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit
  • 5-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • Mood lighting with timer
Check The Price

 

Marineland has certainly outdone the competition with this nano tank that’s designed with betta fish in mind.

The tank has a fantastic moonlight and daylight LED unit that you don’t get with most other beginner starter kits. That feature enables you to switch between a bright white daytime light and a subdued blue light for when the sun goes down. If you want to, you can add a timer unit for hassle-free lighting control from the comfort of your armchair.

The hinged lighting unit and sliding glass canopy makes it easy to access all areas of the aquarium for maintenance and cleaning. The super-efficient, three-stage filtration system is hidden inside a space-saving plastic compartment at the rear of the aquarium, so your view of your fish is not ruined by a bulky box filter.

Overall, this is a great little tank that’s easy to maintain, and the mood lighting feature gives you that bit extra that’s lacking on other similar products. The only real downside to this kit is that it doesn’t include a heater, so you need to buy one separately if you want to keep tropical fish.

PROS CONS
  • Daytime/Nighttime lighting unit
  • Three-stage filtration system
  • Stylish look
  • Heater not supplied

5. Tetra ColorFusion Half Moon Aquarium Kit

Tetra ColorFusion Half Moon Aquarium Kit, 3-gal
  • 3-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • Mood lighting with timer
Check The Price

 

The Tetra Half-Moon aquarium kit is a little small at just three gallons, but that would be okay if you want to keep a single betta fish.

The kit contains an acrylic tank, a filter system with cartridges, an aerator with a bubble disk, and a built-in LED lighting system. You can adjust the filter and bubble disk to suit your fish’s preferences while still providing good oxygenation for the tank. The lighting is plenty bright enough to show off your betta’s colors to the best effect and is adequate for plants, too, in a tank of this size.

The clear lid and half-moon shape of the tank creates a spacious impression and means that you can fit the tank into a small alcove or on a desktop. If space is not an issue for you, you can create an impressive focal point in your room by placing two half-moon tanks back-to-back to create two separate environments in one decorative fixture.

This is a very neat small fish tank for a child’s bedroom, and the quality is fair for a reasonable price point.

PROS CONS
  • Space-maximizing design
  • Aerator included
  • Stylish look
  • Heater not supplied
  • Filter inlet not protected by sponge
  • Bubble disk tends to float up

6. SeaClear 20 Gallon Deluxe Hexagon Aquarium Combo

SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set
  • 20-gallon
  • Easy to assemble
  • Strip light fitting and reflector
Check The Price

 

SeaClear is a company that has an excellent reputation for producing high-quality fish keeping products, including tanks.

This acrylic aquarium comes in a very attractive hexagonal design that enables you to enjoy a good-sized tank even if you have limited space. Thanks to its one-piece acrylic construction, the tank has no joints or seams to spoil your view, and the solid, cobalt blue back panel helps to conceal unsightly wires.

The starter kit includes a reflector and an integral light fixture. However, there’s no heater, filtration system, or light bulb, which is disappointing for the price of the tank. That being said, that absence of accessories does allow you to fully customize the aquarium to suit your preferences.

PROS CONS
  • Beautiful design
  • High-quality, robust construction
  • Heater not supplied
  • Filter inlet not supplied
  • Light bulb not supplied

Final Thoughts

We hope that you enjoyed our guide to the best fish tanks for beginners and found the information helpful.

Of the tanks we reviewed, my personal favorite is the Aqueon LED 20 gallon aquarium kit. This kit represents excellent value for money and comes from a company with a sound reputation for quality and after-sales customer care.

With this kit, you get everything the newbie hobbyist needs to get started, including a comprehensive set-up guide. Unlike many similar starter kits, this one has a super-effective five-stage filtration system, so you can be confident that your new pets will enjoy premium water quality and a healthy environment from the get-go.

Alison Page has been an avid fish keeper for over 35 years and has owned many different species of freshwater tropical fish including bettas. Currently Alison has two large freshwater tanks. The first tank has two huge fancy goldfish who are almost ten years old and still looking as good as ever. In the other, she has a happy community of tiger barbs, green tiger barbs, corydoras catfish, platys, and mollies.

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