Fish Tank Aquarium Reviews
Large, Beginner and Nano Aquariums for Home Use
If you’ve started feeling the call of the waters and now dream of having your own little slice of aquatic nature in your home, you’ve come to the right place!
The art and hobby of aquarium-keeping has been around as far back as Roman times, when Romans would keep Sea Barbels under their beds in pots. Aquarists from the early days had a really hard time figuring out how to keep fish alive and it was only in the 19th century that successful aquaria were created in the vein of modern systems. Aquarium mania really hit hard after 1850 and, ever since, building and maintaining an aquarium has been an incredibly popular hobby.
Lucky for all of us, modern day fish keeping is easier than ever. Almost anyone armed with just a little knowledge can maintain a beautiful aquarium that will delight everyone who stops to watch, while transforming any home into a tranquil living space.
That’s the main reason I have put up this little website. I have been an aquarium enthusiast for nearly a decade and it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the hobby changed my life.
I want to help you get started with a minimum of fuss and confusion. There is a LOT to learn when it comes to the aquarium hobby, but that’s not the same as saying that you have to learn a ton of stuff before you can begin enjoying your aquarium. What I have aimed to do is give you the least you need to know so that you can actually get things going, while pointing you in the right direction when it comes to gear suitable for people who are starting out.
Home Use Basics
Let’s get the most important things out of the way. I’ve written a couple of guide-type pieces that are meant to help you understand the most important points of having an aquarium.
So the first stop that I recommend that you make is my piece on how to set up an aquarium. I’m not saying that you should immediately go out and follow that guide, but that you should read it first so that you have a good general idea of what will be involved with the setup of a tank.
It’s also very important that you understand how to get fish safely into your tank, so I’ve written something about that too. Well, maybe you need to decide what fish to get first, so here are what I think are the best tropical fish for the beginner.
One component of the aquarium that people tend to forget about is the water, which is surprising since it literally put the “aqua” in aquarium. Water is a pretty important component to think about so I’ve written some informational pieces to help you understand what the deal with water is and what sorts of things you should be thinking about when it comes to the wet stuff.
The first thing you should think about is what type of water you want in your aquarium. Deciding if your tank will be salty, fresh, cold, or warm has a lot of knock-on effects, so be sure to read that. You also need to be familiar with the basics of water chemistry that relate to running an aquarium. So I wrote a crash-course in water chemistry for you.
Once you’ve covered all of that it’s time to start the process of gearing up.
Tanks for Everything
The main thing you need is obviously an actual fish tank. On this site I’ve highlighted a number of products, but it’s important that you understand what matters when making a decision about buying a tank.
So before we get into my specific recommendations you may want to read my aquarium buyer’s guide. That way, if you don’t find any of my top choices appealing you can go out searching yourself, armed with the knowledge you need.
Before you start to do any heavy lifting, however, perhaps it’s a good idea to have a look at some of the neat gear I’ve taken the time to highlight.
The Best Starter Kit: Tetra 20-gallon Tank Kit
Everyone has to start somewhere and not everything in life benefits from being thrown in the deep end. Many people (myself included) think that the 20-gallon tank size is ideal for first-time aquarists. It’s not so big as to be daunting, but it’s not so small that keeping the environment stable is only possible for an expert. It’s a happy medium and you’ll feel like a real pro once you have it all set up.
There is no reason why this can’t be the last tank you ever buy and it will beautify your home for years to come. Tetra makes quality stuff and the built-in lighting option on this range elevate them from cheap in-house 20-gallon tanks you buy at small pet shops to something that seems premium – because it actually is.
Read the full review here and there are some alternatives thrown in for good measure.
For some of us though, stopping at a 20-gallon tank is not enough. We don’t care about the maintenance or the space we have to sacrifice. Bigger can be much better if you decide to ramp up the hobby. So here is the tank I think is the best choice on the market right now.
Top Rated Large Aquarium: CAD Lights 60 Gallon True Cube
There is a lot to like about this tank and one of the main things is the cubical shape. I personally really like cubes because they display well, are space efficient when it comes to their footprint compared to rectangles, and work wonderfully for reef setups.
This is virtually an all-in-one solution with a cabinet that conceals an 18-gallon sump with a silent pump. This pushes the total water volume up to 78 gallons – improving stability, making maintenance easier, and all without taking up more space.
For the money I don’t think you can realistically get something that is more complete out of the box at this larger and more serious end of the market. Cad Lights has put together a killer deal here and it is well worth checking out.
You can read my full review here and you’ll also find a few alternatives in case this cube tank is not your thing.
What if bigger is not your thing, though? Aquariums take up a lot of space and even a 20-gallon may be too large for the space you’d like an aquarium to be. The good news is that there is now a lovely class of aquarium known as a “nano” aquarium. These are usually suitable to go on a desktop or in a child’s room. You can even get ones with heated water but, realistically, marine nanos are not practical and people who have tried in the past have only had limited success.
So here is the nano tank I think is the best, although there are lots and lots of options in this market segment.
The Best of Nano Aquariums (the Small Ones): EcoQube
The EcoQube is not your typical nano aquarium. This is the result of an ingenious Kickstarter campaign that aimed to build an almost maintenance-free ecosystem. They have achieved this by using a live plant for chemical filtration. Not an aquatic plant mind you, but a basil plant that is outside the tank and removes the nitrites from the water.
EcoCube claims that you will never have to change the water because the ecosystem will keep the water quality in the right zone. All you do is feed the fish and top up the water.
The tank itself is unique and gorgeous, perfect for a work aquarium where you can’t do all that maintenance stuff easily.
You can read my full review here and also check out some of the other great nanos you can buy.
Best Aquarium Light: GalaxyHydro 165W Full Spectrum
What’s the point of building a beautiful aquascape and then being unable to see it? Without light your plants will die and your fish won’t be far behind. Apart from looking pretty, aquarium lighting provides an important component of the energy chain your aquarium ecosystem consists of.
While many aquarium kits come with lights built right into them, you’ll need to choose them yourself when you finally build something more custom or replace them with something better.
This is the light that is in my opinion the best deal online as of today.
Reef tanks are in some ways the pinnacle of aquariums, if you ask me. I have always found marine tanks to be especially beautiful and that’s in no small part due to the awesome lighting these tanks use. The downside is that reef lighting is expensive.
The good news is that the revolution in LED technology and the rise of cheap but high-quality electronics from China has brought quality reef lighting to more people. This 165W light from GalaxyHydro is something that could simply not have existed less than a decade ago and certainly not at this price just three years ago.
Dimmable, and with simulation of light conditions at various times of day, one or two of these guys will transform your reef tank into a wonderland. There is also quite a bit of cutting-edge tech in the product. New, better acrylic lens formulas give better clarity and less yellowing. The control chips are more durable, the active cooling is less noisy and the lights themselves are significantly brighter.
I really couldn’t find any deal breakers here, but you can read my full review here as well as find some alternatives.
Best Sump Kit: Aqueon 34503 ProFlex Sump Model 4
You’ve heard the word a couple of times already, but now it’s time to give some attention to the humble sump. A good sump is the secret to many of those amazing home aquarium setups you see, and investing in one can transform your fishkeeping experience.
A sump is basically an extra tank connected to your main “display” tank with plumbing. Water gets pumped into and out of the sump, which contains all your hardware such as filters, heaters, skimmers and anything else you need to treat the water. Think of a sump as a sort of dedicated water treatment plant.
Most of the time when we see sumps they are being used in marine setups, where they have basically become a requirement. Don’t let that fool you, though – freshwater setups can benefit just as much. I explain why here in a piece called “Why use a freshwater sump?”.
So what do I think the Aqueon 34503 ProFlex is the best sump to buy? This is a pretty expensive product, especially for someone starting out, but of all the sump kits I’ve looked at it struck me as being the best value for money.
This is a gorgeous piece of kit and it’s so versatile that I could hardly believe it. This sump can be used for a variety of aquarium types and filter configurations. Check out my full review here to get more details.
So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
Well, I hope spending some time here on my little site has helped in some way to get you closer to the aquarium that you have always dreamed of. If you like, you can also check out my About Page to learn a little more about me and why I created this site. Remember to tell your friends about my site if you find it useful!