Top Rated Aquarium Starter Kit Reviews

Everyone has to start somewhere in a hobby, and so it is with fishkeeping in an aquarium. One of the most daunting things that you need to do when putting a new aquarium together is sourcing all the different components.

As a new aquarist there’s a good chance you don’t even know what all the parts of an aquarium are in the first place, so going for a starter kit such as this is a great way to learn how an aquarium goes together and to serve as a base for better things in the future.

The main disadvantage of a starter kit is that you don’t have control over the different parts the manufacturer chooses. Often they will cheap out on things like the heater or give you off-brand chemicals to save money, but if you buy from a reputable manufacturer you’ll have a perfectly serviceable aquarium in no time.

Choosing the best starter kit is a bit tough, though. It can be very tempting to go with a smaller tank. Common sense says that smaller will be more manageable. The truth is that going for a larger tank is actually better for beginners, since changes in water quality are less sudden, giving you time to do something about it. There are also diminishing returns when it comes to the cost savings of a smaller tank; there’s a price floor you can’t get under no matter how small the tank is.

Personally, I think the 20 gallon size is perfect for beginners. Most of us have space for an aquarium this size and you can get at least one school comfortably housed in it. 20 gallons should be just right for two-inch community fish such as the Neon Tetra. Coupled with a few nice plants and a few pieces of décor, you’ll have an impressive little aquarium.

So what do I think is the best starter kit? Here it is:

Best Starter Aquarium Kit: Tetra 20 Gallon Color Fusion


Tetra is a trusted name in the aquarium business. Even if you never use any of their hardware there’s a good chance that you use their food or water treatment chemicals. There’s just about nothing aquarium-related that Tetra does not make, and they are especially good at the mid to low end of the market.

The Checklist

This starter kit includes a 20-gallon tank with lovely black detailing. It’s fully-enclosed with a canopy.

You get a filter, UL heater, and a universal color-changing LED. That LED is an especially nice touch since picking the right color of light is tricky at the best of times. This lets you pause the color wherever you want to suit the mood. I like that the LED system is built right into the hood of the tank.

Although this tank is meant for freshwater tropical use, there are also some plastic plant packs included that help mimic a seafloor. Whether you like this or not is completely up to you, but you can always buy different decor. I personally don’t like it, but even if you don’t use the plant packs and go for real plants, it doesn’t make this less of a good deal.

Like the LEDs, the filter is designed to be out of sight. The Whisper 20 is a nice touch, and as long as you don’t overstock the tank it should be just fine.

The Fine Print

Overall this kit from Tetra represents great value for money, but some people have noted problems with the included heater and filter. It’s important to always keep an eye on these components as they can fail just like any other product. Always test them for a few hours before adding fish. It’s easier to return a kit if you haven’t got living animals in it yet! Other than that, this is a great way to start the hobby and I wish kits like these were around when I put together my first tank.

The Next Best Thing: Marina LED Aquarium Kit


The Marina is very similar to the offering from Tetra and is even a little cheaper in total cost. This is also a 20-gallon unit and makes use of a filter that also tries to stay out of sight.

One of the big differences between this and the Tetra is that there is no heater in the kit. If you want tropical fish you will have to buy one, but if you were going to house coldwater fish anyway then this kit saves you money in that regard.

Although the light in this kit does not change color, it’s apparently great for growing plants, which seem to thrive under its wattage and spectrum. This is therefore an awesome choice as a starter; further aided by the fact that there is no fake plant kit included.

You get lots of chemicals and accessories in the bundle too, which also includes a net and some fish food.