Best Small Aquarium | 5 Best Starter Fish Tanks of 2018

If you’re reading our article about the best small aquarium, chances are you are a novice aquarist. We’ll try to point you in the right direction when it comes to choosing your first aquarium and provide some useful tips, as well.

small home made aquarium

If you’re a beginner, you’ll need to learn about all the parts and components of an aquarium (like air pump and LED lighting) and how they fit in and work together to provide a healthy and enjoyable living environment for your fish and plants.

For new fish keepers, going for a starter aquarium kit is a great way to learn how an aquarium goes together and what the usual needs of fish and plants which need to be met are.

It will also be a good source of getting the basic knowledge about aquatic life and all it entails so that you can improve your hobby in the future.

Need the best small aquarium? Here's our top three list!

[BEST SMALL AQUARIUM]

1. Marina LED Aquarium Kit

4.5/5

  • Three sizes to choose from 5, 10 and 20-gallon
  • Marina Slim S10 or S20 clip-on filter with quick-change filter cartridges
  • Natural daylight effect LED lighting module included

4.6/5

  • Stylish aquarium kit with a rail light
  • Daylight and moonlight LED settings
  • Easy to set up, use and maintain

[BEST SMALL AQUARIUM FOR BEGINNERS]

3. Coralife LED Biocube Aquarium

4.5/5

  • Adjustable shelf
  • Great design
  • Storage available
  • Allows easy customization
  • Very easy to clean

What to look for in the best small aquarium?

Best starter aquarium kit / best small aquarium

The main advantage is that you get most, if not all the components you need to set up your first fish tank and the prices are usually affordable.

A disadvantage of a starter kit is that you don’t have control over the actual parts manufacturers choose to set up a kit. Try to avoid questionable brands with no reputation as they may cheap out on parts like the lighting or the heater.

If you buy the best small aquarium from a reputable manufacturer with extensive experience in the industry, you’ll most probably get a perfectly functional tank. Now, the actual process of choosing the best starter kit is not that easy.

What size aquarium should I get?

First off, there is a multitude of fish tank starter kits out there with different sizes, components, and extras. The size is the first issue that you need to consider carefully.

Will a smaller tank be easier to manage? Contrary to the usual belief, the answer is no!

Buying a larger tank is, in fact, better for beginners; because bigger tanks hold more water, changes in water quality are less sudden, giving you more time to do something about it.

As a rule of thumb, a 20-gallon size is best small aquarium for beginners. Truth be told, most of us have space for an aquarium this size and it can hold quite a few 2-3-inch fish such as the popular Neon Tetra or Bettas. Add a few beautiful plants and pieces of décor, and you’ll have an eye-catching little aquarium.

The small also called nano, fish tanks can hold up to 30 gallons of water. They are often the first choice for people who want to keep fish in their small apartment or in their office where space is limited.

home made aquarium

There are lots of fish tanks on the market these days. A tank qualifies as a small or nano reef tank if it can hold 30 gallons or less of water. A small saltwater aquarium can hold up to 15 gallons of water, and a small saltwater fish tank holds 10 gallons or less.

Buying best small aquarium is a good option if you want to keep fish but have a limited budget. Small tanks are certainly less expensive. They also need fewer accessories, and if you opt for a heated tank, a smaller tank will cost less to heat.

The fact is, maintaining any fish tank will cost you money, but the best small aquarium for your buck will be less expensive to maintain. It will also require less space as you can easily put the tank on your desk, coffee table or even a large enough mantelpiece.

Small fish tanks are lightweight, too, so you can move them around easily, and they’re less hassle to maintain and clean. Changing the water doesn’t take long at all in comparison to a full sized 125-gallon tank which is time-consuming and hard work to maintain.

Are there any disadvantages of small fish tanks?

Unlike the best reptile tanks which are intended for one reptile, one obvious disadvantage of smaller tanks is that you can only keep one or two fish even if you'd like to have more of them. If you opt for just one fish, you should be care-free as regards any possible behavioral issues.

However, if you’d like to keep two fish, you will need to make sure that the fish are not territorial. The third possible choice is more fish which are smaller species that don’t mind living in small spaces.

aquarium with blue led lights

In a smaller tank, overfeeding and overheating will quickly result in the appearance of bacteria, so you need to keep a watchful eye for this in order to prevent your fish from getting sick.

Another disadvantage is limited access to a wide variety of plants, as well as insects, worms, and other fish. Over time your fish will not have a well-balanced diet unless you pay special attention to their dietary needs and do your best to keep them healthy, stress-free and happy.

Our reviews of the best small aquarium to date

The Marina LED Aquarium Kit is an affordable a 20-gallon unit which comes with a Marina Slim S20 clip-on filter with quick-change filter cartridges.

The kit does not include a heater in the kit so if you would like to keep tropical fish, you will have to buy a suitable heater. If you are going to keep coldwater fish which don’t need a heater, this kit will save you a few bucks in that regard.

Although the light in this kit does not change color, it’s sufficient for growing certain less demanding plants which seem to thrive under its wattage and spectrum. You will get a long-lasting, natural daylight effect LED lighting module which is incorporated into the Marina aquarium canopy.

The Marina LED Aquarium Kit is a solid choice as a starter fish tank which doesn't include fake plants but does come with lots of chemicals and accessories in the bundle including a net and some fish food.

This kit from Marina comes in 5, 10, and 20-gallon sizes so you can choose the one which will fit perfectly on your desk and soon become a beautiful focal point in your home or bring life into your office.

The tank itself has a simple rectangular shape accented with a neon bulb which gives off just the right amount of light to show off your fish without disturbing them.

As for filtration, a clip on the filter is included so you can conveniently mount it onto the back of the aquarium. The filters included have adjustable flow rates, which gives you an option to play around to create a pleasant environment for your fish.

These filters are easy-maintenance as they have 4 different slots for filtration media. This means that you can swap them out and clean them without disturbing all of the good bacteria colonies that have grown and are essential for the right balance of your tank.

Fish cannot otherwise survive in tap water because of the chemicals and bacteria, but with the conditioner and the supplement included in this kit, you can treat your tap water to be closer to your fish’s natural environment.

To sum up, the Marina LED Aquarium Kit is an affordable, simple and yet versatile aquarium starter kit which is a solid choice as your first fish tank.

Things We Liked

Three sizes to choose from 5, 10 and 20-gallon

Marina Slim S10 or S20 clip-on filter with quick-change filter cartridges

Natural daylight effect LED lighting module included

Fluval Max fish food to keep fish healthy comes included in the kit

Comes with Aqua Plus Water Conditioner to make tap water safe for fish

Fluval Cycle Biological Supplement also included in the kit

Free fish net, made from fine soft mesh to protect delicate fish fins

Aquarium Care Guide contains advice on how to set up and maintain the tank

Things We Didn't Like

The filter vibrates a bit loudly at times.

MarineLand Contour Glass Aquarium Kit looks really great, as the design is modern and sleek. The curved glass looks wonderful and the glass cover is of high quality.

You can go for a 3-gallon model, which measures 12 x 12 x 12.5 inches, and weighs 10.5 pounds. Or you can opt for the bigger 5-gallon version, which measures 11.8 x 11.8 x 16.8 inches, and weighs 12 pounds and doesn’t really occupy more space on your table than the smaller model.

Another cool thing about the design of this tank is that MarineLand opted for curved glass so there are seams to ruin the elegant look of this tank. There’s also an overhanging LED light system, with two settings so that you can have either the white lights to simulate sunlight or the blue lights for moonlight conditions.

The class canopy cover slides back, so you have the space you need to feed the fish and to clean the tank. However, you won’t need to clean the tank very frequently because the 3-stage filtration system comes with a filter cartridge to screen out the debris.

There is activated carbon inside the filter cartridge and a molded ribbed back to maximize the water to carbon contact. This effectively eliminates any chemical smells or impurities, and the bio-foam which cultivates bacteria to eliminate toxic ammonia and nitrate.

The pump is fairly quiet, which makes it suitable for both home and work environment. You can also adjust the flow of the filter pump on this model. The sleek, contour design of this kit stylishly hides the filtration and features a hinged light that allows for easy access to the tank.

The overall build quality is excellent, so you won’t have to worry about the aquarium and all its components breaking down on you soon.

Things We Liked

Stylish aquarium kit with a rail light

Daylight and moonlight LED settings

Easy to set up, use and maintain

Hidden 3-step filtration with adjustable flow filter pump

Comes with one RITE-SIZE Z filter cartridge

Comes in two sizes, 3 and 5-gallon

Things We Didn't Like

This kit could do with a stronger light

The Coralife Fish Tank LED BioCube Aquarium starter kit is designed with a sleek, clean-lined look and has several advanced features which allow you to create an atmosphere resembling a mini coral reef.

This tank has a hinge-top design which keeps the tank looking sleek and all the cords and tubes hidden. This kit comes with just about everything you need: a light filter, a filter pump, LED lighting, and a timer.

The timer itself is a unit on the top of the aquarium lid. It allows you to set an automatic day and night light sequence. What it does is changing between white LED lighting that mimics the sun and blue lights to resemble moonlight.

In addition, the timer actually has an automatic sunset and sunrise cycle to mimic the natural light patterns.

You also get a temperature control feature so that you can make sure the water is held to the right temperature so your fish and coral can thrive. Another huge plus is the cooling feature. There are with cooling fans to counter the heat generated from the filter and LED lights.

As for the filtering system, it has 3 rear chambers: one for bacteria and algae to grow, one for a heater and a bag of phosphorus filtering media, and one for the pump itself.

Pretty good for a starter aquarium, isn’t it?

Things We Liked

A quick and stylish foundation for starting your new aquarium

The 5-gallon kit features elegant curved glass

The bright white and blue LEDs with both daylight and moonlight settings

Advanced 3-stage filtration keeps the aquarium clean and healthy

You also get an adjustable flow filter pump and one RITE-SIZE Z Filter Cartridge

A hinged light allows for easy access to the tank

An easy-to-use glass canopy slides back over the aquarium for easy access

Things We Didn't Like

The flow may be too strong for some fish

Flex LED Freshwater Kit from Fluval is an all-in-one aquarium is designed for freshwater fishkeeping. The aquarium uses an all-in-one form factor to keep the aquarium compact with a contemporary design which beautifully fits into any living space.

The tank itself is constructed with high-clarity curved glass. The three-stage filtration system is integrated into the aquarium so nothing hangs from the sides or back of the aquarium. This doesn’t just look great but also makes it easier to place the aquarium in your living space.

The filtration system includes a foam filter which captures water-including particles of debris, algae, and uneaten fish food. A pouch of activated carbon removes the dissolved organics and yellow colors for crystal-clear water.

The bio-filtration section eliminates harmful ammonia and nitrite that can stress the fish and cause disease problems thanks to the internal water pump which circulates water through the filtration materials and back to the tank.

The aquarium lid includes a built-in LED lighting system. You can control the light colors and timing with the Flexpad remote control. A truly well-made and carefully thought out and designed starter kit from Fluval!

Things We Liked

Available in 9 and 15-gallon sizes

Easy, all-in-one aquarium system

The filtration system is highly effective

A compact and customizable filtration chamber

Comes with dual water flow outlets

Energy-efficient LED lighting

Things We Didn't Like

This unit doesn't come with a heater


Fluval Edge Aquarium with LED Light really looks remarkable considering the fact that it’s a starter aquarium. The build quality is excellent, as it seems built to last. The design successfully hides the wires and other unwanted parts, so that you, your family and friends can fully enjoy your fish, plants, and décor.

The lighting system is good enough so you won’t have to change the lights as long as they operate properly. The light is spread out over the tank, but it doesn’t get too warm.

The filtration system is very effective, which makes the aquarium maintenance much easier. 

The 6-gallon tank is 13.7 x 17 x 14.3 inches and weighs 23.3 pounds. It comes with 21 LED lamps, with 18 white ones and 3 blue ones to simulate moonlight. There are 3 settings (on/off, bright daytime and deep blue nighttime).

The lighting makes this aquarium look really cool, as the clear glass shows everything nicely from all sides and from the top while the pedestal helps it give off a weightless vibe. It’s available in black, white, or silver

Once again, with the 6-gallon version, the filtration system is more than adequate for the job of keeping the water clean and your fish and plants healthy. The Edge filer features Cycleguard, along with Nutrafin Cycle and Nutrafin Aquaplus water treatments. It offers a filtration system which requires you to clean the tank about every 3 months.

Perhaps the main concern which lowers the rating of this otherwise fine aquarium kit is the opening over the top. It measures a little less than 5 by 7 inches. That’s the only clearance you get, so you better make sure your ornaments fit through the whole. If you have larger than average hands, that can be a problem not just for ornaments but for cleaning purposes as well.

Things We Liked

6 sided, 6-gallon sealed glass aquarium for a good start

Powerful, easy to use Edge filter with Cycleguard

LED Lighting, Filtration & Wiring are all hidden away in the decorative column

Includes Nutrafin Cycle and Nutrafin Aquaplus water treatments

Powerful bright white 7600K high luminosity

LED's with 3 deep blue night-time light LED's and 3 position switch

Things We Didn't Like

This unit has a small top access opening

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