The best fish tank
Whether you're completely new to fishkeeping or you're an experienced hobbyist, it's important to choose the right fish tank. Before you get started, you should know a little about the fish you'll be keeping to ensure you pick an aquarium to fit their needs. Will your fish need a heater or filtration system? And if you plan to also keep live plants, will they need specialized lighting?
We've researched extensively to find the very best fish tanks on the market and included our favorites at the end of this guide. Our top pick is the Tetra 20-Gallon Complete Aquarium Kit, a great all-round fish tank with most of the accessories you'll need to keep fish healthy.
Considerations when choosing fish tanks
The aquarium you choose will be the whole world for the fish you keep, so buy the biggest you can afford and have room for. Some fish may require more space than you might realize -- for instance, common goldfish require at least 20 gallons per fish and fancy goldfish require 10 gallons per fish. Find out the space requirements for any fish that you'll be keeping and follow them. However, remember that the minimum space requirements are just that -- minimums. If you can buy a tank larger than the minimum, do so for the comfort and health of your fish.
Most fish should be kept in fish tanks that are rectangular, orientated so that they're wider than they are tall. This gives the water a greater surface area and allows for better oxygenation. Avoid curved tanks or bowl-shaped tanks, as these distort the view of the area outside the tank for the fish living inside, which can be disorienting and stressful.
Fish tanks can either be made from glass or acrylic. Glass gives the greatest clarity and won't get scratched or discolored over time, plus glass aquariums tend to be cheaper than acrylic. Acrylic aquariums are significantly lighter than glass, which becomes extremely significant when dealing with large (100 gallons and up) fish tanks. Plus, acrylic is impact resistant, so won't chip or crack.
The hood, or lid, sits on top of the tank and is important for keeping fish from jumping out or anything unwanted from falling in.
Many aquariums come with built-in lights, often set into the hood. While these might be fine for general use, you'll need specialist lights with the correct UV spectrum if you want to keep an aquarium with live plants.
You may find your aquarium has a filter included. It's likely to be a basic filter, however, and won't necessarily be suitable for all aquarium setups.
You can find compact fish tanks starting at $25 or $30, but expect to pay $100 to $200 for larger 20- to 30-gallon tanks. The largest and best fish tanks for the home can cost several thousand dollars, but these are for serious fishkeeping enthusiasts only.
Q. Where should I position my fish tank?
A. Of course, you want to position your fish tank somewhere you can enjoy it, but there are a couple of restrictions. It should be inside the main part of your home, not in an unheated garage or outbuilding where it may get too cold for your fish or inflict harsh temperature variations on them. Although it's great for fish tanks to be placed in a room with windows so your fish can experience a regular day/night cycle, fish tanks should never be placed in direct sunlight, as this can cause the water to overheat and also lead to algae blooms.
Q. Do I need a heater for my fish tank?
A. This depends on the type of fish you choose to keep. Goldfish, for example, are coldwater fish and generally don't need heaters in their tanks. But all tropical fish and marine fish from warm waters require tank heaters.
Fish tanks we recommend
Best of the best: Tetra's 20-Gallon Complete Aquarium Kit
Our take: This 20-gallon glass tank comes with everything you need to get started -- lights, filter, heater, and artificial plants.
What we like: Crystal-clear, scratch-resistant glass. Reasonably spacious. Included filter is whisper quiet.
What we dislike: Lights won't sustain a planted aquarium.
Best bang for your buck: Marina's LED Aquarium Kit
Our take: You can find cheaper aquariums, but you get a lot for your money, including a filter, lights, fish food, and water conditioner.
What we like: Decently-sized 20-gallon tank. Great for anyone new to the hobby. Daylight LEDs in tank hood.
What we dislike: Filter is on the noisy side.
Choice 3: Fluval's Spec Aquarium Kit
Our take: If space is an issue, consider this 5-gallon tank -- though note that it's only suitable for small fish.
What we like: Made from etched glass and aluminum. Comes with 7,500K LED lamps and a basic filtration system. Easy to maintain.
What we dislike: Too small for many types of fish.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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