Many aspects of fish-keeping can be quite challenging and you’ll agree with us when we say that selecting an appropriate aquarium when you’re first starting out is no exception.
That’s why we’ve gone and tested all the starter aquariums that are popular right now to bring you the truth about which ones are actually worth buying and which ones aren’t worth it.
In this post, we’ll discuss what makes a great starter aquarium and how the products we talk about in this post fulfill those criteria.
Below are some quick overviews of the products we’ll be looking at in this post.
We tested all kinds of starter aquariums on our quest for the best ones and these three are definitely the ones that we thought needed to be looked at in detail.
Now, let’s get into the reviews for the best 3 starter aquariums.
Best Starter Aquarium - Best 3 Reviews
1. All-Around Best Starter Aquarium - Aqueon LED Aquarium Kit Review
The amount of things that you get with this aquarium really goes beyond what you usually get with starter aquariums. It comes with a filter, lighting that’s integrated into the hood, a heater, fish food and water conditioner samples, a fish net and a stick-on thermometer.
We really value ease of use when it comes to starter aquariums. It’s important that an aquarium aimed at novices be easy to set up and indeed, this aquarium was so simple and intuitive to set up, we didn’t have to look at the manual even once.
Features of Aqueon LED Aquarium Kit – Best Starter Aquarium
- 20 gallons in size
- Comes with a built-in filter
- LED lighting integrated into the hood
- Comes with a heater that’s fixed at 78 degrees Fahrenheit
- Dimensions: 24.2 by 12.5 by 19.5 inches
- LED lighting is bright and effective
- Easy to set up
- Filter works quietly and effectively
- Sturdy and long-lasting
- The lighting has no splash guard
If you want a reliable aquarium that comes with everything you need to get started, this is the product for you. You’ll have no trouble setting it up and it’s great for housing fish of many shapes and sizes.
2. Best Desktop Starter Aquarium - Hagen Marina 360-Degree Aquarium Starter Kit Review
This product is specifically designed to be extremely easy to set up and maintain. It comes with a built-in circulation pump which helps keep water flowing within the aquarium. You’ll find this is great for keeping the tank well-aerated and full of oxygen.
The built-in filter also works very quietly. In fact, it works so quietly, we thought it wasn’t working at first.
The top cover is completely removable so you can clean the tank or feed your fish with ease.
Features of Hagen Marina 360-Degree Aquarium Starter Kit
- 2.65 gallons in size
- Weight: 5.1 pounds
- Efficient built-in water pump
- LED lighting with dual lighting modes
- Built-in filtration system
- Small footprint
- Easy to clean
- Easy to set up
- Removable cover for easy feeding
- Suitable for both cold and tropical environments
- Walls may get murky over time
If you’re looking for a great, little center-piece for your room, office or dorm, this product is ideal for you. Not only is it easy to maintain, but it also comes with a very effective filter that will keep your water crystal clear.
3. Best Budget Starter Aquarium - Aqueon LED MiniBow Starter Aquarium Review
This cleverly designed starter aquarium features a low-profile hood that has LED lights integrated into it. They work effectively and are bright yet not too overbearing.
You’ll find it very easy to feed your fish with the convenient feeding hole that’s located on the hood as well.
Like all of the other great starter aquariums on this list, this aquarium too is very simple to set up and get started with.
If you have children, this aquarium could be a great opportunity for a fun little project with them. Giving them pets to take care of will be very fun for them and will teach them about responsibility.
Features of Aqueon LED MiniBow Starter Aquarium
- Comes in sizes ranging from 1 to 5 gallons
- LEDs integrated into hood
- Comes with a filter
- Scratch-resistant walls
- Comes with food and water care samples
- Quiet filter
- Filter is easy to clean
- Feeding hole makes for easy feeding
- Easy to set up
- Sleek, compact design
- Filter may be too strong for smaller fish
If you’re looking for a high-quality aquarium on a tight budget, the product is perfect for you. The effective and quiet filter coupled with the bright LEDs make it a no-brainer if you don’t have too much money to spend.
What are some things to keep in mind when buying a starter aquarium?
Before even setting up your fish tank, you should keep some things in mind and make some decisions before going out to buy your starter aquarium. Some of the factors you should think about and keep in mind are:
Aquarium Size and Shape
Obviously, having a smaller aquarium is what most novices lean towards. It’s easier on your pocket and it’s simple to find a space in your home for a smaller aquarium. Both of these thoughts are definitely true. However, many beginners also think that having a smaller aquarium also means it’ll be easier to maintain and we’re here to tell you that actually, the opposite is true. Larger aquariums require cleaning much less often and it’s much easier to maintain water parameters for a large body of water as compared to a small one. Try to get as big an aquarium as the space in your home and your budget allows.
As for shape, try to get a long, rectangular vessel that’s more horizontal than vertical. Long and wide aquariums offer much better gaseous exchange than tall ones.
Glass or Acrylic?
Before going out to buy an aquarium, you must decide whether you’re going to buy a glass or acrylic aquarium. Both of them have their pros and cons and it all depends on your money and resources.
Glass aquariums are cheaper and the glass doesn’t wither or yellow over time. However, they are heavier and much more prone to cracking and leaks.
Acrylic aquariums are lightweight and very resistant to cracking or shattering. That being said, they do tend to yellow over time and can be very expensive.
The Location of your Aquarium
We’ve discussed briefly how the potential location of your aquarium in your home will influence your decision of how big you want your aquarium to be. We must stress further that you must decide where you want to keep your aquarium before you go out to buy one.
Make sure it’s in a room whose temperature doesn’t change too erratically. Also ensure there’s an electrical socket nearby and that the aquarium has a sturdy surface to sit on. Avoid placing your aquarium near an open window as sunlight can promote algae growth.
What’s the most efficient way to set up a starter aquarium?
Usually, setting up a starter aquarium involves the following simple steps:
- Place the aquarium in your desired location
- Mount any external equipment onto your aquarium
- Fill the aquarium with gravel
- Fill the aquarium with treated water
- Turn your equipment on and let it run for 6-8 weeks
- Add your fish.
But since we’re talking about an efficient way of setting up your aquarium, we’re going to be looking at a way to jump-start your aquarium so you can add your fish immediately without having to wait 6-8 weeks for your starter aquarium to cycle. This can be done through biological supplements that are widely available online and in most pet stores. These biological supplements encourage the growth of nitrifying bacteria so you can skip the cycling process entirely and immediately start adding your fish.
How do I maintain my starter aquarium?
Some general ways in which you can maintain your starter aquarium are:
- Perform 10-15% water changes every week.
- Regularly monitor your water and keep an eye out for any erratic changes in parameters such as pH or temperature.
- Check your filter regularly and clean it out whenever it gets dirty. Having a dirty filter completely defeats its purpose.
- Wipe down the walls of your aquarium from within regularly. This will discourage the growth of algae.
What are some benefits of having a starter aquarium in my home?
There are a number of benefits to having a starter aquarium at home. Some of these benefits are:
- They act as a stress reliever. Aquariums are serene and the sight of fish gently swimming around can be soothing to people who may need it.
- You can use the aquarium to teach children about responsibility by giving them pets to take care of.
- Furthermore, you can also teach your children about biology. If you have a live plant aquarium, you can even teach your children about how ecosystems work using it as an example.
Why is it preferable to start with a larger aquarium rather than a smaller one?
As we briefly touched on earlier, if you’re a novice, you’re going to want to start with a larger aquarium rather than a small one.
One reason for this is that smaller aquariums require more regular cleaning. Yes, they may be less work to clean but they get dirty a lot quicker and will require a lot of your attention in order to stay appropriately hygienic.
Secondly, when you’re a beginner, you want an environment that is more forgiving to any mistakes you’re likely to make. A larger aquarium is appropriate for this as a large body of water can be very easily maintained in terms of water parameters. The changes in water parameters in a large body of water are slow and can be easily detected. You can catch them and get them fixed before they can cause any real damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
I can’t find my fish in my starter aquarium. Where’d it go?
This is actually fairly common and more often than not, it’s not something to worry about.
There are a lot of fish species that are shy by nature and like to spend a lot of their time in solitude. What this means is that they like to dig up the gravel at the bottom of your aquarium and bury themselves under it. It could be that your fish are doing just that. If not that, it’s a possibility that your fish is hiding in a decoration piece, an ornament or a live aquarium plant.
If none of these are the case, you may want to look at some graver possibilities.
First, look around your aquarium on the floor or on the surface that your aquarium is resting on. If your aquarium does not have a lid, there’s a chance that your fish could have jumped out.
If you still can’t find your fish, try checking your filter. Sometimes, if a filter is too strong, it can suck in smaller fish that aren’t strong enough to swim against the water pressure it creates.
Can I keep my starter aquarium on a desk, tabletop or on the floor?
We strongly don’t recommend putting your aquarium on the floor in any case.
As for a desk or tabletop, this depends on the size of your aquarium. Some smaller aquariums are specifically designed to be set up and placed on top of desks or counters. That’s what they’re made for and they’re perfectly fine there. Just do your research and make sure that your table or desk is able to support the weight of the aquarium when it’s mounted with equipment and filled with water.
Should I buy my fish on the same day I get my starter aquarium?
As we’ve talked about several times in the past and briefly above in this article, before you start adding fish to your aquarium, you have to go through a process called cycling. Cycling refers to growing nitrifying bacteria within your tank by letting it run without any fish.
Unless you have a biological supplement, this process can take up to 6-8 weeks. Thus, it’s not recommended at all that you buy your fish on the same day as your starter aquarium. You won’t have any place to keep them for so many weeks.
We recommend you let your aquarium cycle and when it’s done cycling, then you can go out and buy your fish.
Is it okay if i just “top off” my starter aquarium with water to account for evaporation?
Yes. Evaporation is fairly common and you can easily top off your tank water to account for this.
However, a lot of fish-keepers get lazy and think that since it’s a small amount of water, they don’t need to treat it. We strongly advise against this. Even if it’s a small amount, you need to dechlorinate it and add a water conditioning agent to it before using it top off your aquarium.
My starter aquarium has a built-in light with no timer. Can I just leave it on all the time?
Having a light on in your aquarium all the time can lead to many undesirable consequences.
For one, it can cause algae to breakout. At first, your water will start to get a greenish tint and after some time, you’ll be able to see visible algae growth within your aquarium. You don’t want this as it will make it difficult for your fish to breathe and if you have live aquarium plants, it will make it difficult for them to perform photosynthesis.
Secondly, fish are sensitive to light. They require 8-12 hours of it every day but if you constantly shine a light on them without giving them any time in darkness, this can lead to serious stress-related issues.
Starter aquariums are getting more and more common in the market with so many people turning to fish-keeping as a hobby. With so many companies coming out with starter aquariums, it’s important that you identify and buy one that is of high quality and is accommodating to the fact that you’re not an experienced fish-keeper.
After long periods of testing all kinds of starter aquariums with all kinds of fish, we’ve decided to give the crown to the Aqueon LED Aquarium Kit. It has a sleek design and anyone can easily set it up to have a great fish-keeping experience.
With that, we’ve reached the end of our post for the best starter aquariums.
Let us know what aquarium you first got your start on.