Led aquarium starter kit 20

Led aquarium starter kit 20 DEFAULT

Aqueon LED Aquarium Starter Kit, 20-gal

By Aqueon

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The Aqueon LED Aquarium Starter Kit comes with everything you need to get your fish friends off to a fin-tastic start. Perfect for first-time fish parents, this convenient starter kit comes with a preset submersible heater, premium fish food, water conditioner, a fish net and a thermometer. Maintenance will be a breeze with the included QuietFlow LED PRO power filter—it has an LED indicator that flashes when it's time to change the cartridge.

Key Benefits
  • Starter kit includes a submersible heater and thermometer so you can keep the temperature just right for your underwater buddies.
  • The LED indicator takes the guesswork out of changing filters.
  • Comes with a premium fish food sample and water conditioner sample.
  • The vertical aquarium style and square footprint means it takes up less horizontal space.
  • Features a white LED light hood to bring bright colors to life.
What's Included

Aquarium, Low Profile LED Hood, Water Conditioner, Submersible Preset Heater, QuietFlow LED PRO Power FIlter, Premium Fish Food, Fish Net, Thermometer & Setup Guide.

†Capacity is calculated by total volume. When using container, choose a capacity greater than what you need to prevent overfilling and spills.

See all items by Aqueon

  • Item Number


  • Dimensions

    24.2 x 12.5 x 19.5 inches

  • Aquarium Type


  • Tank Size

    11 to 20 Gallons

  • Capacity (Max)†


  • Fish Type

    Tropical Freshwater

  • Material


83% of reviewersrecommend this product

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6 Reviews

  • 360 view of my betta babies

    By Misslizz on Mar 16, 2021

    This review is for the Rimless Rectangle 10 Gallon Aquarium - Love this tank SO much. It’s so sleek and elegant looking. Only thing is the brackets it came with for the lid don’t work and I had to buy new ones. More like they were plastic and I didn’t trust them holding the glass lid. Other than that I’m in love!

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  • Very Modern

    By Trina on Mar 15, 2021

    This is a super pretty fish tank. I recommending using sand and live plants with a piece of wood. Perfect for a single betta. * This review is for Aqueoun 10 gal rimless tank. * This product was complementary for a CashBack program.

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  • Fish Tank as Advertised

    By Pammella on Mar 10, 2021

    As a good starter tank, the Aqueon LED Aquarium is a great value.

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  • Great Aquarium

    By Elizabeth on Oct 30, 2020

    The aquarium is great, we have 14 members of our aquatic family. They are very happy, the heater is great, the perfect temperature for them. The filter works well. We are new at this so we are learning as we go along, enjoying it very much.

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  • Good deal but a tad expensive

    By Charity on Jan 20, 2021

    Came with everything i needed BUT I did find them cheaper else where

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  • A Couple of Problems

    By Madison on Jul 31, 2020

    Good news! The tank got to me a day earlier than expected. Kinda scratched around the black top and bottom due to them putting it in the box without wrapping around it. The heater isn’t working either which makes me upset. If I spent almost $150.00 on a fish tank/mini starter kit I want everything to work. The sound of the filter isn’t that loud but can still be heard. The instructions don’t clarify a lot either. I expected a bit better...

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Sours: https://www.chewy.com/aqueon-led-aquarium-starter-kit/dp/258119

5 Best 20 Gallon Fish Tank Kits

When buying a 20-gallon fish tank, there are some important factors that will help you decide which fish tank kit to choose.

Buying a fish tank kit is a great method for beginners as it allows them to buy great 20-gallon fish tanks and they come with all the things necessary to start a tank immediately.

Usually, when you buy a fish tank you then need to consider what kind of filter you will be buying (check out my guide on the best filters for 20 gallons aquariums) and also choose a substrate, a heater (if needed), lighting and the interior decoration.

Luckily, most of these things are already taken into account with fish tank kits, as most of these already contain these important tank parts. All you have to do is then to buy the fish and the decoration for the interior.

But knowing what sort of fish and how many fish you wish to be keeping can prove to be vital when choosing a 20-gallon fish tank for you. All other choices will then depend on that decision.

You also want to make sure that you have enough space for a 20-gallon fish tank at your home. 20-gallon tanks are on the smaller spectrum of aquarium sizes, so it should not take too much space – usually, they come in sizes of 24 inches long, 12 inches wide and 16 inches high.

Once you set everything up and you buy your little aquarium mates, it can be quite satisfying to look at the aquarium and know that it is your own work that you are seeing.

It will, then of course take a lot of dedication from your part to properly maintain the tank, so take that into consideration when buying a 20-gallon tank kit.

If a 20 gallon tank is too big for you or you don’t have enough space, please check out my guide on the 5-gallon aquarium kits. Maybe this article will help you decide what size of aquarium kit to choose.

Let’s take a look at some of the best 20-gallon fish tank kits that you can buy right now.

1. Aqueon LED Aquarium Kit 20H Black

One of the best choices is the aqueon LED aquarium 20-gallon tank kit. It is often recommended for beginners because the package contains almost everything needed for a proper setup. Of course it contains a 20-gallon glass fish tank that is quality-made and conveniently designed.  It has a feeding door that makes feeding the fish much easier.

The kit offers a good filtration system called the QuietFlow 10 LED PRO power filter, that has enhanced five-stage filtration and is also very ecologic – it saves you a lot of energy when it is not required to run. The filter is very convenient for you if you don’t know when to change filter cartridges, as it comes with a red LED light that will tell you when to change the cartridge.

In addition, the LED lighting is also included in the package. The LED lighting is low-profile and it will emit vibrant colors which will imitate the natural habitat of the fish in the best possible manner. Also, a heater comes included which is obviously a great advantage of this kit if you wish to have tropical fish. There is a complete setup guide included that will help you with setting up the tank.

Some other features included in this kit are the premium fish food, water conditioner, fish net and a stick-on thermometer. All in all, this package represents a great deal for beginner fish tank keepers.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


2. Marina LED Aquarium Kit

The Marina LED aquarium kit comes in three sizes: 5-gallon, 10-gallon and 20-gallon. But we will focus on the 20-gallon version. It comes in sizes of 24 inches in length, 12,5 inches in width and 16,5 inches in height. Make sure that you have enough space for this tank before buying it.

So what is there included in this package? Firstly, you get a 20-gallon glass aquarium. With it comes a LED lighting system that is already included and incorporated into the aquarium. This system will recreate the natural daylight colors in the best way possible.

Furthermore, you will get a clip-on filtration system that is designed in such a way that you can easily remove it and then change the cartridges quickly. You also get some fish food to start with (Fluval), a water conditioner to turn tap water into the right conditions for the tank, a fish net for the aquarium, some supplements for cleaner water and a guide.

In this kit you will get everything you will need to start your tank (except for the fish, of course).

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


3. Tetra 20 Gallon Complete Aquarium Kit

The Tetra aquarium kit is also a very complete kit and it includes all the important things you need for an aquarium. The 20-gallon tank is made of glass and it is very sturdy as it is protected from scratches. It has a sleek design and with the right decorations, it will properly imitate the natural habitat.

The LED lighting is also included, and it will produce natural colors. You can change the colors yourself, too. To keep the water clean there will be the Tetra Whisper 20 filter included that will effectively clean the water and will also be quiet.

The package also includes a heater, a digital thermometer and some other features that can be quite useful when setting up the tank – a brochure to help you set it up, a sachet, a fish net and also some other chemicals to help you make the right conditions for the fish.

Consider this package if you want to have a 20-gallon tank and you don’t know where to start.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


4. Aq Ascent LED Kit 20g

This 20-gallon tank kit also comes with everything you will ever need for a 20-gallon fish tank.

You will get a glass 20-gallon fish tank, an LED lighting system that is already built-in, a good filtration system that will ensure the quality of water, some fish food and a conditioner.

Aside from the practicality of this kit, the fish tank is also very aesthetically pleasing. So if you are looking for a complete kit with a 20-gallon fish tank, then this would be a good choice.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


5. GloFish Aquarium Kit Fish Tank

Another considerable choice would be the GloFish 20-gallon fish tank kit. It would make a great choice, because it also includes everything needed for a good setup and is also of high quality and well-built. The dimensions of the tank are: 24,2 inches in length, 12,5 inches in width and 16,2 inches in height.

Along with the 20-gallon glass aquarium, you will get an LED hood and also an LED light stick that will make sure that the lighting is on point. You will also get a Tetra Whisper 20 filter that will make sure that the water will be well-filtrated and as clean as possible. This will make sure that you will not have to put too much time for maintenance.

Apart from all the essentials, there will be a setup guide included, along with some fish food to get you started, a water conditioner and two plant multipacks. This tank will make for a good choice if you will want to have a colourful and a quality-made fish tank.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


Fish Species You Can Keep in 20-Gallon Aquarium

Fish Species for 20 Gallon Aquarium

Fish Species for 20 Gallon Aquarium

After you have chosen the tank kit, you will have to decide which fish you will put in it. Or maybe you have made that choice prior to buying the tank and you adjusted the tank to the fish.

Either way, choosing the right fish for the tank is an important part of creating a good tank environment, and you will also have to consider which fish are compatible with each other.

The guppy fish is one of the most common choices when it comes to smaller tanks. There are plenty of reasons as to why you would want to own guppy fish in your tank.

Firstly, they are very peaceful and will do well in a tank full of other fish. They are not too demanding and very easy to care for. Keep 5 or more of them together to see the best results.

The betta fish is a very popular choice for smaller tanks. This is due to the fact that it is very unique both in temperament and in appearance.

As it is quite an aggressive and territorial fish, it is better that it is kept alone, or at least do not keep two male betta fish together, as they will fight constantly. Other than that, its appearance is very appealing and one of the reasons for keeping the betta fish.

Sparkling gouramis are great little fish for a smaller fish tank. That is due to the fact that they are friendly and non-aggressive to other fish and they will not require too much attention and care from your part.

Some other good fish for a 20-gallon tank are neon tetras, pygmy corydoras, platy fish, balloon molly fish, danios and harlequin rasboras.

Should You Add Live Plants in a 20-Gallon Aquarium?

Live Plants for 20-Gallon Aquarium

Live Plants for 20-Gallon Aquarium

In short, the answer is probably yes, because live plants will create conditions that will resemble the natural habitat conditions, but will also help keep the water clean and will produce oxygen that will keep the fish healthier.

If you are a beginner, it may be better to stick with the plastic plants at first, though. This is due to the fact that live plants can be quite sensitive at the beginning, and will not grow under the right conditions.

But if you want to start with live plants right from the start, please read my absolute beginner’s guide to planted aquarium, which will help you understand how to take care of them.

But live plants are usually better for a 20-gallon tank. Make sure that you clean and rinse them properly prior to putting them into the tank, to get rid of the snails and other bacteria that might be on the plants.

How to Maintain a 20-Gallon Aquarium?

Ideally, you will want to perform maintenance checks every couple of days, if not every day. This will ensure that the conditions of the water are right for the fish and that they are happy and healthy.

When performing these checks, you will want to measure the temperature of the water with a thermometer to make sure that it is in the right zone for the fish in the tank. If you have tropical fish, this is even more important.

Secondly, you will want to clean the tank as much as possible and measure the alkalinity of the water. In addition, you should try to cycle the water at least once a week. This will ensure that the water is clean. To perform a water cycle, change about 30% of the water from your tank with fresh water (dechlorinated with a water conditioner) once a week.

Also remember to feed the fish high-quality foods, but do not overfeed them, as that might cause obesity and an increase in snail population and food leftovers.


Buying a 20-gallon tank is one of the most popular choices for new aspiring tank owners. Fish tank kits make your choice much easier and save you the hassle of having to look for tools and features that are already included in the kit.

All in all, fish tank kits are made with the beginners in mind. Consider these tank kits on this list if you do not know where to start.

Aquarium Equipment  

avatarI’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

Related Articles

Sours: https://smartaquariumguide.com/best-20-gallon-aquarium-kits/
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This is a high-quality fish tank kit from Aqueon, it is a great choice for starter hobbyists, who want keep tropical fish.

The main tank is made of clear glass, its walls are sealed with epoxy resin. The construction is highly durable for many years of enjoyment.

It comes with a black plastic hood to reduce the fast evaporation of water and prevent the fish from jumping out. The lid features some pre-cut holes for positioning necessary equipment. It is very easy to open the lid to access inside the aquarium that makes setup and maintenance easier.

The package includes everything you will need to get started a tropical fish tank such as a LED light, filter, heater, and additives…

The LED lighting system, which is placed under the hood, provides bright white light to stimulate natural daylight from the sun.

The Quiet Flow 10 LED Pro power filter is the most powerful piece of this kit, it offers a strong but ultra-quiet water filtration system to keep the tank clean and clear. The filter features a LED indicator to remind you to maintain the filter cartridges after specific time periods.

Pro Tip

The package comes with a heater and thermometer for tropical fish tank setup. The 100W heater is preset at the constant 78 degrees Fahrenheit for tropical fish and you don’t need to adjust anything. The thermometer is helpful in daily temperature control that helps you know if the heater is working properly or not.

The package also includes a fish food sample, a water conditioner, and a fish net. The tank is carefully packed for preventing scratches or breakages upon coming.

Sours: https://lovefishtank.com/20-gallon-fish-tank-kit/
Stop Wasting Money On These Aquarium Products!

Rectangle LED Kits

Aqueon LED boxed fish tank kits offer a complete habitat with vibrant LED lighting to bring the aquarium to life. The energy saving low-profile hood features cool white LEDs for total illumination, a convenient feeding door in the front and breakout sections in the back for popular accessories. Complete with high-quality components needed for a healthy aquatic environment including a heater, QuietFlow LED PRO power filter, fish food, water conditioner, fish net and a stick-on thermometer. A complete guide is also included to walk you through the process of proper aquarium setup. The Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO filter will make maintenance easy. The LED on the top of the filter will start flashing when it's time to change the cartridge - no more guessing! In addition, the enhanced five-stage filtration and included ammonia specialty filter pad will help keep your aquarium water clean and your fish healthy. Fish, gravel and decor are sold separately.

Sours: https://www.aqueon.com/products/aquarium-starter-kits/rectangle-led-kits

Aquarium starter 20 led kit

The 11 Best Aquarium Starter Kits Reviews & Guide 2021

Take the stress out of your new hobby with an aquarium starter kit. Many kits contain everything a beginner needs to set up a fish tank. They usually come with a light and a filter, and some include a heater and even a net.

Top aquarium kit for beginners

We researched the best aquarium starter kits that you can buy online and reviewed them here for you. We hope that you find the perfect setup for your new fish tank.

#1 Tetra 20 Gallon Complete Aquarium Kit

Tetra’s Complete Aquarium Kit includes a 20-gallon glass tank, a hood with an LED light, and a Whisper filter. You’ll also find a 100W heater and artificial plants for decorations. You only need to add gravel, water, and fish.
The LED light creates a natural shimmer effect as if the sun was shining on the water. This type of lamp is very energy-efficient, and shouldn’t burn out for years. Plus, the hinged lid of the hood lifts up to give you access to the water when you need it.
As you shop for an aquarium starter kit, you might notice that several contain the Tetra Whisper filter. It’s very popular because it’s very quiet and effective. Also, replacement cartridges are inexpensive.

#2 Marina LED Aquarium Kit

Marina’s LED Aquarium Kit comes with their S20 clip-on filter and cartridges and LED light, and a 20-gallon glass tank. But that’s not all. You’ll also find Fluval Max fish food, water conditioner, biological supplement, a net, and a care guide with advice on setting up and taking care of the aquarium. This is one of the most comprehensive starter kits in our review today.

#3 GloFish Fish Tank Kit

As we mentioned earlier, it’s common to see the Tetra Whisper filter bundled with non-Tetra brand aquariums. The GloFish 20-gallon tank kit is an example of this fact. But besides the filter, GloFish includes a decorative plant multi-pack that fluoresces brightly under the included 13-inch LED light stick. You’ll also find a Tetra mini heater, too.

#4 Aqueon Ascent LED Frameless Aquarium Kit

The modern design of the Aqueon Ascent frameless aquarium kit has an angled top that disguises the water line. It also has a hinged glass canopy that contains an LED light. Overall, this beautiful aquarium draws more attention to its inhabitants than to its own structure.
In the box, you’ll also find Aqueon’s QuietFlow filter and cartridge, plus samples of premium fish food and water conditioner. Some owners have commented that the water flow from the internal power filter is quite strong. One customer solved the problem by hanging artificial plants to break up the flow.

#5 Aqueon Aquarium Fish Tank Starter Kits with LED Lighting

At the time of writing, Aqueon’s popular 20-gallon fish tank starter kit was not available for purchase online. We hope that this difficulty is resolved soon because it’s one of the best aquarium kits on the market. At this point, you can still purchase a 10-gallon version.
The kit includes an LED light, a low-profile hood, a power filter and cartridge, a 50W heater, water conditioner, fish food, and net, and a thermometer. The filter is Aqueon’s QuietFlow Pro Power filter that has a red indicator light to show you when it’s time to change the cartridge. And the miniature heater can maintain the water temperature at 78°, which is suited to most tropical fish.
Since the filtration system is one of the most important aspects of any aquarium, let’s focus for a moment on the filter in this kit. It cleans the water in five stages. The first stage is mechanical, a layer of floss to catch particles and debris. The second stage is activated carbon that removes odors and toxins. The third stage and fourth levels are biological filters to get rid of ammonia and nitrites. And the final stage polishes the water to make it crystal clear.

#6 Marineland 16336 BIO-Wheel LED Aquarium Kit

Marineland’s Bio-Wheel Aquarium Kit pleases owners with its quiet filtration system and bright LED light. The 3-stage Penguin Series Bio-Wheel filter has wet/dry technology so that beneficial bacteria thrive. These bacteria are responsible for cleaning toxic waste from the water like ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites.
Next, the LED aquarium hood is sleek and slim. It has three modes: daytime, nighttime, or off. While the daytime light mimics the sun, the nighttime light is a cool blue. And the lamp only uses five Watts of power.
Besides these essentials, the kit includes a thermometer, a submersible heater, a net, a sample of water conditioner, and a sample of TetraMin fish food.

#7 MarineLand Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit

Marineland’s Portrait Glass Aquarium Kit is a beautiful five-gallon set up that’s perfect for a beta fish or other small inhabitants. It comes with a white and blue LED lamp with a three-way switch. The blue light resembles moon shining on the water. Meanwhile, the white LEDs make the water shimmer as if it were under sunlight.
The three-stage filtration system is quiet, and its flow is adjustable. That’s important if you’re raising shrimp or providing a friendly environment for your beta. The filter comes with bio-foam and a cartridge.
The fish tank itself has a sleek curved design, and it comes with a black stand. It holds 5 gallons of water. And owners report that it’s easy to assemble and then maintain.

#8 Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit

Fluval’s Spec V kit is another small aquarium made for desktops and countertops. It measures 17.2 x 10.6 x 6.3-inches in size, so it’s best suited as a home for a beta or small aquatic creatures.
Although it’s a small glass tank, it comes with a bright LED lighting system. The 37 LED lamps are strong enough to grow plants. And the three-stage filtration system comes with foam, activated carbon, and BioMax bio rings. You can find the water pump and filter in a separate section at one end of the aquarium.

#9 Tetra Crescent Acrylic Aquarium Kit

Tetra’s Crescent Aquarium Kit isn’t made of glass. Instead, the curved 5-gallon tank is acrylic. The advantages to acrylic are that it’s almost unbreakable and a lot lighter to move around than glass is. As Tetra points out, the Crescent tank is ideal for a dorm room, a bedroom, or even a kitchen.
It comes with the Tetra Whisper internal filter and a Bio-Bag cartridge. This cartridge provides mechanical filtering to remove debris, as well as biological filtering to remove toxins.
There’s also a 16-LED light for daytime illumination. It’s mounted in the see-through hood. And there are openings where you can place a thermometer and a heater, too.

#10 Penn Plax Vertex Desktop Aquarium Kit

Penn Plax’s Vertex starter kit is tiny. It holds 2.7 gallons of water, just enough for shrimp, a beta, or other small fish. It measures 10 inches tall by 8 inches by 9 inches long. And part of its popularity is because it has a frameless design with curved glass on the front.
There’s a quiet HOB or hang-on-back filter that lets you control the flow of water. And there’s a submersible LED light strip, too.

#11 AquaView 2-Gallon 360 Fish Tank with Power Filter and LED Lighting

Our final pick is the AquaView 2-Gallon 360 Fish Tank. Instead of glass, it’s made of impact-resistant plastic. And it’s all one piece, so you never have to worry about leaks from poorly sealed joints.
The bright and colorful LED lights give you an assortment of options. You can choose a daylight setting, or opt for amber, aqua, blue, green, red, or purple light. And the lamp includes a timer, too.
This is another fish tank that comes with the Tetra Whisper filtration system. This one has a flow rate of 25 gallons per hour and comes with an XS cartridge that removes pollutants like ammonia and odors from the water.
Finally, you can run this aquarium light on three AAA batteries, off a USB port, with a phone charger, or you can purchase the company’s own optional power adapter and plug it into the wall.

How to set up a new aquarium

Read More from timelinepets.com:

Your new aquarium starter kit probably comes with instructions. But if you don’t have them handy, here is a general overview that works for most situations.
The first step, once you’ve unpacked and inspected everything, is to rinse the decorations, the gravel, and the inside of the tank with water. Never use soap or any chemical cleaner on your tank or any of its components. The residue can sicken and kill your fish.
The next step is to put it all together. Plan out where to locate the aquarium, keeping in mind that once it’s filled with water, it’s going to be quite heavy to move. And it’s smart to keep your fish tank in a place where it won’t be exposed to light or heat extremes.
Once the gravel is in place, and the plants are in, fill the tank with water. Even though you won’t be adding the fish yet, use a water conditioner to de-chlorinate tap water. You’ll be able to see right away if any of your decorations aren’t secure. Make any needed adjustments.
Next, mount the filter and the lights. Insert the heater and thermometer at opposite ends of the tank, if you have them. And plug in everything to test it. Depending on the type of filter you have, you might need to prime it. This could involve pouring de-chlorinated water into its reservoir.
Now let the tank run by itself for 24 hours. Some aquarists will test the water at this point. And if all seems well, you can add the fish. The kindest way to introduce the fish to their new home is to float the bag containing them in the tank until the temperature is about the same. Then use a net to transplant them.

How to maintain your aquarium in only 30 minutes a week

If you have a filter that’s suited to the size of your tank and the number of inhabitants it has, you shouldn’t need to do more than half an hour of maintenance each week.
Plan on replacing your filter’s cartridge every 2 to 4 weeks. At that time, you also want to perform a partial water change. This involves removing 25% of the water in the tank. And the easiest way to do that is with a siphon-operated gravel vacuum. This simple tool also cleans waste from the bottom of your aquarium.
If the water smells bad or looks cloudy, it’s probably time to change the filter cartridge and the water. The problem could also result from having too many fish or feeding them too often.
When you add freshwater, treat it first to remove chlorine. And try to match the temperature of the clean water to the temperature of the water in the aquarium to avoid shocking the fish.


If you’re new to keeping fish, you can save time and money with an aquarium starter kit. It includes a tank, a filter, and a light, and sometimes other extras like a heater. You can start small with a five-gallon tank, or you can jump in with a 20-gallon aquarium kit. Then as you gain experience, you can always upgrade individual parts and add new accessories.

Sours: https://timelinepets.com/best-aquarium-starter-kits/
Aqua Culture 20 gallon LED Aquarium Starter Kit
  • We’ve updated links throughout this guide.

July 27, 2021

Watching fish swim, glug, and blub all day can bring hours of enjoyment. To keep your fish happy and healthy, they need an adequate home—and a decorative jar with a few rocks ain’t going to cut it. After interviewing two aquarists and one aquaculturist, and researching dozens of aquarium goods, we recommend the 20-gallon Marina 20G LED Aquarium Kit as a great freshwater starter tank because it’s the most versatile kit we found.

Even though it lacks a heater, the Marina 20G LED Aquarium Kit is hands down the most impressive tank kit we tested. Of all the kits we considered, the Marina has the brightest light and the most elegant design, and it has a stable, customizable filter that will keep beneficial bacterial colonies alive much better than any other kit filter. The Marina kit’s only drawback is its omission of a heater, but no kit comes with absolutely everything you need to get started, and if you add our heater pick, for only a little more money you end up with a substantially better setup than other kits we tested.

If you buy the Marina kit for use with tropical fish, you'll need a heater. The 100-watt Eheim Jäger Thermostatic Aquarium Heater is the best we found for a 20-gallon tropical tank after researching more than a dozen and testing seven. It has the largest temperature range of any heater we tested—from 65 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit, in two-degree increments—and its temperature-control ring is easy to see and adjust without putting your hands in the tank.

If our main pick sells out, or if you want a kit that includes a heater, the 20-gallon Aqueon LED 20 Aquarium Kit is a good alternative. Compared with the Marina kit, it has a dimmer light and a less powerful filter, though both are still decent. Its preset heater isn't as good as our adjustable stand-alone recommendation, either. But it’s available at a great price for a kit that contains all the basics for a tropical tank, from a company with reliable customer service and a huge range of compatible accessories that are available at most fish shops. It's the second-best tank kit we found after the Marina offering.

An aquarium kit comes with a tank, a light, a filter, and (usually) a heater. But you'll also need substrate, water conditioner, a water test kit, a gravel vacuum, food, an algae sponge, and fish. We have recommendations for all of those components (except the fish), and you can buy most of them online, though you should plan a trip to your friendly local fish store for the fish and for advice on the best way to set up your tank.

While either the Marina or Aqueon starter kit will give you a good basic setup for a great price, you can get significantly better equipment by buying components individually, which will likely improve the conditions for your fish. Buying our individual picks for tanks, filters, heaters, and lights will cost between $30 and $70 more than going with a kit, but you'll end up with a more powerful and versatile filter, an adjustable heater, and a significantly brighter, customizable light, which is important if you plan to grow live plants.

Why you should trust us

To get a better sense of the best equipment and practices for beginning and intermediate freshwater-aquarium owners, I spoke with several experts for guidance. Chi Cho, the co-owner of Pacific Aquarium in New York, took me around his store and explained what equipment he used with each of his tank setups. I also interviewed Keith Seyffarth, the creator of the site The First Tank Guide. Seyffarth, who used to manage the fish department in his local pet store, has kept fish for over 35 years in tanks as small as 2.5 gallons and as large as 180 gallons. And I spoke with Jesse Trushenski, fish pathologist supervisor at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, about what your fish needs to stay healthy. I also read dozens of fish-tank enthusiast blogs, dove into aquarium forums, sorted through hundreds of owner reviews, and played phone tag with many customer service representatives.

I got my first aquarium, a 30-gallon tropical setup, when I was in third grade. Since then, I’ve had three other freshwater tanks, some planted and some not, that I’ve sustained with the help of four local fish shops in three states. I also gave a TEDx Talk about proper aquarium care and wrote my college admissions essay about a fish born in my tank. I currently have a resilient veiltail betta, Ralph, who I’m planning to rehome in one of our picks.

What you need to know before starting an aquarium

A blue and red beta in its tank.

People have kept fish in tanks for roughly 4,500 years, and the tools and techniques of the trade have improved exponentially since then. If you’re serious about starting a home aquarium, you’ll need a fish tank, a filter, a heater, a light, a lid, substrate, water conditioner, a water test kit, a gravel vacuum, food, and an algae sponge.

But before you buy your equipment, think about what fish you’d like to keep. Thousands of fish are suitable for aquarium life, and the type of fish you want will inform what kind of equipment you need. You’ll find tropical and temperate fish, freshwater and brackish-water fish, big and small fish, and peaceful and aggressive fish. Some schooling fish like to live in groups, and others, like bettas, need to be alone. We recommend doing some research to see what kinds of fish are out there and whether they’re compatible.

While you can buy all the right equipment online, you can’t Amazon Prime your fish. We recommend going to a local fish store (Yelp is probably your best bet to find one) as opposed to a pet superchain like PetSmart or Petco, whose aquarium sections often contain diseased fish and apocalyptic tanks where fish eat their deceased brethren. Local fish stores (abbreviated online as LFS) will generally have healthier animals and a wider variety of higher-quality equipment. These shops are generally run by people passionate about fish, so they’ll be better able to answer your questions about your own aquarium and how best to fill it.

But when you’re in any fish store, whether chain or mom-and-pop, be sure to check the quality of the wares. See if the tanks are noticeably dirty, or if they contain many dead fish. If their bettas are in blue, medicated water, that’s a good sign. If they sell dye-injected fish, that’s a bad sign (but the genetically modified GloFish, which contain genes from naturally bioluminescent animals like sea anemones, are healthy and harmless).

Local fish stores (abbreviated online as LFS) will generally have healthier animals and a wider variety of higher-quality equipment.

Once you’ve bought a tank and all the other equipment you need, there’s one final step. An aquarium, unlike nature, is a closed system. So when fish poop and leave behind uneaten food, that waste stays inside the tank. This decaying organic matter releases ammonia into your tank, and it’s up to the colonies of beneficial bacteria that live in your filter to break down the ammonia into nitrite, turn nitrite into nitrate, and then remove the nitrate altogether (this process is called the nitrogen cycle.) New aquariums don’t come with this bacteria, so you’ll need to cycle your tank, a process of establishing and maturing colonies of beneficial bacteria in a filter.

You have two different ways to cycle your aquarium. In the first method, you use two or three hearty fish and allow bacteria to multiply to handle their waste. It’ll take around eight weeks and require frequent water changes to ensure your fish don’t die, but this way you can add those two or three fish immediately. In the second method, also known as fishless cycling, you add a small dose of concentrated ammonia once the tank is set up but before the fish are in, and let the tank take care of the rest. You can buy a bacteria starter to speed up the process, but your local tap water already contains some of that needed bacteria, which will multiply around an ammonia source. It doesn’t take as long as cycling with fish, but it can be frustrating to buy everything you need for a tank and then leave it empty for over a month. We like this guide on cycling with fish and this guide on fishless cycling. But whichever method you choose will set your tank up for success and ensure that your fish don’t kill themselves with their pee.

These precautions may seem overwhelming, but they’ll pay off in the long run in the health of your fish and the amount of regular care they’ll need. And after you’ve had your aquarium for a few months, we promise it’ll be second nature.

How we picked and tested

A number of twenty gallon tanks set up in a room for testing.
A person using a colander to add dechlorinated water to a fish tank.

We called in samples of our top tank kits, stand-alone tanks, lights, heaters, and gravel vacuums to test in person. We based our recommendations for algae scraper, water conditioner, gravel and soil substrates, and fish food on research, but we called in samples of our top choices to make sure they worked. (They did.)

For someone who has never owned an aquarium before or doesn’t have too much experience in the hobby, our experts recommended starting with a 20-gallon tank or larger because it’s harder to mismanage and better able to rebound from chemical spikes. Although this may seem counterintuitive, small fish tanks are much harder to keep than large fish tanks. A small ammonia spike can be tolerably diluted in a 30-gallon tank but lethal in a 10-gallon one. The smaller the tank, the smaller the margin for error. If 20 gallons sounds big to you, we promise: It’s not as big or daunting as it sounds.

Our experts recommended starting with a 20-gallon tank or larger because it’s harder to mismanage and better able to rebound from chemical spikes.

Tanks generally come in two materials: glass and acrylic. After researching both, we think glass is the better tank material for any aquarium under 75 gallons. Glass tanks cost a third or a quarter as much as acrylic tanks, plus they scratch far less easily and won’t yellow or fog with age. Acrylic tanks are shatterproof, which makes them a better pick for huge, public aquariums. They’re also lighter, but that doesn’t matter much since you’ll be filling the tank with hundreds of gallons of water anyway. “I always recommend glass over acrylic, unless you go over 300 gallons. Then people get more curious, they see big beautiful fish and want to tap on the glass,” Pacific Aquarium’s Chi Cho said.

No aquarium can clean itself, so you’ll need a strong filter to remove the rotting food, sunken fish poo, and other decaying organic material that naturally accumulates in a thriving fish tank. You’ll encounter three types of filtration—biological, mechanical, and chemical—and all three are important, so we looked for filters that offered the option to do all three, all while processing the entire volume of a tank twice in an hour. While many different types of filters exist, we looked only at power filters, which hang on the back wall of the aquarium and use an electrical pump to move water through the filter media. This type is the most common filter for freshwater tanks, and also the kind our experts recommended. In addition, we calculated the maintenance costs of all the leading aquarium filters (how much the replacement cartridges and sponges cost, and how often you need to replace them), as the best filters should be affordable to maintain.

No aquarium can clean itself, so you’ll need a strong filter to remove the rotting food, sunken fish poo, and other decaying organic material that naturally accumulates in a thriving fish tank.

If you plan on having tropical fish, you’ll need a heater to keep your fish healthy and happy. After researching several types of heaters, including those that can hang from the side of a tank, slip underneath gravel, or sit inside a filter, we focused on submersible heaters that attach to tank walls with suction cups because they’re the most efficient and easy to use. We considered only those heaters that had adjustable dials for setting the temperature, ideally offering precision of one Fahrenheit degree or better.

Six water heaters draped on the side of a fish tank.

Some fish, such as the Celebes halfbeak, have a very narrow window of appropriate temperatures, so a good heater should keep the actual water temperature within ±1 °F of the temperature indicated on the heater’s dial or internal thermometer. But even if you have fish that can survive in a wider range of temperatures—the popular dwarf gourami can thrive anywhere from 72 to 82 °F—all fish are sensitive to temperature changes. Fluctuating water temperature can affect their immune system and lead to outbreaks of ich, a parasitic aquarium disease that causes small white spots to appear on your fish and can be lethal if untreated.

While a cheap dog bed may be less comfortable for your dog, a cheap filter could fail and kill your fish.

If you decide on keeping goldfish or other temperate fish, there’s good news: You don’t have to buy a heater. But be sure to research which kinds of fish you want in your aquarium, as you can’t keep temperate fish with tropical fish.

While you may be able to find cheap, passable filters and heaters from well-known aquarium brands like Aqueon and Tetra, trust us when we say it’s worthwhile to spend more than the bare minimum to invest in quality equipment for your fish. While a cheap dog bed may be less comfortable for your dog, a cheap filter could fail and kill your fish. And fish are expensive pets only when you’re starting out. After you buy your initial setup, maintenance will rarely cost more than a few dollars a month, and you’ll never have to splurge on insurance or regular vet visits, which furry pets require.

The lights shown are not the brightest, but they're brighter than most and seem the most even in terms of illumination.

Aquarium lights come in a variety of bulb types, including fluorescent, incandescent, and, more recently, LED. We found LED lights to be the brightest and most energy-efficient kind. And because they seem to last forever, they’re the most affordable over the long term. Incandescent bulbs need replacing often and run hot, possibly changing the temperature of your tank. And fluorescent bulbs, while cooler and longer-lasting than incandescent, still don’t measure up to LED strips in energy efficiency. We also researched the different light settings you’ll need for a regular and planted aquarium, and we have recommendations for both. To test the brightness of the LEDs, we took high-resolution photos of the lights turned on above a tank in a pitch-black laundry room.

All starter aquariums include some type of lid, which will keep evaporation low and your fish from leaping to an untimely doom. Some fancier, rimless tanks forgo tops for a more elegant look. Just be careful to avoid buying fish that are known jumpers, and think twice if you have cats in your home.

We found too many miniature castles, treasure chests, and fake plants for us to recommend any one in particular, but we can offer some general guidelines for decorating your aquarium. Choose only those items that are advertised as aquarium-safe, meaning that they’re sold in a fish store or within the aquarium section of a pet store or online retailer. Most non-specialized figurines include paint or chemicals that can be toxic to your fish. Case in point: One Halloween, my dad surprised me by decorating my tank with spooky skulls and spiders he bought at Walgreens. It gave me a real scare when I woke up the next morning to a tank of dead fish.

If you do choose to plant your tank, consider which type of fish you'll be keeping in it. For example, fish that live in ponds love soft and lush plant cover, whereas fish that live in faster waters prefer logs and rocks. This is a good introductory guide for anyone looking to start planting.

You may have also read that your aquarium should rest on a stand. While you don’t need to buy a custom-fitted cabinet made of cherrywood, you can find many sturdy metal stands that cost as little as $60 and can safely support your 20-gallon tank. (If you have another size tank, check out this helpful gallons-to-weight chart.) If you don’t want to buy a dedicated stand, just make sure to put your aquarium on something wide and sturdy that can comfortably hold all 225 pounds of your filled 20-gallon tank—so no repurposing your IKEA Lack or Hemnes.

Tank kit

The marina 20g led aquarium kit set up on a wooden dresser.

After researching 10 glass 20-gallon aquarium kits and testing five, we concluded that the Marina 20G LED Aquarium Kit is the best kit for most people looking to start an aquarium. The Marina kit has the most powerful filter and the brightest built-in light of all the kits we tested, and its sleek lid makes it look much more elegant than many tanks that cost more. The Marina kit includes a hanging power filter, an LED hood with a light switch, a few sample packets of fish food, starter bacteria, and water conditioner, as well as a net. Unlike all the other kits we considered, the Marina kit doesn’t include a heater, which is a vital piece of equipment for most tropical setups. But we didn’t love the heaters included in any tank kit. Buying the Marina kit plus our heater pick will cost a bit more than buying our runner-up, the Aqueon kit, which includes a preset heater, but our heater pick will support a wider range of tank temperatures. The Marina offering contains the highest-quality component parts of any kit—and we’d rather have a kit with an excellent filter and no heater than a kit with a decent filter and a heater with only one temperature option—so we still think the Marina kit is a better buy.

The individual cartridges for the marina filter shown without water present.

What sets the Marina kit apart from the others is its large, customizable power filter, which can nurture beneficial colonies of bacteria better than the other, flimsier filters included in tank kits. This filter is a long, slim, and empty bucket that you can fill with up to four of Marina’s ready-made cartridges. In contrast to what’s in all the other tank kits we tested, these Marina cartridges include porous ceramic pebbles and have more surface area than other types of filters, which means more space for the beneficial colonies of bacteria that live in the filter and detoxify fish waste. And the filter’s four-cartridge system means you can replace cartridges one at a time, effectively preserving the majority of your bacteria colonies. With other, single-cartridge filter systems, such as those of Aqueon, Tetra, or Marineland, you lose all your bacterial colonies during routine replacements of the filtration media, which ends up cycling your tank again and causes undue stress to your fish.

We also like that Marina offers two types of filter cartridges, one meant for tropical fish and one meant for goldfish, which pee a lot more than other fish and therefore require more ammonia-fighting filter media. And if you want even stronger filtration—which is never a bad idea, especially for well-stocked tanks—you can fill the bucket with the filter media of your choosing. If that interests you, we like this impressively thorough guide.

This looks like the tank light photo from above, with distinct blue-white bands.

Evaluating the LED lights of the Marina kit. Photo: Sabrina Imbler

These lights are very similar in appearance to the Marina; perhaps slightly less bright.

The Aqueon kit. Photo: Sabrina Imbler

This light kit has a similar pattern of illumination to the first two, but is noticeable dimmer.

The Marineland kit. Photo: Sabrina Imbler

This lighting kit is the dimmest thus far; it's hard to make out its illumination pattern except at the top of the tank.

The Elive kit. Photo: Sabrina Imbler

This kit appears fairly bright, comparable to the first two.

The Tetra kit. Photo: Sabrina Imbler

The Marina kit’s built-in LED strip was the brightest of any we tested, illuminating every corner of the tank with an even, white glow. Instead of offering a long, continuous strip like the Marina kit, the Aqueon and Tetra kits included four or five separate LED lights, which lit the tank in uneven spotlights. The Marineland kit’s shorter, chunkier light was far too dim, and the Elive kit’s short, hemi-donut light illuminated only the center of the tank and barely reached the bottom.

This image displays the four light kits listed top-up on the floor. They're all black plastic rectangles except the Elive, which is a small plastic semicircle; the Marineland appears thicker and more rounded.

Clockwise from top left: Tetra, Aqueon, Marina, Elive, Marineland. Photo: Michael Hession

The same five light kits from the bottom this time, to show their LEDs. Most have some arrangement of an LED grid, while the Marina appears to have a single, large light bar.

Clockwise from top left: Tetra, Aqueon, Marina, Elive, Marineland. Photo: Michael Hession

Components aside, the Marina tank is a cleaner-looking, more attractive model than the others we tested. Its black plastic lid slopes up toward the back in one piece, with one wide gap and one narrow gap in the back to accommodate a filter and a heater and one small gap in a front corner that lets you feed your fish without lifting the lid. The tops on the Aqueon and Tetra tanks looked much bulkier, featuring recessed lines with no apparent purpose etched along the plastic lid. We liked the sleek appearance of the Elive kit’s single-panel glass lid but found it stressful to remove, as we didn’t want to put a pane of glass on a hard floor but also didn’t want to get any aquarium water on a rug.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The Marina kit's box pictured with a net and bottles of food and other supplies; the box says "power filter."

Note that the Marina kit lacks a heater. A tank kit that’s missing such a vital piece of equipment may not seem like much of a kit in the first place. But no kit in our test group includes everything you’ll need to start an aquarium, such as a year’s supply of food and water conditioner, a gravel vacuum, or even fish. Since you’ll be buying those supplemental pieces of equipment anyway, we think it’s not a big deal to add a heater (such as our pick, the 100-watt Eheim Jäger) to the mix, as it will also be a much higher-quality, adjustable heater than the one found in other kits, and it’ll make keeping your fish healthy easier. Also, the preset heaters found in most kits can sometimes be calibrated wrong, and without the ability to adjust the temperature manually, that could be fatal to your pets. There are certain things you just can’t upgrade in a starter tank, such as the light (which is generally attached to the lid) or the tank itself. So we think buying a tank with the highest possible quality of those irreplaceable parts is the best choice, and that choice is the Marina kit.

No kit in our test group includes everything you’ll need to start an aquarium, such as a year’s supply of food and water conditioner, a gravel vacuum, or even fish.

A runner-up kit with a heater

The Aqueon tank, empty on a dresser.

If the Marina kit sells out, or if you don’t want to buy a separate heater, we also like the Aqueon LED 20 Aquarium Kit. It’s a more complete kit than the Marina offering, and Aqueon items are sold in virtually every aquarium store, local or chain, so you’ll never have to worry about finding replacement parts. The Aqueon kit also comes with a heater, which the Marina kit lacks, though it's preset to 78 °F—a good baseline for many tropical fish, but you can’t adjust it to account for the temperature of your room or the needs of more fastidious fish (though you can always replace it with our heater pick later). The Aqueon lid also looks clunkier and less sleek than the Marina lid, and its lights are dimmer and less even. Unlike Marina’s filter, Aqueon’s filter is a single-cartridge design, which does not allow you to swap out filter refills without cycling the tank water. But Aqueon’s filter comes with a lifetime warranty, which far surpasses the Marina filter’s two-year guarantee (PDF), and the kit itself is still the second-best of any we tested.

The Aqueon kit looks almost identical to the kit I tested from Tetra, in appearance, light, and add-ons—I had to label them so as to not mix them up during testing—but it distinguishes itself with a slightly better filter (though one that’s still notably inferior to the Marina filter). Both the Tetra and Aqueon filters use a cartridge containing activated carbon and dual-sided mesh, but the Aqueon model also includes a slot for an extra filter pad meant to remove ammonia. We also preferred Aqueon’s instruction packets, which cogently explain how the filter works and how to assemble it. Tetra’s manual is much more sparse and refers to the cartridge only as a Bio-Bag, which feels condescending to people who want real information. But the Aqueon filter is not too powerful, so you should be careful not to overstock the tank with too many fish (the general rule is 1 inch of fish per gallon of water—so you can have no more than 10 2-inch-long fish in a 20-gallon tank).

Pictured: supplies including a filter, net, and water conditioner.


The Eheim heater, which has a large top dial with extensive labeling.

After researching more than a dozen heaters and putting seven through a battery of tests, we found that the 100-watt Eheim Jäger Thermostatic Aquarium Heater is the best heater for 20-gallon tropical tanks. It can calibrate heat to half a degree, and with a dial that you can adjust anywhere from 65 to 93 °F in two-degree increments, it boasts the largest temperature range of any heater we tested. (In our interviews, however, Pacific Aquarium’s Chi Cho and The First Tank Guide’s Keith Seyffarth agreed that it’s best not to trust such numbers at face value; both recommended buying a separate thermometer to read the temperature of the tank.)

To test the heaters, we timed seven different 100-watt models on how long each took to heat a tank full of 20 gallons of 70 °F water (around tap-water temperature) to 79 °F (a good temperature for tropical fish). All of the models heated the tank in around four and a half hours and were able to maintain a temperature of 79 °F, give or take a degree, over the course of five hours. When each tank was fully heated according to our separate thermometer, we checked if the heating indicator light had turned off, and then removed each heater to see if it would automatically shut off when not in water. Most of the heaters passed our tests, and from there we made our choice based on precision, range, and appearance. While Cho said he had no brand preference in heaters, Seyffarth told us he used the Eheim Jäger on one of his tanks.

A closeup on the Eheim heater's dial; its numbers start around 65 and go up to the mid-80s.

The Eheim Jäger features a blue temperature selector ring at the top of the heater, where it’s easy to read and adjust from above. We prefer being able to adjust the heater manually while seeing the temperature selector change from the same perspective. With other heaters, we could see the internal thermometer only head-on and turn the dial only from above, which felt uncomfortable and required checking back and forth. And if you fill your aquarium with plants and decorations, it’ll be a nuisance to have to push them aside to read the temperature on your heater. The Eheim Jäger’s dial is considerably stiffer than the dial on the Aqueon or Marina heater. But we actually found this to be a blessing, since more-lubricated dials can turn easily with an accidental bump or graze while you’re cleaning, raising the potential for disaster. And after you turn a heater’s temperature dial once, you probably won’t need to turn it again.

At 12.6 inches, the Eheim Jäger is longer than the other heaters we tested, but its solid black color and glass body are unassuming and easily hidden behind plants. Its cord is thicker and harder to coil than most others but still long enough to reach an outlet up to 6 feet away.

The Aqueon heater appearst o be a single piece of hard plastic, save for the dial itself.

The 100-watt Aqueon Pro Heater is a great alternative if you want a solid warranty and can live with significantly less precision. Unlike glass-based heaters like the Eheim Jäger or the Marina, which can sometimes trap condensation inside, the Aqueon Pro Heater’s shatterproof aluminum core is close to indestructible. Its sleek, matte-black design is easily obscured by a plant or two. And while the Eheim Jäger heater has a three-year warranty and the Marina heater has a two-year warranty, the Aqueon model is guaranteed to work for life. Owners report great experiences with customer service when ordering a new heater under the lifetime warranty. But this Aqueon model’s temperature dial is marked in intervals of four degrees (for instance, 72, 76, and 80 are in sequence), which makes it hard to know where the thick blue dial is pointing—and by extension, what temperature your tank is.

Any preset heater, such as this best-selling Tetra model on Amazon, or many of the heaters included in tank kits, will work in a pinch, but we do not recommend buying one on its own. A good heater should be adjustable because not all fish require the same temperature, and preset heaters can be calibrated wrong, sometimes to the tune of several degrees.


The Current USA light, a slim bar that fits laterally over the top of the tank.

After researching nearly a dozen aquarium lights and testing five, we think the Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED is the best light for most aquariums. At just 2 inches wide and less than half an inch tall, it’s the slimmest, sleekest light of the bunch, but it still illuminates the corner of a tank more evenly than lights twice its size. The Current USA model also features seven customizable blue and white light settings and dimmable control to suit your preference. If you have a 20-gallon tank, we recommend the 24-to-36-inch model, which features 66 white LEDs (6,500 K) and 36 blue LEDs (445 nm).

To test the lights, we placed each model over a filled 20-gallon aquarium in a pitch-black laundry room and took photos of the light they cast using identical settings on a digital camera. These pictures displayed striking differences between lights that looked pretty similar during the day—which shouldn’t matter much to you or your fish, but could make a big difference in the health of your plants.

The lights shown are not the brightest, but they're brighter than most and seem the most even in terms of illumination.

The Current USA lights were slim, sleek, and bright. Photo: Sabrina Imbler

The Finnex lights are by far the brightest so far, casting a shadow from inside the tank.

If you want extra illumination for plants, Finnex’s Planted+ gives you more options and more lumens. Photo: Sabrina Imbler

The Nicrew lights are almost as bright as the Finnex's, with a slightly more purple hue.

Nicrew’s LEDs are good and cheap—but they come from a company without much of a reputation. Photo: Sabrina Imbler

The Current USA model provided even, uninterrupted light to all corners of the tank. The chunkier Marineland and shorter Aqueon light fixtures both produced a harsh spotlight in the center while leaving the corners dark. The short docking legs of the Current USA light make it lower profile than other models, allowing the upper rim of the tank to obscure the direct light of the LED strip. The result: a tank with the pleasant appearance of a softly glowing box. The tall legs of the cheaper Nicrew and pricier Finnex lights we tested both stood an inch or two above the rim, which left the bright circles of the strip visible from a head-on view.

While your fish won’t care about customizable settings that mimic light from lightning storms and cloudy days, we think they’re super cool. The Current USA light includes a remote control with seven preset lighting modes that mimic dusk, a sunny day, and the blue light of the moon, each of which you can further customize by dimming.

The small remote pictured has buttons that say "+ / -", "Blue", "mode" and "white."

The Current USA model was not the brightest light of the bunch, so if you want a planted tank, you may be better off with the Finnex light (it won’t affect the fish one way or the other). But the Current USA light’s slender size and customizable glow make it the perfect light for most tanks, and it’s still bright enough to support plants that require low to moderate light.

The Nicrew pictured from above, showing its notably larger size.

If the Current USA light sells out, or if you don’t care about customizable settings, we recommend the super-bright and super-affordable Nicrew White and Blue LED Aquarium Light. It’s less than half the price of the Current USA model, and in our tests it gave off the second-brightest light. We also liked its sturdy docking legs, which felt less shakeable than the Current USA and Marineland models’ simpler legs. The Nicrew light offers two lighting modes, a white and blue daylight setting and a blue-only nighttime setting. These lights are so bright that we wish this model came with a dimmer; still, too-bright lights aren’t the worst problem to have. Nicrew is also a fairly new company on the scene and its items are currently available only through Amazon, so you probably won't find them at your LFS.

The Finnex from above--it's slim and low-profile.

If you love the thought of an underwater jungle and want to have a planted tank, the Finnex Planted+ 24/7 Automated LED is vivid, versatile, and by far the best light we tested. With RGB and 7,000 K daylight LEDs, it gave off the brightest light in our tests by a wide margin. And the Finnex model’s light was an unpolluted white, unlike the blue-tinted glow from the Nicrew—a purely aesthetic difference, but a nice one. This model, however, is around twice the price of the Current USA light at this writing, and its brighter lights and advanced settings are human-oriented luxuries that won’t make a difference to your fish, so we recommend the Finnex only if you’re serious about plants.

The Finnex' multi-button remote has controls for color temperature, timing, and demos.

Like the Current USA model, the Finnex light fixture contains special lighting modes that mimic thunderstorms, cloudy days, and moonlight. But Finnex’s remote-controlled customization goes one step further, allowing you to change the colors of your tank to any dimmable combination of red, green, and blue. The remote also contains built-in memory that can save custom color schemes and retain a set lighting cycle where your tank lights gently dim on and off on a schedule of your choosing.


The Aquaclear filter hooked to the edge of a tank; it's a few inches wide and has a series of small tubes coming out of its boxy plastic body.

After researching dozens of filters of six different types and narrowing the list down to eight finalists, we think the AquaClear Power Filter is a superior, versatile filter that’s easy to maintain. According to Pacific Aquarium’s Chi Cho, “AquaClear is the number one filter. It sets itself above and beyond all others.”

The porous ceramic rings make the AquaClear filter the gold standard for freshwater filters; no other filtration medium has as much surface area to allow large colonies of bacteria to thrive.

The AquaClear model filters water in three stages: mechanical, biological, and chemical. And it’s important that a good filter do all three. At the bottom of the filter’s bucket, a porous foam block provides mechanical filtration by trapping any large debris or particles that enter the filter. Above the foam, an activated-carbon filter keeps the water in your tank clear by adsorption, or chemically binding toxins to its surface. Finally, on top, a bag of ceramic rings creates a porous system that provides the perfect home for colonies of beneficial bacteria that process the toxic waste in your tank into less harmful substances.

A side view of the filter's interior: foam forms the base, a small bag of carbon sits on top, and a bag of rock-like ceramic rings sits on top.

The porous ceramic rings make the AquaClear filter the gold standard for freshwater filters; no other filtration medium has as much surface area to allow large colonies of bacteria to thrive. None of the other filters we researched offered such effective filtration media: The Aqueon QuietFlow LED Pro Aquarium Power Filter’s one cartridge contains only a sponge-like floss envelope with activated carbon, the Deep Blue BioMaxx Power Filter and Tetra Whisper Power Filter look like the Aqueon model but have an additional sponge, and the Marineland Penguin Power Filter offers a high-surface-area bio-wheel that’s good for bacterial growth but not quite as good as ceramic stones. The AquaClear model is like a turbocharged version of the filter included in the Marina kit, as it has the same customization options but offers more room and higher-quality ready-made filter material.

“AquaClear is the number one filter. It sets itself above and beyond all others.”
—Pacific Aquarium’s Chi Cho

Aside from getting more effective filtration with the AquaClear system, you can replace the filtration media separately, so you can maintain much more beneficial bacteria during routine cleanings. For example, you can change the sponge one week and the carbon the next, and you can replace just half the bag of ceramic stones at a time. Replacing the one, all-encompassing cartridge in filters such as the Aqueon or Tetra model essentially removes all your beneficial bacteria, forcing your tank to re-cycle and potentially raising the ammonia levels in your tank. The versatile AquaClear design also leaves a ton of room for customization for more experienced aquarists who would prefer more ceramic rings and less activated carbon or who want to use a whole new medium altogether.

Most hanging power filters require once-a-month replacement of their cartridges, which are cheap individually but can get expensive over time. You can clean the AquaClear’s porous sponge with a simple rinse, which means you can replace it less often than sponges in other filters. And you can buy replacement carbon and ceramic stones in bulk online. We also appreciate the inclusion of a thorough and illuminating instruction manual, which does a good job of explaining how each stage of the filtration works and includes instructions for replacement (though many aquarists say you should never replace the BioMax or sponge, just rinse them in tank water once a month). Depending on whether you replace as often as the manual says you should (rather than just rinsing the filters), and on Amazon price fluctuations, you’re looking at maintenance costs of roughly $24 to $33 a year, similar to the costs of other multistep filters.

In our interviews with experts Seyffarth and Cho, both recommended overfiltering the tank but not by too much. According to Seyffarth, a good rule of thumb is to buy a filter for which the size of your tank is at the bottom end of the suitable range. For a 20-gallon tank, a filter meant for 15 to 40 gallons or 20 to 50 gallons would be a good choice. But a filter meant for 10 to 20 gallons may not be strong enough, and a filter for 30 to 60 gallons would produce a powerful current that may overwhelm your fish and keep your plants from growing. So we’re specifically recommending the AquaClear 30, which is designed to handle up to 30-gallon tanks.

A note on “self-cleaning” tanks

If you’ve seen advertisements for self-cleaning tanks that don’t require a filter, such as hydroponics systems or gravity tanks, be wary of overhyped marketing. Self-cleaning tanks sound great in theory, especially for the lazy aquarium owner, but they’re overpriced, tiny, and hard to keep, and they cause undue stress for your fish. And while a few buried flakes of fish food can cause a minor ammonia spike in a 20-gallon tank, those toxins can prove catastrophic in a tiny 2-gallon model. And only a betta fish could survive, but not thrive, in a tank that small.

Water conditioner

A bottle on the dresser says "Prime: concentrated conditioner, marine and fresh water."

When it comes to treating water so that it’s safe for your fish, Seachem Prime is the gold standard because it’s the most cost-effective dechlorinator you can buy. It’s the second most concentrated widely available dechlorinator, after Seachem’s saltwater-specific conditioner. Just one 16.9-ounce bottle treats 1,000 gallons of tap water, so you won’t need to buy another bottle for a long time.

Dechlorinators work through a process called reduction. This process adds electrons to dissolved chlorine gas (Cl2), which is toxic to fish, and breaks it into nontoxic chloride ions (Cl-). It also chops up chloramine (NH2Cl) into chloride and ammonia (NH3).

Just one 16.9-ounce bottle of Seachem Prime water conditioner treats 1,000 gallons of tap water.

Seachem Prime’s ultraconcentrated brew will also save you money in the long run. One ounce costs around 74¢, a little more than water conditioners from Aqueon, Tetra, and API, which run around 40¢ to 50¢ an ounce. But one teaspoon of each of those conditioners treats just 10 gallons of tank water, while a teaspoon of Seachem Prime is good for 50 gallons. Pacific Aquarium’s Chi Cho swears by the conditioner. “Seachem is just one level above the rest,” he said.

Water test kit

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-fish-tank/

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