You might think fish are relatively easy pets to care for, but if you really want them to flourish, purchasing the best fish tank you can afford will improve their health and wellbeing. In fact, unlike with a pet dog or cat, there are far more considerations when purchasing a new aquatic home for your fish.
A fish tank is a self-contained ecosystem brimming with life – or it should be, if you’re caring for it properly – and this can be a daunting prospect for new fish owners. There’s lighting, filters and potentially heating to consider as part of your purchase, as well as the tank dimensions themselves. All of these factors will vary depending on the specific fish you own, too, which can make it hard to decide on the optimal option for you and your new pets. Cost is the final stumbling block: they can be far more expensive than people imagine.
We’ve searched high and low for the best value fish tanks and aquariums on the market. Whether you’re looking to house hundreds of fish in an aquarium built for the ages or an inexpensive option for beginners, there’s something for everyone down below. If you’re not sure what suits you best, then read on and our buying guide will explain all the basics
How to buy the best fish tank for you?
What size fish tank should I get?
It depends entirely on how many fish are in there. Keeping too many fish in one tank can cause water quality problems and, as a result, health issues for your new pets. More fish means there is less oxygenated water to go around as well as more fish excrement, and, given excessive quantities, the ammonia content of fish excrement can raise the pH of the water to deadly levels. Plus, it’s generally stressful and unnatural for them to be crowded in a small tank when they are used to ocean environments, and this can often lead to in-fighting for territory.
As a result, a good rule of thumb is to get a fish tank which has one litre of cold water per 0.5cm (excluding tails and fins) of fish. For instance, a 50 litre tank could safely house two 10cm and one 5cm fish. Or, alternatively, you could accommodate six 4cm fish. You could probably squeeze a couple more in, but this will all vary depending on the types of fish you want to keep, alongside other tank components such as plants, lights and filters. If in doubt, bigger is always better.
For tropical fish, you can accommodate more fish per litre: the ratio is 1 litre per 1cm of fish. So, you could safely hold two 10cm fish, three 5cm fish and five 3cm fish safely in a 50 litre tank.
All the fish tanks listed below are suitable for either freshwater or saltwater fish, and, even if you’re only planning to have the one fish, you’ll want a capacity of at least 23 litres (or five gallons) so they can enjoy a decent habitat.
Fish will grow in size, which is something to be mindful of in these calculations, but if you are unsure it’s always best to enquire at your local fish emporium for advice. Make sure to ask how many of a particular breed would be a suitable number for your tank, and which combinations of breeds are a good match.
What other features are important to a fish tank?
The most important feature you’ll want is a water filter. Many tanks have a quality filter built-in – which will make your life a lot easier – but don’t fret if your favourite doesn’t have a particularly good one, or lacks one entirely, as they can be easily replaced. A top quality filter should be able to process your tank water around five to ten times per hour.
You’ll also want some kind of lighting setup for your environment so you can see your new pets night and day. However, bear in mind that lighting is essential for keeping corals in a saltwater tank, as corals have specific requirements for intensity and duration of lighting throughout the day. The same is true of heating systems which tropical fish may need during British winters.
Air pumps can also be a crucial feature in smaller tanks where oxygen is at a premium, but aren’t necessary as long as you have a solid filter unit and keep on track with regular cleaning.
How much should I pay?
Keeping fish can be an expensive hobby. A feature heavy, top-of-the-line 120 litre tank can set you back hundreds of pounds, while something bigger will cost even more. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a solid 120 litre tank for around £1 per litre, even if that is the exception rather than the rule. There are also many smaller fish tanks which retail for under £150, but they’ll prove limiting if you ever want to expand your fish collection.
The best fish tanks you can buy
1. Tetra Starter Line: Best value tank for fish newbies
The Tetra Starter Line is a great choice for – as the name suggests – those looking for their first tank.
The design is simple but effective: the 6mm-thick glass is reassuringly stout, the robust lid has an easy-to-use hatch for everyday feeding, and beneath it is a fitted light that is very bright for its size. There’s even a heater which you can set to your fishes’ desired temperature.
The quiet-running filter is a boon if you’re planning to keep the tank in a bedroom, and the specification is ample for a tank of this size. Crucially, given the 54 litre capacity, it’s very reasonably priced – tanks this size can cost three times as much – which is why we rate it so highly.
2. Fluval Shaker: Best all-in-one cabinet fish tank
If you want to future proof your aquatic set up, this 252 litre tank from Fluval is a great option. The tough, borosilicate glass tank sits on top of a Hampshire Oak (or Slate Grey) cabinet that makes the perfect centrepiece to any room. Having a cabinet built in means you won’t have to risk placing your new tank on your existing furniture – plus, messy cables can be hidden away out of sight.
This premium-priced tank has all the high-quality extras you could possibly ask for. The 307 external filter is both efficient and powerful enough to keep the water clean, and the 300W heater is ample to accommodate any tropical beauties in your tank.
The Bluetooth-connected LED lighting system is pretty special, too. Controlled via the Fluval SmartApp, it can be tailored to suit any particular fish or plant, mimic real world light conditions on a 24-hour cycle or just provide some stunning visuals.
For the complete all-in-one package, this Fluval is the best out there.
3. biOrb Classic Aquarium: Best bowl shaped tank
Many of you might love the aesthetic and traditional stylings of a spherical fish tank. The problem with many of them is that they are just far too small to house more than one fish in a healthy manner. This biOrb aquarium may not be huge, but it’s still double the size of many fish bowls out there and comfortably big enough for a few fish.
Its remote-controlled LED lighting system offers 16 preset colours and really does look stunning – this tank will certainly add some pizzazz to your home. The spherical design offers 360 degree views of your fish, and the air pump maintains the water’s oxygen levels while the filter keeps it clean.
4. Diversa Pro Aquarium: Best budget tank
If you want a compact, affordable fish tank, then the stripped-back Diversa Pro might just fit the bill.
The frugal 25 litre capacity will only cater to a few smaller fish, and the 3mm glass is on the thin side, but it’s a great-value starting point – you can select the filter, heating and lighting systems which best suit your budget and your needs.
As affordability is the name of the game here, you don’t get any bells or whistles to speak of. All the same, the Diversa Pro does a grand job as an open-top tank with all the potential to make it your own.
5. Fluval Edge 2.0 Aquarium: Most stylish fish tank
Fluval’s Edge 2.0 combines eye-catching style with a compact design. Its square shape and modest dimensions make it easy to fit on a corner table or cabinet, and, visually, it almost looks as if the tank is floating.
In terms of features, you get a top-of-the-line adjustable filter to keep things clean – something Fluval is known for. Meanwhile, a powerful LED light keeps things bright with a 6500K temperature and 120° beam that evenly illuminates all the plants and fish in the tank. The day and night illumination modes mimic natural patterns, too, which is a nice touch. There’s also a feeding door for easy access, but sadly there’s no in-built heater.
Overall, the Edge 2.0 isn’t the biggest tank, so it’s better seen as a premium starter tank for smaller fish. If you want style in a compact package, however, the Fluval is hard to beat.
6. BiOrb Tube 30 Aquarium: Best vertical fish tank
Since most tanks are wider than they are tall, it can be a struggle to find the perfect spot for them in your home. One alternative, however, is to purchase a tank that is taller than it is wide – if you can find one, that is.
BiOrb’s Tube 30 is something of a rare breed. The tubular acrylic construction provides stunning 360 degree views, and you get a capable air pump, filter and a remote controlled lighting unit with automatic sunrise, sunset, daylight and moonlight settings thrown in to boot. The only thing missing is a heater.
The Tube 30 is a tad expensive given the capacity, but the unique design and ample selection of features more than justify the outlay.