Updated October 19, 2019 by Jeff Newburgh

The 10 Best Fish Tanks

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This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in March of 2015. You might remember winning a goldfish from the local fair and making note of the ordinary glass bowl the little guy came in. But if you're looking to sustain a more elaborate aquatic ecosystem on a small scale at home, then one of these fish aquariums is sure to fit the bill. Many of our selections come as complete kits offering stylish designs with everything needed to keep piscine life thriving. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best fish tank on Amazon.

10. Fluval Edge

9. Marina LED

8. Tetra Cube

7. Koller AquaTunes

6. Aqueon Aquarium Kit

5. GloFish Crescent

4. Penn Plax Vertex

3. Red Sea Max Nano

2. Coralife Biocube

1. SeaClear 50-Gallon

Finding Nemo, Dory, And Many More

The salt is typically purchased separately before adding water into the tank itself.

When it comes to taking care of small animals living in their own miniature ecosystem, a home-based aquarium can be a relaxing, inviting, and valuable addition to your home. Also known as an aquarium, a fish tank is an enclosed vivarium with at least one transparent side through which lights, plants, water, and aquatic animals are visible for display, observation, or study.

The four types of aquarium available include freshwater tropical, coldwater, marine, and brackish. Freshwater tanks are the most common and easiest to maintain, as they require no special chemical additives beyond basic water conditioners. They range in temperature from 72 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit and are ideal for accommodating many varieties of tropical fish. Coldwater aquariums maintain temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and are ideal for accommodating goldfish. Coldwater tanks are also relatively simple to maintain with the proper equipment.

Marine aquariums require a bit more maintenance than either cold and freshwater tanks, given that marine tanks need saltwater for the fish to survive. The salt is typically purchased separately before adding water into the tank itself. There are also specific types of fish that thrive in saltwater environments, so it's important to understand the distinction. Both marine fish and tanks are more expensive, as they require coral, while the fish have greater sensitivity to overall water conditions. Some marine fish also have specific dietary needs, so this is important to take into account. Brackish aquariums feature a mix of salt and fresh water, so the types of fish that can live within such an environment are limited to very few species, such as the Puffer fish. Water conditions inside a brackish tank are also difficult to keep balanced.

While fish tanks come in many different shapes and sizes, the most common construction materials include either glass or acrylic. Glass tanks are typically less expensive than acrylic, more difficult to scratch, and feature a higher refraction index, which means that light passes through the glass tank more naturally when viewing it from many different angles. However, glass tanks are also quite heavy and they can break easily if dropped. By contrast, acrylic tanks are more expensive, easy to scratch, yet lightweight and more difficult to break. However, the best view of an acrylic tank is from an angle, whereas the view can appear distorted when looking at it head on.

Other equipment that fish tanks require include heaters for ensuring the water temperature doesn't fall below required standards, thermometers to keep an eye on the consistency of that temperature, and filters to keep the water as free from waste products as possible. There are three common types of filtration systems that include biological, mechanical, and chemical. Biological filtration essentially decomposes any toxic ammonia that fish produce as a waste product. For that reason, all fish tanks are required to have biological filtration. Mechanical filtration is used to trap things like plant leaves or uneaten food, allowing it to be removed from the tank before it decomposes into ammonia. Chemical filtration can remove ammonia, heavy metals, or other dissolved organics on a limited basis, making it useful for administering and removing medicines to fish. Filters also require cleaning and maintenance.

Managing A Delicate Balance

Regardless of the type of tank chosen, you must realize that an aquarium is a living, breathing, contained, and miniaturized ecosystem with many variables to consider. These variables need to be properly balanced in order to work together and allow your fish to flourish. That said, if you're new to fish-keeping, start slowly. Invest in a small glass freshwater or coldwater tank, so you don't have to worry quite as much about treating the water.

Some fish tanks are octagonal in shape, which can be ideal for placement in corners.

Just because you're new to the concept of maintaining an aquarium doesn't mean you don't have options. Many goldfish and colorful tropical fish can thrive in freshwater environments, which is great if you want to purchase a fish tank for a child to expose him or her to underwater life and how to properly care for living things. A child's exposure to fish-keeping can be a valuable precursor to owning a larger pet, such as a dog or cat.

Next, consider the size, shape, and materials of the tank you want. Do be aware that glass is fragile and heavy, so you must be certain you'll have room to transport a glass tank and ample space to place it. Some fish tanks are octagonal in shape, which can be ideal for placement in corners.

Finally, if you're unsure about the types of fish, lighting, heating, or filtration needed for the tank you choose, don't be afraid to ask questions at the pet shop you visit. The experts can help lead you in the right direction and give you all the supplies you'll need.

A Brief History Of Fish Tanks

Archaeological evidence of fish-keeping dates back to the times of the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians who considered fish to be sacred creatures as early as 2,500 BCE. The Chinese also kept goldfish and bred them selectively during the time of the Sung Dynasty between 960 and 1,279 CE. These fish were kept for purely decorative purposes, as people were forbidden to eat them.

As home electricity supplies became more common after World War One, tank heating, filtering, and artificial lighting became easier.

The process of maintaining the water for a fish tank was not well understood until the time of English chemist Robert Warington, who is credited with studying the fish tank's requirement to have its water cycled in order to keep fish alive for extended periods of time. By studying a 13-gallon container full of goldfish, eelgrass, and snails, Warington succeeded in creating one of the first stable tank ecosystems. He developed the aquarium system by explaining that the addition of plants to water within a container would give off an ample supply of oxygen to support aquatic life.

Warington's work was published in London's Chemical Society journal in 1850. By 1853, the popularity of keeping aquariums as a hobby became well-entrenched in the United Kingdom, thanks in part to the ornately-designed cast-iron tanks featured at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and Philip Henry Gosse who created and stocked the first public aquarium at the London Zoo, which became known as the Fish House in 1853.

During the Victorian Era, a common design for the home aquarium was a glass front with wooden sides made watertight with a pitch coating. The bottoms of many of these tanks were constructed from slate and heated from underneath. By the nineteenth century, the tank evolved to include glass with metal framing as well as designs for hanging and wall mounting. By 1908, the first mechanical aquarium air pump was invented and powered by running water instead of electricity. As home electricity supplies became more common after World War One, tank heating, filtering, and artificial lighting became easier.

To this day, aquariums and fish-keeping are still considered to be among the most popular of hobbies with tanks being made from any combination of objects that include coffee tables, sinks, gumball machines, and even the shells of computers.

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Jeff Newburgh
Last updated on October 19, 2019 by Jeff Newburgh

Jeff is a dedicated writer and communications professional from San Francisco with a bachelor of arts in anthropology from UC Berkeley. He began his career in computer consulting and later branched out into customer service. Jeff focuses on making complex topics easy to understand. With over 10 years' experience in research, his relentless curiosity fuels a love of writing and learning how things work, and has helped to build expertise in categories such as heavy-duty power tools and computer equipment. Jeff's passion for animals affords him a strong understanding of pet products, including dog houses, beds, and grain-free foods. When he's not writing, he prefers spending time with his family and three dogs, while kicking back and relaxing with a nice glass of red wine.

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