Best Small Fish Tank: How to Choose and Use

Having an aquarium at home is one of the best ways of relaxation. With fishes swimming among the plants, you can distract yourself from everyday worries and recharge for tomorrow. Even in cramped apartments, there …

three small aquariums

Having an aquarium at home is one of the best ways of relaxation. With fishes swimming among the plants, you can distract yourself from everyday worries and recharge for tomorrow. Even in cramped apartments, there is always a place for it. So, what’s the best small fish tank that provides a full-scale effect?

While MarineLand, especially this 5-gallon one, works best, many great competitors are there. They all have what a modern fish tank needs: a durable, ergonomic glass body, a built-in filter and LED lights, etc. Along with technical specs (which can be compared and measured), there are tastes that differ. Welcome to the reviews, and let’s hope you’ll find your perfect water world among them!

Product
Top Pick
Marineland Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit, 5...
Good Value
Aqueon Aquarium Fish Tank Starter Kit with LED...
Premium Choice
Tetra Bubbling LED Aquarium Kit 1 Gallon, Hexagon...
Title
Marineland Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit, 5...
Aqueon Aquarium Fish Tank Starter Kit with LED...
Tetra Bubbling LED Aquarium Kit 1 Gallon, Hexagon...
Prime
-
Pros
Hidden filter
An impressive bundle
Lightweight
Top Pick
Product
Marineland Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit, 5...
Title
Marineland Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit, 5...
Prime
Pros
Hidden filter
My review
Good Value
Product
Aqueon Aquarium Fish Tank Starter Kit with LED...
Title
Aqueon Aquarium Fish Tank Starter Kit with LED...
Prime
-
Pros
An impressive bundle
My review
Premium Choice
Product
Tetra Bubbling LED Aquarium Kit 1 Gallon, Hexagon...
Title
Tetra Bubbling LED Aquarium Kit 1 Gallon, Hexagon...
Prime
Pros
Lightweight
My review

Our Top 8 Best Small Fish Aquariums Reviewed

  1. MarineLand ML90609: the Top Pick (5-gallons)
  2. MarineLand Contour Glass Aquarium Kit (3-gallons)
  3. Aqueon Aquarium Fish Tank Starter Kit with LED Lighting (10-gallons)
  4. Aqueon MiniBow LED Desktop Kit: Like a Second Display (2,5-gallons)
  5. Tetra Bubbling LED Aquarium: Aquatic Fish Dance (1-gallon)
  6. ERAARK Aquarium Kit: Everything Is Better with Bluetooth (5-gallons)
  7. Hygger Horizon Glass Aquarium Kit (8-gallons)
  8. Koller Products 360: A Disco Ball of Aquariums (2-gallons)

Let’s take a look at what a tiny aquarium should be. Up to 10 gallons, easy to carry and yet deep enough for fish and plants, with maintenance units, these will make a perfect choice if you’re short of space. Yet each of these has its unique traces upon which you’ll certainly make your choice.

1. MarineLand ML90609: the Top Pick (5-gallons)

Just half-reaching the upper margin of the class, this 5-gallon fish tank is box-shaped, with its height exceeding the width just enough to speak of the “portrait mode.” Though it looks rectangular, the corners are well rounded.

Sixteen inches high, it has enough space for smaller plants on the bottom (and even lets them grow a little higher if they can), and there will be enough space for fish to make their way around.

The built-in LED lighting has two modes: daylight and moonlight (white and blue). One might wish for more colors, but they would just make the whole sight artificial for a purist. In the daytime, though, you won’t need extra light at all, watching it from every angle possible.

What got me sold, though, is a hidden filter. Instead of those tech monsters from earlier days that towered at the edge, this one isn’t seen at all when you want to take a five-minute break to contemplate it. The 3-stage filter uses compatible Rite-Size Z cartridges that you can buy from the vendor. If you like, you may install a heater too.

PROS:
  • Great shape
  • Hidden filter
  • Doesn’t require much space
  • Durable
  • Seamless-edge design
CONS:
  • Few lighting modes
  • Some may prefer landscape tanks

2. MarineLand Contour Glass Aquarium Kit (3-gallons)

If you need a smaller one, this 3-gallon item by the same vendor is the one to consider. Though it looks almost cubic, the lights above add to its height. The main advantage is its all-around view that allows you to enjoy the underwater world from various points. However, you’ll need a dedicated stand to enjoy it.

It shares most design features with its bigger brother. It also boasts durable glass and rounded edges and corners, as well as a concealed filter and a sliding glass canopy.

The lighting has the same options: blue moonlight and white daylight. The lights are placed above the tank on hinges, so you can adjust them to provide more or less light to the deep water. You can also run them on a timer.

There is a special notch on the back to hide the cords (you’ll need two or three of them). However, it may be too small if you add a heater to the setup.

PROS:
  • Sleek design
  • Hidden filter
  • Hinged adjustable lights
  • Supports extra heaters
CONS:
  • The cord notch may be too small

3. Aqueon Aquarium Fish Tank Starter Kit with LED Lighting (10-gallons)

Though the vendor doesn’t reveal much about its origins and whereabouts (it’s said to be assembled in Wisconsin from components made in China), its tanks are quite popular. And for a reason: if you need a classical landscape tiny fish tank, here it is.

Marketed as a “starter kit,” it has everything to start if you’ve never had one before. The bundle I recommend is explicitly named “frustration-free packaging.”

It’s much heavier than the ones by MarineLand, at 17 lbs. The dimensions are also more impressive: being 20,25 inches wide and 10.5 inches deep, it will require more space but provide a wider scene. The packing shows how it may look when installed.

The pack’s contents include everything you might need: along with the tank, it has a thermometer, an external water filter with an extra cartridge, a heater, a LED hood, a fish net, a setup manual, and even samples of water conditioner and fish food. If you wish, the same vendor can replace the lid with a better one.

PROS:
  • Looks great
  • An impressive bundle
  • Comes with a manual
  • Very quiet
  • Upgradeable lid
CONS:
  • Requires more place than most tiny tanks
  • The filter is exposed

4. Aqueon MiniBow LED Desktop Kit: Like a Second Display (2,5-gallons)

This one is relatively small at its 2.5 gallons, and it’s a great addition to your work setup. Next to a monitor, it looks quite like another one with a hardware screensaver. The landscape mode amplifies this feeling, being 11.5” high and 12.5” wide.

The plastic base provides extra safety and contributes to this tank’s sleek look. It has built-in LED lighting, but it’s rather low for growing plants that require a lot of it.

Though the body is acrylic, not glass, it feels very durable. On the other hand, it may create optical effects like glare and reflections, which can distort your view and the fish in it. After some time, though, the fish can get used to it. And if you position it on the desktop that you usually sit at, the view will be perfect.

Just like the previous one, it comes with an extra filter cartridge, food, and water care samples. The cartridge is simple and can be replaced with filter media and activated carbon. It makes it even more affordable in terms of its initial price and maintenance.

PROS:
  • Good view
  • The perfect size for a desktop model
  • Quiet filter
  • Works with DIY filter cartridges
  • Very affordable
CONS:
  • Acryl may distort the view
  • The LED light is too low

5. Tetra Bubbling LED Aquarium: Aquatic Fish Dance (1-gallon)

Though Tetra has been one of the biggest aquarium manufacturers since 1951, this one, on the contrary, is the smallest among the reviewed. If you are short of space, this is the best small fish tank for you. It’s a hexagonal aquarium just 8” high and 6.5” wide and deep, all plastic-made, and even a built-in filter doesn’t interfere much.

Given its variety of LED colors and a bubbling disc, it’s instead a disco light device than a den of underwater tranquility. It requires a more thorough selection of its future inhabitants: not every fish is a party animal. Anyway, it’s obviously too small for goldfish or their likes, being rather suitable for Betta.

The small size has its disadvantages, too. You won’t create large waterscapes there, and hardly there’s enough space for more than two fish. And even two may be too many. But if it’s okay, it’s okay.

PROS:
  • Very, very small
  • Unusual shape
  • Various LED modes and colors
  • Lightweight
  • Very quiet
CONS:
  • Plastic-made
  • Too much about lighting

6. ERAARK Aquarium Kit: Everything Is Better with Bluetooth (5-gallons)

Little is known about the vendor, and, according to its replies, it’s so very Chinese that it has problems with English-speaking employees, but it’s no issue. As for this aquarium, it’s a 5-gallon landscape one, and though it’s not as fully transparent and viewable, it still does its job of exposing the depth.

However, the designers have done an excellent job masking the filter with coral. The filters have been sold separately since June 2022.

The vendor states that varying lighting helps the fish grow, which I didn’t check. According to my friend who has it, the fish won’t suffer from it either. More than just day and night modes, it has a variety of available colors, thus capable of creating incredible light shows.

And with this aquarium, even Sheldon Cooper might have revised his fish experience. Because this one has Bluetooth, and everything is better with it. Here, it controls the LED colors through the official app. You can also do it with on-lid controls, but it’s less fun to stand up and break your relaxation.

PROS:
  • Traditional landscape shape
  • Silent filtering
  • Rich light possibilities
  • Only requires one socket
  • Has Bluetooth
CONS:
  • May see too hi-tech
  • Needs more space

7. Hygger Horizon Glass Aquarium Kit (8-gallons)

And again, here comes one of the largest ones among the reviewed. Hygger is a relatively new brand (est. 2018), but it knows how to make quality products. Even its name (derived from the Danish hygge) hints at the comfort you’ll feel when watching it.

This still little aquarium boasts a glass body and the capacity of 8 gallons, so you can populate it with various species and decorate it with several plants. There is even an impressive rock background that is undetachable; you have to live with it since you buy this fish tank. As for the shape, the front is curved to widen the view.

Finally, there is a small cushion at the bottom, so there is no need for a special stand. Along with the optional heater, you can install an automatic feeder on the wall, which makes maintenance even more effortless.

The powerful pump and lightning are designed to fit the size. The LED light is colored, though far from the disco madness by Tetra: it has white, blue, and red colors, which are managed with an external controller.

As for the pump, the manufacturer warns that it can suck the small fish in, so you better choose species at least 2” long. It is definitely not the best tank for small species, but a great fish tank for small spaces.

PROS:
  • Large (within its class)
  • Glass-made
  • Curved design
  • Adjustable LED with a controller
  • Beautiful rocky background
  • Cushion at the bottom
CONS:
  • The pump may suck small fish
  • Comes without a cover

8. Koller Products 360: A Disco Ball of Aquariums (2-gallons)

This aquarium is really spectacular. Its American manufacturer has been in the business since 1941. It claims to have developed the concept of the “desktop aquarium.” This one is cylinder-shaped, its diameter being 9.2” and height 10.5”, with a built-in filter on the lid and a hole for feeding. You’ll enjoy its view no matter where you place it, though it will fit well on your desktop.

Its material is plastic, but it’s as transparent as glass. You can add some light show to make the view more spectacular: the built-in LED can display seven colors, from natural daylight to purple, red, green, and blue.

The most beautiful of them is aqua which saturates the picture instead of recoloring it. Koller provides long-life cartridges for the filter and automatable lighting modes to make maintenance even easier.

Koller has a line of similar tanks which are identical in everything except for size. But size matters if you need a fish tank for small apartment; that’s why I chose to include this version on my list.

PROS:
  • Unusual cylindric design
  • Good plastic
  • Fantastic adjustable lighting
  • Quiet, efficient filters
  • Affordable price
CONS:
  • Still not glass
  • You may want a bigger one

Small Fish Tank Buyer’s Guide

After reading these reviews, you may decide they are all good, and it’s so. But how to choose yours? Here are some recommendations on selecting the best mini fish tank you’ll enjoy.

How to Choose the Best Small Fish Tank?

You need to consider many factors when picking up the best small aquarium, but some of them are the most important. Let’s list them.

  • Size. Even within this class, it matters. The difference between reviewed ones is up to ten times! If you live in a cramped apartment, it matters. The best small aquarium may be just the smallest.
  • Shape. If you want to place it among your furniture, the shape should fit the niche. Even if you put it in the window or on the desktop where there’s enough space, there are still preferences. After all, you want it beautiful, don’t you?
  • The number of fish you want. The smallest ones may only contain one, especially if it’s a Betta or something like it. Larger ones can accommodate a small population, but, again, a small one.
  • The plants you want in it. They have requirements for volume and height.
  • The kit. Though all of these aquariums have onboard lighting and filters, there’s always more to it. You may want a heater, an automatic feeder, or extra cartridges for the filter.
  • Assemblance and maintenance, which are rather relative for all the models above, due to automation and initial setup.
  • Extras. I know people who are sold on light shows or rocky backgrounds, which separate some models from others and thus leave all the others behind. And it’s okay; if you really want it, why not?

Finally, you can just look at each model and decide whether you like it or not. If any of your friends have such an aquarium, ask them about its performance. Reviews from other users that you can find online should also be considered. But the primary reason to buy an aquarium is to enjoy how it looks and feels.

FAQ on Small Fish Tanks

Now, let’s address the most common questions that you’ll want to be answered if you’re new to aquariums. If you want to ask more questions, you can do it in the comments.

How many small fish can live in a 10-gallon tank?

If they are tiny fish, there can be up to ten of them (but they will feel rather tight). Bettas, quite common species for home tanks, can comprise up to five female or three male fish in a 10-gallon tank.

Do fish stop growing in small tanks?

Yes, fish growth depends on the living conditions. Many factors limit the growth: from the stress level to the pheromone produced by fish that lives in a compressed environment. But it’s very hard to predict where any particular fish will stop growing to its potential maximum.

What is the easiest fish tank to maintain?

All of these reviewed are almost equally easy to maintain. It includes filtering the water, providing lighting (which can be automated with some models), and regular cleaning.

What common mistakes do beginners make with their fish tanks?

These mistakes may include:

  • Overcrowding the tank
  • Getting incompatible species (fish or plants)
  • Getting fish that’s too big for a little aquarium
  • Letting the fish in before the water is ready
  • Misjudging the nitrogen cycle
  • Forgetting to replace filters

So, when you like some fish or plant species, read about them online and learn what other species they are compatible with. And let the water rest for about a day before bringing the fish in.

So Long, and Tanks for All the Fish!

Knowing which fish tank to buy is great. But keeping it clean and livable for the fish and the plants, as well as for other creatures (shrimps, turtles, etc.) you may want to place there, is even greater.

So, if your choice is defined by space, choose the species that will feel good there. If you begin with the fish, choose the most suitable tank for them. Keep it in harmony!

If you have any questions to ask (or maybe have a story to tell), welcome to the comments! Let’s have a nice conversation by the water there. Even despite the water is rather small, it’s still a piece of nature that keeps us afloat.

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