Nano aquariums are constantly growing in popularity because they’re making it easier and easier for you to own a beautiful reef or freshwater aquarium with limited space.
However, not all are made equally–choose wrong and you’ll waste your money.
And if you’re new to the hobby, it can be tricky understanding what exactly makes a nano aquarium great.
Luckily for you, in this guide you’re going to learn exactly what you need to know to ensure sure you pick the best nano aquarium.
You’ll discover what most newbies don’t think about when picking their nano tank–giving you the best chance of maintaining a beautiful and healthy aquarium.
At the end, I’ll provide some detailed product reviews so you can find what you need.
What Makes an Aquarium Nano?
It’s a compact fish tank designed so you can nurture a small ecosystem in a smaller space.
Now, the term “Nano tank” isn’t well-defined in the hobby, however, the name is generally given to aquariums holding 30 gallons or less.
They provide an alternative if you don’t have enough space to own a large, expansive aquarium.
Why You Should Buy a Nano Aquarium
There are a number of reasons (or benefits) to get yourself a nano fish tank, and if you’re reading this guide, you’re no doubt aware of some of them.
Let’s break these down one-by-one.
Cheaper to Run
Look, it’s possible you will find bigger tanks for a cheaper price. However, that’s not always the case.
And, most nano aquariums come as a complete kit. Including filters, lights, pumps etc. Making your upfront equipment costs more manageable.
As well as this, you’ll find:
Space is Not an Issue
Their, well, nano. They don’t take up much room at all.
This makes it easier for you to find space in your apartment, condo, dorm, bedroom, or office to own the aquarium you’ve always wanted.
I know, I always go on about water changes.
For new aquarists, the idea of doing regular water changes is sometimes enough to put them off the hobby all together.
However, with a nano aquarium, let’s say 20 gallons, a weekly 20-25% water changes is much faster than a large 125 gallon tank because you’re only changing 4 gallons of water.
Weight is Not an Issue
Something a lot of people don’t often consider.
You see, when filled with water, aquarium can get very heavy.
When you start mentioning 125 gallon systems, most cabinets or tables may not be able to handle all that wait.
You may even have to shell out again for a special aquarium stand.
With nano tanks, this rarely and issue as they don’t weigh anywhere near the same.
And hey, if you get bored or don’t like where you tank is located, it’s much easier to move a 20 gallon setup.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Nano Aquarium
Let’s be real, there are some reasons as to why you might want to get a larger tank over a nano.
If you want to own a highly diverse ecosystem with lots of fish, plants, or corals etc. It’s unlikely a nano tank is going to provide the space you need to run a healthy tank.
If you’re a beginner, you should know it is harder to run a successful aquarium in a small nano tank.
Because you have less room for error: harmful toxins will build up faster, and any changes to the water chemistry or temperature is going to have a bigger effect.
However, I am talking about small nano aquariums approximately 10 gallons or less.
Remember, nano tanks can go up to 30 gallons.
And personally, I recommend new hobbyists to always go with 20 gallon+ tanks.
They provide you with enough room to make mistakes and not worry about serious consequences, whilst being small enough to fit in most spaces.
If you’re a pro, and want to challenge yourself, maybe going with a smaller aquarium will test your abilities.
How to Choose The Best Nano Aquarium
When it comes to find the best nano aquarium of yourself, the first thing you need to think about is your own ability has a fish keeper.
Are you a confident, experienced aquatist?
Then the size of your tank shouldn’t be a problem.
However, if you’re new to the hobby, I strongly recommend go don’t go any lower than 20 gallons.
For the reasons I touched on earlier, you’re going to increase your chances of running a successful, vibrant aquarium.
Once you’ve decided how confident you are in your ability to maintain a healthy aquarium, the next thing to look at is what the aquarium is made from.
Glass vs. Acrylic Nano Aquariums
When it comes to deciding whether you want a glass or acrylic nano aquarium, it’s not a case of one-size-fits-all.
What you need to do is look at the pros and cons and decide for yourself which fits your needs better.
Here are the pros and cons for both glass and acrylic nano aquariums:
Pros of Glass Nano Aquariums
Cons of Glass Nano Aquariums
Pros of Acrylic Nano Aquariums
Cons of Acrylic Nano Aquariums
Both acrylic and glass are both good and bad in different ways.
What you need to decide is which pros are more suited to what you want to achieve and your personal situation.
Don’t get too worked up over glass or acrylic, both are proven to work. Simply look at the pros and decide which hold more weight with you.
The next step in this buyers guide is to look at the shape of the aquarium.
What’s The Best Shape For a Nano Aquarium?
The shape and dimensions of your nano tank can play a big role in the performance of overall success of your aquarium.
You need to consider the length, width, and height.
When it comes to the importance of each measurement, it may vary depending on which type of fish you want to keep.
For example, Angelfish do better in tall tanks because of their swimming patterns. Where as Cichlids need a larger footprint (length and depth) to establish their territories.
However, when it comes to general fishkeeping–length is the most important.
Your fish need oxygen to survive, and most of the oxygen is going to come from the surface. So by choosing a longer nano aquarium with a larger surface area, more oxygen is going to enter the water.
That’s why, in my opinion, rectangle nano aquariums are the best for beginners and general fish-keeping.
Look, I’m not saying you can’t go with other styles. Many aquarists have had major success with all kinds of shapes.
Rectangle tanks are your best bet for success.
What Kit Does it Come With?
This isn’t essential, as you can easily pick up any extra equipment you need at your local fish store, on Amazon, or other online stores.
However, combo systems can prove to be well worth the money as they tend to come with filters, lights, and heaters to get you started right away.
This can be important if you want to get an unusual shape or a smaller nano aquarium, because you know everything is going to fit perfectly with your setup.
The only downside is, sometimes they come with items you may not need, or they’re not the best quality. Which is something I will address in the individual product reviews.
Best Reef & Freshwater Nano Aquariums Reviewed
Now you have a better understanding on what to look for when buying a nano aquarium, you can use the following individual product reviews to make an informed decision on which is best for you.
1. Coralife Fish Tank LED BioCube Aquarium Starter Kit
One to consider if you want to start a nano reef tank, it comes with an integrated 24-hour timer and customizable built-in filtration system.
Says the size is 32, but it actually holds approximately 25-gallons.
The LED lighting and sleek hood is excellent for bringing the ambiance of a small coral reef environment into your home, office, or school.
It’s built to mimic the natural daily light cycle, including programmable functions like sunset/sunrise and moonrise/moonset.
Made from glass, the front panel is curved, providing viewing angles on the front and sides with minimal distortion.
The tank looks very cool, however you are sacrificing some surface area. An issue many users have face is the noise from the fan, but you can easily replace this if it bothers you.
And the chamber to keep your equipment can become cramped once you’ve added your protein skimmer etc.
If you’re looking for a high-quality aquarium kit with integrated programmable LED lighting, you should consider the Coralife BioCube.
2. Tetra 20 Gallon Aquarium Kit
Packed with extras, If you want to create a traditional freshwater aquarium with natural scenery, the Tetra 20 gallon aquarium kit is one you need to look at.
It’s 20 gallons, so it’s right on the money when it comes to getting a great beginner size tank. Its rectangular shape provides plenty of surface area and makes it easy to clean.
Like the BioCube, the LED hood is sleek and looks great.
The LEDs provide sufficient natural daytime and nighttime lighting for freshwater aquariums, but not if you want to keep corals.
The heater and filter are both adequate, but not the best quality overall.
Personally, I would replace both of these as the filter is not 3-stages and you cannot adjust the heater, meaning it stays around 80 degrees fahrenheit.
Now, this is only going to be a problem if the fish you want to keep require different a different water temperature.
Overall, based on the build quality and price of the actually tank, if you’re a beginner this is an excellent nano aquarium kit to get you started.
3. Red Sea Max Nano Aquarium
If you want a high-end show nano reef tank, with the very latest tech and best build quality, I suggest you take a look at this one.
Including a complete filtration system hidden away to keep everything clean and looking great, it’s topped by a rotatable screen for easy access.
The protein skimmer and circulation pump are excellent and will not need replacing.
What’s cool, is the design of the rear sump with the automatic top-off reservoir makes this aquarium self-sufficient for approximately 3 days!
You get 55 watt, full-spectrum Prime HD LED lighting. The seven-color channels can be fully controlled via WiFi, and is attached to the nano tank using.
Red Sea’s custom lighting mount, which you can rotate to give yourself full access to the aquarium for reefscaping and maintenance.
This is truly an outstanding option for a nano reef tank, all you’d need to buy is a heater and you’ve got all the tech you need to start.
However, with a high-end product comes a high-end price tag (which is justified by the overall quality).
4. SeaClear 29 Gallon Show Acrylic Aquarium
Lacking in equipment, but don’t let that put you off because it makes up for it with its polished high-gloss look and overall build quality.
It’s a great choice if you already have equipment or prefer buying it separately.
It does include fluorescent lighting, however, it’s not the best. I recommend if you go for this nano tank, you upgrade the lighting.
Made from crystal clear acrylic, consider this one if you’re worried about cracking or damage, and want a safer set up because you have kids or other pets.
One of my favorite features is the virtually invisible seams, as they make for excellent viewing.
The tank is pre-made with hole for you to fit your own filter and heater etc. So you don’t need to worry about drilling your own holes. A plus if you’re not the most DIY savvy person.
Apart from the lighting not being good enough, the lid is the only other downside. It doesn’t come off, so it can be tricky moving things in your tank or cleaning it.
Overall, this is an excellent, durable nano aquarium if you want to customize with your own features.
5. Marina LED Aquarium Kit
If you’re brand new to the wonderful world of fish-keeping, this is a tank you should think about getting.
This kit includes everything you need to get started: filter, LED lights, water conditioner, fish food, etc. etc. Too many to list without boring you to death.
It even includes a great guide on setting up your first freshwater aquarium.
The included filter is good enough to start with, quiet, and doesn’t take up much space.
However, it doesn’t have a 3 stage system, so you may want to look at replacing this.
LED lighting is energy-efficient and provides excellent daytime lighting. If you like moonlighting, you would need to replace the current light fixture.
Even if you wanted to replace the filter, lighting etc. that’s included, the overall build quality of the nano tank and its beginner friendliness makes this a very good option for its price.
6. Perfecto 20 Gallon Long Aquarium
This tank is a classic glass 20 gallon long with a black metal frame around the top and bottom.
It’s a good option for anyone who wants to buy just the tank and pick out their equipment separately, instead of going with a kit.
A 20 gallon long maximizes the footprint and surface area. So it’s great for bottom or top dwellers. But this shape isn’t always the best for midwater fish since it’s more shallow.
My Pick For The Best Nano Aquarium
Here’s what I recommend:
If you want a tank, and you’re not interested in the extras that come with it, go for the SeaClear 29 gallon nano aquarium.
The overall build quality makes it ideal for starting a nano reef or freshwater aquarium.
Alternately, if you would rather get quality equipment with your nano tank, I recommend the Red Sea Nano Aquarium for reef setups.
Yes it’s expensive, however it provides you with the very best equipment you need to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
Then there’s freshwater setups.
I recommend the Tetra 20 gallon nano aquarium.
The tank has an excellent build-quality, looks great, and comes with a lifetime warranty on all the equipment included.
Happy fish-keeping! As always, freely free to ask any questions in the comments or get in touch via the ‘contact us’ page.
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Last update on 2019-09-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API