There’s something very calming about having fish as pets. The mellow glow of the hood lamp, the fountain-like sounds of the filter, and the charming antics of a tank full of tiny pets all contribute to a very zen experience. When I was in college, I kept a five gallon tank with a shubunkin goldfish, a lyretail mollie, and a plecostomus. It was a nice feature to have in my room while I studied.
If you don’t yet have an aquarium, not to worry. There are quite a few starter fish tank kits on the market these days. Even better, we’ve come a long way from choosing between the flat-sided bowl or the black-edged tanks — though the latter of these is still among our favorites. Companies have brought a touch of design to their aquarium offerings, so there’s bound to be one that fits your room’s aesthetic.
Aquarium kits range from just under two gallons on up. Our list caps out at 20 gallons, which is a pretty average tank. You’ll want to do your research about how many and what types of fish are appropriate for each size of tank. Your choice will mostly come down to where you want to set the tank. The water is far heavier than you’d think, so be sure to choose a spot that not only accommodates the dimensions of your fish tank, but can also support that much weight. While you’re at it, you can also get a smartphone-based water tester or an automatic feeder to really deck out your setup.
If you’re in the market for a fish tank, consider our list of the ten best fish tank kits to give you everything you need to start keeping fish as pets.
1. Fluval Spec III Aquarium Kit, 2.6 Gallon
Starting out small and functional, this Fluval features an integrated filter behind attractive frosted glass. The filter is three-stage and flows at a rate of 40 gallons per hour. This kit comes with the glass aquarium with molded cover, an LED light unit, a circulation pump, foam filter block, activated carbon insert, BIOMAX insert, low voltage transformer, and adjustable flow control.
2. Tetra 1.8 Gallon Waterfall Globe Aquarium Kit
Keeping with the small theme, this little tank is designed for use on desktops and counters. As in the one above, the light and filter are integrated, leaving you a single cord for this desktop unit. The kit also comes with a single filter cartridge. The plants are sold separately, but otherwise this is a complete kit to get you started. I would try this tank with a few neon tetras, which are commonly available. I especially like the look of this one with the blue gravel.
3. Tetra 29041 Half Moon Bubbler, 3-Gallon
For less than half the cost of the first two, this basic three gallon setup offers a few interesting variations to liven up your room. The combination of the air curtain and the color changing lights produce a fun visual effect. Add in a few cool-looking fish and you have a veritable entertainment system. This is a plastic tank, so if you have hard water, you might want to skip it as cleaning might be difficult. Comes with the tank, light, and a filter.
Price: $28.47 (29 percent off MSRP)
4. Back to the Roots Water Garden
Speaking of interesting setups, this combination fish tank and planter is a novel solution for betta fish enthusiasts. The closed-loop system works via a symbiotic relationship where the plants clean the water and the fish waste feeds the plants. It’s a nifty little aquarium that will make an excellent conversation starter. Since there’s no filter, this is reserved for bettas only. Comes with everything you need to get started. For about one-fifth the price, you could try the Nature’s Aqua-Ponic kit for a similar effect, too.
5. Tetra Aquarium Kit, 20-Gallon
Probably the original king of the aquarium kit, Tetra products have come in bundles for as long as I can remember. When I was young, my father kept fish for years, often taking advantage of these deals. This is the standard 20 gallon size can comes in three variations — Color Fusion, Standard, and GloFish. This kit includes a made in the U.S. glass tank, LED light hood, Tetra Mini UL heater, Tetra Whisper 20 filter, an artificial Boxwood plant mat, and four artificial plants. All you need is gravel and, of course, fish. The beauty of these large tanks is that you can really design a killer habitat.
Price: $115.36 (3 percent off MSRP)
6. Aquarius Aq15005 Aquarius 5 Rounded 5-Gallon Aquarium Kit
The tank I used to have was the five gallon size, which is pretty ideal for most situations. This one features a seamless acrylic construction which maximizes the viewing surface. It also includes an LED light with three modes (daylight white, moonlight blue, and white/blue), which will again help florescent fish stand out. This kit includes the tank, the lid and lights, and a filter. White gravel might be a nice touch, as would these glowing plants, which work best under white and blue light.
7. MarineLand Contour Glass Aquarium Kit with Rail Light
Available in both three and five gallon sizes, this stylish aquarium features a nifty light rail on a hinge. It also includes an integrated, hidden filter like others on this list. This kit only includes the tank, light, and filter, so you’ll have to pick up all the rest separately.
Price: $59.61 (27 percent off MSRP)
8. Aqueon Aquarium Fish Tank Starter Kits with LED Lighting
Very similar to the old standby of the Tetra fish tank kit above, this option from Aqueon expands the included gear for even a little bit less money. This 20 gallon fish tank kit includes not only the tank itself, but a full hood with LEDs built-in, a Quiet Flow LED Pro Power 10 filter with medium cartridge, a 100 watt preset heater, premium fish food, water conditioner, fish net, and a thermometer. The heater will keep the water warmed to a steady 78 degrees, while the filter has an LED indicator to let you know when the filter needs to be replaced. Speaking of, those filters can be found here.
If you don’t need 20 gallons of capacity, you might also consider the Aqueon NeoGlow 10 gallon kit, which includes some neat blue LEDs and glowing orange silicone.
9. Marina LED Aquarium Kit
Perfect for the beginner, this ten gallon kit includes (almost) everything you need to get started. It comes with a tank, a lid and light combo, net, filter, food, and water conditioner. It lacks a substrate material, such as this classic dark blue gravel, and nifty decorations like this Malaysian driftwood. Still, it’s a pretty complete kit and will get you started on your fish adventure quickly.
10. Marina 360-Degree Aquarium Starter Kit
If you happen to have a central location for your fish tank, this 360-degree aquarium could provide the perfect solution. With entirely integrated light and filter, this setup maximizes the viewing area so you can enjoy the best view of your fish from any angle. It’ll work best for bettas, goldfish, and a handful of small social fish, since it’s a 2.65 gallon capacity. Choose your fish, decoration, and substrate and get to it.