When it comes to buying a small aquarium there’s a lot of things to consider including the site, litres and type of tank you’d like to have.
Planning the tank at the early stages will give you a much better finished tank.
The buying process should start with an idea of what you want to put in the tank and how it will look rather than buying a tank.
Having a vision for a small (commonly referred to as Nano) tank means you can achieve a beautiful tank in no time at all.
Best small aquariums – buyers guide
Firstly consider the space you’re going to put the tank in.
The best place is away from direct sunlight. So not on a windowsill as it will turn green with algae in no time.
Some small aquariums come with a stand that matches so can be placed where ever its convenient.
The second thing to think of is whether to have a cold water, tropical or marine nano tank.
We will cover these options in the next few sections. But, just to be short, the basics.
Nano tanks Types
The coldwater nano tank is intended for fish that live in water that should not be heated, one of the species being the well-known golde fish.
A tropical nano tank is the aquarium for fish need water that is between 76° to 80°F (25° to 27°C) although different types of fish have different requirements. A tropical nano aquarium contains a heater to keep the water temperature at the level required by the inhabitants.
A marine nano aquarium is a tank that contains water similar to the water found in coastal and ocean areas around the globe. Like tropical aquariums, these nano tanks require a heater to keep the temperature close to that found in nature. Marine aquariums are more complicated and require higher maintenance costs due to the complexity of water chemistry.
Top 4 Tropical nano tanks
I’m a big fan of tropical nano tanks and have a couple myself around the house. They’re a very underused idea for brightening up a dark corner and adding some interest to the room.
Well planted tanks can be visually beautiful with vibrant coloured plants and fish creating a real under water abyss.
There’s no need to think just because the tank is small that it cannot be impressive – some of the best looking tanks are the small but well thought out tanks.
No 1 – Fluval Flex
With slick curved designs and all the filter media nicely tucked away the Fluval flex is our recommended small tank until now. You can see out full Flex review here.
It comes in a choice of 2 sizes and is a great option if you’re looking for a starter aquarium.
The nice shaping of the tank and the lift off lid make it easy to get fish and ornaments/ plants in and out of the aquarium.
All the filter parts and the pump sit behind the back wall so you can’t see them.
You can also put the heater in this compartment as well (heater not supplied – see our best aquarium heaters guide here).
It’s also really easy to clean and maintain with the back parts popping out easily when they need cleaning (around once a month).
As far as smaller tanks go this is my top recommendation and I’ve personally got this tank up and running on my office desk and have been running it for over a year. I’m still delighted with it.
You can get it from Amazon below and it comes in a choice of black or white and 34 litres or 57 litres. I have the black 34L model but would prefer the larger one now.
No 2 – Aquael Shrimp Set Smart 2 Shrimp Nano Aquarium
Aquael Shrimp Set Smart 2 is a newcomer in our top , fully equipped nano aquarium set with 10, 19 or 30 litres capacity designed for beginners.
Although the 10-liter version is not one of our favorites (it can accommodate 2-4 shrimps or fish), it remains a good alternative for those who want an extremely compact nano aquarium.
The smallest nano aquarium occupies less space than a simple decoration object and it can be something that completely changes the look of a room.
It comes equipped with a lamp which has 22 ambient LEDs that produce a brightness of up to 470 lumens. This nano tank is perfect for beginners, being easy to maintain and equipped with all the necessary accessories.
The cubic shape makes it easy to position in any room and even on small furniture.
No 3 – Fluval Edge Small Aquarium 23L
This is a great little tank in a rectangular shape that gives you more options in terms of designs.
It’s got a really modern feel about it and all the filtration parts are nicely hidden away in the background – You only have a heater visible but that can easily be hidden by plants.
You can see our full fluval edge review here.
Here’s how the tank looks, in terms of a contemporary small tank this is the best around.
It comes in a choice of black or white and two sizes – 23 litres and 46 litres.
We’ve used the 23 litre model and it looks great with the right design and we’ love to see some tall plants in one of the taller 46 litre tanks.
You can get this tank on Amazon in the UK, check the latest price via the button below.
No 4 – Tropical Small Tank Interpet 19L
This is a lovely small tank at just 19L and is recommended as our best small aquarium for beginners.
It’s small enough to be easy to manage yet big enough to create a nice under water scene.
As I said, you can buy a nano aquarium under 19 liters but we’re not keen on these as they are a little to small to manage with fish and shrimp growth.
It has nice curved edges and a light that sits above the tank – this means your not always cleaning the led strip like on some tanks.
You can buy this tank on Amazon, check the latest price via the button below (will take you straight to the right tank too).
This small tank looks its best with a natural planted look which will also make it easier to keep clean. We have a guide to setting up a small planted tank we made here (also known as an aqua scape).
As well as the tank you’ll need the heater for tropical fish, but that’s all for getting it setup.
If your planning a planted tank you’ll also need a good quality sub-trait to help the plants grow. Here’s some ideas of how they can look
As for fish it’s a small aquarium so small fish are best along with shrimp.
Shrimp are excellent for keeping your tank clean and making it easier for you to run.
Recommended fish for nano aquariums
Recommended small fish for this size tank would mainly be rasboras and as shown below they are beautiful fish that brighten up the tank.
Top row – (L to R) – Galaxy Rasbora, Harlequin Rasbora
Bottom row (L to R) – Chilli Rasbora, Jasmine Rasbora
Small tanks buyers guide – Things to consider
- Where is the tank going to go – it should be away from direct sunlight and head sources – avoid putting it by a radiator.
- Do you need a cabinet or will it go on an existing surface, if so does it need protecting – some aquariums come with a mat to place them on like the Flex mentioned above.
- What size tank do you want, we cover small tanks from 22L to 70L and find for a starter tank around 35L is a good size – enough to get a nice design and some decent fish without being too big to manage. This also work well as a separate incubator tank for baby fish.
- Think about your current style of furniture and where it will go – Will an ultra modern tank suit the space its going in. For us a nice fish tank should enhance its surroundings and draw you too it rather than standing out and looking odd or out of place. (There is a place for the ultra modern fish tank).
- How much maintenance do you want to do on your small aquarium? A tropical setup is easier to keep but small reef tanks can also look stunning with a little more work. Nothing looks worse in a fish tank than it being covered in green algae as you don’t have time to look at it.
Aquascaping in a small aquarium – ideas
Here’s our very popular Fluval Flex 2 stone setup with river from our You Tube channel
Aquascaping is the name for designing a planted aquarium – Easily put its the same as landscaping your garden but on a smaller scale under water.
With the right planting and planning even the smallest fish tanks can be a thing of true beauty.
See our guide to setting up a planted aquarium here if you need guidance on how to get started.
If you’re planning a starter or nano tank then here’s some tanks we like that are a good use for inspiring your tank (please note these are not our tanks and where possible we link the image back to the owners blog – if you see one we’ve missed linking just let us know).
This is one off my personal favourites, it’s leading on the eye with the over hang and just looks perfect.
If I find the right stone I’d recreate this in one of my own tanks to see if I could get it as good.
There is just something magical about this tank that I love.
I like this one for different reasons – the natural effect of the tree makes it look like an above water scene under water.
This is very tricky to pull off and would take a lot of maintenance to keep the tree from over growing.
I’ll soon be starting a nano reef project and this will be my inspiration. It’s the absolute best nano reef aquarium I’ve ever seen, the colour of the coral is dazzling even without any fish in it.
I’d be proud to have this tank in my home – hopefully I’ll have something similar soon!