Best Fish Tank for Beginners: Shallow & High-Profile Sets for Wide Range of Fish

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Some of the best fish tanks for beginners are also ones that experienced aquarium keepers look to as reliable standbys. This should come as no surprise considering some freshwater fish have lifespans spanning several decades.

Having said that…

Most people I talk to about the information found in a beginner fish tank review want to keep several species of fish in the same aquarium.

Since fish can easily double or triple in size over their natural lifespan, I often recommend the 20-Gallon high profile Aqueon Aquarium Starter Kit with LED Lighting.

The 5 Best Fish Tanks for Beginners Reviewed

1. Aqueon Aquarium Kit with LED Lighting – Best Overall

Aqueon Aquarium Starter Kit with LED Lighting

Not every species of fish likes to swim in the central region of the tank. Some prefer to be closer to the surface, while others rarely leave the substrate area.

When you set up a community tank, the best way to give each fish enough room involves choosing ones that live in different depth zones.

This is very hard to do when the tank doesn’t hold enough water or isn’t tall enough to create bigger zones.

One of the nicest things about the Aqueon Aquarium Starter Kit is that it comes with a high-profile tank. Since it’s already taller than other tanks in the same size range, you can easily accommodate a wider range of fish species.

Even though many beginners start with a 10-gallon tank, they often run into problems as the fish mature and need more room. A 20-gallon tank is the best starter aquarium if you don’t want to upgrade later. 

Pros

  • Taller than average, making it ideal for tall-finned fish and community tanks.
  • HOB filter has quite a bit of room, so you can use DIY media and adapt as you learn.
  • The hood is tight-fitting and has plenty of room for adding new devices. 

Cons

  • There isn’t a way to adjust the included heater. 
  • LED light arrays may be exposed to condensation from inside the tank.

Takeaway

Starting an aquarium can easily be a commitment that spans several decades. The 20-Gallon Aqueon Aquarium Starter Kit is perfect for beginners that want to get the best fish tank on the first purchase.

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2. Fluval Spec 5-Gallon Size – Best for Single Fish

Fluval Spec Aquarium Kit 5-Gallon Size

I never get over the number of people that get a promotion and want to add a fish tank to their new office. The first species these people think of is guppies.

Fortunately, guppies and several other livebearers are peaceful fish that will do fine in a smaller tank like the Fluval Spec 5-gallon aquarium.

Regardless of whether you are talking about freshwater fish or saltwater fish, beginners are often stunned when they realize some species like the betta fish are more aggressive than others.

Failure to address this problem can easily lead to immune system collapse in more peaceful fish. From there, every species in the tank can wind up with fungal or bacterial infections and ich.

The Fluval Spec Aquarium Kit has everything you need to set up quickly for short and long-term situations.

You can also use this tank as a quarantine tank. As you become accustomed to different fish species, you may want to add new ones to a community tank.

Since stress can easily lead to illness outbreaks, it is always best to isolate new fish for at least 45 days. This aquarium can help ensure your main tank stays free of illness while giving you the flexibility to explore different aquatic species.

Pros

  • Best starter fish tank for emergencies
  • Filter is robust and you can customize the media to accommodate emergencies
  • Adjustable intensity light array is useful for plants with different lighting needs

Cons

  • Hood has a big opening that small fish can jump out of
  • Light array’s overall design is flimsy

Takeaway

If you plan to keep just a few guppies or other small livebearers in an office or small apartment setting, this kit will suit your needs.

It is also ideal as a secondary emergency tank when you encounter aggressive fish or others that need to be isolated.

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3. Koller Products Panaview 5-Gallon – Best Budget Buy

Koller Products Panaview 5-Gallon Aquarium

If you are looking for an inexpensive 5-gallon setup, the Koller Products Panaview aquarium will suit your needs perfectly. It comes with a filter, lighting, and hood right off the shelf.

I like this tank because it’s made from a single piece of acrylic. This reduces the risk of leakage and other problems commonly seen in glass aquariums.

Before the advent of LEDs, it was easy to get hoods with a suitable moisture barrier between the light source and the water. These days, I often wonder why there is less emphasis on safety just because the light array requires less voltage.

Fortunately, the hood for the Koller Panaview has a barrier between the LED array and the water.

If this tank came in a 20 or 10-gallon size, it would be my number one choice because of the lighting and hood arrangement.

Pros

  • Made of one single piece of acrylic, which reduces the chance of leakage.
  • The light array is fully isolated from water and moisture.
  • You can also change the lighting color in the tank.

Cons

  • Small feeding hole can clog up with food and moisture.
  • The filter is undersized and not well suited for custom media. 

Takeaway

The Koller Products Panaview aquarium is an excellent choice for beginners on a budget. You can use it for Siamese fighting fish or smaller schools of peaceful fish while you learn more about aquarium keeping.

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4. Tetra ColorFusion Aquarium – Best for Deep Bodied Fish

Tetra ColorFusion Aquarium 20 Gallon

Fantails are often the first choice for beginners that want hearty fish. Since they are deep-bodied fish that like to swim in the lower regions of the tank, a high-profile tank isn’t the best option.

The Tetra Color Fusion Aquarium will give these and other deep-bodied fish plenty of room where they need it most.

There’s also plenty of room in the mid-range area for other deep-bodied fish that prefer this region. For example, a school combining White tetras and black skirt tetras will get along fine in a 20-gallon setup with 4 – 6 fantails.

This particular kit also has a filter you can adapt to custom media.

You can fill the Biobag with proprietary media or experiment with other materials. All you have to do is fill the bag and fit it into the clip.

Since the bag itself is made of fiber, it serves as vital housing for nitrifying bacteria.

Pros

  • Biobag filter cartridges can be used with custom media. 
  • Best starter aquarium for deep-bodied fish that might develop swim bladder problems in taller tanks
  • Feeding hole on the hood is large enough to avoid clogging

Cons

  • Heater may not be reliable
  • Different color LED lights may be pretty, but may not provide quality lighting for plants

Takeaway

The Tetra Color Fusion Aquarium is the best starter aquarium if you plan on keeping deep-bodied fish.

Since deep-bodied fish like tetras and fantails are some of the best fish for beginners, this tank is a perfect match.

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5. Aqua Culture 10 Gallon Aquarium – Best For Limited Space

Aqua Culture 10 Gallon Aquarium

Very early on, I was surprised to find out there is little difference in the dimensions between a 5-gallon aquarium and one that holds 10 gallons of water.

Nevertheless, the doubling in tank capacity makes an enormous difference to the fish living in the tank.

This particular kit offers a well-dimensioned tank that is just big enough for a school of related species of fish. It easily accommodates schools of smaller barbs such as the Rosy, Tiger, and Albinos.

I’ve also found that the Aqua Culture 10 Gallon Aquarium is the best starter fish tank for Buenos Aires tetras and other narrow-bodied fish. Since the hood is tight-fitting, it is also a good choice for jumpers.

Just be careful about cutting the hood to accommodate custom filters or other equipment.

The cuts for the equipment that comes with the tank are tight enough to prevent fish loss from jumping.

Pros

  • Dimensions are ideal for small rooms or other cramped settings.
  • The filter is easy to maintain without having to get into the tank.
  • A comfortably sized tank makes it easy to manage algae and water changes.

Cons

  • Unusually high rate of tank leakage. 
  • LED Light strips may not provide strong enough light for live plants.

The Aqua Culture 10-Gallon Aquarium Starter Kit is an excellent choice for beginners interested in narrow-bodied fish that tend to dart or jump.

Since the dimensions are very close to a 5-Gallon setup, it is perfect for small spaces while giving more room to the fish living in it.

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Factors When Buying a Beginner Fish Tank

The Fish’s Overall Body Shape

black and white fish in an aquarium

One of the most important things you can do before buying fish tank starter kits is to decide what kind of fish you are going to keep in it.

Even though many species of fish can live in the same water type, their body shapes may not be compatible with the dimensions of the tank.

This can lead to serious health problems. For example, deep-bodied fish do well in shallow tanks because their swim bladders are already under a lot of internal pressure.

Even with a shallow tank, you may need to put their food underwater so they don’t gulp surface air.

Or, if the fish still have swim bladder problems, you can feed thawed out frozen peas to help move the gas.

Narrow-bodied fish often dart upwards and downwards in schools or alone. These fish benefit from deeper tanks that give them more room to zoom around and enjoy different depth levels.

Territorial Habits and Other Space Needs

Cichlids, male livebearers, and tiger barbs are notorious for being territorial. Some may attack fish of the same species and gender.

Others may be fine in a school of related fish, but attack others with different body shapes or color patterns from non-related species.

Even though several fish may be rated for particular tank size and water type, territorial aggression may not make them suitable tank mates.

As you can see in this video, there are many choices when it comes to fish species. Not all of them can live together from a temperament perspective.

Fish’s Expected Lifespan and Growth Over Lifetime

One of the worst things I’ve seen is people putting small goldfish, tiger barbs, or other juvenile fish into tanks that hold less than 10 gallons of water.

Most juvenile fish on the market will double or triple in size over their lifetime. What looks like a perfect fit now will not work later on as the bioload increases.

To add insult to injury, undersized tanks are the number one factor in fish aggression.

Even if fish of the same species get along fine when they are juveniles, that can change as they grow and the tank becomes too cramped.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Do if My New Tank Starts to Leak?

Always keep a small tank or a few fishbowls on hand along with suitable filtration. You may need more than one bowl depending on the number of fish and the size of each creature.

They will have to live in this emergency housing for about a month by the time you recycle the water in the main tank and ensure it is safe for them.

If you can’t return the tank because it is out of warranty, there is still a chance that you can repair it.

For glass tanks, you will have to take out all the water. Next, apply aquarium-safe silicone sealant to the area that is leaking. 

If you are trying to repair a saltwater aquarium, you may need special cement for that purpose.

Do I Really Need a Heater With an Adjustable Thermostat?

A heater with an adjustable thermostat is essential for tropical fish unless you plan to keep the room at a suitable temperature.

Pre-set heaters may not have good thermostats in them. Over time, they will fail.

This can lead to the temperature going too high and killing the fish. Or, the temperature can go too low and cause the same problem.

I have personally seen aquarium fish heaters get close to 100 degrees when the thermostat fails. Luckily, I didn’t have fish in those tanks at the time.

Should I Buy a Different Hood?

If the tank itself is good quality, along with the accessories, a poorly designed hood isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker when it comes to starter kits.

The biggest problem with modern freshwater aquarium hoods is LED arrays that are exposed to moisture.

You can still leave the lights off and keep a regular light near the tank if there are live plants in the aquarium. 

Should I Limit My New Fish Choices to Betta Fish?

I know many people that think male betta fish is the perfect choice for beginners.   Since they are usually kept solitary and in small bowls, some feel they are a budget-friendly option.

I don’t recommend starting with just one fish because you will lose out on understanding fish psychology and aggression.

These are very important things to understand no matter whether you have an interest in small fish or larger ones.

There are many tropical fish that don’t require large or expensive fish tanks.  In some cases, the best fish tank may be in the 10-gallon range or smaller.

Conclusion

The Aqueon Aquarium Starter Kit with LED Lighting is the best starter aquarium if you are planning to keep a wide range of fish. The size will accommodate many species, even if they are on the territorial side.

Most importantly, the water capacity and dimensions make this a tank your pet fish can grow into and live in comfortably for the rest of their lives.

Last Updated: February 11, 2022

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