Take the stress out of your new hobby with an aquarium starter kit. Many kits contain everything a beginner needs to set up a fish tank. They usually come with a light and a filter, and some include a heater and even a net.
Top aquarium kit for beginners
We researched the best aquarium starter kits that you can buy online and reviewed them here for you. We hope that you find the perfect setup for your new fish tank.
#1 Tetra 20 Gallon Complete Aquarium Kit
Tetra’s Complete Aquarium Kit includes a 20-gallon glass tank, a hood with an LED light, and a Whisper filter. You’ll also find a 100W heater and artificial plants for decorations. You only need to add gravel, water, and fish.
The LED light creates a natural shimmer effect as if the sun was shining on the water. This type of lamp is very energy-efficient, and shouldn’t burn out for years. Plus, the hinged lid of the hood lifts up to give you access to the water when you need it.
As you shop for an aquarium starter kit, you might notice that several contain the Tetra Whisper filter. It’s very popular because it’s very quiet and effective. Also, replacement cartridges are inexpensive.
#2 Marina LED Aquarium Kit
Marina’s LED Aquarium Kit comes with their S20 clip-on filter and cartridges and LED light, and a 20-gallon glass tank. But that’s not all. You’ll also find Fluval Max fish food, water conditioner, biological supplement, a net, and a care guide with advice on setting up and taking care of the aquarium. This is one of the most comprehensive starter kits in our review today.
#3 GloFish Fish Tank Kit
As we mentioned earlier, it’s common to see the Tetra Whisper filter bundled with non-Tetra brand aquariums. The GloFish 20-gallon tank kit is an example of this fact. But besides the filter, GloFish includes a decorative plant multi-pack that fluoresces brightly under the included 13-inch LED light stick. You’ll also find a Tetra mini heater, too.
#4 Aqueon Ascent LED Frameless Aquarium Kit
The modern design of the Aqueon Ascent frameless aquarium kit has an angled top that disguises the water line. It also has a hinged glass canopy that contains an LED light. Overall, this beautiful aquarium draws more attention to its inhabitants than to its own structure.
In the box, you’ll also find Aqueon’s QuietFlow filter and cartridge, plus samples of premium fish food and water conditioner. Some owners have commented that the water flow from the internal power filter is quite strong. One customer solved the problem by hanging artificial plants to break up the flow.
#5 Aqueon Aquarium Fish Tank Starter Kits with LED Lighting
At the time of writing, Aqueon’s popular 20-gallon fish tank starter kit was not available for purchase online. We hope that this difficulty is resolved soon because it’s one of the best aquarium kits on the market. At this point, you can still purchase a 10-gallon version.
The kit includes an LED light, a low-profile hood, a power filter and cartridge, a 50W heater, water conditioner, fish food, and net, and a thermometer. The filter is Aqueon’s QuietFlow Pro Power filter that has a red indicator light to show you when it’s time to change the cartridge. And the miniature heater can maintain the water temperature at 78°, which is suited to most tropical fish.
Since the filtration system is one of the most important aspects of any aquarium, let’s focus for a moment on the filter in this kit. It cleans the water in five stages. The first stage is mechanical, a layer of floss to catch particles and debris. The second stage is activated carbon that removes odors and toxins. The third stage and fourth levels are biological filters to get rid of ammonia and nitrites. And the final stage polishes the water to make it crystal clear.
#6 Marineland 16336 BIO-Wheel LED Aquarium Kit
Marineland’s Bio-Wheel Aquarium Kit pleases owners with its quiet filtration system and bright LED light. The 3-stage Penguin Series Bio-Wheel filter has wet/dry technology so that beneficial bacteria thrive. These bacteria are responsible for cleaning toxic waste from the water like ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites.
Next, the LED aquarium hood is sleek and slim. It has three modes: daytime, nighttime, or off. While the daytime light mimics the sun, the nighttime light is a cool blue. And the lamp only uses five Watts of power.
Besides these essentials, the kit includes a thermometer, a submersible heater, a net, a sample of water conditioner, and a sample of TetraMin fish food.
#7 MarineLand Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit
Marineland’s Portrait Glass Aquarium Kit is a beautiful five-gallon set up that’s perfect for a beta fish or other small inhabitants. It comes with a white and blue LED lamp with a three-way switch. The blue light resembles moon shining on the water. Meanwhile, the white LEDs make the water shimmer as if it were under sunlight.
The three-stage filtration system is quiet, and its flow is adjustable. That’s important if you’re raising shrimp or providing a friendly environment for your beta. The filter comes with bio-foam and a cartridge.
The fish tank itself has a sleek curved design, and it comes with a black stand. It holds 5 gallons of water. And owners report that it’s easy to assemble and then maintain.
#8 Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit
Fluval’s Spec V kit is another small aquarium made for desktops and countertops. It measures 17.2 x 10.6 x 6.3-inches in size, so it’s best suited as a home for a beta or small aquatic creatures.
Although it’s a small glass tank, it comes with a bright LED lighting system. The 37 LED lamps are strong enough to grow plants. And the three-stage filtration system comes with foam, activated carbon, and BioMax bio rings. You can find the water pump and filter in a separate section at one end of the aquarium.
#9 Tetra Crescent Acrylic Aquarium Kit
Tetra’s Crescent Aquarium Kit isn’t made of glass. Instead, the curved 5-gallon tank is acrylic. The advantages to acrylic are that it’s almost unbreakable and a lot lighter to move around than glass is. As Tetra points out, the Crescent tank is ideal for a dorm room, a bedroom, or even a kitchen.
It comes with the Tetra Whisper internal filter and a Bio-Bag cartridge. This cartridge provides mechanical filtering to remove debris, as well as biological filtering to remove toxins.
There’s also a 16-LED light for daytime illumination. It’s mounted in the see-through hood. And there are openings where you can place a thermometer and a heater, too.
#10 Penn Plax Vertex Desktop Aquarium Kit
Penn Plax’s Vertex starter kit is tiny. It holds 2.7 gallons of water, just enough for shrimp, a beta, or other small fish. It measures 10 inches tall by 8 inches by 9 inches long. And part of its popularity is because it has a frameless design with curved glass on the front.
There’s a quiet HOB or hang-on-back filter that lets you control the flow of water. And there’s a submersible LED light strip, too.
#11 AquaView 2-Gallon 360 Fish Tank with Power Filter and LED Lighting
Our final pick is the AquaView 2-Gallon 360 Fish Tank. Instead of glass, it’s made of impact-resistant plastic. And it’s all one piece, so you never have to worry about leaks from poorly sealed joints.
The bright and colorful LED lights give you an assortment of options. You can choose a daylight setting, or opt for amber, aqua, blue, green, red, or purple light. And the lamp includes a timer, too.
This is another fish tank that comes with the Tetra Whisper filtration system. This one has a flow rate of 25 gallons per hour and comes with an XS cartridge that removes pollutants like ammonia and odors from the water.
Finally, you can run this aquarium light on three AAA batteries, off a USB port, with a phone charger, or you can purchase the company’s own optional power adapter and plug it into the wall.
How to set up a new aquarium
Your new aquarium starter kit probably comes with instructions. But if you don’t have them handy, here is a general overview that works for most situations.
The first step, once you’ve unpacked and inspected everything, is to rinse the decorations, the gravel, and the inside of the tank with water. Never use soap or any chemical cleaner on your tank or any of its components. The residue can sicken and kill your fish.
The next step is to put it all together. Plan out where to locate the aquarium, keeping in mind that once it’s filled with water, it’s going to be quite heavy to move. And it’s smart to keep your fish tank in a place where it won’t be exposed to light or heat extremes.
Once the gravel is in place, and the plants are in, fill the tank with water. Even though you won’t be adding the fish yet, use a water conditioner to de-chlorinate tap water. You’ll be able to see right away if any of your decorations aren’t secure. Make any needed adjustments.
Next, mount the filter and the lights. Insert the heater and thermometer at opposite ends of the tank, if you have them. And plug in everything to test it. Depending on the type of filter you have, you might need to prime it. This could involve pouring de-chlorinated water into its reservoir.
Now let the tank run by itself for 24 hours. Some aquarists will test the water at this point. And if all seems well, you can add the fish. The kindest way to introduce the fish to their new home is to float the bag containing them in the tank until the temperature is about the same. Then use a net to transplant them.
How to maintain your aquarium in only 30 minutes a week
If you have a filter that’s suited to the size of your tank and the number of inhabitants it has, you shouldn’t need to do more than half an hour of maintenance each week.
Plan on replacing your filter’s cartridge every 2 to 4 weeks. At that time, you also want to perform a partial water change. This involves removing 25% of the water in the tank. And the easiest way to do that is with a siphon-operated gravel vacuum. This simple tool also cleans waste from the bottom of your aquarium.
If the water smells bad or looks cloudy, it’s probably time to change the filter cartridge and the water. The problem could also result from having too many fish or feeding them too often.
When you add freshwater, treat it first to remove chlorine. And try to match the temperature of the clean water to the temperature of the water in the aquarium to avoid shocking the fish.
If you’re new to keeping fish, you can save time and money with an aquarium starter kit. It includes a tank, a filter, and a light, and sometimes other extras like a heater. You can start small with a five-gallon tank, or you can jump in with a 20-gallon aquarium kit. Then as you gain experience, you can always upgrade individual parts and add new accessories.