What are the best saltwater aquariums?

If you’re in a hurry and eager to find out the best saltwater aquarium. Then we would recommend the Coralife LED Biocube Aquarium.

Choosing the perfect fish tank can be a tiresome process. Not only is there an abundance of brands to choose from. But you want to strike the balance of practicality and aesthetics. Saltwater aquariums may have a reputation, well in the early stages, being more tricky to run and maintain than that of a freshwater aquarium. However once up and running they are arguably a far more alluring spectacle. This article will help you decide if saltwater is the route for you, and identify some of the best saltwater fish tanks available.

The difference between saltwater and freshwater aquariums?

First of all, congratulations for finally coming around to decide that you want to own an aquarium. The first step and most critical decision you will have to make is choosing a freshwater or saltwater aquarium. While both types have viable pros and cons, your final decision will be based on experience, budget, and time.

Freshwater aquariums are beginner-friendly, and will in comparison to their saltwater partners need minimal maintenance once up and running. However, you will still need to know the water cycle, iron, phosphorus, and carbon levels. Some of the regular types of fish for freshwater include tetras fish, cichlids, and betta fish. While all these require different aquarium settings, it’s much easier to take care of them.

Saltwater aquariums contain water that’s either mixed at home or uses seawater. It’s important to keep an eye on several mineral levels, the PH levels, and the water cycle. The aquarium size and content are more complex than their freshwater counterparts. Generally, you will need a bigger tank since the salt level is going to be the most crucial thing if you want your fish to thrive. People love saltwater aquariums for the magnificent magical colors they bring. The mix of the exotic fish and reef rock makes a striking spectacle. Overall, saltwater aquariums will need more work and require greater technical knowledge. 

The 3 types of saltwater aquariums

Now you have a clear idea of the difference between freshwater and saltwater aquariums let’s get more in-depth with our chosen option. Saltwater tanks are not all the same. They come in three different types; fish only, FOWLR (fish only with live rock), and reef tanks. While each of these might have other sub-categories, these are the main groups.

Fish only tanks

The most basic of the three. It has no corals, and cultivating live rocks will not be something for you to worry about. Its setup is simple, and most are relatively budget-friendly. However, you will need to conduct regular maintenance, even more than the other two types. In this case, the nitrogen cycle will also take a while before it stabilizes, as there are no organisms to assist the process. 

FOWLR tanks

What differentiates the FOWLR and fish only tanks are the added live rocks. Live rocks act as homes for several organisms. The organisms help to regulate bio-features of the saltwater and also act as a natural filtration system. You will need a larger tank to offer the necessary room for chemical balances. You can either buy live rock or cure your own. The latter will require you to purchase the culture pieces of equipment that allow the rock to come alive. Making sure you invest in a quality filtration system is advised for the best results.

Reef tanks

Out of the three, reef tanks are the most challenging to maintain, but their appeal level is also worth the added time and investment. You will need to have excellent lighting, a high-quality filtration system, and take the time to check the water parameters daily. For these reasons, I’d advised being more experienced in the aquarium business before going for a reef tank.

What to consider before buying a saltwater fish tank

Before we share what we believe to be the best saltwater fish tanks in the market today, there are some considerations that should be taken into account before purchase. 

Know your fish: Different types of fish live in different environments. Mixing them causes a lot of havoc, a freshwater fish will struggle to survive in a saltwater environment.

Have a budget in place: Starting an aquarium can be a big investment, and you need to prepare financially. Having a budget in mind will help you decide on the type of aquarium to choose.

Size and space: You will need an aquarium that suits the available space in your house, so size is another major factor.

Accessories research:  Take time to study and research the other accessories that go with saltwater aquariums such as lighting, Ultraviolet/UV sterilizers, filtration pieces, equipment, and test kits. Some of the reviews below will include accessories as part of a saltwater aquarium kit. Don’t forget to go through food and supplements for different types of fish, so you know what to feed your new friends.

3 common mistakes to avoid

Lack of patience: Do not expect everything to pick up at the pace you wish. Give nature time to manifest in your aquarium, especially when it comes to the nitrogen cycle. Also, try not to add the fish too early. Let the aquarium settle first before welcoming your fish to their new home.

My first tank was too small: Size may not be as crucial for freshwater aquariums. However, it’s a significant aspect to look into when getting a saltwater aquarium, since it will be able to better handle the daily fluctuations of water quality. 

Overfeeding the fish: Fish are not like humans who need to eat around the clock. Feeding them once a day is fine. 

needyfish’s favorite saltwater aquariums

Fluval Sea Evo Saltwater Fish Tank Aquarium Kit

Key features:

  • 13.5-gallon glass aquarium 
  • 3 stage filtration
  • LED lighting system
  • Circulation pump
  • Foam filter block

One of the things that really stood out for users was the slick appearance of this tank. A trend that is becoming synonymous with Fluval designs. Some customers found over time that the honeycomb design can start to show some wear. People commented on the powerful LEDs having the capabilities to sustain hardy corals. Overall this is a sleek, high-quality design that would look at home anywhere. 


  • Conceals back filtration
  • Silent pump 
  • Excellent brand
  • Easy setup 


  • Honeycomb design can show slight wear and tear (i.e deterioration)

Hygger Horizon 8 Gallon 

Key Features: 

  • Internal power filter pump
  • LED aquarium light
  • 3D background

Users were impressed with the ease of set up. Thanks in part to the inclusion of the key pieces of equipment to have a fully working tank. The LED light is adjustable, which can be changed to any white, blue, or red light. One thing that stood out for many users was the two shower tubes that help create the waterfall, which is an impressive sight, complemented by the 3D background. Overall this is a budget-friendly sleek looking tank that would look at home in most environments. 


  • Easy setup
  • Easy maintenance 
  • Silent when operational 
  • Compact and versatile 


  • The décor may be striking but is limiting since you cannot install your own
  • It has no heater so you will need to buy separately and install your own

Coralife LED Biocube Aquarium LED

Key features:

  • LED lighting 
  • Adjustable filters
  • Integrated timer and temperature control 

This is a beautiful tank making it appealing even for room decor. People were very impressed with the LED lights, although some had difficulties with the initial setup. However, when set up, they can be programmed on a 12/24 hour timer with a night (moon) and day (sun) setting. Users like that it has plenty of spare space in the back where the filter is placed, meaning there is plenty of room for customization if you choose to add some sponges, carbon, or Bio balls. Overall a great all in one aquarium. 


  • Sleek design  
  • Customizable filtration system
  • Great for beginners 


  • Warranty concerns
  • The cooling fan can be noisy 

SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set 

Key features: 

  • Impact-resistant 
  • Reflector and electrical 24″ light fixture
  • Extensive warranty

Several users commented on the high quality and strength of this acrylic tank, which does not bow when filled with water. People were also very impressed with how light the tank was. Some people had issues with the light fixture and were not overly happy with the lid, commenting that it felt cheap. However, aesthetically there is no arguing that this is a beautiful looking tank, thanks to the neatly seamed corners that don’t need to be framed, enhancing the overall spectacle. 


  • Lightweight 
  • The convex shape gives the view more appeal 
  • Does not scratch easily 


  • The fluorescent lights seem cheap

Our choice

Like most of our reviews for needyfish; we have considered that each person is going to have a different set of needs to the next. With that in mind, we have aimed to share a variety of different options that, in their own right, are great saltwater aquariums.

However, If I were to choose one of the five recommended, it would be the Coralife LED Biocube Aquarium. First, it is easy to install, making it beginner-friendly, yet it needs low maintenance, making it ideal for all expert classes. I love the good looking design which will enhance the aesthetics of any room. I believe the design and performance are worth the investment. 

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