As a beginner, it’s not easy to know where to start, so I’ve put together this best saltwater tank for beginners guide, so you can be sure to pick a great tank!
- Best Saltwater Tank For Beginners – Top Picks
- Best Saltwater Aquarium For Beginners – Reviews
- Are Saltwater Tanks Good For Beginners?
- What Are The Best Saltwater Fish For Beginners?
- Closing Thoughts On The Best Saltwater Tanks For Beginners…
Best Saltwater Tank For Beginners – Top Picks
If you’re short on time and want to know what the best choices are, here are my top picks:
- Fluval Sea Evo V 13.5 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium Kit (Best Saltwater Nano Tank For Beginners)
- Coralife LED Biocube Marine 32 Gallon Aquarium Kit (Best All In One Saltwater Aquarium Kit For Beginners)
- SeaClear Acrylic 40 Gallon Aquarium Combo Set (Best Acrylic Tank For Beginners)
- Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium Kit (Best Value Tank For Beginners)
- LANDEN Rimless Low Iron 72 Gallon Aquarium (Best Rimless Tank For Beginners)
Best Saltwater Aquarium For Beginners – Reviews
I’ve reviewed what I consider to be the best saltwater aquarium for beginners and weighed up the pros and cons of each, so you can be sure to find a great tank.
1. Fluval Sea Evo V 13.5 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium Kit
- Gallons: 13.5
- Dimensions: Length 22″ x Width 11.5″ x Height 15″
- Material: Glass
- Weight (Empty): 28 lbs
- Filter: Included
- Lighting: Included
- Heater: Not included
- Easy setup
- Stylish design
- Heater not included
- Lid isn’t hinged
- Easy feed opening in the lid
- Included filter media could be better
I’m a big fan of Fluval products, so no surprise that I’ve included the Fluval Sea Evo V 13.5 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium Kit in this review.
It’s the best saltwater nano tank starter kit if you don’t want anything too big and bulky and I love the honeycomb trim around the tank top and back edges which hides the waterline, pump, and filtration from view.
The included fully waterproof lighting has simple one-touch controls with day, night, and off lighting modes. It fits into the tank lid so there’s no fiddly setup for you to worry about and is good for taking care of zoanthid and toadstool corals.
Comes with all 3 stages of filter media included: foam block, carbon pouch, and bio max rings. However, this is the first area I’d look at upgrading with this tank. The inTank Chamber One Media Basket is designed for this tank and will force far more water through the filter media which will clean your water better and keep your fish healthier.
One thing you’ll need to buy is a heater. The Fluval M50 is a great choice for this tank. Something else that’s optional, but will help keep your water cleaner and oxygenated is the Fluval Sea PS1 Protein Skimmer. Both of these items will fit in the rear compartment of the tank without any modifications required.
A couple of things I don’t like about this tank is the lid isn’t hinged so you have to completely remove it for water changes. The ‘easy feed opening’ in the lid doesn’t have a cover so is open constantly offering your fish a chance to escape. The opening also allows water to evaporate and salinity levels to fluctuate.
It’s a great choice of saltwater nano tank for a beginners, but you’ll only be able to keep a couple of small fish in it due to it being on the smaller side. A pair of clownfish and a goby would be fine.
2. Coralife LED Biocube Marine 32 Gallon Aquarium Kit
- Gallons: 32
- Dimensions: Length 20″ x Width 21.87″ x Height 21.5″
- Material: Glass
- Weight (Empty): 62 lbs
- Filter: Included
- Lighting: Included
- Heater: Not Included
- Modern design
- Matching stand available
- Range of accessories available
- Also available in 16 gallon size
- Fans could be noisy
- Included filter media basket is flimsy
The Coralife LED Biocube Marine or Freshwater Aquarium Kit 32 is my top pick for the best all in one saltwater aquarium kit. It’s a decent size without being too big and has a really nice modern design about it. But, it does need a few small tweaks.
The LED lights have an integrated 24-hour digital timer giving you full control of imitating your fish’s natural day and night cycle. There are reports that the fan inside the lid, which is there to keep the LED lights cool, can become noisy, while others have said the fan is almost silent. I suspect it’s down to manufacturing discrepancies and it’s pot luck whether or not you get a noisy fan or a quiet fan.
The included filter media basket is OK to get you started but it’s a little flimsy, and awkward to get in and out of the tank without making a mess everywhere, and because of its design, it doesn’t force as much water through the filter media as it should so your water doesn’t get cleaned as well. I highly recommend replacing it with the inTank Media Basket and the inTank Fuge Basket if you find your water isn’t staying clean.
Another slight flaw is that there’s a 1/2″ gap between the top of the back wall that separates the swimming area from the filter area and the tank lid so fish can end up in the filter basket. There is a fix for this too, the inTank Fish Saver fills the gap nicely.
There’s no heater included so you’ll have to buy one separately. The Fluval M100 is a great choice for this tank.
This is a great beginner saltwater aquarium kit. If you can live with the couple of minor flaws it has, or are prepared to pay out for a few upgrades mentioned above, you’ll love this aquarium.
3. SeaClear Acrylic 40 Gallon Aquarium Combo Set
- Gallons: 40
- Dimensions: Length 36″ x Width 15″ x Height 16″
- Weight (Empty): 20 lbs
- Material: Acrylic
- Filter: Not Included
- Lighting: Fixture Included, No Bulb
- Heater: Not Included
- Clearer than glass aquariums
- Light fixture and reflector included
- Stable water temperatures
- Seamless corners
- Light bulb not included
- Lid design could be better
- Can be awkward to clean
The SeaClear Acrylic 40 Gallon Aquarium Combo is the best acrylic 40-gallon tank I have found, but it has a couple of minor flaws.
It is much lighter than a glass tank at only 20 lbs and it’s hard to put in words just how much clearer it is to see through.
Being acrylic it offers much better water temperature stability, and because it’s a single molded piece there are no ugly joins in the tank corners.
Accessories like a filter and heater have to be bought separately. An ideal filter for a saltwater tank this size is the Fluval 407 canister filter. When it comes to heaters I again turn to Fluval and the Fluval E200 is superb.
You’ll need to buy a lightbulb for this tank as it doesn’t come included, you only get the light fixture! A better option for your aquarium lighting is the NICREW Classic LED Gen 2 Aquarium Light.
The biggest niggle I have with this tank is the lid. It’s there to add extra support to the tank rim, but the access holes make it awkward to clean the inside of the tank. If you remove it for cleaning the tank rim bows outwards and it can be tricky to get it back on again. That’s acrylic tanks for you though!
Also available in a 50-gallon size if you’re wanting something a bit bigger, although the Tetra 55 gallon below is generally cheaper and a great option if you’re not set on having an acrylic aquarium.
4. Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium Kit
- Gallons: 55
- Dimensions: Length 48.25 ” x Width 12.8″ x Height 20.9″
- Material: Glass
- Weight (Empty): 79 lbs
- Filter: Included, but needs upgrading
- Lighting: Included, but may need upgrading
- Heater: Included, but needs upgrading
- Great value tank
- Lid included
- Stick on thermometer included
- Heater isn’t great
- Filter is not good enough for a saltwater tank
- Small gaps in the lids for fish to escape
The Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium Kit is aimed at freshwater fish keepers, but it will work just as well for saltwater fish with a few upgrades. If you’ve got the space and budget for a larger tank like this, it’s a great tank for beginners.
The tank itself is extremely well made from 3/16″ tempered glass and is very well packed for shipping. With a larger tank like this, it’s much easier to keep the water parameters stable and water toxins at safe levels. Learning how to do this is an essential part of fish keeping and bigger tanks make it easier.
The filter included is a Tetra Whisper Power Filter 60 which is good for freshwater fish, but you’ll need to upgrade it as a saltwater tank requires better filtration. You can always sell this filter as it’s a decent item and put that money towards any upgrades. I highly recommend a Fluval 407 canister filter for a 55 gallon saltwater FOWLR aquarium.
The included heater hasn’t got overly great reviews so I would also upgrade this too. I swear by the Fluval E200, or for better temperature regulation, 2 Fluval E100 heaters put at opposite ends of the tank will work great.
Although you do get a lid included, there are 2 finger holes in the lid that are constantly open. This offers your fish an opportunity to escape and allows water to evaporate. A simple solution would be to wedge a piece of foam in there.
The lights are OK, but if you want to upgrade them you can’t go wrong with the NICREW Classic LED Gen 2 Aquarium Light.
The stick on thermometer works just fine, but you can get a pair of digital thermometers for a low price. I prefer to have 2 thermometers on my tanks just in case 1 of them develops a fault and reads the water temperature wrongly, or stops working altogether. It’s always better to have a backup in place and not need it.
If you need a sturdy stand, you have a choice of the Aquatic Fundamentals cabinet so you can store all of your aquarium gear without it being on show, or there’s the Aquarium Fundamentals shelf stand.
This is a superb starter aquarium but it does need a few upgrades to make it suitable for saltwater fish keeping. If you have the budget and space, I definitely recommend starting with this setup or something bigger.
5. LANDEN Rimless Low Iron 72 Gallon Aquarium
- Gallons: 72
- Dimensions: Length 47.2″ x Width 19.68″ x Height 19.68″
- Material: Glass
- Weight (Empty): 210 lbs
- Filter: Not included
- Lighting: Not included
- Heater: Not included
- Extremely well made
- Well packaged for shipping
- Made 15/32″ thick heavy-duty crystal clear glass
- Foam leveling mat included
- Tank only
- Difficult to find a lid that fits
The LANDEN Rimless Low Iron 72 Gallon Aquarium isn’t the most budget-friendly of fish tanks, but you definitely get what you pay for. If you’re looking for a centerpiece tank that you won’t need to upgrade to later on when you want to add more fish, this is a top-notch tank choice.
The build quality is second to none with nice neat siliconing in the corners. The 15/32″ (12mm) thick low iron glass allows more natural light to pass through and reduces the greenish tint found in other glass aquariums giving you a much better clearer view of your fish.
The Landen logo on the bottom right corner of the tank is only a sticker that can be easily removed if you like.
The included foam leveling mat may not line up fully with your tank when it arrives, but when you fill the tank with water the weight makes the mat stretch outwards to the tank edges.
This is a tank-only setup, the only extra you get is the leveling mat. You’ll have to buy your filter, heater, lights, and lid separately.
With the extra filtration requirements of a saltwater aquarium, you’re looking at a Fluval FX4 for a tank this size. For heating, I’d go with the Fluval E300. Lights wise the NICREW Classic LED Gen 2 Aquarium Light would fit nicely.
As for a lid to fit this tank, there aren’t too many choices. You can either look at having a custom lid made, or there are a few videos on YouTube that show you how to build a DIY canopy for a rimless tank.
Check out some of the reviews on Amazon and see for yourself just how well packaged for shipping this tank is. I have a couple of Landen tanks and can vouch for their quality.
Are Saltwater Tanks Good For Beginners?
Yes, they are. As long as you arm yourself with some basic fish-keeping knowledge, there’s no reason why a beginner fish keeper can’t successfully keep a saltwater aquarium. Before jumping in, there are a few things to consider:
What Size Saltwater Tank Should A Beginner Get?
We’ve all been new to this hobby at some point and a common misconception amongst newbies (myself included back in the day) is that it’s much less work to take care of a small saltwater tank than a bigger tank. Actually, this isn’t true and it can be a steep learning curve wondering why your fish are becoming ill or dying.
This doesn’t have to happen to you though, the fact you’re reading this shows that you want to look after your fish and give them a good life.
Smaller tanks suffer from larger fluctuations in water parameters than larger tanks. Keeping the water parameters (temperature, pH level, salinity, etc) consistent and stable is key to keeping fish happy and healthy, it’s much easier to keep them stable in a larger tank.
Something else to consider is that as fish grow, or as you add more fish to your tank, more and more strain is put on the tank’s nitrogen cycle. It’s far easier to keep the nitrogen cycle in check in a larger tank than in a smaller tank.
My advice to you is to purchase the biggest tank that you have got the budget and space for. You’ll thank me later when you don’t have to rush out and buy a bigger tank further down the line because you’re struggling to keep your water parameters in check.
Obviously, not everyone has the budget, space, or desire for a huge tank, just bear in mind you’ll have to spend a bit more time monitoring and cleaning a smaller tank, but it can be done.
What Type Of Saltwater Tank Do You Want To Keep?
There are 3 main types of saltwater aquarium, you need to pick which one you want to set up:
1. Fish Only
It doesn’t get much simpler than a FO aquarium. You just have fish, no live rock or corals, and generally sparsely decorated. The fish are the stars of the show.
FOWLR is a term you’ll hear often in fish keeping. It stands for Fish Only With Live Rock.
Live rock acts as a natural filter and is home to millions of beneficial nitrifying bacteria that will keep your aquarium healthy and help maintain stable water parameters.
A reef aquarium contains live rock, reef-safe fish, corals, and other marine invertebrates.
Reef aquariums look amazing, but corals can be tricky for beginners as they generally require very specific water and lighting conditions.
I recommend a FOWLR aquarium for beginners. Although live rock can be expensive, it will help keep your water parameters more stable.
You can also choose from a wider variety of fish, as a lot of fish like to hide amongst or perch on the rock.
Rimless Or Traditional Tank?
Rimless aquariums are becoming more popular these days as they are more pleasing to look at than a traditional tank that has bracing around the top and bottom.
Don’t let the lack of bracing put you off, rimless tanks are engineered to be strong enough to hold back more water than they can actually hold.
This sleek look comes at a price though, you’ll pay more for a rimless tank than a braced tank. Some other cons of a rimless tank are:
- Increased water evaporation due to the open-top, although you can buy lids to prevent this
- Salinity levels dropping due to water evaporation
- The open-top gives fish, and snails if you keep them, the chance to escape
Aquarium Kit Or Tank Only?
You can either buy a kit that comes with most of the things you need or buy the tank and other bits separately.
There are a few pros and cons to buying an aquarium kit, let’s start with the pros:
✅ Easy Setup
An aquarium kit is generally designed for beginners and is therefore easy to set up. Just follow the instructions that come with your aquarium kit and you’ll be good to go.
They come with most of the things you need (except decor, water, and fish) right out of the box so you’ve been saved the hassle of researching all the bits you need yourself.
✅ Budget Friendly
As they come as a complete kit, they generally cost less than purchasing all the items separately.
Now for the cons of aquarium kits:
❌ Limited Choice
As you can see from this post, there aren’t many choices for beginner-friendly saltwater aquarium kits which is why I’ve also added a tank-only option with some essential item recommendations.
❌ May Need Upgrading
This is the biggest issue with all-in-one kits, they’re designed to get you going but you’ll soon be wanting to, or be needing to, upgrade a few items as they’re not up to spec long term.
I have included where possible any recommended equipment upgrades in the review section above.
What Are The Best Saltwater Fish For Beginners?
Many people’s first choice of saltwater fish is the ocellaris clownfish. Don’t get me wrong, Nemo is a great beginner fish to keep, but there are many other options to choose from.
Check out my list of best saltwater fish for beginners for more ideas.
Closing Thoughts On The Best Saltwater Tanks For Beginners…
I hope I’ve given you enough information on choosing the best saltwater tank and helped you find a tank that suits you and your budget.
For those of you still undecided, here’s a quick recap of my top picks:
- Fluval Sea Evo V 13.5 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium Kit (Best Saltwater Nano Tank)
- Coralife LED Biocube Marine 32 Gallon Aquarium Kit (Best All In One Saltwater Aquarium Kit)
- SeaClear Acrylic 40 Gallon Aquarium Combo Set (Best Acrylic Saltwater Tank)
- Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium Kit (Best Value Saltwater Tank)
- LANDEN Rimless Low Iron 72 Gallon Aquarium (Best Rimless Saltwater Tank)