Have you ever heard someone say “it was over in a nanosecond”?
A nanosecond is an extremely short period of time, and it takes 1 billion nanoseconds to make up a single regular second. So that should give you an idea of what a nano fish tank is.
It’s basically a really tiny aquarium.
What Is It?
So how small does it have to be to be called nano? There’s no real consensus on that.
Basically, if it’s smaller than its larger counterparts, then the manufacturer can call it nano without risking any accusation of false advertising. So a nano reef tank is one that holds only 30 gallons of water or less. A small saltwater aquarium may be considered a nano if it holds only 15 gallons at the most, while for others a small saltwater fish tank can’t hold more than 10 gallons. Others even think that only a tabletop aquarium can be considered nano.
So let’s down all the advantages of its small size:
- Obviously, you save a lot of money. They’re generally less expensive, and because of the size you need fewer lights, live rock or gravel (for freshwater tanks) and substrate materials. You use up less synthetic sea salt (if it’s a saltwater tank) and you also use up less power.
- You have to understand that maintaining a fish tank can get very expensive, so a system like this is inherently attractive because it doesn’t cost as much. In fact, some people who own larger tanks buy a nano aquarium to add to their collection.
- It also takes up less space. That makes a nano cube aquarium a much better option for a dorm or a small apartment than a sprawling 30-gallon tank. That means there are fewer chances that they get in the way and you can also just put them on your desk.
- It’s also not that heavy. Weight becomes an issue when you start talking about 125-gallon tank systems, as your floor may not be able to handle all that weight. With nano tanks, some are even so lightweight that you can change its location every few days with no trouble.
- The maintenance is also easier. Changing 20% of the water takes much less time when you’re talking about only a few gallons, instead of changing 20% of 30 gallons (which amounts to 6 gallons of water). And 20% of 125 gallons is a whopping 25 gallons!
But such a small size does lead to several serious issues:
- The first obvious limitation is the size and number of the fish you can put inside. You’re limited to one or two fish, and if you have more than one, you better make sure they’re not territorial. You’re also going to focus more on a lot of fish species that have the word “dwarf” or “pygmy” in its names, such as dwarf rasboras and dwarf croaking gourami along with pygmy sunfish and slender pygmy swordtails. (By the way, are these terms considered politically correct?)
- There’s not much room for error when you make a mistake. For example, if you put too much food then the extra food become food for bacteria which can pollute such a small place much more quickly. But a bigger tank dilutes the effects of these mistakes.
- Accidents can also have much quicker disastrous results. For example, consider the prospect of a failed water heater. In a bigger tank, the change in the temperature occurs over a much longer period. For a nano system, it only takes several hours. So if a heater fails right after you go out to dinner, you may well end up coming home to dead fish.
Who Is It For?
Now that we’ve listed the pros and cons of these nano aquarium tanks, it becomes much clearer just who they’re for. They’re for those who don’t really want to spend much, or who wants an affordable addition to their current large fish tank.
But contrary to what you may think, they’re not geared towards total newbies who won’t or can’t learn how to take care of such a small system properly. Remember that small mistakes lead to quick consequences. So its owner must be very conscientious regarding maintenance and monitoring, and that’s not exactly a common trait among very new or very young fish tank owners.
Top 11 Nano Aquarium Reviews
Now that we have a clearer idea of what a nano fish tank is, what’s the best nano aquarium? To know that, you’ll have to read lots of reviews to get a fair idea of what’s ideal for your situation. Here are several possible answers to that question, featuring some of the top-rated models available in the market today:
1. Fluval Flex
Fluval Flex all-in-one aquariums are designed for freshwater fishkeeping.
The aquarium uses an All-In One form factor to keep the aquarium compact with a contemporary design that fits into any living space.
The tank is constructed with high-clarity curved glass. The three-stage filtration system is integrated into the aquarium.
Nothing hangs from the sides or back of the aquarium. This looks great and makes it easier to place the aquarium in your living space.
The filtration system includes a foam filter that captures water-including particles of debris, algae and uneaten fish food. A pouch of activated carbon removes dissolved organics and yellow colors for crystal-clear water. The biofiltration section eliminates harmful ammonia and nitrite that can stress the fish and cause disease problems.
An internal water pump circulates water through the filtration materials and back to the tank. The aquarium lid includes a built-in LED lighting system. You can control the light colors and timing with the Flexpad remote control. You can even create cloud cover and lightning!
The Fluval Flex aquarium is available in 9 and 15-gallon sizes.
- Easy, all-in-one aquarium system.
- Filtration system is effective.
- Dual water flow outlets.
- Energy-efficient LED lighting.
- 7,500 K lighting supports aquatic plants.
- Does not include a heater.
- Aquarium cover is not hinged.
- Water pump flow rate is not adjustable.
- Some aquarists don't like the curved glass distortion effect.
2. Marineland Contour Glass Aquarium Kit
There’s the 3-gallon model, which measures 12 x 12 x 12.5 inches, and weighs 10.5 pounds. Or you can go for the 5-gallon version, which measures 11.8 x 11.8 x 16.8 inches, and weighs 12 pounds.
Personally, I’d go for the bigger one, as it doesn’t really occupy more space on your desktop table.
This uses curved glass so there are no unsightly seams.
There’s an overhanging LED light system, with two settings so you can have either the white lights to simulate sunlight or the blue lights for moonlight conditions.
The class canopy cover slides back, so you have the space you need to feed the fish and to clean the tank. But you won’t have to clean the tank all that frequently, as the 3-stage filtration system comes with a filter cartridge to screen out the debris.
You have activated carbon inside the filter cartridge and a molded ribbed back to maximize the water to carbon contact, which effective eliminates any chemical smells or impurities, and bio foam that cultivates bacteria to eliminate toxic ammonia and nitrate.
- The build quality is excellent, so you won’t have to worry about parts breaking down on you soon. You can’t say that about many of the others.
- It looks great, as the design is quite modern and sleek. The curved glass looks wonderful and the glass cover is of high quality.
- The pump is quiet, which also suits a work environment. You can also adjust the flow of the filter pump.
- The light may have to be replaced, especially if you have live plants inside the tank. It’s quite dim.
3. Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit, 5-Gallon
Now this one offers a bit more space, with dimensions measuring 17.2 x 10.6 x 6.3 inches. It’s a long and narrow tank, with an overhanging LED light system containing 37 lamps.
It uses etched glass, which really gives off a really modern look combined with the light arching over the tank.
On one end of the tank, you’ll find the pump and filtration system in a separate chamber.
The circulation pump is quite powerful, but the output muzzle is adjustable. The 3-stage filtration system has all the necessary media, with a porous foam block with a convenient handle, activated carbon, and BioMax bio rings.
For many people, this is the ideal tank for a single betta. You’ll need a heater for that, but a lot of stick heaters will fit right above the pump.
- It offers a large amount of space compared to the others, yet its dimensions are still suitable for a desk.
- The pump is very quiet, which really suits the office environment.
- The price is a steal, considering the overall features and the quality of the build.
- The filtration system is truly effective, and it’s very easy to clean.
- The light may not be strong enough for some live plants.
4. JBJ Nano Cube DX Aquarium
This 6-gallong tank measures 16 x 16 x 11.5 inches and weighs 21 pounds. There’s a 12-gallon and a 24-gallon versions.
It sues acrylic plastic though, and the top cover is solid so you can only see the inside from the sides. It comes with the regular 3-stage filtration system, along with lights and cooling fans.
- Half of the reviewers give it full marks for its design, and for how easy it is to set up.
- The other half give it the lowest rating because the acrylic scratches easily and the build quality is poor. So it’s basically a 50-50 gamble on your part.
- Just about everyone who has dealt with the customer support says they’re truly terrible.
5. Fluval Edge Aquarium with LED Light
The 6-gallon version of this model 13.7 x 17 x 14.3 inches and weighs 23.3 pounds. The 12-gallon version is twice as tall and weighs 34.5 pounds.
I’d suggest going for the smaller version, because they both feature the same filtration system and it may not be all that sufficient for the bigger tank.
The smaller tank comes with 21 LED lamps, with 18 white ones and 3 blue ones to simulate moonlight.
You have 3 settings (on/off, bright daytime, and deep blue nighttime). It looks really cool, as the clear glass shows everything nicely from all sides (even the top) and the pedestal helps it give off a weightless vibe. It’s also available in black, white, or silver (the bigger version is only available in black and white).
With the 6-gallon version, the filtration system is more than adequate for the job. The Edge filer features Cycleguard, along with Nutrafin Cycle and Nutrafin Aquaplus water treatments. It basically offers a filtration system that requires you to clean the tank only after every 3 months.
It also comes with a perforated removable cover.
- It looks remarkable. As I already mentioned, there’s a definitive weightless look about it. The design also seems to hide the wires and other parts, so the focus is entirely on the fish and décor.
- You won’t have to change the lights, as the lighting system is good enough. The light is spread out over the tank, but it doesn’t get warm at all.
- The filtration system is extremely effective, so maintenance becomes much easier.
- The build quality is excellent, as it seems built to last.
- Perhaps the main concern is the opening over the top which measures just less than 5 by 7 inches (4 13/16 x 6 7/8 inches, to be exact). That’s he clearance you get, so you better make sure your ornaments fit through the whole. And if you have large hands, that can be a problem.
6. Marina LED Aquarium Kit, 5 gallon
While the Marina LED Aquarium Kit does come in a 20-gallon size, nano aquarium fans may want to look at its 5-gallon version. It’s only 16 inches long and 8.5 inches wide, with a height of 10.5 inches.
Your purchase includes a Marina Slim S10 clip-on filter, an LED lighting module, an aquarium care guide for setup and maintenance, and even a net.
You also get some samples of fish food, a cycle biological supplement, and Aqua Plus Water Conditioner so you can use tap water for your tank safely. Of course, you’re going to replace all these packets when you run out.
It’s not really so much
As time passes, you may want to experiment with different fish, and they may require other accessories like a heater. Soon you may go on to bigger or more fish and that will mean buying a bigger tank than a nano.
- You have everything you really need to start with, as long as you make sure that you pick a small fish that can thrive in room temperature water.
- The care guide is very helpful for the setup and maintenance.
- The light works well enough, so you don’t have to replace it.
- The filter is great too. This is often the main weakness in affordable beginner tanks, but the one here does the job. It’s also very quiet, so it doesn’t mess up your TV viewing experience.
- It looks fantastic, even as is.
- To maximize the aesthetics, you will have to buy the rocks and the other decorative items.
- It’s a good aquarium that demonstrates that nano tanks take a good deal of effort to maintain.
7. Vepotek NANO Kit
Some people love nano aquariums because they’re so tiny and cute. With the right accessories, they can look great indeed, and you get a head start with the Vepotek Nano accessories and features.
This nano “kit” already comes with a filter and the lighting on top. It’s the lighting here that’s really special, as the 39 LED lights come in 4 different colors. The lighting system comes with multiple functions, and it even has a built in timer.
Another contributory feature to the aesthetics is the use of glass for the aquarium. While acrylic does have its own advantages, the main problem with it is that its surface can be easily marred. Some acrylic tanks don’t last long because the clarity degrades after so many accidental scratches with the material. In contrast, glass is quite resistant to accidental scratches.
- The 3-watt filter pump works well for one or two starter fish. It’s located in the inside back corner, and the filter outlet cans swivel 90 degrees. Its water flow can also be adjusted by a simple slider. It’s very quiet too.
- The 39 LED lights only consume 6 watts.
- It comes with a 1-year warranty with phone support for US customers.
- It comes with a water sensor too.
- It’s really great looking. The nano size is just right. Put this in your office, and you’ll get frequent comments about how wonderful it looks. The glass and multicolor LEDs are a killer combination.
- It doesn’t come with a lid. That’s going to be a nuisance if you have incorrigible jumpers, as you will have to buy one first.
- The setup can be a problem. Some people didn’t receive any instructions at all. Those who did get instructions weren’t really better off, since it’s virtually incomprehensible. So if you’re not exactly a DIY hobbyist, better find one with some experience in putting things together.
- The temperature is in Celsius. So if you’re to Fahrenheit, you better have your smartphone ready for quick conversions.
- The filter may not last all that long as it’s fairly cheap-looking. So it’s probably a great idea to start researching for replacements as soon as possible.
8. Tetra Cube Aquarium Kit, 3-Gallon
This one uses seamless styrene plastic instead of glass, and it measures 10 inches on side but there’s a pedestal base to raise it off the table. Your purchase also allows you to sign up for their special TetraCare online and phone support. And in case you didn’t get it yet, it can hold up to 3 gallons of water.
It comes with a clear canopy, with a nice feeding hole so you don’t have to remove the cover for feeding time.
The filter is driven by an air pump, and there’s also a LED light which you can turn on or off. You just plug in the power adapter and you’re good to go. It’s even light enough that you can carry it from one location to another.
- It looks great, even if it does use plastic.
- The price is truly affordable.
- The light works well.
- The filter isn’t all that noisy.
- There are a lot of complaints online regarding getting defective parts upon delivery.
- You may have to upgrade the filter if it seems inadequate for the size of the tank.
9. Marineland Silhouette Square Glass Aquarium Kit, 3-Gallon
Imagine a regular fish tank, except its design includes half of a huge black wristband covering the top, one side, and the bottom of the tank. That’s what you get with this Marineland aquarium.
It measures 14.1 x 13.6 x 12.2 inches and weighs about 12 pounds.
The design does have a functional point beyond mere aesthetics. The top cover is a canopy that slides back over the back side of the tank.
The cover at the bottom provides the pedestal. And the cover at the side hides the 3-stage filtration system, which offers mechanical filtration to screen debris, chemical filtration to eliminate impurities and smells, and biological filtration to cultivate bacteria that removes the nitrite and toxic ammonia.
The air flow filter pump is adjustable, and the LED lighting system comes with both white and blue lights to simulate sunlight or moonlight settings.
- It looks unique and actually quite cool, and the lights really look great.
- The setup is fairly easy.
- The filter is quite and out of the way.
- The plastic does tend to scratch easily, so you’ll have to be very careful when you clean or handle it.
- You may have to adjust the filter flow, as even its lowest setting may be too disturbing for bettas.
10. Fluval Spec III Aquarium Kit, 2.6-Gallon
This one works well as a tabletop aquarium, as it takes up only 8.7 by 10.8 inches of space, with a height of 11.8 inches. That’s enough for 2.6 gallons of water for a small fish to stretch their legs, in a manner of speaking.
The design is quite modern, starting with its use of etched glass in lieu of cheaper and less scratch-resistant acrylic plastic. The lighting system consists of 31 distinct LED lights that hang over the top. The circulation pump is quite powerful, but the nozzle output is adjustable.
The 3-stage filtration system is more than sufficient to keep the water clean and clear for long periods of time. That filter comes with all the nice accessories, including a porous foam block with a nifty handle, activated carbon, and the BioMax bio rings. Together, they offer biological, chemical and mechanical filtration to keep the water fresh.
For simpler maintenance, the
- Everything looks great. The design is compact and sleek, the filter mechanics are at the back, and the light is just bright enough not to be too harsh. The glass of the aquarium also looks better than the regular acrylic plastic which tends to scratch easily when you brush a piece of décor against it.
- The price is very reasonable.
- When you’re changing the water, the lid is quite easy enough to remove.
- What you have to understand is that many nano systems are not for beginners, and the Fluval Spec III is the perfect example of this. For one, it’s not complete and you’ll need to put in accessories. A heater is crucial, for example, if you plan to put in a small fish like a betta.
- You’ll also need to modify some of the current equipment. A betta needs a really low filter setting and the lowest setting here may still be too much. If you read the reviews, you’ll find some suggestions from other owners, such as puncturing small holes in the filter tubing or putting a sponge on the outflow nozzle.
- Even the setup can be daunting for beginners, especially since the manual is rather sparse with details in its instructions. You may want to go online and watch videos or read articles to set this up properly.
11. Aqueon Evolve LED Aquarium Kit
This comes in 2 sizes, but since we’re focusing on smaller tanks we’re going to concentrate on the smaller 4-gallon version (the other holds 8 gallons).
It measures 10.8 x 10.8 x 12 inches and weighs a little over 5 pounds. It uses plastic acrylic with a seamless design.
Your purchase comes with all the necessary accoutrements: it comes with an acrylic cover, the filtration features a large filter pad with activated carbon, a LED lamp is included, and you even get water conditioner and fish food samples.
The filtration system provides mechanical and chemical filtration along with wet or dry biological filtration. The LED lamp is adjustable for sunlight or moonlight settings. The filtration and the power cords are hidden behind the overflow wall.
- The light is intense enough to support some types of plant life.
- It comes with a rather quiet water pump, and there’s a separate cover for filter are and for the tank itself.
- The price is nice.
- At this price point, it’s a gamble whether the plastic parts inside will last for long. For some people, it’s a bet they lost.
- It’s also possible that even the tank itself may warp over time, and you’ll have a problem because the cover will no longer fit over the top snugly.
So which one is the best desktop aquarium? That depends entirely on your own personal preferences. But if you’re asking me, I’d recommend any of the Fluval tanks.
Get the Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit 5-Gallon if you don’t use live plants. If you do, get the Fluval Edge instead, especially if you like the weightless look and you don’t mind paying a bit more.
But really, the Fluval Spec V offers a lot of bang for your buck. In fact, you can just replace the lights instead if you’re going for some live plants. It really looks cool, the whole system is very reliable, and you won’t have any headaches with customer support. It’s truly top notch, and what you don’t want are big problems with such a small fish tank. With the Spec V, your main concern is that 5 by 7 inches opening. If you can live with that, then you’re good to go.
Still not found what you've been looking for? Have a look at these rimless tanks!
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I would say that the Aqua One Reflex Nano 13 also deserves a mention. It’s a well built aquarium with a 3 stage filtration system built in. The LED light has blue light and white light to create a sense of night. Furthermore the finish is simply great quality.
Hey Adam, thanks for the comment! I’ve never had any experience with this particular tank, but it might be worth a look.
Thanks for this! My wife wants a beta & tank for her birthday and this really helped me out!
In some of the videos the narrator (owner) calls a fish bayta when in fact it should be betta. Bayta was a form of TV recording device made by Sony decades ago and is also a letter in the Greek alphabet. It does not however, name a fish species.
Thanks a lot for pointing this out Terry. Bob
Not quite right. BETA was Sony’s video tape recording system in the 1980’s.
Bob, I have a tank that has a “touch” type switch to turn the lighting on and off. I prefer to use a timer for my lighting since I’m often not home when I’d like the lighting to come on and turn off in my tank. Do you know of a a way to fix this or get around this (other than buying a different light? So many tanks now have this type of switch for the lighting. Frustrating. Thanks for any help you can provide.
While many LED aquarium lights come with programmable timers, there are plenty that use a simple on/off switch. The way around this is to use an appliance timer. Old-school mechanical timers use “pins” to set the on and off periods. Digital timers have no moving parts. Just program the on and off periods with a press of a button.