6 Top Rated Reef Tanks for your next Tropical Enviroment

Reef tanks can be fascinating to watch. Limiting yourself to just a single glance at a proper reef tank setup is like eating just a single piece of potato chip—it’s impossible.

Everything about it will capture your attention: the vivid colors, the different shapes, the perplexing appearance of various creatures, and the way the fish scurry in and out of the rock can hold your interest for a very long time.

My favorite reef tanks are the BioCube and the Starfire, keep on reading for more!

But be warned: starting a reef aquarium isn’t easy, and it won’t be cheap. In fact, your first attempt may involve spending thousands of dollars and seeing your efforts result in utter decimation for your aquarium fish and plants. And it all begins with research, and buying the right reef tank for your needs.

Buying Guide


1. Innovative Marine Nuvo Fusion

Despite its designation as a starter kit, this is not for reef tank beginners. It is, after all, just 10 gallons.

But it can be a good way for you to start with nano aquariums after your experience with the bigger tanks.

The kit does come with a lot of accessories and features that can help get you started.

What you get includes an LED light system with alternating colors, a mesh screen top to keep jumpers in line, built-in overflows, a leveling mat, a removable 3-stage filter basket, and a 92 gph return pump with a flexible hose.

A 20 gallons size is also available​.


  • This is glass aquarium built with impeccable quality.
  • It already has a lot of accessories, and they’re good enough that you won’t really feel the urge to replace them.
  • It really looks great. A lot of people love it, even when they know they have to add to it or even if they don’t like the light.


  • There’s no switch to the light, so at night you’re going to have to unplug it. Or you can always buy a smart programmable switch which offers scheduling capabilities.
  • The stand is a separate buy.
  • So is the skimmer, and finding one that fits this nano can be a challenge unless you go online (look for the Innovative Ghost skimmer, which may suit this best).

2. Coralife Fish Tank LED BioCube Starter Kits

​This is the new upgraded model of the good old BioCube.

There’s a size 16 available for this, and it’s a rival of the IM Nuvo. But you can also just get the size 32 (which holds about 25 actual gallons of water).

The stand isn’t part of the purchase, but Coralife does offer one that fits this perfectly.

This also offers an all-in-one starter package, including a top, a light filter and a LED light bar, a filter pump, and an integrated wet/dry filtration setup.


  • At least this is easier to maintain than a 10-gallon tank.
  • You get nice accessories, and you also have lots of Biocube accessories to choose from.
  • This glass tank looks fantastic. Put this right by the TV, and your favorite show may have a rival in what catches your attention.


  • This may still be a bit too challenging for beginners.
  • You still need to get the stand and a (nano) skimmer.

3. Fluval Evo Aquarium All In One Kit, 13.5 Gallons

The Fluval Evo Aquarium is a complete ready-to-go reef aquarium system.

The Evo Aquarium includes a 13.5-gallon tank with an internal filtration system.

The three-stage filtration system makes use of a foam filter block to capture particulates, algae and other debris.

The activated carbon chamber provides chemical filtration. The activated carbon will adsorb dissolved organics that reduce water quality and give the water a yellow tint.

The biological filter chamber contains Biomax media. Biomax rings are porous with tremendous surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize.

A 132 GPH submersible pump is tucked away behind the integrated in-tank filter system. Dual multi-directional water outlets make it easy to create currents in the aquarium.

The kit does not include a heater or protein skimmer, but these can be added later. There is a space in the filter for the FLUVAL Sea MINI protein skimmer. This skimmer will drop right into the filter.

A reef-capable LED canopy covers the aquarium and provides the proper light for corals. The LED produces 14,000 K lighting with day and night lighting pre-sets. The light fixture is made of aluminum, with a sleek-looking design.

Dimensions: 22 x 15 x 11.5 inches.


  • Integrated filtration system.
  • Comes with a reef-suitable LED light.
  • Adequate size for nano reef-keeping.
  • Good water circulation.
  • Attractive design.


  • Should include a protein skimmer.
  • LED light has no timer or programming feature.

4. SCA Starfire Aquarium, 50 gal

This is another complete package aquarium. It even comes with its own cabinet underneath, which you can get in black or cherry.

The package also already includes a sump, skimmer, and return pump. You also get various pipes, tubing, bulkheads, filter media and bio media.

Here's an interesting page with several pictures, build tutorials and ideas​ for the Starfire and other SCA Systems.


  • This glass aquarium comes with a 3-year warranty, with a 1-year warranty for the accessories.
  • The setup is gorgeous, and everything seems to be of high quality. Get the Flipper glass cleaner to keep it looking fine without scratching it.
  • The customer support is superb.


  • Where are the basic instructions? You’re going to have lots to talk about with customer support.
  • Where are the lights? You’re going to have to buy that separately.

5. Red Sea Max Nano Aquarium

All-in-one nano aquariums are especially popular with reef aquarists.

The Red Sea Max Nano aquarium is designed especially for keeping live corals and small marine fish.

It is a ready to run 20-gallon aquarium system complete with a filtration system, protein skimmer and LED lighting.

The aquarium is constructed of ultra-clear, beveled-edge glass for strength and enjoyable viewing. Water enters the internal filter system through a surface-skimming overflow.

A micron filter bag removes particulates while activated carbon filtration adsorbs water-discoloring organic compounds. The Max Nano internal protein skimmer strips out surface-active organics and improves water quality. A bubble trap sponge keeps microbubbles out of the aquarium.

The system even comes with an automatic top-off system! Water is pumped back to the aquarium with a European ECO water pump rated at 240 gallons per hour.

The Max Nano comes with a premium AI Prime HD LED fixture powerful enough to keep stony corals and other reef invertebrates. You can control the AI fixture wirelessly through the control app.


  • Plug-and-play all-in-one aquarium system.
  • Beautiful 8-mm beveled glass.
  • Comes with a powerful integrated protein skimmer.
  • Circulation pump filters the tank up to 12 times an hour.
  • Multidirectional eye-ball nozzle flushes tank with water movement.
  • 4-gallon auto top-off systems sustains the tank for 3 days.
  • Includes premium 55-watt AI Prime HD LED fixture.
  • Capable of supporting SPS corals.
  • Wi-Fi lighting control app works with all devices.


  • Does not come with an aquarium stand.
  • May require a submersible heater in cool rooms.

6. Red Sea Max C-250

Despite the C-250 designation, it’s only a 55-gallon tank (65-gallon total).

But this is a complete package, with a rear sump and a cabinet stand. It’s basically a plug and play device, and all you need to do is to properly add the saltwater, live rock, and sand—and you’re good to go.

You already have the special T5 lights that are ideal for SPS corals.

The rear sump comes with the max C-25- filtration system, and it’s a beauty (even though it’s discreetly out of sight. Here you have the detachable surface skimmer, protein skimmer, media rack, circulation pump, pump outlet nozzle, filter sponge, heater, and water cooling fan.

You also have space for carbon, and you can add an accessory pipe unit and a chiller pump.


  • It has everything you need.
  • It looks stunning.
  • Everything matches and works well.


  • It's expensive, more than the SCA 50 gallon Starfire. But that's probably because you buy everything in one go.

My Pick

Remember how we said it can cost you thousands of dollars to start a reef tank. The Red Sea Max C-250 is proof of that. But we also said that you may fail, and the C-250 is your best chance of avoiding such a catastrophe. Save up and get this.

You save yourself the trouble of finding accessories that are compatible with each other, and you may also save yourself the heartbreak of experiencing a reef tank catastrophe.

Other options listed may be solid, but everything depends on your experience.​

What are your thoughts on the subject? Ask us your questions, and offer some insights as to how you fared when you first started out with reef tanks. Your knowledge can save some newbies from heartbreak!

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