Reefs are a beautiful part of the ocean, aren’t they? Teeming with life, vibrantly colored corals, and fish, they are a wonder few of us get to experience up close in our lifetimes. That's where reef tanks come in, changing the game.
You can now keep and grow coral in your home! What a time to be alive, right? You can experience a reef all from the comfort of your sofa!
Reef tanks are popular choices, and it's no wonder why you can care for fish, coral, and other invertebrates, providing a safe home for them that mimics their natural habitat.
But how do you choose the best reef tank? Unfortunately, there are loads on the market now, all ranging in size and price, making it difficult for us to find a new tank, especially if you are new to the world of aquatics.
As a result, you can be left with a headache and the desire to stay in bed for a very long time.
Well, no more! We are here to end the uncertainty and help you find your new reef tank! Not only do we have the best reef tanks on the market, but we also have plenty of buying tips and answers to all your tank-related questions.What are you waiting for? Keep reading to find out everything and buy your new reef tank today!
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Kickstarting our list today is this wonderful tank from Landen! Their rimless low iron saltwater tank is sure to be a winner.
The tank is extremely well made, providing you with incredible durability and value for money. It features silicone rimming to prevent any leaks or damages along with the seals of the tank.
Landen makes their tanks by hand, too, offering outstanding quality that you are sure to love!
You don’t need to worry about the durable tank being damaged in transit, either. It's backed in a wood crate with a steel frame to ensure that it arrives at your door in perfect condition. What more could you want?
To ensure you can see as much as possible in your saltwater tank, it is made with low iron glass. The glass offers a whopping 91% transparency. In addition, they can see everything in the tank in glorious detail, so you will never be left wondering again!
Landen’s tank is rimless, too, ensuring nothing hinders your view.
As this is just the tank, you will need to buy a filtration and heating system separately. These can be expensive, and you should factor this into your budget before making your purchase.
If you are unsure, keep reading because we have some fantastic kits coming up! It's also worth noting that it can be tricky knowing which filtration system and components you need for beginners.
If you are unsure, keep reading because we have some fantastic kits coming up!
After a saltwater tank that you can customize and add to with ease? Then grab the Landen Rimless Low Iron tank today!
High-quality tank - ensures long-lasting durability
Silicone rimming - prevents damage and any leaks
Securely packaged in transit - no need to worry about it arriving damaged
Low iron glass - offers maximum transparency for enhanced viewing
Not a kit - will need to buy a filtration system separately.
For those after a compact and sleek tank, look no further than Coralife’s Biocube aquarium! The tank features a sleek and modern hood that is sure to suit most styles and is packed full of features to get your reef aquarium up and running in no time!
The 16-gallon tank is also available as 32 gallons, offering more space for those who need it. The compact size makes it the perfect tank for bedrooms and apartments and features a customizable filtration system to suit your needs.
You can adjust the filtration to suit the coral and marine life in your tank, as well as the pump and its return nozzle.
The LED lights can also be adjusted to suit your needs too, with a 24-hour timer and three channels allowing you to change the color of the lights if you wish.
What's great about this tank is the automatic functions of the lights. You get a 30-minute sunrise and sunset and moonrise and moonset functions that replicate the cycle we see in life.
It allows you to create a lifelike environment for your tank that mimics its natural habitat but can be adjusted if needed.
You also don’t need to choose between saltwater or freshwater here; the tank is suitable for both! You can change from saltwater to freshwater and vice versa if you wish; just be sure you have the correct water for your marine life.
For a beginner’s tank, that's a lot of flexibility and customization that even advanced aquarists will enjoy the compact tank!
Some customers did note that the tank wasn’t very durable and noticed signs of breakage after a year or so. Remember to contact customer support if this happens to you for their advice! While the issue was not widely reported, it's worth being aware of.
Overall, customers were happy with the tank and praised how easy it was for beginners to use and set up.
The fact that you can tailor virtually every aspect of the tank sets it apart from its competitors and makes it a real contender for the crown of the best reef tank today!
- Compact tank - perfect for those with limited space
- Adjustable filtration - customize it to suit your tanks needs
- Automatic lights - mimic natural light for an environment coral and fish can thrive in!
- Sleek design - will look great in any room!
- Suitable for freshwater and saltwater - means you can change your tanks water if you want
- Some customers didn’t find it very durable
That’s right; we have another fantastic offering from Landen for you today! Their rimless low iron tank features a nanofoam leveling mat, and we think you will love it!
The tank is the perfect blank canvas for any scene you wish to create! The saltwater tank has plenty of space to create the reef display you want and is ideal for those after something larger than a nano tank.
As with the other Landen tank, you get fantastic visibility due to the low iron glass used! You can expect 91% transparency, with the rimless design ensuring you don’t miss a thing in this tank!
You also get the same level of craftsmanship, offering you a high-quality tank that is sure to stand the test of time!
It features smooth angles and uniform joints for a smooth feel and a sleek design that is sure to look wonderful in your home! The tank size (11.8 x 11.8 x. 11.8 inches) makes it suitable for most rooms and tables.
Landen package the tank securely and ship it incredibly well packaged, so you don’t need to worry about it arriving broken either! Not bad when you consider the reasonable price!
They also throw in an EVA fish tank cushioning pad that prevents any damage to the surface the tank is on too.
As this is just the tank, you will need to purchase a filtration separately and heaters and lights. It can be challenging to find the correct ones and set them up, but for expert aquarists up for a challenge, grab this tank today and get cracking!
- Blank canvas - create the scenes you want
- High transparency glass - ensures you see everything in your tank
- Cushioning pad included - perfect for sitting under the tank
- Thick, high-quality glass - provides durability and longevity
- You will need to purchase a filtration system separately.
After a compact aquarium that comes with everything you need? Then look no further than GankPike’s 8-gallon saltwater tank! The fish tank features 6.5 gallons of wonderful viewing space and a built-in filtration system at the back of the tank.
It's worth noting that the filtration area takes up a fair bit of room and knocks the space in the aquarium down to 6.5 gallons. So before purchasing, you need to ensure ample space for the marine life you intend to put in the tank.
For those seeking a compact tank to be used in small spaces or bedrooms, the smaller space shouldn’t be an issue for you!
It's the perfect tank for beginners as it comes with everything you need to get up and run!
You get a biochemical and mechanical filter media, adjustable pump, and protein skimmer to keep your tank clean and ensure the health and wellbeing of your coral and other marine life.
There is also a heater, and LCD digital thermometer included allowing you to monitor the water temperature quickly and easily.
You also get an LED light that sits above the tank, providing the light you're coral, and fish need to thrive. You can adjust the LED light, too; it comes with three color modes and five levels, allowing you to dim and adjust the brightness as it suits.
The Auto-off timer is fantastic, too, ensuring that your tank only gets the light when it needs it, mimicking coral's natural habitat.
GankPike’s tank is incredibly easy to set up, too, making it the perfect option for beginners. You don’t need to stress or spend a fortune; just follow the instructions and enjoy a small slice of the reef in your home!
As this is a saltwater tank, ensure everything you place inside it is suitable for saltwater dwelling, and you will have a fantastic tank! Customers have had the tank in working order for several years, so you don’t need to worry about longevity.
Just enjoy an affordable complete aquarium today!
- 6.5-gallon viewing area - allows you to see into the tank and enjoy your coral and fish
- Great value kit - comes with filters, pump, and protein skimmer to ensure your tank is clean and healthy.
- LED Light - provides the right brightness for coral and other marine life to thrive
- Easy to set up - perfect for beginners
- Lose some space due to the built-in filtration system taking up 1.5 gallons of space
Nano or Larger - which should I get?
When it comes to reef tanks, the size ranges dramatically! You can get tiny aquariums holding just a few gallons of water or tanks with a capacity for over 300 gallons of water! But which one do you go for?
Unfortunately, there are many pros and cons for both options, making choosing one difficult at times.
Smaller nano reefs tend to be the cheaper alternative and don’t require too much maintenance. They are fantastic options for those with limited space, as they can often be kept on desktops or tables. You will still be able to keep a variety of fish and corals in them too!
However, in such a small space, it doesn’t take long for things to go wrong, so you need to be attentive and ensure that your water level, temperature, and cleanliness of the tank are perfect at all times to avoid any disasters!Larger tanks can take up more room and are usually more expensive to purchase, but offer so much more space! You can fit more corals, fish, and invertebrates in these tanks, providing they are all safe to live together.
If you have the space, it's worth exploring the option of a larger tank, but it's best to get the one that suits your space and budget.
Types of reef aquariums
When it comes to reef aquariums, three categories sit under the broad title. Let’s take a closer look at these to help you navigate and better understand the world of reef aquariums!
1. Soft coral reef aquarium
After a more traditional reef tank? A soft coral aquarium can be a good option for you! It’s not quite the same setup as a traditional reef aquarium, but it's a nice transition into that route.
These tanks can be set up easily to care for soft corals like polyp rock and mushroom corals.
These types of coral are fairly easy to keep and reproduce quickly, leaving you with a full and thriving tank!
It’s a good option for many aquarists to consider! In addition, they aren’t as sensitive as other stony corals, providing some leeway when it comes to caring for them.
2. FOWLR aquarium
FOWLR, or fish only with live rock, is an aquarium that combines marine fish and reef rock in one beautiful aquarium.
You get the outstanding beauty of marine fish and the strong structure of reef rock, creating an interesting aquarium that benefits all lifeforms there.
The rock adds many interesting places for the fish to explore and provides a three-dimensional aquascape that you will enjoy looking at. The reef rock also provides plenty of surface area for microbes to colonize.
These microbes nutrify the aquarium (removing the ammonia and nitrite) to provide a cleaner and healthier environment for your fish to thrive in!
FOWLR aquariums are not for keeping SPS or LPS corals. You won’t need any bright lighting or extra water movement, making FOWLR tanks a little easier and cheaper to maintain.
3. Traditional reef aquarium
Completing our list of aquarium types is the traditional reef aquarium. This is where you keep your stony corals and provide a fantastic dimensional viewing experience.
Typically aquarists will monitor these tanks and add calcium, magnesium, and iodine to stimulate coral growth. These reef-building corals are sensitive to light intensity and quality and water quality, making them more challenging to maintain.
If you fancy a challenge and some hard work, these aquariums will reward you with a glorious reef in your home. You might even convince friends that you have a chunk of the Great Barrier reef in your sitting room!
To build or buy?
When it comes to shopping and finding your reef aquarium, there will be many decisions that you need to make. The first will be deciding between plug and play system or a hands-on approach.
Plug and play or all-in-one aquariums come with lighting, a water pump, and often a protein skimmer.
All you need to do is add the water, and you are good to go! These can be money-saving options depending on the brand as you have all you need without spending lots of money frequently.
The other option, and arguably the more challenging, is to purchase a basic tank and add the rest yourself.
You get flexibility here, as you can build the system to suit the reef aquarium you intend to grow and create.
However, these can be expensive. You don’t get the reduced price you sometimes do on all-in-one systems, and it's worth doing your research and shopping around to ensure you get the best price.
Can any saltwater fish be placed in a reef tank?
No, not all fish are considered reef safe, so you will need to check before purchasing your fish that they are suitable. You can check online, search for reef-safe fish lists, or ask at a local fish store for some advice.
Some fish can peck at corals, grow too large or become aggressive towards shrimp, snails, and other small fish, making them unsuitable for a reef aquarium.
It's also a good idea to consider using fish that naturally live near reefs as they will be used to the environment and are more likely to thrive there!
Reef tank checklist - what do I need?
Before we get onto the list of the best reef tanks, trust us, it's coming; we have compiled a handy checklist that will help you get everything you need to get started. First, let’s look at what you need and why.
A filtration system is an important part of the aquarium. Some tanks and aquariums come with an internal filter system complete with a pump, protein skimmer, and media.
If yours doesn’t, you might need an external sump sitting below the aquarium inside a filter sump.
The water will flow into the sump or internal filter box (you can thank gravity for that). The water pump placed in the filter box or external sump then sends the water back up and into the aquarium.
The water flow helps circulate purified and oxygenated water throughout the aquarium for a healthier environment.
Filter sumps allow for a return pump, automatic top-ff, and protein skimmers to be attached. They also have chambers for various types of filter media to keep the water clean, making them an essential part of reef aquariums.
The return pump will be the heart of your reef's filtration system, and you must use a high-quality pump.
You will want to ensure you get the best you can afford to ensure that your reef remains healthy and lives a long life! These pumps run 24/7, and their sole purpose is keeping your reef alive.
So what does a return pump do? They provide constant water movement through the aquarium, which is essential for the health of your corals and other marine life. Their flow rate will be specified in gallons per hour or GPH.
Opinion varies on what is best, but ideally, you want a water pump rated four times the size of your tank. So if you have a 20-gallon aquarium, you want a pump rated for at least 80 gallons per hour.
Some aquarists use pumps rated eight to ten times the tank volume to get a lot of water movement in their aquarium.
However, it's not always necessary to have this high flow pump rate. In FOWLR tanks, in particular, it's unnecessary, and you will be better off with the lower rates we mentioned earlier.
Internal flow pumps
As your reef grows and expands, you will notice that some areas of your tank aren’t getting the water movement they need. You must rectify this, especially in tanks with SPS and LPS corals, as they require water to flow past their colonies and remain healthy.
Thankfully, you can get pumps that help with this! Specialty water pumps provide targeted water flow for reef aquariums, allowing you to put the water flow where you need it most!
For smaller and nano reef aquariums, you might require one small powerhead. In larger tanks, one or two circulation pumps will be beneficial.
It's worth noting, though, that water circulation pumps don’t filter water. Instead, they keep it moving across the rock and corals, mimicking the water movement that we naturally see on reefs.
The water circulation will bring oxygenated water and food to the corals while flushing away any waste products.
Another important component of your filtration system is a protein skimmer. Again, these are vital to those with soft coral reefs or the traditional stony coral reef tank. But why, you ask?
Well, natural dissolved organic matter builds up in reef aquariums.
A build-up of this organic matter can cause a range of reef problems such as poor health, nutrient build-up, and algae growth, not what you want! In addition, it causes the water to develop a yellow tint which degrades the quality and intensity of the light reaching the coral, threatening their health.
Thankfully, protein skimmers are on hand to save the day! They generate millions of tiny air bubbles inside the skimmer.
These bubbles will capture the organic and concentrate them as foam. The foam is then collected by the skimmer, improving the water quality and promoting coral health in your aquarium.
Some aquariums will come with a built-in skimmer, but the likelihood is you will need to purchase one and add it to your filtration system yourself.
Typically, smaller and internal protein skimmers are designed for smaller reef aquariums and would struggle to work in larger bodies of water successfully.
However, these internal skimmers will attach to the glass with suction cups and usually don’t take up too much space (although it does depend on the make and model).
You will need a powerful in-sump or an external protein skimmer for larger aquariums or heavily stocked aquariums. These larger and heavy-duty protein skimmers usually come with a separate water pump, allowing you to set it up and operate it easily.
Reef aquarium lighting
Corals and other marine invertebrates contain live algae in their tissue, sharing and recycling nutrients together for a beneficial relationship. Unsure if that sounds cool or gross?
Us too! But you need to know how to care for your coral and internal algae as their relationship contributes to the health of your coral.
For your coral to stay healthy and maintain their lovely and vibrant color, they need the correct quantity and spectrum of light, meaning you need a lighting system for your aquarium!
These systems play a vital role in keeping your corals alive. Some smaller reef aquariums will feature an LED light fixture, often boasting a lower price than buying the fixture separately. But for those larger and deeper reef aquariums, you will need a larger light system.
These days, it's all about LEDs. LED light systems are the most advanced and efficient systems, using less energy to produce the same amount of heat, and they last longer than alternatives.
What's more, you can program them to simulate natural light cycles, offering a realistic pattern for your corals that can aid their growth! We recommend shopping around to find the best aquarium lighting for your reef that won’t break the bank!
Heating and cooling
Completing our checklist today is the heating and cooling of your aquarium. Ensuring that the temperature is stable is key to keeping your reef aquarium healthy.
External factors such as air conditioning and cold room temperatures in the winter months can cool the tank's water, risking the wellbeing of fish and corals used in warmer climates.
To prevent this, an aquarium heater is a worthwhile purchase! It will automatically turn on and warm the water as necessary. You can set the temperature to the desired one and leave it to do its thing!
You can also pick them up fairly affordable too, and there's a range of types, you will be spoilt for choice!
When selecting your heater, you will want 3-5 watts of power per gallon of water. So in a 30-gallon aquarium, you want a water heater with a rating of 100-150 watts. The goal here is a steady water temperature with minimal fluctuations in temperature.
Most reef aquariums are kept at 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, but this can vary slightly depending on the coral, and marine life kept in the tank.
Therefore, it’s always best to check the recommended temperature for the fish and corals you are keeping before setting any water heaters up.
On the other hand, in warmer climates or instances where the aquarium water can get overheated (lighting and water pumps are the usual suspects), a chiller is recommended.
An aquarium chiller extracts excess heat from the aquarium water, restoring the water to its correct temperature and preventing any complications from arising.
We think it's best to purchase an aquarium thermometer too. It allows you to keep an eye on the temperature at a glance and ensures that your heater or chiller is working correctly.
In addition, some heaters and chillers come with integrated thermometers to display the temperature on an LCD screen for easy reading.
Now that we have covered all you need to know and what you need to get for your reef tank let's look at the best reef tanks on the market and get one in your basket today!
And just like that, we have come to the end of our reef guide today! As you can see, there are plenty of fantastic tanks on the market that will allow you to create a wonderful reef aquarium at home.
Whether you want to purchase a small nano tank or dedicate a whole room to keeping reefs, there is a tank to suit! You can also choose between an all-in-one kit that's ready to go or purchase lights and a filtration system separately.
So whatever you want to do with your reef tank, there is an option for you!
Remember to use our checklist from earlier to ensure that you have everything you need and that the fish and coral you have selected can live in harmony together before making your purchase.
Following the checklist and doing your research beforehand will make the whole process smoother and ensure a healthy and happy reef aquarium for years to come!