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Aquarium Starter Kits: Reviews of Cheap Fish Tank Sets

Updated on September 26, 2014

A Few Reviews of Aquarium & Fish Tank Starter Kits

Are you interested in getting a pet fish or two, but don't know exactly where to start? Owning a pet fish is a rewarding experience, but it's only rewarding if the fish is happy and comfortable. A good quality aquarium starter kit or fish tank set is a great way for a newbie owner to 'dive right in'!

A fish is a fairly low maintenance pet in the grand scheme of things, but their environment is one of the most important factors in keeping them happy, healthy and living. A good aquarium starter kit can really help you remove a lot of the guesswork, since they provide almost everything you'll need. If you invest in a pre-built fish tank set, it comes with basically everything you'll want to set up their little underwater home.

This article will focus on aquarium fish tanks and kits, and it's intended to help you make a good choice when picking one out. There are a lot of kits on the market today, so differentiating between them can be a tricky task. We'll take a look at a few of the best fish tank starter kits out there, and talk about the pros and cons of each one, as well as the price. We'll also talk about the basics, including maintenance, so you'll have an understanding of what being an aquatic pet owner entails.

We'll be mostly looking at aquarium starter kits from online sources. It's the least expensive way to go and most retailers also offer warranties. However if you'd prefer to support a local pet store, just write down the brands and ask them to order them in for you.

Things to Look For in a Fish Tank Starter Kit:

Common stuff that makes life easier

If you're shopping for an aquarium starter kit, you need to make sure it comes with enough great stuff to justify the price tag. Here are a few things that you should look for, if possible.

  1. Fish Tank Filtration System:

    If you can get it, a filter for your aquarium kit will save you a ton of work. They work continuously removing dirt, debris and waste from the water, keeping it clear for much longer. Not all fish tank starter sets will include a filter, and they're technically not a requirement. However, if you have multiple fish, they're a virtual necessity. (Unless you want to be cleaning the tank every other day).

  2. Built-In Lights:

    Many fish tank starter kits will utilize built in lights. Some are metal halide lamps for coral growth, while others are simple LEDs used to keep your tank light and make viewing possible. A lot of theses systems are stored neatly in a tank hood or cover, so try to get a set with this feature if possible.

  3. Air Pump / Bubbler:

    A bubbler is another virtual necessity on a larger fish tank starter kit. Have you ever seen fish up at the surface of the water gulping in air? That's because there isn't enough oxygen dissolved in the water. A bubbler is a very important thing for even beginner fish tank kits, because they diffuse oxygen throughout the tank. Plus, they look pretty nice!

  4. Heaters / Fans:

    Some fish (particularly tropical breeds) will need the water to be heated, or cooled in some cases. A starter aquarium kit doesn't necessarily come with one of these, but they're vital if you plan on getting fish that need a constant environmental temperature.

Fluval Chi Aquarium Kit, 5-Gallon
Fluval Chi Aquarium Kit, 5-Gallon

An attractive and functional 5 gallon fish tank starter kit, and it is surprisingly well priced for what you get.


Fluval Chi: A 'Zen style' starter fish tank kit

This beginner aquarium kit looks great in a modern home

The Fluval Chi Aquarium Kit is the ideal purchase for anyone who wants a fish tank that also looks great in your home. This design is stunning, and fits with a 'Zen' influenced or modern home design, as well as the modern office, studio or dorm room.

Beyond the looks, it is a fantastic beginner fish tank with some really great features. The 3 stage filter system is really nice, and it pulls the water from the bottom, up through the top square, bubbling over like a waterfall. There are two LED lights, one that is submerged, another that hangs above, so you'll get illumination from both sides. It even comes with a plant basket so you can have either fake or live aquatic vegetation in the center for your fish to enjoy.

I like it because it combines utility and great features and good looks. There's no reason that your tank needs to be ugly, and the Fluval Chi is a nice compromise between aesthetic and function.

Tetra 29003 Crescent Aquarium Kit, 5-Gallon
Tetra 29003 Crescent Aquarium Kit, 5-Gallon

A smaller fish tank starter kit, this one is good for a handful of fish. With a built in filter, LED lights and 1 year warranty, this seamless acrylic fish tank is a perfect option.


Tetra Crescent: A 5-gallon fish tank starter kit that includes everything

A good sized entry level fish aquarium

The Tetra Crescent is an aquarium kit for beginners that's perfect for someone who wants just a couple of fish. With 5 gallons of capacity, it's ideal for two or three small fish like bettas, goldies and tetras. If you have even smaller fish, like guppies, you can house many more. The Tetra Crescent is an all-acrylic tank, which not everyone prefers. In my books acrylic is a great thing, because it's extremely light and very strong, and the bowed front offers a great view of your pets. It has an energy efficient LED light which perches over the water surface,

It also comes with a built-in filter and a Bio-Bag replaceable filter cartridge, which keeps the water in your tank nice and clear and healthy. The filtration system is whisper quiet and only needs maintenance once a month. The whole aquarium starter set is backed by a 1 year warranty, so it's a safe purchase too. It's an aquarium starter kit that I'd recommend to any prospective pet owner.

biOrb CLASSIC 15 Aquarium with LED Light – 4 Gallon, Silver
biOrb CLASSIC 15 Aquarium with LED Light – 4 Gallon, Silver

Round, attractive starter aquarium kit with 5 step cartridge filtration system. Unobstructed view of your pet fish.


biOrb: A globe shaped fish tank kit with filter

An attractive and modern globe aquarium

The biOrb aquarium kit is a great looking fish tank perfect for beginners because it is easily set up and maintained. It includes a really great 5 stage built-in filtration system, that combines mechanical, chemical and biological processes to ensure your water is sparkly clean. This means you don't have to change the tank water very often and ensures the water is in great shape. It has a built in halogen light fixture in the rounded top so you can illuminate your fishies.

The really nice thing about the biOrb aquarium is that you get the same unobstructed view you'd find with a fish bowl, while keeping all of the advantages of a filtered aquarium kit. It is a really attractive tank for your fish with the silver or black trim, and it suits both the home, dorm room or office very nicely.

I don't recommend this for sluggish fish like bettas, because the filter is pretty powerful, and it could suck them in and potentially harm them. Goldfish and others with a bit more energy should be fine. This tank also comes in 4, 8 and 16 gallon sizes, so you can choose the right volume for your intended occupants.

Marina Style 10 Aquarium Kit, 10 Gallons
Marina Style 10 Aquarium Kit, 10 Gallons

This 10 gallon aquarium kit has a small footprint, is low priced, and comes with lights, filter and other accessories.


Marina: A good quality medium sized fish tank set you can grow into

Lots of room to stretch those fins!

Hagen is a big name in the pet industry, and they've produced a very good fish tank starter set here that will set you off on the right foot. This fish tank kit is inexpensive and it's pretty good quality for the price tag. It's got more than enough space for several small to medium sized fish to live happily, and comes with a bunch of things you'll need.

The included canopy houses two 15 watt light bulbs, more than enough to illuminate the tank but not too draining for your power bill. It comes with a sleek clip on filter that has quick-change cartridges, so replacement is a breeze. It's a tank I recommend to new pet fish owners because it's large enough to let you upgrade and introduce more fish over time.

It comes with an initial supply of water conditioner and fish food, though be sure it's the right food for the fish you intend to buy (bettas, for example, don't eat fish flakes). I recommend you read through the customer reviews too, this one has a really positive reception.

API Panaview Aquarium Kit with LED Lighting and Power Filter, 5-Gallon
API Panaview Aquarium Kit with LED Lighting and Power Filter, 5-Gallon

Low price, good smaller fish tank kit for beginners, comes with a filter and LED lighted hood with 3 settings.


Aquarius: An inexpensive, smaller beginner aquarium set

An acrylic fish tank that's perfect for beginners

The Aquarius 5 gallon aquarium starter kit is a nice option if you don't have a bigger budget. It's got a good capacity for a handful of small fish, or a fair amount of tiny fish (think guppies). It's another beginner fish tank set that offers an acrylic construction, so there are no seams obstructing your view, and it's very light too. It comes with a full hood with 3 light settings, depending on the time of day, your fish and your mood. It comes with a powerful filter that's perfect for a betta or goldfish tank setup, and the hood has holes for the cords to fit through.

This is another cheap fish tank kit that actually has great customer reviews, and it should last you a long time. Don't be put off by the low price, you should consider this one if you want to get into pet fish ownership and don't have a ton of extra money to spend on it.

Books for your Fish Tank Kit:

Here are some books and literature you might want to get if your fish tank kit doesn't include them. Obviously they're not essential, but the more you learn about owning aquatic pets, the better off you'll both be! I'd recommend getting a book on the basics and reading through before you buy a pet fish, just so you'll have a good knowledge base to work with.

Making Sure It's Good:

A starter aquarium kit should fulfill some essential requirements

There are a few things that you should ensure before you get a pet fish, to make sure they are happy and comfortable.

First off, make sure that you have a decent amount of space for your pet fish to thrive in. Technically speaking, a fish can 'survive' in a very small amount of space, but they'll be miserable and unhealthy if you don't give them room to stretch their fins. At a bare minimum, a gallon of water is required for smaller fish like tetras and bettas. More is always better.

Next, a bit of scenery adds to their happy existence. There are a wide variety of faux plants you can install in the substrate of your tank. You can also get live underwater plants: a very good idea because they help to oxygenate the water and they look better. Decorations can be a good thing too, providing your pet with somewhere to hide and explore. Some aquarium starter sets will have things like this, but not all.

A good substrate is a good idea. Substrate is the rock, gravel or sand at the bottom of the tank. Not only does it aid in filtration and the biological ecosystem, it's useful to hide accessories and dirt. If you use an air bubbler, you can run the hoses through the gravel to hide. Beginner fish tanks rarely come with substrate, and you'll have to buy it separately, so beware.

Have you owned a fish tank before? Have any tips that I missed?

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