Best Nano Aquariums: The Complete Guide To Nano Tanks and Setups

A nano aquarium is the perfect small tank which will fit pretty much anywhere in your home or office.

The small size makes it ideal for all aquarists as long as they are prepared to put in the extra time to carry out regular water changes.

These tanks are also one of the cheapest available on the market, which is why they are so popular.

For a beginner, it can be used to keep a small community of fish and for an experienced fishkeeper the nano tank can provide a challenging and creative space to create a really unique setup.

Whether you want to create a freshwater bio-tope tank, or a nano reef aquarium, we are going to look at the best nano aquariums available on the market before discussing setups, compatible fish and more…

What is a Nano Aquarium?

We have all heard of the term ‘nano’ – nanoseconds, nanometer and nano plankton.

When talking about units it means one billionth, but in a more general term it means very small or minute.

Whilst there is no consensus for what is actually accepted as a nano aquarium, generally it is any tank that is less than 10 gallons.

Over the last few years, interest in nano fish tanks has risen as more and more people want to keep fish but don’t want to commit to a huge tank.

These small compact tanks don’t take up much space and can easily fit in a small space within your home or office.

There are so many different ways to stock nano tanks, from simple freshwater setups, to shrimp only tanks, to beautiful nano reef tanks. They can provide a fascinating environment for a number of small fish.

Remember the smaller the body of water you keep, the more difficult it is to keep the water parameters stable. However, just because they require more maintenance than other larger tanks, does not mean that they should not be kept.

If you fully understand the importance of water parameters, a nano aquarium can be a really great addition to your collection.

For now, let’s take a look at some of the best nano fish tanks in the industry, before we talk you through how to set up and stock your aquarium.

The 5 Best Nano Tanks Reviewed

Best Nano Aquarium: MarineLand

MarineLand 5 Gallon Nano Aquarium
MarineLand 5 Gallon Nano Aquarium

This easy to set up, and stylish tank’s main features are the rail LED light and the curved glass corners.

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An easy to set up and maintain aquarium, this tank is one on the best quality tanks available at the most affordable price.

This nano aquarium has two different LED settings, each one to mimic daylight and moonlight. The lighting system is energy efficient and is mounted on a hinged rail.

It is modern looking and is small enough to fit on any small surface. It comes with a three stage filtration system and a cartridge.

With curved glass sides, the top of the aquarium is a sliding glass canopy which allows you to easily open and close the lid during feeding time and for routine maintenance.

Pros:
  • This aquarium is simple to set up.
  • It’s an affordable price.
  • The filter is quiet.
  • The portrait orientation allows you to grow taller plants.
Cons:
  • The filter area is small and tricky to clean.
  • To feed the fish you need to remove the whole lid.
  • You need to lift the light out of the way to clean the tank.

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Most Affordable: The Nano Cube Aquarium

Tetra Cube Shaped Aquarium
Tetra Cube Shaped Aquarium

Tetra are well known for producing quality tanks, and this tiny cube shaped tank is no exception.

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This three gallon aquarium is tiny and should only be used if you are dedicated to maintaining the tank regularly.

It is the smallest we are featuring on this roundup, and will fit almost anywhere. Both the aquarium and the cover are made of strong plastic which is shatter and crack resistant. It comes with an LED light which hangs over the tank, a filter and a pedestal base which it sits on.

You can easily feed your fish as the tank has a small hole at the top of the tank

Pros:
  • It’s really simple to set up.
  • You can adjust the flow of the filter.
  • It’s a great starter kit.
  • The lighting is great for the size.
Cons:
  • The filter might be noisy until the air bubbles clear.
  • It’s made of plastic instead of glass.
  • There are no instructions provided for the filter.

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Most Stylish: The Fluval Nano Tank

Stylish 6 Gallon Tank
Stylish 6 Gallon Tank

This glass aquarium has a stylish LED lighting system which sits above the tank with built in filtration.

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The Fluval Edge Aquarium is a unique and contemporary looking aquarium, with a simple and uncluttered design.

Along with the design and the housing unit which keeps the filter and all the wiring hidden away, this makes viewing the fish in this tank really easy.

This small tank will fit in most spaces, whether it’s in an office or the lounge. It has a powerful and efficient lighting system, and a sealed glass top which allows you to watch the fish through the top as well as the sides.

Pros:
  • The light system provided is great.
  • It’s reasonably priced.
  • The design looks more like art than a tank.
  • It comes with an inbuilt filter.
  • The Fluval Edge takes seconds to setup.
Cons:
  • You have to lift the light to clean the tank.
  • It’s difficult to clean the tank due to the size of the hole.
  • The filter is initially loud until the air bubbles clear.

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Best Nano Reef Tank: Coralife

Coralife Nano Cube Fish Tank
Coralife Nano Cube Fish Tank

The Coralife nano all-in-one is the best reef tank around. With timer LED lighting and exceptional filtration.

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This tank is our top choice for a reef tank.

It comes with a hood and LED lighting. The LED lighting is one of the main features of this tank. The lights are run by an integrated 24 hour timer with three different channels. Bright white for daytime, sparkling blue for night time and color enhancing LEDS to bring out the color in your tank.

The lights also have an automatic 30 minute sunrise and sunset, and 60 minute moonrise and moonset function to replicate their natural cycle as much as possible.

This tank also has a built in filtration system – it is one of the best all-in-one nano reef tank available.

Pros:
  • Filter has an adjustable flow rate.
  • The chambers in the back allow you to add more equipment.
  • The lid lifts all the way up making maintenance easy.
  • Lighting included is ideal for corals.
Cons:
  • You will need to add some equipment such as a protein skimmer.
  • It’s relatively expensive.
  • The fan can be noisy.
  • Filter media is not included.

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10 Gallon Nano Tank

Penn Plax Curved Aquarium
Penn Plax Curved Aquarium

This quality and unique aquarium has been made using bent glass to allow an unobstructed view.

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This tank is available in four different sizes: 3.4 gallons, 5 gallons, 7.5 gallons and 10 gallons. It is the perfect nano tank.

It doesn’t have a frame or any seams – instead is made using bent glass which means you can see your fish without any obstructions from any angle.

This tank is made from high quality glass and Penn Plax are a reputable company within the aquarium industry.

It comes with a cascade internal filter, an LED light, a mat and a hinged plastic lid.

Pros:
  • Penn Plax offer a 100% Money Back Guarantee.
  • It is very simple to set up – there are only three steps.
  • It comes with a rubber non-slip mat.
Cons:
  • The lid is quite flimsy.
  • The light fixture is quite flimsy and the light itself isn’t very bright.

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Nano Tank Fish and Stocking Ideas

Reef Tank

If you are looking for nano aquarium fish, you have to consider how big they will eventually grow, not just the size they are when you first buy them.

You also need to make sure that they are not overly active swimmers who require plenty of space to swim around.

Here are some of the best fish for nano tanks.

Freshwater

Saltwater

Nano reef tanks are really popular amongst the nano tank world. Here is a list of soft corals you can include in your nano reef aquarium:

  • Xenia Polyps
  • Zoanthid Polyps
  • Green Star Polyps
  • Toadstool Corals
  • Clove Polyps

There are not many saltwater fish which you can keep in a 5 gallon tank – the following fish should be kept in 10 gallon tanks.

  • Firefish
  • Neon Blue Goby
  • Panamic Barnacle Blenny
  • Banded Possum Wrasse
  • Pygmy Coral Croucher Goby

Other Inhabitants

There are plenty of other aquatic species you can keep in a nano tank, such as shrimps and snails. Here are a few species.

Planted Tank

Having a planted nano tank means you will need to get really creative with which species you include, and where you place them.

Try not to choose any species which grow quickly or you will spend a lot of time trimming and maintaining them.

You might even want to set up a paludarium (a mixture of land and water) so you can combine aquatic and land species. Here are a few plant suggestions for your nano aquarium:

What Equipment Does a Nano Aquarium Need?

Nano Planted Tank

The equipment that you will need for your nano aquarium will depend on the type of tank you want to keep. You might choose to keep a freshwater or a saltwater setup.

Both setups will require a filter and lights as a bare minimum. Then depending on the species you want to keep, and whether they are tropical or cold water fish, you might need a heater.

Filter

Filters are essential for nano tanks – due to the small size, pollutants will build up much quicker.

They will keep your water clean and also provide some water flow in the tank. Many nano aquariums come with a small inbuilt filtration unit on the back.

If your tank doesn’t have a filter, the most popular choice is a hang-on-back system. These filters simply sit on the back of your tank and many of them provide all three stages of necessary filtration (mechanical, biological and chemical).

Our favorite filter for nano tanks can be found here.

Light

You will also need a nano aquarium light if you plan on keeping any live species in your tank.

Again, many tanks come with inbuilt lights but sometimes you will need to buy your own lighting.

Lights are needed for the majority of fish species to help mimic the natural day and night cycle. Lights are also required for plant growth, and most people choose to put live plants in their nano tanks.

The other benefit of having lights in your tank is that it makes your fish appear brighter and also provides you with enough light to spot if there are any problems or illnesses with your fish.

Our favorite lighting for nano tanks can be found here.

Heater

If you are planning to keep tropical fish, you will need a heater to keep the water at a consistent temperature.

Fish are not able to regulate their body temperature so they need the water to do this for them.

Some heaters are adjustable and allow you to control the temperature of the water and keep it between 75 and 80°F which is the optimal temperature for most tropical fish.

Our favorite heater for nano tanks can be found here.

How To Set Up a Nano Tank

Nano Tank

Nano fish tanks are easy to set up, especially if you buy a complete kit.

Complete kits usually come with a light and filter, and the light is often attached to the top of the tank.

Filters are sometimes integrated which makes the set up process even easier. Follow these steps to make sure you set up your aquarium properly.

Step One: Choose the location. Your tank will be much heavier once filled with water so you need to put it in the right place to begin with. Choose somewhere away from natural light sources to prevent algae growth, and away from any heat sources.

Step Two: Clean the tank. Even if it’s a brand new tank, you will still need to wipe it over to remove any dust. If you are cleaning a used tank you can use vinegar and warm water.

Step Three: Add your gravel/sand and decorations. You will need at least an inch of substrate; the type you choose will depend on your fish.

Step Four: Install your equipment. Place your heater and filter. If you are setting up a saltwater tank you will need to add a protein skimmer and a powerhead too.

Step Five: Prepare your water. This will depend on whether you are keeping a freshwater or saltwater tank. Make sure you use either reverse osmosis water, or remove the chlorine, and add your salt if you are setting up a nano reef tank.

Step Six: Fill the tank. You can place a small bowl on top of the sand, to pour the water onto so it does not displace the substrate in your tank.

Step Seven: Cycle your tank. The tank needs to complete the nitrogen cycle, which allows beneficial bacteria to build up to help convert ammonia and nitrites which are deadly to fish. This process normally takes around 4-6 weeks.

Step Eight: Add the inhabitants. Allows time for them to acclimatize, don’t just put them straight in. Instead, let them float in the bag they came in for 10 minutes, and then every five minutes, add a cup of tank water until the bag is full. You can then release the fish into the tank.

Summary

We recommend that if you are passionate about starting a nano tank, get at least a 5 gallon tank.

Perhaps you would like to create a small nano community, use it as a quarantine tank or keep it quite bare as a breeding tank.

Our favorite is the MarineLand it’s the best all-in-one nano aquarium

What fish do you intend to keep in your setup? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below…

Robert Woods Portrait
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third generation fish keeper and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America and the Nature Conservancy.

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