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Best Fish Tanks for Beginners

last updated Apr 19, 2019

A colorful, well-maintained fish tank will always be a welcome addition to any room of the house. There is always a fascination in seeing fishes swim, even in a controlled environment such as an aquarium, which can also add an overall soothing feeling to the space that you are in. However, there is a lot that goes in on having one, which makes it a tad bit more challenging that owning and taking care of other pets. From the type of fishes that you will have, to the size and filtration systems that you will use, it can be a costly and quite demanding thing to venture into. If you are still reading this, then you must be welcoming all of these possible challenges that come with owning your personal aquarium.

In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research

icon
MarineLand Glass LED
98.8/100 our score
Size
99
Value
98
Accessories
99
Breathability
99
MarineLand Glass LED
Why is it better?

An elaborate two-fold lighting system that can brighten up any room

Efficient and effective filtration system to guarantee a healthy tank

Decent-sized that can fit a good handful of small fishes

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
MarineLand Glass LED
Test Winner: MarineLand Glass LED
Researched Sources
10
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
2.2k
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
16
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
15
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
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By Melissa Coleiro:

This buying guide for fish tanks for beginners has been put together to show you the best researched and reviewed products for you to own your own small personal aquarium. A great fish tank for beginners to keep your eye on is the MarineLand Glass LED. We love this fish tank for beginners because it is known for having an elaborate two-fold lighting system that can brighten up any room and being a decent-size that can fit a good handful of small fishes.

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Name
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#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
98.8
Size
99%
Value
98%
Accessories
99%
Breathability
99%
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.04.19)
$56.08
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97.8
Size
98%
Value
98%
Accessories
97%
Breathability
98%
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.04.19)
$42.44
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97
Size
97%
Value
96%
Accessories
98%
Breathability
97%
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.04.19)
$36.94
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93
Size
92%
Value
93%
Accessories
93%
Breathability
94%
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.04.19)
$59.99
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Size
90%
Value
91%
Accessories
90%
Breathability
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.04.19)
$30.85
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.3
Size
88%
Value
87%
Accessories
89%
Breathability
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.04.19)
$53.19
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.5
Size
86%
Value
87%
Accessories
87%
Breathability
86%
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.04.19)
$27.32
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83
Size
83%
Value
84%
Accessories
82%
Breathability
83%
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.04.19)
$12.89
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.3
Size
80%
Value
81%
Accessories
82%
Breathability
82%
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.04.19)
$59.66
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78.5
Size
78%
Value
79%
Accessories
79%
Breathability
78%
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.04.19)
$50.12
In Depth Review Top 10
  • MarineLand Glass LED
  • Penn Plax
  • Umbra
  • MarineLand
  • Tetra LED
  • Fluval
  • Aqueon 10 Gallon
  • Tetra Half Moon Betta
  • Aqueon Starter Kit
  • GloFish
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

Top 10 Picks

1. MarineLand Glass LED

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
98.8
MarineLand Glass LED
Size
99
Value
98
Accessories
99
Breathability
99
best offer for today
$56.08
Pros:

An elaborate two-fold lighting system that can brighten up any room

Efficient and effective filtration system to guarantee a healthy tank

Decent-sized that can fit a good handful of small fishes

Cons:

Can be a bit too pricey for beginners

MarineLand has once again released a product that would not only irradiate any room but would also provide a healthy environment for your fishes to live in. This was done through the Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit.

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Size/Type of Fish
With its 11.8 x 11.6 x 17 inches and five-gallon water capacity, beginner tank owners will be able to store a handful of small fishes for them to pet. It makes for the attractive and soothing desktop aquarium that can be added into any room of any space.

Filtration System
The filtration system of this particular brand is also something to look forward to if you are planning this purchase. It is equipped with a three-stage back panel filtration that is hidden in plain sight, along with an adjustable flow filter pump to ensure its cleanliness and its water.

Lighting
The built-in lighting system of this tank could be its best feature yet. If blue LED lights are not enough, this brand is also equipped with white LED lights that give off a more glistening effect to the water. This definitely adds more value, in terms of aesthetics.

Cost and Affordability
Like the previous MarineLand tank in this list, this one is also a bit on the pricey end. However, you will be paying for its top of the line features and lighting system, which justifies its cost.

2. Penn Plax

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97.8
Penn Plax
Size
98
Value
98
Accessories
97
Breathability
98
best offer for today
$42.44
Pros:

Very affordable and low-maintenance

Top-notch filtration system to prevent nitrate and toxin build-up

Can be placed under any room space

Cons:

Consumers complain of a short cord from the tank’s pump to the light, adding just a tad bit of inconvenience

Betta fish owners would be ecstatic about this aquarium kit. It is the perfect-sized and functioning tank that is best-suited for any space, which also makes for an applicable aquarium for beginners.

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Size/Type of Fish
Through the name itself, it is already established that this brand is pretty much made for betta fish. It is 9.5 inches in height, 8.5 inches in width, and 6 inches in depth, which can hold up to a gallon and a half of water. With its plastic structure and removable lid, it is very easy to maintain and clean.

Filtration System
With the Penn Plax Betta Fish Tank, you will not have to worry about nitrates and the buildup of other pollutants. This aquarium is backed up with chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration, as well as a carbon filter media. This guarantees the cleanliness and freshness of the water for your fishes to live in.

Lighting
Lighting is also not an issue with this brand, because, like all the other good brands that are mentioned in this list, it is also equipped with an LED lighting system. The bulbs are bright yet operate under a low voltage, which can also be factored into the total expenses for upkeep.

Cost and Affordability
Another great take away from this brand is its affordability. When purchased through Amazon, it falls right below the $30 price range, which is a good purchase for beginners. Not to mention the low-maintenance qualities and you have a great bargain in front of you.

3. Umbra

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97
Umbra
Size
97
Value
96
Accessories
98
Breathability
97
best offer for today
$36.94
Pros:

Aesthetically pleasing

Outer shell can be removed and painted according to your liking, or to match your room

Removable façade which makes for simpler cleaning methods

Cons:

Can be too compact to store betta fish in

As the name itself suggests, this aquarium is structured like a small building, similar to a medium-rise hotel. If aesthetics is a big consideration for your purchase, this definitely would be a good buy for you.

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Size/Type of Fish
This brand is 7.5-inches wide x 7.5-inches deep x 8-inches high, and can hold up to a gallon and a half of water. It can fit two fishes at the most, as each one occupies a floor level, but its compact size may be a bit too small for them to move around freely. If you are looking to store the smaller kinds such as the standard goldfish, this should not be an issue.

Filtration System
Because of its size and stature, only the most basic filtration systems would work for this tank. It may not be suitable for other types of fish that may require a more elaborate system for them to live.

Lighting
This tank is not built with any lighting system, so it would mainly depend on natural lighting. Given that condition, it would be best placed in a well-lit room, but still far from being exposed to the direct heat of the sun.

Cost and Affordability
For its size and aesthetic value, this brand also falls under the more affordable range in the price scale. If you are a beginner with almost zero knowledge about owning a fish, this could be a good brand to start with.

4. MarineLand

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93
MarineLand
Size
92
Value
93
Accessories
93
Breathability
94
best offer for today
$59.99
Pros:

Efficient filtration system

Operates under both LED and moonlight settings that can be flexible for any lighting condition of a room

Can fit any space no matter what room size, given its smaller stature

Cons:

Can be a little too pricey for beginners to own

Another small to medium-sized tank that will be a good fit for your desk or table in any room of your home or office would be this aquarium kit. And since it comes with all the basic features for an aquarium to function, this brand would work well for beginners.

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Size/Type of Fish
This tank can very well fall under the medium-sized variation, as it can hold up to three gallons of water. Following the size-to-gallon fish-to-water ratio, you can fit three small fishes of your choosing, whether it’s a clownfish, goldfish, betta fishes, or swordtails.

Filtration System
You will not have to worry about filtration with this particular brand, as it is equipped with a three-step filtration system. You can also fully utilize its adjustable flow filter pump for your water cleaning and filtering needs.

Lighting
One thing you can expect from this brand is that it can illuminate your room and its entire environment. Using both moonlight and LED light settings, you can adjust the mood and color of your tank, depending on how much light there is in the room.

Cost and Affordability
Unlike the previous brands that are a part of this list, this specific tank falls under the pricier and of the scale. If you are just starting out with your aquarium owning venture and are on a tight budget, this may not be the brand for you.

5. Tetra LED

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Tetra LED
Size
90
Value
91
Accessories
90
Breathability
89
best offer for today
$30.85
Pros:

Powered by LED lights

Top of the line filtration system

Can house various types of fish

Cons:

Some consumers complain about the loudness of the filter

For beginner aquarium owners who are looking for a glass and acrylic tank for them to start with, Tetra has another variant that can very well fulfill your needs. The aquarium would be the brand to go for, especially if you are just planning to own a smaller set of pets.

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Size/Type of Fish
This is another good example of a tank that can be placed in a table-top in your office, family den, or bedroom, given its 10" D x 10"W x 10.512"H size. The three-gallon water capacity allows you to store any small tropical fish of your preference, as well as the classic staple that is goldfish.

Filtration System
This is another brand that is equipped with a top of the line filtration system. Given Tetra’s reputation for having above average filters, this specific tank is powered by the 3i filter to ensure the cleanliness of the water, as well as the habitability of the environment for your pet fishes.

Lighting
The lighting system of this tank is powered by LED bulbs, which means you will not have to worry about placing it in dimly-lit rooms. The LED bulbs also help enhance the visibility of your pets.

Cost and Affordability
This specific brand is cheaper than some of the aforementioned in this list, which once again makes it a solid purchase for those who are just starting out. For the price that it is advertised on Amazon, you can already enjoy a basic aquarium set-up.

6. Fluval

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.3
Fluval
Size
88
Value
87
Accessories
89
Breathability
89
best offer for today
$53.19
Pros:

Top-notch filtration system that ensures the cleanliness of water and tank environment

Can fit any tablespace given its smaller size

Powered by LED-lights

Cons:

Can only fit small fishes

Another good tank that would be suitable for table-top or desktop use would be the Fluval Spec III Aquarium Kit. With its 2.6-gallon capacity, it is decent sized enough to store two small fishes, which is a good starting point for beginners who have little knowledge about maintaining aquariums and caring for fishes as pets.

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Size/Type of Fish
Given the water capacity and size (11.8 x 10.8 x 8.7 Inches) the one-inch to the one-gallon ratio of fish to water must be followed. But since this would be the ideal tabletop add-on, you will not need that much big fish, anyway. The regular Danios and clownfishes should work for this kind of setup.

Filtration System
If there is one key takeaway about this product, it is that it has a super filtration system. It operates with a 3-stage biological, mechanical and chemical filtration system that would ensure your aquarium water will be as clean and habitable as possible for your pet fishes. The brand also has its Carbon Filter Media that you can add on for more effective cleaning and filtration.

Lighting
It may not be as colorful as other aquariums that use Blue LED lights, but this tank is powered with LED bulbs, nonetheless. It is still perfect for placing in a dimly-lit room to add more value to the environment.

Cost and Affordability
The monetary value for this tank falls under the affordable price range, which is good news for beginners and long-time pet fish owners alike. When purchased through Amazon, it comes with BioMax bio rings, as well as activated carbon and a foam block.

7. Aqueon 10 Gallon

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.5
Aqueon 10 Gallon
Size
86
Value
87
Accessories
87
Breathability
86
best offer for today
$27.32
Pros:

Simple and spacious

Can fit medium sized fishes

Very affordable

Cons:

Can be a bit challenging to maintain for beginners given its size

For those in search of the classic, minimalist aquarium that can fit a good handful of fishes, this one would be a good one to look at. It is straightforward and nonsensical, perfect for those who simply want a large enough tank for them to enjoy.

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Size/Type of Fish
This tank measures 20-1/4" x 10-1/2" x 12-9/16", which means that it has quite a lot of space. It can still work as a starter tank for beginners, with a little help from more experienced ones. This can also be used to house both freshwater and saltwater fishes.

Filtration System
Since this is a very simple tank that operates with the basic functionalities, finding a good filtration system for this would not be a problem. It can easily be plugged into the tank to get the job done efficiently and with no noise.

Lighting
This tank is clear enough to not need that much light, and unlike all the other items that preceded it, it does not have the same colorful hue to it. You can enjoy it under natural light, but of course, remember not to expose it under too much direct sunlight.

Cost and Affordability
Given its simplicity, the tank itself lies within the cheaper range in the price scale. But since it is a bigger tank compared to the other aforementioned ones, it can be a bit pricier to maintain. Of course, it will still depend on how elaborate you intend your set-up to be.

8. Tetra Half Moon Betta

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83
Tetra Half Moon Betta
Size
83
Value
84
Accessories
82
Breathability
83
best offer for today
$12.89
Pros:

Affordable and low-maintenance

Filtration system with no unnecessary noise

Equipped with LED lighting

Cons:

Can only store small fishes

As stated in its name, this aquarium is a bit compact in its structure. But if you are literally on day one of owning your very own aquarium and pet fishes, this is a brand that could be very suitable and favorable for you.

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Size/Type of Fish
We have already established that this is a small tank that would likely be best placed by your work desk. With its total size being 4.6 x 9.1 x 9.9 inches, you can likely store two fishes in here. Since it is very low maintenance, this could work well for beginners.

Filtration System
Given the brand’s filtration products that are of great quality, the same can be said for the filters that will be used for this tank. It not only gets the job done with utmost efficiency, it does so with no unnecessary noise.

Cost and Affordability
If the low-maintenance quality is already a treat for beginner fish tank owners, the overall price of the product is also something to be amazed at. When purchased over Amazon, it falls under the $15 range. It is definitely a good buy that despite its small size, can still make a room livelier and more effervescent.

9. Aqueon Starter Kit

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.3
Aqueon Starter Kit
Size
80
Value
81
Accessories
82
Breathability
82
best offer for today
$59.66
Pros:

Lively lighting combo from Blue LED light and multi-colored gravel

Quiet filtration system

Gravel and plants included in the package

Cons:

Can only fit small fishes

Very similar to the previous item, this is a five-gallon tank that is powered by Blue LED lights that emanate a colorful brightness that can instantly make any room vibrant. Another key takeaway is that this is available in a starter kit that can be greatly helpful for beginners.

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Size/Type of Fish
Because it is a small tank, it would be suggested that the one-inch to one-gallon ration would be followed with this tank. So if you are planning to pet a tiger shark, this obviously would not be the right size for it. You can still fill it with the smaller ones like clownfishes and have your little Nemos.

Filtration System
This tank is equipped with basic filtration systems such as its very own mini bow filter that comes with a cartridge. It is what one would expect from a small tank, having basic more basic features. Consumers who have brought the product have acknowledged its quietness, as well.

Lighting
As mentioned, the lighting of this tank is similar to the first time, in that it is also powered by blue LED lights. What makes it more interesting is that it is equipped with multi-colored gravel, which turns into a funky-colored surface once hit by light.

Cost and Affordability
The price of is tank is just a few dollars more than the previous item, but it is still within the affordable range. For its size and functionality, it can get the job done if you are just looking for a nice fish tank to add to your environment. But for this price, the entire packaging comes with the gravel and plants.

10. GloFish

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78.5
GloFish
Size
78
Value
79
Accessories
79
Breathability
78
best offer for today
$50.12
Pros:

Very affordable for what it offers

Colorful lighting can brighten up any room

Has a filtration system that is suitable for any kind of fish

Cons:

Can only store up to three medium-sized fishes, so it might not be a go-to for those who are aspiring to have a full tank

If you are looking to begin your venture into owning a pet fish while adding some color to the overall environment of your space, your best choice would be this aquarium kit. Built from excellent quality plastic, this crescent-shaped tank that can store five gallons of water this setup will be perfect to brighten up your room at home, or even your workspace.

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Size/Type of Fish
As mentioned, this tank can hold up to five gallons of water, which is pretty much the standard size of a normal home aquarium. With that said, you will be better off storing smaller fish in here. Consumers who have personally tried the product recommend having three fishes at the most.

Filtration System
This brand is powered by the Marina S10 Power Filter, which has also been met with favorable reviews from consumers. It is equipped with a placement for Bio-Carb and Bio-Clear cartridges, which are suitable for tropical fish and goldfish, respectively. The Glo-fish that is suitable for this tank is a tropical fish, which works well with the filtration system.

Lighting
The bright and colorful hue that this tank can bring into any room is mainly because of its superb lighting system. It is equipped with a total of 15 Blue LED lights that help enhance and magnify the vibrant colors of the fish and the tank itself. It definitely can be a trippy experience just staring at this tank.

Cost and Affordability
In terms of price, this tank lies within the more affordable range in the market. The amount you will be paying is definitely worth the quality that you will get, and how it can easily liven up your room.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Size

These two variables go hand-in-hand with each other, which is why they belong to one criterion. Of course, the size of your aquarium will be dependent on the space you have at home. But another important thing to consider is the type of fish that you plan to pet. Goldfish, for example, can grow up to 12 inches in length, which is exactly one foot. If you are looking at having a small school to pet, the normal fishbowls will definitely not suffice.

In terms of the type of fish, you must also consider those that can harmoniously co-exist with one another. You would not want to have a one big pet fish that could easily prey on the smaller ones, or bully them around the tank. Like humans and any other living creatures on this Earth, they will need a habitable environment to live in.

Value

This item is still connected to the previous one. The type of fish, of course, would vary in price, and this is not yet counting the amount you will spend on the tank itself. Of course, the bigger, and more elaborate the tank is, the higher it goes up the price ladder.

Maintaining the aforementioned would rightfully cost more, given the electricity, amount of water, filtering systems, and chemicals you will use for the water. Keeping an aquarium and your fishes in top condition can be more difficult than, say, owning a dog or pet bird since you will need to put heavy consideration on the fish’s environment as well. Money and finances can be the biggest factor to consider, which can be the basis for your decision to get an aquarium, in the first place.

Accessories

You may think that we are going a bit too scientific and complicated here, but the nitrogen cycle of your tank should also be on the top of the list to consider when you are a beginner in this venture. Simply put, the nitrogen cycle is the natural process in which a form of good bacteria disintegrates the ammonia that fishes secrete, which can be harmful to them and their environment. It is the same chemical that dead fish ooze out from its decaying body, which adds up to the tank’s ammonia levels.

In order to keep the overall process of maintaining enough bacteria levels to keep your tank and fishes healthy, one way would be to constantly change the water supply. In addition, it will also take a lot of time to properly cycle the tank, so you will need to be patient about it.

Breathability

While the nitrogen cycle helps filter out the unwanted bacteria on your tank, it is not enough to get the job done. That is why you will also need the help of an effective filtration system that can further flush out all those toxins and ensure that you have a healthy aquarium under your watch.

If you want to go deeper into it, you can choose between either mechanical or chemical filtration. Mechanical filtration deals with the removal of scraps from the fish such as uneaten fish food, excrements, and even dust particles from the room it is situated in. Using this filtration system, the water passes through a mechanical filter as the particles are sifted and strained out.

Chemical filtration, on the other hand, does the job that the mechanical filtration was not able to. The difference is that the water that passes through the chemical filter then bonds chemically with some of the waste molecules, subsequently removing them from the entire tank. Whichever system you may find applicable; most tanks are of today are equipped with filtration systems that are capable of doing both.

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Healthy Home

Unlike how it is to have a pet bird, dog, or cat, owning a pet fish definitely entails a lot more work, and requires a bit more patience and resources. Not only will you have to tend to the fishes, but you will also need to maintain a healthy living environment for them through the tank they live in. Given the number of variables to consider as mentioned above, all of these need to be factored in when planning to own a fish tank, especially for those who are doing it for the first time. You will need to ask yourself if this would be the right move to make at this point, while heavily putting in consideration in the resources that you have, particularly your budget.

Other Factors to Consider

Style

Aquariums, no matter what size, can easily brighten up a room and give off a soothing effect to those in its midst. This works specifically well for a dimly-lit room that will be equipped with a colorful small tank that highlights the fishes and even the water that they swim in. Like any decision that you will make in terms of finances, it would be best to weigh the advantages and disadvantages, backed up with your very own due diligence through ample research. But hopefully, this article will be able to at least give good suggestions to those interested, especially for beginner and novice aquarium owners who have very little idea on what this hobby and venture entails.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: How often should the fish be fed?
a:

It is once again dependent on what type of fish you have. Since most tanks on this list are more compact in size that is only enough to house the smaller variants, you would want to feed them what they can consume in a span of two minutes. This process of feeding can be done up to two times per day.

q: Can any type of rock be used as an ornament for the tank?
a:

When adding decorative components such as rocks into your tank, the important thing is that it is sterilized enough as to not affect the health of the water and fishes. However, seasoned aquarium owners advise against the use of calcium-based rocks, mainly because of the possibility of elevating both the alkaline and pH levels of the water, which can be detrimental in the long run.

q: Is a glass aquarium more suitable than acrylic? Or is it the other way around?
a:

Similar to the previous item, these two components have their own upsides and downsides. Veteran fish tank owners prefer glass tanks since its surface does not easily scratch which helps keep the overall visibility of the aquarium. The exact opposite goes for the acrylic variant, but it is a lot less heavy, which makes it a good fit for any type of countertop.

q: How do I know if I should use freshwater or marine water?
a:

The type of water that you will put in your aquarium will also determine how easy or difficult it would be to maintain. While marine water is the more preferred type of water by most tank owners, the corrosiveness of the salt content can turn out to be detrimental to the tank itself.

For easier maintenance, it is recommended to go for fresh water, since there are also many types of fishes that are suitable for this kind of environment.

q: How do I deal with cloudy aquarium water?
a:

When the water of your aquarium begins to get cloudy and murky, it can either be one of two things: all the bacteria are beginning to bloom or it is all the dust from its surroundings that was blown into the water. Either way, it can be remedied with water changes and adding chemicals like fluorite.

Sources

  1. Christopher Adams, How to Choose the Best Fish Tank if You’re a Beginner in 2019, Article, Feb 09, 2019