The Insider Pick:
Cultivating a saltwater aquarium is a fun challenge with the right kit. The Fluval Reef Aquarium and Cabinet Set is everything a saltwater aquarium hobbyist could hope for because it’s a comprehensive kit that covers all the bases.
Saltwater fish, particularly reef-dwelling species, are not only some of the most vibrant species in the aquarium hobbyist world, they are also some of the most colorful animals in the world. This being the case, it is no wonder that saltwater aquariums are so popular. What many people do not realize, however, is that cultivating a thriving marine tank is quite a challenge. Not only do you need specific equipment to keep the tank running, but you must also maintain a delicate balance of pH, salinity, and other water parameters for your tank inhabitants to flourish.
Though a saltwater aquarium does come with its challenges, it is also incredibly rewarding. Nothing is more beautiful or awe-inspiring than a thriving aquatic ecosystem in miniature, right there in your living room. Whether you’re thinking about starting your first saltwater tank or upgrading to a new system, we’ve scoured the reviews to bring you our top picks for the best saltwater aquarium kits. Keep reading to see which saltwater aquarium kit is best for you.
Although the Fluval Reef Aquarium and Cabinet Set is our top pick, for the reasons laid out in the slides below, you should also consider the Fluval Sea EVO Marine Aquarium Kit, the Coralife LED BioCube Starter Kit, the Innovative Marine NUVO Fusion Aquarium, and the SCA 50-Gallon Starfire Aquarium.
The best saltwater aquarium overall
Why you’ll love it: The Fluval Reef Aquarium and Cabinet Set makes it easy to set up and maintain a thriving reef tank.
A lot of research and planning goes into creating the ultimate saltwater tank setup. You need a high-quality filtration system powerful enough to accommodate your tank capacity as well as a heating system to maintain a stable tank temperature. Lighting should be customized to your tank inhabitants but should provide illumination without producing so much heat that your tank overheats.
The perfect saltwater aquarium would include all of these components and more, making your job as easy as assembling the equipment and adding salt and water. That’s exactly what the Fluval Reef Aquarium and Cabinet Set does.
Available in three sizes ranging from 14 to 36 gallons, this aquarium kit comes with everything you need to cultivate and maintain a thriving reef environment. The tank itself is designed with clean lines and the sleek, modern cabinet gives it a contemporary finish. The kit includes an integrated filter and protein skimmer, as well as the adjustable Fluval Sea Marine & Reef Performance LED lighting system for powerful day and night illumination.
A detailed review from Practical Fishkeeping describes this reef tank setup as an “attractive, compact and well-built aquarium” with quality equipment. The reviewer especially liked the integrated drain feature that makes water changes a breeze but said that the cabinet could be designed better for electric access.
Buyer reviews on Drs. Foster and Smith note that a heater is not included and that the protein skimmer does make some noise. Overall, however, customers seem pleased with the product.
Pros: High-quality, contemporary design, includes all of the equipment you need in a durable aquarium cabinet, LED lighting system, reef tank environment, drain valve makes water changes easy, glass aquarium has a frosted rim to disguise water lines, submersible heater and circulation pump included with some sizes
Cons: Not available in sizes over 50 gallons, cabinet could be designed better for electric access, clips holding the protein skimmer may become brittle with time, some assembly required, some sizes don’t come with a heater
The best mini reef tank
Why you’ll love it: Designed specifically to support coral life, the Fluval Sea EVO Marine Aquarium Kit comes with a high-output LED lighting system and three-stage filtration.
Cultivating a saltwater aquarium with fish and live rock is fairly straightforward, but a reef tank comes with an entirely separate set of challenges – especially if you’re also going for a miniature tank. In order to keep corals alive, you have to strike the right balance with tank lighting, water circulation, and water chemistry. If you have never tried your hand at a reef tank but you have some experience with saltwater aquariums, a comprehensive reef tank kit like the Fluval Sea EVO Marine Aquarium Kit is a good idea.
Equipped with a 14,000°K high-output LED system, the Fluval Sea EVO Marine Aquarium Kit is designed to support corals. This lighting system offers convenient day/night illumination and it is housed in a sleek, aluminum casing. The three-stage filtration system features BioMax filter media for optimal mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. You’ll also receive a circulation pump with an output nozzle, a safe low-voltage transformer, and a cover for the aquarium. Adding salt water, fish, and corals is up to you.
A review from Fishtank Advisor describes this reef tank setup as a “complete ready-to-go reef aquarium system. The reviewer also makes note of the three-stage filtration system and the powerful 132gph submersible pump that is hidden behind the integrated filtration system.
Customer reviews on Drs. Foster and Smith note that it is easy to assemble and provides good value, though some say the lighting system could be better and the tank doesn’t come with a protein skimmer.
Pros: High-quality, contemporary design, includes all of the equipment, high-output LED for healthy coral growth, day and night lighting system, three-stage filtration system, circulation pump with output nozzle
Cons: Small size may be a challenge to maintain, doesn’t come with a protein skimmer, limited size may make it difficult to replace/upgrade the equipment, LED lighting has no timer
The best nano reef tank
Why you’ll love it: With its sleek, modern design and integrated filtration, the Coralife LED BioCube Starter Kit is the ultimate nano reef tank.
Though there is no strict definition for the term “nano tank,” it generally refers to a small tank with a total tank capacity below 20 gallons. While you might assume that a smaller tank is easier to maintain than a larger one, the opposite is, in fact, true, especially when it comes to saltwater aquariums.
In a large tank, there is a higher water volume to dilute toxins and to absorb minor fluctuations in water chemistry – the same minor changes in water temperature, pH, or ammonia levels in a small tank can be deadly. For these reasons, nano tanks are not recommended for beginners, but they can be an exciting challenge for experienced saltwater hobbyists. Our top pick for the best nano reef tank is the Coralife LED BioCube Starter Kit.
The Coralife LED BioCube Starter Kit features a high-quality construction, made from clear glass with rounded corners and a sleek, modern design. This tank comes with a hinged top to hide the integrated LED lighting system as well as a multistage wet/dry filtration system guaranteed to keep your water quality high. Perfect for a miniature reef tank, the integrated lighting system features both white LED and actinic blue light to mimic the day/night cycle as well as a 24-hour timer and a 30-minute sunrise/sunset function. If you aren’t happy with the equipment included in this all-in-one kit, there are plenty of other BioCube accessories available for upgrade.
The Coralife LED BioCube Starter Kit is included in Aquarium Adviser’s top ten list of the best fish tanks. The site notes the tank’s sleek, clean design as well as its hinge-top design that hides cords and equipment from view. Aquascape Addiction names this tank the best nano tank as a whole, commenting on the quality of the multistage filtration system and the lighting system that includes both day and night lighting as well as transition lighting to mimic sunrise and sunset.
With 35 customer reviews on Amazon and a solid 4.5-star rating, the Coralife LED BioCube Starter Kit is available in both 16- and 32-gallon sizes. The larger size might be a good option if you aren’t quite ready for the challenge of a true nano tank.
Pros: Comes in both 16 and 32-gallon sizes, complete kit, sleek and modern design, hinged lid hides cords and equipment, includes LED lighting and filtration system, integrated 24-hour timer, comes with basic accessories and options to upgrade
Cons: Does not come with an aquarium stand, doesn’t include a protein skimmer, fan can be a little bit noisy, equipment chamber could be larger
The best saltwater tank under 50 gallons
Innovative Marine Nuvo/Business Insider
Why you’ll love it: The Innovative Marine NUVO Fusion Aquarium Kit is an attractive option for budding saltwater aquarium enthusiasts with its sub-50 gallon size.
If you’re just getting started with saltwater aquariums, you may not be in the market for a multi-thousand dollar aquarium kit. You can control your costs by keeping the size of your tank below 50 gallons. In reducing your price point, however, you don’t want to sacrifice quality. Our top pick for a saltwater aquarium kit with less than 50 gallons is the Innovative Marine NUVO Fusion Aquarium Kit.
Innovative Marine describes its NUVO Fusion line of aquarium kits as “a work of art meets state of the art.” These aquarium kits feature a modern rimless design that will complement any home décor while also providing a healthy, habitable environment for fish and corals.
The tank itself is constructed from high-quality glass and it includes all of the basic equipment you need to get started, including a 3-stage filtration system, built-in overflow basket, return pump, and a simple mesh top to keep jumpers in the tank. All you need to provide is a protein skimmer and a lighting system customized to suit your tank inhabitants.
Bestcovery describes the Innovative Marine NUVO Fusion Aquarium as a modern saltwater tank complete with all the necessary features to support both fish and coral. Fishtank Advisor says the glass construction offers “impeccable quality,” though the kit doesn’t include a skimmer, lighting, or a stand. The lack of a lighting system isn’t necessarily bad, however, since you’ll want to customize that to your choice of tank inhabitants – corals need different lighting than fish and live rock.
The Innovative Marine NUVO Fusion Aquarium is available in a wide range of sizes from a desktop 10-gallon all the way up to the full-size 80-gallon tank. These tanks are also available in different shapes including the classic rectangular, the nano and mini cubes, and the more dramatic extra-long tank.
A review from Reef Builders comments on the unique size and shapes of the Marine NUVO series, noting that there is an option for every aquarium hobbyist.
Pros: Durably constructed rimless glass aquarium, available in sizes over and under 50 gallons, comes with basic equipment, integrated 3-stage filtration system, includes an overflow basket and return pump, comes with mesh top to stop jumpers
Cons: Doesn’t come with an aquarium cabinet or stand, protein skimmer is not included, lighting system is not included
The best saltwater tank with more than 50 gallons
Why you’ll love it: The SCA 50-Gallon Starfire Aquarium kit is a complete aquarium kit that comes in large sizes with a sturdy cabinet and basic accessories.
Whether you’re looking to start your first saltwater tank or you want to upgrade from a smaller tank, 50 gallons is a manageable size. If you go too much larger you may run into issues with finding a place to put it and you’ll have to pay for larger, more expensive equipment. The SCA 50-Gallon Starfire Aquarium kit is also available in larger sizes from 66 to 240 gallons, enabling you to go as big and bold as you like.
Complete with a square 50-gallon tank constructed from algae-resistant Starfire glass and a durable aquarium cabinet, this saltwater aquarium kit is a great buy for the money. In addition to the tank itself, this kit comes with an integrated three-stage filtration system and a protein skimmer, as well as a sump system to hold all of your equipment. Once assembled, the setup is very attractive and it is all protected by a three-year warranty on the tank and one-year warranty for the accessories.
Fishtank Advisor includes the SCA 50-Gallon Starfire Aquarium in its top five picks for the best reef tanks. The site notes the quality and attractiveness of the setup and design, but the reviewer does mention that it doesn’t come with a lighting system. This isn’t necessarily a problem, however, because you’ll want to customize your lighting according to the tank inhabitants you choose. MyAquarium.net describes this tank set up as a “piece of beauty,” noting that it has a much smaller footprint than most 50-gallon tanks.
With a solid 4.5-star rating on Amazon, the SCA 50-Gallon Starfire Aquarium is beloved by saltwater aquarium enthusiasts. Buyers love the quality construction and the inclusion of the aquarium stand, though some comment that you may need to purchase additional connectors to install some of the equipment.
Pros: High-quality, algae-resistant Starfire glass, 50-gallon capacity, comes with an aquarium cabinet for storage, integrated 3-stage filtration system, comes with filter media, includes a protein skimmer and return pump, comes with a sump system to install equipment
Cons: Cabinet does not come pre-assembled, may need to purchase additional connectors for some equipment, doesn’t include a lighting system, included protein skimmer doesn’t come with a removable cup