Top 10 Types Of Fish Tanks You Can Keep (And What Aquariums You Can Buy)

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Are you setting up a new aquarium? If so, this guide is just for you! Relax, get comfortable, and read along to learn about 10 popular types of fish tanks you can set up and some important information about the different sizes, shapes, and materials to choose from.

Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • All-in-one aquariums are ideal for beginners, but careful cleaning is necessary for tanks made of acrylic.
  • A freshwater tropical fish aquarium is a great choice for novice fish keepers, just make sure all the species you keep will get along and stay small enough for your tank size.
  • Basic saltwater aquariums can be suitable for beginners, but more equipment and technical knowledge is needed to keep live corals and sensitive marine fish.
  • All aquariums with live animals should have a quality filtration system to keep a clean and healthy environment for your fish. You’ll also need a heater to maintain warm water for tropical fish and good lighting to grow aquatic plants.

Top 10 Types Of Fish Tanks

In this section, we’ll learn about ten awesome types of fish tanks and the species that you can keep in them. Check out the video above from our YouTube Channel and read along! Let’s dive right in!

1. Cold Water Aquarium


A cold water aquarium is the ideal choice for fish keepers who want to keep goldfish and other types of fish that prefer cooler aquarium water. Unlike tropical fish, coldwater species come from parts of the world where winter temperatures can drop pretty low, so these species do not need a heater to survive in most homes.

Stocking Options:

2. Brackish


Brackish fish live in coastal environments where freshwater rivers and lakes mix with salty water from the ocean. There are many awesome brackish fish to choose from, and most are tropical species that require stable, warm temperatures.

These fish need aquarium water with a specific gravity of between about 1.005 and 1.012, so you’ll need to prepare their water with reef salt and monitor the salinity with a refractometer to keep them healthy.

Stocking options:

  • Scats
  • Monos
  • Bumblebee goby
  • Brackish puffer fish species
  • Archer fish

3. Tropical Community Setup


The tropical community setup is probably the most popular choice in the aquarium hobby. This kind of aquarium houses a variety of different freshwater tropical fish together in the same tank.

However, it’s very important to research each fish carefully because some prefer different water parameters and temperatures while others just don’t get along. Good filtration and heating are very important for this type of fish tank.

Stocking options:

4. Freshwater Aggressive


There’s something really cool about big, aggressive fish, and these species can actually make the best pets! However, choosing their tank mates carefully is important because some of these fish are mean!

Some experienced fishkeepers know how to mix various aggressive species together in the same tank, but it’s much safer to keep just one aggressive fish in its own tank if you’re just starting out.

Stocking options:

5. African Cichlids


African cichlids are some of the most colorful and fascinating freshwater fish on the planet. Most of the popular aquarium species come from huge East African Lakes like Lake Malawi and Tanganyika, and there are loads of options to choose from.

These fish are often highly territorial, so you really need to do your research before mixing different species in the same tank. However, you can create a truly stunning display tank if you choose the right fish. African cichlids generally need hard, alkaline water to thrive.

Stocking options:

6. Planted Aquarium


Did you know you can grow live plants in an aquarium? Hobbyists worldwide grow all sorts of beautiful aquatic plants in their tanks, often in amazing layouts called aquascapes that look like miniature scenes from nature.

Whether you’re trying to create a magical underwater world or simply growing a few live plants to improve your water quality and create a more interesting home for your fish, a planted aquarium is always a great option!

Stocking options:

  • Coldwater species
  • Tropical community species
  • Various aquascapes

7. Paludarium


A paludarium is an interesting type of aquarium that includes both underwater and land environments in the same tank. This kind of setup usually imitates a swamp, a river bank, or the shore of a lake. Paludariums are a little more complicated to create, but they can be really fun to build!

Stocking options:

  • Nano fish in the water section
  • Various aquatic and terrestrial plants
  • Frogs
  • Turtles

8. Saltwater Aquariums

Flame Angel

Aquariums aren’t just for freshwater fish. You can keep all sorts of marine fish in a home aquarium, including some stunning tropical reef fish!

Keeping a saltwater aquarium is not all that different from keeping freshwater species, although it does require some extra equipment and knowledge to keep the water salinity correct and maintain a healthy aquarium environment for the fish.

Stocking options:

  • Huge variety of fish species

9. Reef


Reef tanks are special saltwater aquariums that recreate the habitat of a tropical coral reef. These tanks are not just about the fish. Instead, reef keepers maintain amazing underwater worlds with many different types of sea creatures.

Stocking options:

  • Many colorful fish species
  • Live corals
  • Anemones, starfish, shrimp, snails, and other invertebrates

10. Saltwater Predators


Not all the colorful saltwater aquarium fishes are friendly creatures like nemo. You can also keep some awesome saltwater predators in a fish tank if you choose their tank mates carefully!

This kind of tank is usually all about the fish because saltwater predators tend to snack on invertebrates. However, many species can live together with live corals.

Stocking options:

  • Moray eels
  • Grouper
  • Lionfish
  • Marine pufferfish

7 Types Of Aquariums You Can Buy

Choosing which type of fish tank to create involves careful planning and research, especially when it comes to choosing the right fish. However, each kind of setup requires some important equipment, and the first choice you need to make is the actual aquarium and aquarium stand you are going to use.

Aquarium tanks come in many shapes and sizes, and the materials used to build them vary too. From simple fish bowls to tanks big enough to fill a living room, there’s no limit to the kind of tank you can keep if you have the space and budget!

Continue reading to learn about seven popular types of aquariums.

1. Nanos


Nano aquariums are simply small tanks up to about 20 gallons or so. These are popular choices for small fish like guppies and betta fish, although there is a long list of amazing nano fish that you can keep and some aquarists even keep saltwater fish and reef tanks in nano aquariums!

While nano aquariums might be cheaper to buy and easier to clean, they are not necessarily the easiest to maintain, so think twice before buying a tiny tank.

You can keep invertebrates like snails and shrimp in 1-2 gallon tanks, but 5 gallons is about as small as you can go for fish, and only a few species will thrive in such a small space. However, a 15-gallon tank is great for beginners and allows you to keep many more fish species, including small tropical communities.

2. All-In-Ones

Waterbox Nano

A classy rimless nano reef tank that won't break the bank! Great design with a well design all in one chamber

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Setting up an aquarium from scratch can save you a few dollars and be lots of fun, but buying the right equipment can be tricky if you’re just getting started.

Fortunately, all-in-one setups with built-in chambers for heating, and filtration are available. The manufacturers put a lot of work into their designs, making these the most stylish and visually appealing options too, and models with built-in aquarium stands and cabinets make organizing your fish tank super convenient.

All-in-one aquariums come in various shapes and sizes, including nano tanks perfect for shrimp or betta fish, medium setups for community fish, and even bigger tanks large enough for impressive African cichlid or saltwater predator displays.

3. Reef Ready


Reef-ready aquariums are a kind of tank designed for saltwater reef tanks. These aquariums may come pre-drilled so you can design and fit your own overflow and sump setup or they may come complete with everything needed for reef tank filtration systems.

These all-in-one setups take a lot of the hassle and risk out of a complicated DIY job, leaving you more time to research and plan your new reef inhabitants!

4. Glass And Acrylic

Back in ancient China, fish were first kept in ponds and water gardens and could only be viewed from above. Thankfully, we have transparent aquarium materials today that give us a much better view!

Most fish tanks are made from glass or acrylic (a clear plastic-like material), and each material has its own pros and cons. Let’s start with glass, the traditional option.

  • Glass fish tanks

Glass tanks offer high clarity and visibility making them the best choice for enjoying crystal-clear views of your fish. They are widely available and come in standard sizes, so you can easily find a hood, stand, and equipment to match your setup.

Glass is relatively scratch-resistant, but it is a brittle material that can crack and break if bumped or filled on an uneven surface. Glass is also a heavy material and this becomes an important consideration for large fish tanks.

  • Acrylic fish tanks

Acrylic fish tanks come in a much wider range of shapes and sizes than glass tanks, and they are the go-to option when designing custom fish tanks. Acrylic is much lighter and tougher than real glass, although it does not offer the same viewing clarity, and it scratches easily if cleaned carelessly.

While acrylic tanks may have some important benefits, they generally won’t last as long as a well-cared-for glass tank because they can become scratched and discolored with age.

5. Cubes And Rectangles


Most fish tanks are rectangular, and this shape should be your first choice for most aquarium types. Rectangles offer more floor space for aquascaping and more horizontal swimming space for your fish. This is especially important for active, open-water species. Longer tanks also tend to decrease aggression as fish will become more aggressive in small environments. A statement from a study backs up this assertion below:

Aggressive behavior was not correlated with small-scale changes in either group size or habitat size alone. However, a significant difference was observed in environments sufficiently large and complex: fish spent less time exhibiting aggressive behavior.

Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science – Volume 14 Issue 4

Rectangular tanks are also strong, easy to construct from sheet glass or acrylic, and offer a large surface area for oxygenation. However, don’t be too quick to rule out a cube-shaped aquarium. Cube tanks are also readily available and offer a few benefits over the traditional rectangular tank.

Firstly, there’s something undeniably elegant about a cube aquarium that makes them really pop. Their symmetrical shape also improves visibility, making them great for positions like the center of a room where you might view them from any direction.

6. Tall And Shallow Aquariums

Some common tank sizes come in more than one rectangular shape. A 20-gallon tank, for example, is available in a ‘long’ or ‘high’ shape, while a 40-gallon is available in a ‘long’ or ‘breeder’ shape.

Long, shallow aquariums are generally the better choice because they offer more swimming distance for your fish and they have a greater surface area for oxygen and carbon dioxide to diffuse into the water. However, ‘high’ and ‘breeder’ tanks need less floor space and work better for some aquascapes and reef layouts.

7. Rimmed And Rimless


Traditionally, glass aquariums have been built with solid bracing around the top rim for added strength. However, many modern aquariums are designed to be rimless, with no plastic strip along the top edge of the glass.

There are pros and cons to each design, and depending on your goals you may need to choose one over the other. Let’s take a look at the differences:

  • Rimmed tanks

They might not look as good, but rimmed tanks are stronger than rimless tanks. They are also cheaper and the top edge of the glass is well protected from chipping. Rimmed tanks are supported by bracing, so they can be made with lighter glass which cuts down on their overall weight too.

The rim of these tanks also hides the waterline at the top of the tank, an area that often shows hard water stains or bright light when your water level drops between water changes.

  • Rimless tanks

The benefits of rimless tanks are not that obvious, especially since the hood of your aquarium may cover the rim anyway. However, there are some situations where a rimless tank is the obvious choice.

Many aquarists prefer to keep open-top aquariums which allow the viewer to see the animals and plant life from a whole other dimension. A rimless tank creates a seamless blend between the walls and the surface of the water, which just looks so much better than a solid rim around the top.

How To Choose a Fish Tank

Choosing a fish tank is not something you should rush into. Fish can live for many years, and you’ll need to perform regular maintenance to keep your tank looking its best. So, how do you choose the right kind of tank for your needs?


Most people will have limits on the amount of space they have for a tank, and the amount of money they are willing to spend. However, the size and shape of your tank need to be suitable for the kind of fish you plan to keep, so your options will be limited if you choose a very small aquarium.

While a smaller tank is easier to clean, it does require more frequent maintenance, and it can be tough to maintain stable conditions, especially if you keep sensitive types of fish.

Marine Vs. Freshwater Aquarium

The bright colors and amazing shapes of a tropical coral reef aquarium make this kind of setup the ultimate display tank. Maintaining a vibrant tropical reef in your home is the pinnacle of achievement in the hobby, but the effort required and the costs involved are not suited to everyone. Fortunately, basic saltwater tanks or a fish-only brackish tank are easier to maintain and can be achieved by a dedicated beginner.

A freshwater tank can have just as much color, and you can usually find a much wider range of fish species at your local fish store. These aquariums tend to be more forgiving too, since you don’t need to monitor the salinity of the water and it’s often safe to use dechlorinated tap water.



Always choose a location in your home, office, or business before you buy the tank, taking care to consider factors like the distance to the nearest electrical point and faucet/tap, the amount of foot traffic and noise the area gets, and the distance from windows. You should avoid positioning your tank anywhere that receives direct sunlight.

Fish tanks are surprisingly heavy when full of water, so you’ll need a strong stand to hold a medium-sized tank. However, small nano aquariums can be placed on a solid, level piece of furniture. Get your measuring tape out and make sure your tank will fit into the space you have available.

Consult a professional to assist in setting up a custom design like a wall aquarium or a very large floor aquarium because they can affect the structure of your building.


What type of fish tanks are there?

Choosing types of fish tanks can be tough because there are so many options! Aquariums can be big or small, come in a wide range of shapes, and they can be made of different materials like acrylic or glass.

Aquariums can also house many different types of fish, ranging from tiny tropical fish to huge saltwater species. Many freshwater fish keepers also plant aquatic plants in their tanks, and saltwater fish keepers can keep live corals and all sorts of interesting saltwater creatures.

Which type of fish tank is best?

With so many amazing options available to the modern aquarium hobbyist, choosing just one type of aquarium requires some careful thought.

If you’re just getting started, consider an all-in-one, medium-sized cabinet aquarium. These types of fish tanks are the easiest to set up and they provide storage space for all your equipment and supplies. Cabinet-style aquariums even blend right into your home like a stylish piece of furniture!

When it comes to size, larger fish tanks are generally better than smaller tanks because they require less aquarium maintenance to keep the fish healthy. However, very large tanks can be quite a chore to clean, so consider a 20 to 55-gallon starter setup before moving to something very large.

What are the different types of freshwater aquariums?

There are many different types of fish tanks that you can create. A tropical fish aquarium is one of the most popular choices, and there are hundreds of different types of fish to choose from in the hobby.

Freshwater aquariums aren’t only for fish! You can even create a thriving aquatic world by including different forms of aquatic life such as shrimp, snails, and live aquatic plants. Temperature makes a difference too, and aquariums can hold tropical species that prefer warm water or cold water fish like goldfish that prefer a cooler environment.

Final Thoughts

The sky is the limit when it comes to setting up fish tanks, and that’s what I love so much about this hobby. From a small glass cube of live aquatic plants to a huge tank full of colorful saltwater predators, anything is possible with the right tank, knowledge, and vision. I hope this guide has helped you learn more about the different types of fish tanks and given you some great ideas for your next aquarium!

Do you have a dream fish tank that you’d love to create? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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