Best Desktop Fish Tanks

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Whether you’re in the office or in a dorm, maybe you’ve considered adding a fish friend. After all, fish have unique personalities and can be great companions.

However, in places like offices or dorms, you may not be able to set up a large fish tank. As a result, desktop fish tanks have begun to grow in popularity.

Desktop fish tanks are just fish tanks that are small enough to fit on a desk – usually less than 10 gallons. This means that you can use a regular small fish tank, or invest in one specifically for desks.

With all of the different options for desktop fish tanks, it can be difficult to pick the best one. After all, it needs to fit both your lifestyle and the fish you choose to purchase.

To help pick the best desktop fish tank, we’ve compiled a complete buying guide with everything you need to know.

The 10 Best Desktop Fish Tanks

1. Fluval Spec III Aquarium Kit

Fluval Spec III Aquarium Kit

This is a sleek and modern desktop fish tank that meets the needs of your fish while offering an aesthetic appeal. It’s made of etched glass and aluminum trim, and it supports 3 different filtration systems.

In the concealed honeycombed section, you can use either mechanical, chemical, or biological filtration. Each of these offers different benefits, so feel free to experiment to find the best one for you.

Mechanical uses a strainer device. This catches any large debris such as plant waste or excess fish food for removal.

Chemical uses sterilizers and sometimes UV lights for aquariums. This kills any harmful bacteria and algae that could make your tank dirty and fish sick.

Finally, biological filtration uses beneficial bacteria to convert ammonia into oxygen for your fish.

The small and concise filtration system is paired in the same compartment as the pump allowing for quick and simple maintenance. Along with an excellent filtration system, it provides amazing lighting by 31 LED lamps that arch above the tank.

Pros
  • Option for chemical, mechanical, or biological filtration
  • Lightweight and compact for any size desk
  • LED light system
  • Sleek and aesthetic design
Cons
  • The filter can be a bit strong for some smaller fish species

2. Tetra LED Half Moon Aquarium Kit

Tetra LED Half Moon Aquarium Kit

If you’re looking to step away from your average classic square or round fish tank, then this is an interesting pick! The half-moon design saves space while also making it easier to view your fish.

It comes with a battery-powered LED (batteries not included) that you can move around. This means that you can shine the light from the top or bottom of your aquarium.

Related: check our article about best aquarium lighting for fish color!

While it’s only 1.1 gallons – a bit on the smaller side – this tank was designed with betta fish in mind. It’s low maintenance and easy to set up, giving you more time to enjoy your fish.

Pros
  • Half-moon shape saves space while not obstructing your view of your fish
  • Moveable, battery-powered LED light can provide light from either the top or bottom of the tank
  • Designed with betta fish in mind
  • Low maintenance
Cons
  • At 1.1 gallon, it’s on the smaller size

3. Marina EZ Care Betta Kit

Marina EZ Care Betta Kit

The coolest thing about this desktop fish tank is the innovative EZ care system.

The tank is divided into two parts: the 0.7-gallon tank and a smaller tank attached to the back. A small pipe connects these two tanks.

When you pour clean, fish ready water into the main tank during cleaning, the water rises. Then, it travels through the pipe to the smaller tank.

The smaller tank unhooks easily from the back of the tank for dumping. As a result, you can conduct partial or even full water changes without ever having to remove your fish.

The tank has a chic cuboidal design that fits perfectly on your desk without taking up a lot of room. It also has a lid with a small opening to reduce splashes while aiding in feed time.

It is on the smaller side, though, so you won’t want to put more than a single betta in here.

Pros
  • Innovated EZ care system for hassle-free cleaning
  • Includes decor: a background and rocks for the bottom
  • Comes with a cup for water changing
  • Easy setup
Cons
  • At 0.7 gallons, this tank is on the smaller side

4. Back to the Roots Gardening Aquaponic Ecosystem

Back to the Roots Gardening Aquaponic Ecosystem

Aquaponics has been growing in popularity in recent years. But what exactly is it?

To put it simply, aquaponics is basically growing plants in a tank rather than soil. When you add fish to the tank, it creates a symbiotic relationship – they help each other out!

Plants use up carbon dioxide and fish waste in the water as nutrients to help them grow. As a result, they undergo photosynthesis and return oxygen into the water.

Your fish may also munch on the plant roots you grow! This doesn’t hurt the plant so long as it doesn’t happen in excess, so no worries.

If you’re hesitant about starting out, Back to the Roots makes it easy for you.

First, they included a fish coupon in your purchase to help you get your new fish friend. They also have a grow guarantee where if your plants don’t grow you can get your money back.

On top of that, it has everything you will need to start your aquaponics aquarium. This makes it a great beginner tank.

Pros
  • Aquaponic system
  • Includes everything you need to get started from seeds to a fish coupon
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Provides greenery along with a tank for extra aestheticism
Cons
  • The pump can be strong, especially for smaller fish

5. Tetra 3 Gallon Cube Kit

Tetra 3 Gallon Cube Kit Aquarium

This desktop fish tank makes clean and clear water a breeze with a built in filter. Holding up to 3 gallons of water in a durable plastic tank, this aquarium will add some excitement to your desk job.

This is a great kit for beginners because, other than including a filter, it also has mounted LED lighting and a free subscription to TetraCare.

Just make sure that you’re cautious when picking out your species. Certain animals, such as small betta fish or African dwarf frogs can be injured by the filter due to their smaller sizes and the betta’s fins.

Pros
  • Comes with filter for clean, clear water
  • Includes mounted LED lighting
  • Designed for small fish such as betta and small tropical fish like tetra
  • 3-gallon tank fits perfectly in offices, dorms, and anywhere else
  • Durable plastic resistant to cracking or shattering
  • Free subscription to TetraCare with purchase
Cons
  • Because of filter, can be dangerous for smaller animals

6. DoCooler Desktop Small Aquarium

DoCooler Desktop fish tank

If you’re looking for a desktop fish tank, why not save some space while you’re at it?

With the DoCooler aquarium, you can say goodbye to your clock and your cubby holders. This tank is designed with a built-in clock as well as a dual compartment.

Go ahead and say goodbye to your calendar while you’re at it! The LED clock displays more than time – it also shows the date and temperature with alarm settings.

It can also play 6 different tranquil sounds to help create a serene environment in your office or dorm.

It’s only 1.5 gallons, but it also comes with everything you will need to help your fish feel at home. This kit includes aquarium rocks as well as a decorative plant.

Pros
  • Includes a digital clock with date, time, alarm settings, and temperature
  • Available in either white or black
  • Includes noise marker that plays 6 different tranquil sounds
  • Includes light system and water pump
  • Includes decorative plant as well as rocks
  • Dual compartment for storing pens, pencils, rulers, etc
Cons
  • Only 1.5 gallons, making it a bit small

7. Biorb Classic LED Aquarium

Biorb Classic LED Desktop Aquarium

Sleek, minimalist – what’s a better way to produce a professional atmosphere in your office? It has several buying options to allow you to customize the size, color of the tank, and the type of light system.

It’s made of lightweight and durable acrylic that is stronger than glass. And, the light and filter are covered by a 12-month guarantee.

Yes, you read that right! This desktop fish tank comes with a filter.

In fact, it’s a five-step filter. Chemical, biological, mechanical, stabilization, and oxygenation – this filter does it all to make sure you have the best water possible.

Pros
  • Several buying options allowing you to customize the size, color, and light system
  • Sleek and minimalist orb design adds flare compared to regular cuboidal tanks
  • 5 stage filtration system: chemical, biological, mechanical, stabilization, and oxygenation
  • Light and filter are covered by a 12-month guarantee
  • Durable, lightweight acrylic design
  • Includes everything you need to get started
Cons
  • The pump and filtration system has a noisy operation

8. Marineland Portrait Aquarium

Marineland Portrait Aquarium

This 5-gallon desktop fish tank includes a 3-stage filtration system for clean, clear water. However, it’s hidden so as not to put a damper on your aesthetic space.

It has rounded corners as well as several lighting options including a shimmer effect. This helps produce a natural environment for your fish.

Just make sure to check the pipes and pump system well. Some customers complain of occasional leaks.

Pros
  • 5-gallon tank
  • Various lighting settings to add to the aesthetic
  • A hidden 3-stage filtration system
  • Rounded corners to improve the viewing
  • Easy to assemble and maintain
Cons
  • Easy for leaks to occur

9. Penn Plax Aquaponic Aquarium

Penn Plax Aquaponic Aquarium

This is another aquaponic aquarium! However, it can also be used as a standalone fish tank or vase.

One thing to note is that you may have to adjust the planter basket as well as the ceramic planting media. This is to make sure your betta gets enough oxygen.

Pros
  • Aquaponic system
  • Positive customer testimonials detailing weeks of use
  • Can be used as an aquaponic system, a plant vase, or a stand-alone desktop fish tank
  • 100% money-back guarantee
  • Comes with ceramic planting media to help start off your plant
Cons
  • Will have to make adjustments to planter basket to allow oxygen for fish

10. Aqueon Betta Bow Aquarium Starter Kit

Aqueon Betta Bow Aquarium Starter Kit

This kit comes with everything you need to get started, including food and water care samples. It also has a filter: the Aqueon Quietflow.

The Quietflow filter is known for its quiet operation as well as its hassle-free setup. It utilizes different types of filtration to help keep your water as clean and safe as possible for your fish.

It also comes with an LED light so that you can see your fish no matter what time of day it is.

As a 2.5-gallon betta tank, it comes with a divider to fit two betta fish. However, due to size, you shouldn’t use the divider and only keep one betta.

Don’t worry, though, if you’re determined to have two bettas, you can do so without the filter. This will allow for them both to have enough roaming room without being tempted to squeeze through the divider.

To house two bettas, try to buy only females. Also, introduce them slowly and place them into the tank at the same time to prevent territorialism.

Pros
  • 2.5-gallon betta tank
  • Easy install betta divider foot for housing two betta fish
  • Full kit with LED lighting and Aqueon Quietflow filter
  • Includes food and water care samples
  • Sturdy and safe packaging for peace of mind during shipping and unpackaging
Cons
  • Despite having a betta divider foot, it would be best to only have one betta in this tank due to size

Buying Guide – Everything You Need to Know to Pick the Best Desktop Fish Tank

Owning and maintaining an office desk fish tank can be a vastly different experience than a regular tank. This means that buying one may be an unfamiliar experience too.

To help you pick the best desktop aquarium, here are a few things to look for, as well as a care guide.

What to Look for in a Desktop Fish Tank

First, you want to get a tank as large as possible for your desk. While office desk fish tanks can be up to 10 gallons, you’ll want at least 5 gallons.

You can go smaller, of course, and there are plenty of options available. In this case, though, you’ll have to be much more careful with the fish you choose.

You’ll also have to be more strict when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.

You’ll also want to consider the size and shape of the tank, not just it’s volume. After all, with the tank on your desk, you don’t want it to take up all the space or wet your papers.

This means you’ll want a relatively slim design, with higher sides. This helps optimize space while also aiding in splash prevention.

Benefits of a Desktop Fish Tanks

Office desk fish tanks offer an abundance of benefits. If you’re still wondering if one is right for you, here are some of those benefits:

  • Studies have shown that interacting with fish improves mental wellbeing
  • Reduces stress and lowers blood pressure
  • Provides companionship
  • Easier to clean and maintain than larger tanks
  • Increases productivity
Desktop fish tank

How to Care for a Desktop Fish Tank

While desktop fish tanks can be convenient and fun, they also offer a unique set of challenges to overcome.

Due to the smaller size of the fish tank, more often than not, you won’t be able to fit in a filter or many plants. Both of these aspects are extremely important, however.

Filters, especially waterfall filters, both clean the water and aerate it. This helps produce a healthy environment with plenty of oxygen for your fish.

Related: check our article about best 5 gallon fish tank filters!

Plants, through photosynthesis, also add oxygen to your desk aquarium.

So, since you won’t be able to provide these features, you’ll have to put in a little bit of elbow grease. In order to help reduce waste and keep the water clean for your fish, you’ll need to clean it more often.

For smaller tanks like office desk fish tanks, you’ll want to try to clean the water twice a week. Thankfully, due to the smaller size, this is still an easy task.

You’ll also need to make sure that you keep the room a balanced temperature. Due to the fact you won’t be able to use a heater, you need to make sure that your fish are warm.

Finally, make sure you check water quality regularly. In a small tank, biomass has a greater impact, and ammonia can build up quickly.

Most issues will be visible – dirty walls, poor water quality, lethargic fish – but it still doesn’t hurt to test the water. You can find many different types of fish water test kits online.

Filters

While more uncommon due to the smaller size, it’s not impossible to have a filter in your desktop fish tank. This will help make a smaller environment feel at home for your fish.

However, picking the right filter can be just as complicated as picking the right tank. To help you, here’s a brief introduction to the different types of filtration systems.

Biological

A biological filtration system uses beneficial bacteria grown on a sponge to keep your water clean.

These beneficial bacteria break down fish waste and plant matter then recycle it, a process is known as the nitrogen cycle. This helps return oxygen and other beneficial nutrients like nitrates into the water in place of ammonia.

However, this does not kill algae or bacteria, nor can it stop large debris. Rather, it works to maintain balance in the chemical composition of your water.

This is good because, in small desktop fish tanks, it’s easy for ammonia and waste to build up. In fact, this is one of the biggest cons of office desk fish tanks.

A biological filter will help reduce this downside and will result in healthier, happier fish. 

Mechanical

These are some of the most common filters. Mechanical filters work by forcing your water through different types of media that act as a strainer.

The medium trap and remove large debris such as excess fish food or plant matter from your water. This helps keep it clean and prevent algae or bacteria growth.

Sterilizers

Sterilizers aren’t as common in desktop fish tanks as they are in outdoor ponds and larger tanks. They use either chemicals or UV lights to kill bacteria and algae.

Harmful bacteria can cause your fish to become sick. Algae can make the tank become dirty and can deplete the dissolved oxygen.

As a result, neither of these are things that you want, especially in a small tank on your desk.

What fish can live in a desktop fish tank?

A desktop fish tank won’t support a lot of fish. You should aim for a tank that is at least 5 gallon whenever possible.

A good rule of thumb for how many fish can fit in a tank is 1 inch of fish per gallon of water. For a 5-gallon desktop fish tank, here’s a list of common fish and about how many you could support.

Type of FishApproximate # in 5 Gal. Tank
Guppies5
Tetra5
Betta1
GoldfishMost species not recommended

These numbers are approximate, and you should monitor your fish to make sure they have enough space. If your fish doesn’t have enough space, they will become stressed and possibly fall ill.

How much does a desktop aquarium cost?

Like with everything, there is no set cost for a desktop aquarium. However, since they tend to be smaller than your average tanks – usually no more than 10 gallons – they are considerably cheaper.

For the most part, you can expect your desktop aquarium to cost anywhere from 10 to 70 USD.

Conclusion

Fish can be a great addition to your life. They have unique personalities and watching them swim can be a great break from reality.

There’s no better way to include a fish in your day to day life than right on your desk. This way, even when you’re working, you can connect with your fish and spend quality time together.

A desktop fish tank can limit your creative options, however. Due to the size, you won’t be able to support a whole ecosystem like you could with a larger tank.

Desktop fish tanks are not designed for many large fish or many large schools of small fish. Instead, you should aim for one or two smaller fish so that you can also add plants for decor and oxygenation.

Taking care of a desktop fish tank is cheaper and easier than a full-sized tank. However, it still offers all of the joys of raising fish, making it a win-win situation.

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