You probably already know:
Buying a reef tank is making a large investment-not only of your money, but also of your time.
These tanks are stunning and are like having a small piece of the ocean in your own home.
But for all everything you’ll pour into one of these gorgeous saltwater tanks, you want to make sure you’ve done all the research to ensure you’re buying the best.
Below is a list of the best reef tanks.
The 10 Best Reef Tanks
10. Drop-off Complete Aquarium Set
To start off our list of the best reef aquariums here is an amazing, award-winning tank! (It won the first place award from Superzoo!) This tank is huge, 98 gallons, and it is every bit as bold and beautiful as it is big. Truly a statement piece for any home or office; just make sure you have room before you buy it! It features incredibly transparent ½” thick glass that will showcase your reef in all of its glory. It also comes with a fantastic large cabinet made out of marine plywood, lacquered in Formica. The tank is in an L-shape, coming down onto the cabinet. This kit also includes a nearly 16-gallon sump with all the necessary parts, Elive Advance 48” and 20” LED lighting. It’s really an incredible value for the size of the tank! This tank is made in Greece and shipped in high-quality materials, ensuring it gets to your door in mint condition. Prepare to be wowed!
- Great value
- Comes with all necessary parts including cabinet, lighting and filtration system
- Unique Shape
- No white glove delivery service
9. Full Acrylic 360 Cylinder AquariumTank w/ Stainless Steel Trim
A reef tank like you’ve never seen before; this aquarium is a cylinder, with views of your reef from all sides! Perfect for a modern home, office, or if you just have a small amount of space available. Plus, it is made from acrylic, which has many benefits including the fact that it does a better job of reflecting light than glass. In fact, this is made from a special very high strength acrylic. The base is just 11”, which means it is a lower base, giving you as much access to your reef as possible! It also comes with a canopy, a very compact aquarium light, water filtration system and pump as well as bio ball and air pump. It really has everything that you need, complete with a beautiful stainless steel finish.
- Unique design
- Comes with nearly everything you need for a reef aquarium
- Made of durable, thick acrylic
- Narrow area for creating your aquascape; you have to design it taller rather than wider
8. Waterbox Aquariums WTB01220 Platinum White Aquarium System
Stunning. That is the one word that truly describes this tank, which is one of the best reef tanks in the world. The first thing you’ll notice about this tank is the clean lines and fine white cabinetry (measuring 34”) which is UV coated. You might not notice the incredibly clear, transparent glass, however, as it is so high quality it is hard to even see your own reflection in it. This reef tank is handcrafted which is obvious in just one glance, but the best part is that it is so easy to set up. It comes with the platinum white cabinet, an auto-top off system, leveling feet, sump system, a filtration system plumbing kit and a surface skimmer. You will lose hours in your day just staring through the ultra clear glass of this extremely well-made tank and you surely will not be disappointed with your purchase!
- Hand-crafted, high-quality tank
- Comes with UV coated tank
- Customizable system
7. JBJ LED Nano-Cube CF Quad Lighting
It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or you’ve owned dozens of reef tanks, you will surely be impressed by JBJ’s Nano-Cube aquarium. This 28 gallon tank is stunning, with gorgeous, crystal clear glass that will make the fish and coral in your tank come alive! What is most stunning about this aquarium is the lighting system, with 105 watts of intense “daylight.” The tank also comes with a customizable three-stage filtration system and two programmable circulation pumps. The only thing you’ll need to buy is a heater and of course the fish, rocks and coral and food! There’s also a NITE VU Led system that mimics moonlight, which is so vital to keeping your marine wildlife thriving. The pumps, along with the with the Ocean Pulse Duo, recreates currents that you’d see in the ocean. Plus, this company has been around producing high quality, reputable tanks for more than a decade so you can trust that you’re purchasing the best!
- Comes from a reputable company
- Very high tech processing system
- The pump might be too aggressive for some fish
6. Red Sea Max Nano Aquarium
The Red Sea Max Nano Aquarium is modern, contemporary and stunning. If you want the latest in reef-tank technology, this tank is the one you want! It has state of the art technology, including wi-fi control and an automatic top-off unit and power center. And we haven’t even mentioned yet-it includes Al’s Prime HD LED lighting. With this tank, you’ll only have to worry about enjoying the view; the tank pretty much cares for itself! It has so many programmable features. You’ll just need to find a stand or place to put it on. However, for the advanced reef tank owner, you’ll be happy to know that this tank is also fully customizable. A word of caution: while this tank is very safe if set up according to manufacturer instructions, you could easily get yourself into trouble if you are inexperienced and making your own customizations without the help of an expert.
- Has Wi-fi control
- An easy access power center
- Does not include a cover
- Does not include a filter
5. Corallife LED Biocube Aquarium LED
This reef tank is totally futuristic! Gone are the days where you have to constantly be monitoring your tank. Corallife’s LED tank works on an integrated 24-hour time that controls the white, blue and color enhancing LED lights. It also has a 30-minute sunrise and sunset cycle plus a 60-minute moon phase function. This perfectly mimics the day and night cycle on a regular day. The tank features crystal clear glass and comes with a built-in filtration system, hidden on the back of the tank. It’s compact and very easy to set up and keep working. Plus, it comes with a lid or hood, so you don’t have to worry about any water or any of your sealife escaping from the tank. This is a great tank for a beginner in the reef tank world. Keep in mind, however, it does not come with a heater, so you will need to purchase one.
- Sunrise and sunset cycle
- Moon phase function
- Built-in filtration system
- Easy to use
- Does not come with a filter
4. Fluval 10531A1 Sea Evo XII Aquarium Tank
Who wouldn’t want a reef tank right on their desk? Seems like an impossible task, though, because most reef tanks are big. But for what this reef aquarium lacks in size it makes up for in beauty! This pretty glass aquarium holds 13.5 gallons of water and has a modern-looking, all-aluminum waterproof casing. And the neatest thing is that it has a touch start button and day and night illumination via a top-of-the-line 1400 K LED lighting system. The water will always be clear and have a strong current with a powerful three-stage filtration system. Plus, the canopy, or cover, will keep all your fishes in and anything that doesn’t belong out and includes an easy-feed door. Unlike other tanks that try to hide their filtration system in a sump behind the tank, this one has a stylish honeycomb design that looks intentional and very modern. This mini reef will look stunning on your counter or will wow your colleagues if you place it on your desk!
- Small but powerful
- Easy to use lid with feeding door
- Powerful filtration and water movement
- Good for starters in the reef tank world
- Somewhat expensive for the size
3. Innovative Marine Nuvo Fusion Mini 30 Gallon Aquarium
This is a beautiful tank, perfect for those who want to create a “nano” reef! It is just amazing. The design is sleek and very clean and the glass is so transparent, it will feel like you are right in the ocean in the middle of a coral reef! This tank comes with a return pump, two filter cubes and filters socks. Though the Amazon ad features this tank on a stand, know that it does not come with one and you will have to buy one on your own, which is easy enough to do. For all you get, this reef tank is relatively inexpensive, so buying a stand will still keep it in your budget. You will also have to buy a light, so keep that in mind. Unlike many other tanks, however, the tank does come with a top which is very handy, especially in a home with pets, children or fish that are prone to jumping! Truly, for its small size and a smaller price, this tank will outdo your expectations.
- Comes with filter, return pump, lid
- Relatively inexpensive
- Crystal clear glass
- Quiet filtration system
- does not come with light or cabinet
- Some complain the filter is noisy
- Does not come with specific measurements besides 30” long
2. Cad Lights 50g Artisan II Cube Professional Reef System
This beautiful 50-gallon reef tank is really an all in one reef aquarium! This tank has a gorgeous cube shape made out of 10 mm low-iron, ultra-transparent glass that will allow you see a clear, crisp view of everything you have inside of your tank! It sits on top of a 3-foot tall maple plywood cabinet that is painted black with high-quality oil-based paint. That means it is gorgeous but also durable! This tank comes with everything that you need: an acrylic cell-cast overflow box, 3-hole extra large Herbie drain system, 18 gallon sump, a pump, plumbing kits and an LED refugium light! The system is efficient, quiet, and powerful; it is well worth the money spent! Plus, the seller promises to ship everything out within two business days and include a free reservoir, heater, and filter sock set! This is a great tank for serious fish fans!
- Complete set comes with everything you need
- Quick shipping, safe packaging
- Free heater, reservoir, and filter sock set
- Assembly required
1. SCA 50 Gallon Starfire Glass Aquariums Complete Package
This is one of the best reef tanks on the market with some extremely high reviews on Amazon! And the best part is it is yet another all in one reef aquarium. The 50-gallon tank is made out of beautifully transparent glass (10mm thick) that is strong and durable but also crystal clear. It’s a beautiful rimless tank that will truly look like a piece of the ocean in the middle of your home. The tank sits on top of a really high-quality cabinet that comes in either white or black and has two opening doors. Plus, when you purchase the tank and cabinet, you’ll also get a sump with three chambers, a skimmer, return pump (a $150 value!) plus pipes, tubing and filter/bio-media to make it all work! The only thing that you’ll need to purchase is light and saltwater to fill the tank! For all that you get and for all the quality of these pieces, this is an exceptional value. Plus, it comes with a three-year manufacturer’s warranty for the tank, a year warranty for the skimmer and other accessories!
- Relatively Inexpensive Compared to Other Models
- Cabinet comes in black or white
- Comes with a 3-year manufacturer warranty
- Does not come with a light
Reef Tank Buyer’s Guide
What is a reef tank?
A “reef tank” is an aquarium that holds more than just fish. It looks like a natural reef, just like you’d find at the bottom of the ocean complete with coral and other marine invertebrates. Of course, the fish are still a hugely important part as they help keep the reef alive and healthy!
What is the difference between a reef tank and other fish tanks?
The main difference is that reef tanks have coral and other living aquatic fauna in addition to fish. It’s a mini underwater eco-system that is very beautiful but takes some careful consideration to not only put together and a little more work to maintain than your traditional fish tank. Reef tanks require a stronger, more turbulent flow of water, a highly maintained water chemistry and lighting that is carefully chosen in the reflection of the wildlife inside the water. Often, it means more intense lighting.
What are all the parts that are needed to put together a reef aquarium?
To put together a reef tank, you’re going to need some more specific parts than your traditional fish tank because of what is required for all the aquatic life living inside. First, you’ll need a tank that is ready for a filtration system and has some sort of hole drilled into so water can drain out. It will also need a “sump” which is an accessory tank that houses all the mechanical equipment. You’ll also want a refugium, which is a tank where tiny algae and flora and fauna are grown. This is very beneficial to the ecosystem you have growing in your reef tank! You’ll also need a high-powered filter that will manage the movement of the water in the tank and depending on the kind of coral, fish and other sea life you are growing, you’ll want a specialized light as well. One more thing that is not necessary, but many people choose to purchase, is a stand. Your tank will be like a work of art you will want it on display and a stand will help with that, and help support it!
What are the best kinds of fish for a reef aquarium?
You’ll want a fish that does not feed on coral, is not too aggressive, and does not require a special diet. The most popular fish for reef tank aquariums are Clownfish, Royal Gamma, Firefish, Midas Blenny, Dottyback, Tangs, Butterflyfish, Orchid Dottyback, and Six-Line Wrasse.
What are the best coral and marine life for my reef tank?
There are some really beautiful corals out there, but make sure that you’re buying a coral that will work well with the environment you’re creating as a whole. We recommend the flowerpot coral, brain coral, candycane coral, button polyp, daisy coral, gonapora, candycane coral and frogspawn coral. Plus, make sure you get some cleaner shrimp as well-they will eat organic material that is flowing around in your tank.
Is there a specific temperature I should keep my reef tank at?
Yes! Think of your reef tank as a small chunk of the tropical ocean within your home. That being said, the temperature that best promotes the growth of coral, fish and other invertebrates is between 25 to 28 degrees Celsius (that’s about 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit). The temperature should be kept very consistent to ensure your organisms stay alive. This is part of the reason why where you choose to place your reef tank is so important. For example, if you choose to put it near a window, on a hot sunny day, the temperature in the tank could rise quite substantially and then lower when the sun goes down. One way to prevent that is to install a heater or chiller on the tank. Heaters are not very expensive, in fact, you can purchase one at any local pet store. However, chillers are pretty expensive, and you have to buy them at a more specialized store or online. The good news is there is a cheaper solution. You can often run the air conditioning in your home and then use a surface fan, thereby taking the place of the chiller.
Can I only have a saltwater reef tank? Is there such a thing as a freshwater reef tank?
In short, a true “reef” tank is created with fish, coral and flora and fauna that would be found in a coral reef, which occurs naturally in the ocean, which is saltwater. Many people have tried to recreate a reef tank with freshwater fish, plants, etc and have found some success, but it is ultimately a different setup and maintenance program than what you would follow for a saltwater reef aquarium.
Are there any safety concerns associated with a reef tank?
Yes, there are. Anytime you put water near electricity, especially saltwater, there is a risk for harm to not only humans but also the fish and wildlife inside of the tank, which is why it is so important to be careful when setting up and maintaining your tank. Saltwater is electrically conductive by itself but with reef tanks, there are multiple electrical appliances kept in close proximity to the tank. Make sure that you are using all the equipment as required by the manufacturer’s instructions. Never exceed the circuit limits of your outlets, place electrical equipment above water when you can and make sure all appliances are first plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet or power strip. These are inexpensive and are available at home improvement stores. To be extra sure of safety, you can also purchase a monitoring system with sensors that let you know if the power goes out at your home or if water spills out of the tank, etc.
How much is this all going to cost me?
On average, reef tanks are far more expensive than their less complicated or freshwater counterparts. A larger tank, between 50-90 gallons is going to cost about $2,000 to set up if you’re doing it right and will cost about $20 per month for heating, lighting and filtering the tank. Plus the additional costs for chemically testing and treating the water, and buying the fish food of your choice. However, you can set up a tank that is 10 gallons for a little over $150 and it will cost you about $4 a month in total for filtration, heating, and lighting with the additional cost of food and water treatments.