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Top Five Beginner Saltwater Tanks

Let’s be honest, if you are considering building your first marine aquarium, you may already feel overwhelmed.  This hobby is super complicated and the jargon feels like a foreign language. But you don’t need to be an expert to get started.  Below are my top five tanks suitable for a beginner. Check them out and be sure to read the pro’s and con’s of each before making your final decision.

You could definitely go bigger and better, and a lot of my fellow hobbyists will tell you to do so.  I don’t disagree, but the bigger you get, the more expensive it will be.  The reality is if this is your first tank, your learning curve will be steep and it will only be after some experience that you’ll know better what type of tank you really want!

1. Waterbox Cube 20

10 gallon glass aquarium full of colorful corals and saltwater fish

Waterbox is a relative newcomer on the scene only breaking out in 2018, but they have it the market sprinting.  What I love most about Waterbox Aquariums is not only are they high quality (think Red Sea Tanks), but they have small, affordable tanks perfect for beginners.

The only real downside with this Waterbox Cube 20 is it’s so popular that it’s often on backorder!  

I’d recommend the AI Prime HD LED’s with the Flex Arm are high quality, programmable lights that would be a perfect fit on the tank.

Comes with a return pump but you’ll need to buy the heater.  I recommend the Eheim Jager 75 Heater.

2. Innovative Marine NUVO Fusion 14 Pro Bundle ~ $249

I love this tank.  It is not super fancy, but this bundle comes with everything you need.  Innovative Marine makes a good product, and for this price you really can’t beat it.  You will have to buy lights and a heater though, so take that into consideration. 

A peninsula style tank, this setup comes with a diy mesh screen kit, powerful return pump, removable media basket, filter sock, and magnetic algae scraper.  One thing I like with this setup over the Fluval EVO is that it comes with a self-leveling foam mat which will help your tank not crack over time.

You will need to purchase a light and a heater.  I’d recommend the AI Prime HD LED’s with the Flex Arm.  For a heater I’d recommend the Eheim Jager 75 Watt.

3. Innovative Marine NUVO Fusion 20 Pro Bundle ~ $299

This is pretty much the exact same thing as the IM 14, except instead of a peninsula style and 14 gallons, you get a standard rectangular style and 20 gallons.  Comes with all the bells and whistles as the other Fusion tank, just a different shape. There is not a pro or con to either shape, it just depends on your space and where it fits best in your home.

For this tank, I would recommend these LED lights- Reef Breeders Photon V2+ 16”.  I own two of these lights and love them!

4. Fluval Sea Evo ~ $175

There are so many things I like about this tank, but it comes with several cautions.  At 13.5 gallons, it’s a great beginner size. Not too small to stress out your fish but not too large to make it cost prohibitive.  It’s sleek looking and the peninsula style means you have three large viewing windows. It also does not need it’s own stand, comes with a semi-hidden rear filtration chamber, and LED lights and return pump.

But it has mixed reviews.  Several reviewers have said that the bottom glass cracked.  I could see that happening since it sits on a pedestal and not flat on the ground.  So I would caution not to put too much live rock inside and evenly spread the weight out.

The other two cautions are the lighting and the return pump.  Oftentimes the pumps in thes AIO systems just aren’t great. If your pump craps out, I recommend getting this Cobalt MJ1200.  I own like five of them and they are great and would provide a good amount of flow.

A few reviewers have said that the lights corrode over time, so just be careful to not get them wet, and wipe them down frequently to keep the salt creep away.

For this tank, I would recommend these LED lights- Reef Breeders Photon V2+ 16”.  I own two of these lights and love them!

5. Coralife Biocube ~ $270-$340

The Biocube comes in either a 16 gallon or 32 gallon size and has been a staple in the hobby for many years.  It comes with a canopy with led lights capable of growing corals, hidden rear filtration chamber, return pump, and rounded front edges.  You could easily sit the 16 gallon size on a sturdy table, but you might want to consider purchasing the optional stand for the 32 gallon.

Some reviewers have had issues with the glass cracking, so be sure to leak test the tank when it first arrives and put it on a level surface.