side by side comparison of two saltwater aquariums on a white background with a vertical blue line in between. On the left is a smaller 20 gallon long tank filled with colorful fish and coral with a $160 price in the foreground. On the right is a larger 40 gallon aquarium with white cabinet stand with a 3,300 price in the foreground

Top Six Beginner Saltwater Aquariums: Best Picks for New Hobbyists

Here are my top six beginner saltwater aquariums. In this list, price wasn’t a consideration because budgets are highly individualized and depend on personal situations. Most of the tanks on the list are under $1,000, but one is over $3,000!  

Regardless of which tank you end up going with, there will always be some additional gear you need, whether that’s salt, filter, or test kit.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the top six beginner saltwater aquariums, from least to most expensive.

The Innovative Marine 20 Nuvo Fusion all-in-one long tank, priced around $170, is an excellent choice among the top six beginner saltwater aquariums.  

This 20-gallon system includes

  • 2x 130 GPH DC return pumps
  • 2x 200-micron filter socks
  • a pre-installed rubber leveling mat
  • and all necessary plumbing accessories.

While this isn’t the same tank, check out our $340 Budget Build to get an idea of all the other gear you might need.

Measuring 24 inches long, 15 inches deep, and 13 inches tall, it’s a bit shorter than typical 20-gallon saltwater aquariums. However, its depth allows for a large rear filtration chamber that spans the tank’s length.

Innovative Marine is a well-known brand in the saltwater aquarium hobby. They offer a range of small to medium-sized tanks that are well-built, great value, and compatible with a variety of accessories like pre-made mesh screens, multi-level acrylic filter baskets, and nano protein skimmers.

The downside is that you need to decide on the additional gear, such as the light, wave maker, sand, and rock. For beginners, this might be overwhelming, so if that’s you, stick around for number three on this list of top six beginner saltwater aquariums for a comprehensive kit.

Click here to explore the Innovative Marine 20 Gallon Long Tank

Next on our list of top six beginner saltwater aquariums is the Waterbox Cube 25 Peninsula Nano all-in-one tank, priced around $330.

This nearly 24-gallon tank is made of low iron glass and features…

  • a small rear filtration chamber
  • a generic AC return pump
  • a filter sock
  • a reusable bag of activated carbon
  • two sponges
  • reusable plastic bio balls
  • plumbing
  • and a leveling mat.

Measuring 24 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 16 inches tall, it has two long viewing panels, making it a true peninsula tank.

Although it costs almost double the previous entry, the Waterbox 25 Peninsula offers a lot for its price. It’s a versatile tank that allows for intricate aquascaping.

Despite some gear included, I recommend replacing the AC return pump with a controllable DC pump for better performance and quieter operation. Consider something like the AquaIllumination Axis 40 as a possible ugrade. 

It’s a nice tank, comes with a decent amount of gear, but honestly, if you want to go with a small peninsula style tank, #4 on our list is a better value… And it comes with a silent DC pump… which will save you over $100.

Click here to explore the Waterbox Cube 25 Gallon Nano Peninsula Tank

The Innovative Marine 20 Nuvo Fusion Peninsula Pro 2 bundle with APS pedestal is number four on our list of top six beginner saltwater aquariums.

This bundle, priced around $495, includes

  • your choice of black or white aluminum APS pedestal, raising the tank 2.5 inches off the surface for a cleaner look
  • a Mighty Jet 326 GPH controllable DC return pump
  • a 200-micron filter sock
  • a custom acrylic media caddy
  • fiber filter balls
  • a bag of carbon and GFO
  • a small magnetic algae scraper
  • a pre-installed rubber leveling mat
  • and a pre-assembled mesh screen.

I’m not sure how Innovative Marine does it, but these Pro bundles are just a great, affordable, and value packed way for anybody to build a saltwater aquarium.  I’ve owned several IM tanks, and currently have one set up in my own home.

The tank is good quality, and all of the additional accoutrements are nice.  The return pump is fantastic and controllable, and acrylic caddy is high quality and super useful.

The only thing I don’t like about this system, is the included magnetic algae scraper.  It’s small and round, and almost completely useless.  But that doesn’t really matter, because you’ll just spend the extra $50 and buy the amazing Flipper Magnetic Algae Scraper… I own around 8 of them for some reason! 

You will need to pick up a heater, light, and wavemaker, so be prepared to drop a few more hundred dollars.  And the pedestal is nice, but if you want a stand, you can purchase their full size APS stands… but personally I think they are overpriced for what they are.

Click here to explore the Innovatie Marine NUVO Fusion 20 Gallon Pro 2 Peninsula Bundle

Moving to number three on our list of top six beginner saltwater aquariums is the HelloReef 15 gallon all-in-one clownfish and anemone kit. This tank stands out because it truly comes with everything you need, including a $20 gift card toward the purchase of your first fish.

Click HERE to check out our entire blog on this HelloReef Kit.

On top of that, it includes access to HelloReef Connect, an online educational portal with over 50 step-by-step videos divided up into an easy to follow six week course.  And spoiler alert… I made the videos, so get ready to see way to much of my face!

On top of all that, HelloReef also supports ocean conservation by donating 2% of all net proceeds to initiatives like the Florida Aquarium.

It’s a long list, but here you go. The kit includes:

If you are a true beginner, this is the absolute best tank to go with.  For $550, you can’t beat the value, and the HelloReef courses have already taught hundreds of complete beginners everything they need to start their first saltwater aquarium.

Click here to explore the HelloReef 15 Gallon Clownfish & Anemone Tank bundle

Number two on our top six beginner saltwater aquariums list is the 38-gallon Fiji Cube Peninsula. Measuring 36 inches long, 16 inches deep, and 16 inches tall, this showstopper is designed for viewing from all angles.

It includes:

Priced at $650, this tank doesn’t come with much gear, so you’ll need to do some research to find compatible equipment.

Don’t be deceived by the pictures… It’s a large tank.  Probably too large for just any ol’ cabinet or desk, because it’s going to weigh over 300 lbs when full. Luckily, Fiji Cube does sell stands with this tank.

The small rear filtration chamber might be a challenge if you plan to stock many fish, because  it’s proportionally small when compared to the tank, but regular large water changes will help mitigate that issue.

This tank is ideal for adventurous beginners willing to invest time in research. But you are going to have to do a lot of research and spend a lot of time figuring everything out.

Click here to explore the Fiji Cube 38 Gallon Rimless Peninsula Tank

Topping our list of top six beginner saltwater aquariums is the Red Sea Reefer Max 200 G2+. This 53-gallon setup, including a 42-gallon display tank and an 11-gallon sump, is priced around $3,300. The tank itself is 24″ L x 23″ W x 21″ H.

Yes, it is significantly more expensive than anything on the list, but, you get what you pay for.  For example, if you were to purchase the 38 Gallon Fiji Cube Peninsula Tank, you still have to purchase an expensive light & wavemaker, and then the filtration chamber is too small to even consider some of the gear in this RedSea tank.

This Reefer Max is not for your average beginner.  It is for the beginner who wants it all, the best of the best, tons of gear, and space for a lot of fish and coral.

RedSea is the top-end aquarium manufacturer in the hobby, and over the past decade, they have churned out piece after piece of their own gear.  So not only do you get the tank and stand, but you get so much more… and it’s all super high quality.  Here’s what’s included:

Red Sea tanks are renowned for their quality and integrated systems, making them a great choice despite the higher price point. The only additional gear you’ll need is a heater (plus other smaller items like algae scraper, refractometer, test kits, etc…).

This tank offers a comprehensive setup, perfect for beginners willing to learn about the various components and enjoy a premium saltwater aquarium experience.

I do have a couple pet peeves with this system.  First off, for this price point, I don’t like that there is a large weir inside the tank.  I wish they would take that out, and put an external overflow box to free up space in the tank.  

The other pet peeve are the tank dimensions.  It’s too tall.  It would be so much better to make this tank 5 or 6 inches shorter, and redistribute those inches making the tank wider.  A deep tank is harder to maintain, and can hold less pets than a shorter wider tank.  That’s just because a wider tank has more surface area, and more horizontal space for your pets.

If you want it all, the best of the best, and are willing to spend the time to learn how it all works, this is the tank for you!

Click here to explore the Red Sea MAX 200 G2+

If you want to see the video I made for HelloReef all about these tanks, it’s right below!

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