A Little Piece of the Ocean Right in Your Own Home
Saltwater aquariums are quite fascinating. They’re like having a little piece of the ocean right in your very own home or office. With numerous high-quality all in one saltwater aquarium kits on the market today it has never been easier to set up and maintain a saltwater aquarium or a reef tank in your home or office. Many of these kits come with everything you need from the tank, the stand, and all the necessary accessories and components to get it up and running.
You will find that there are a variety of all in one aquarium choices, from the saltwater aquarium kit for beginners to the more complex reef aquarium kits. Some are fully equipped and ready for a quick and easy set-up. While others offer just the tank, stand, and some other selected accessories but require you to decide on all the other items needed for start-up.
In this article we’ll take a look at the 5 best all in one aquarium kits on the market today. We cover tanks ranging in size from 10-gallons to 66-gallons. We also will cover what to look for in a saltwater aquarium kit as well as the advantages and disadvantages of buying a kit. Hopefully you will find this guide helpful!
ALL IN ONE SALTWATER AQUARIUM KIT COMPARISON
Last update on 2020-10-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Top-5 Saltwater Aquarium Kits of 2019 – Reviewed
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SC Aquarium 50 Gal. Starfire Glass Aquarium Kit
The SCA 50-Gallon Starfire Glass Aquarium Complete Package is our top-pick in the all-in-one saltwater aquarium kit space. We really like the large tank size and think 50-gallons is a perfect sized fish tank for beginner and experienced aquarists alike.
The tank itself measures 24″W x 24″L x 20″H and is made of 10mm thick low-iron glass. This low-iron glass will give you a great view of your fish and corals without the green tint that is common in lower quality glass.
We also like that this tank comes with its own stand that is available in black or cherry. A 50-gallon glass aquarium like this one can weigh upwards of 600 pounds when its full of water! Having a sturdy stand capable of holding all that weight is an extremely important consideration when setting up a fish tank. This stand serves a second purpose as well. The built in cabinet gives you a place to hide your sump, protein skimmer, return pump, and other aquarium accessories.
Speaking of aquarium accessories, this package comes complete with pretty much everything you will need to have a fully functioning saltwater aquarium. This kit comes with all of the necessary plumbing fixtures (tubes, fittings, etc.) as well as a 19.75″W x 16.5″L x 13″H 3-chamber glass sump, a SCA-301 65 Gal. Protein Skimmer, a PH2500 utility return pump, some filtration media, and bio balls. While it is sold as a plug-and-play system, you will need to purchase some additional equipment and supplies like a lighting system, a heater (or a chiller), a wave maker, and of course saltwater as they are not included.
If you’ve never set up a sump or protein skimmer before check out our guide to setting up a protein skimmer or watch the video below, which is specific to the SCA 50-gallon saltwater aquarium kit.
The following unboxing video gives a good perspective on everything that comes with this kit, how it is packaged, and what it will look like once it has been completely set up.
What’s not included:
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Fluval Sea 13.5 Gal. EVO XII Aquarium Kit
The Fluval Sea EVO XII is a stylish desktop or countertop all in one saltwater aquarium kit. This glass aquarium measures only 22″W x 11.5″L x 15″H, which makes it perfect for an office desktop, kitchen countertop, or a small display desk in your home.
It comes with a powerful 3-stage filtration system, an integrated 14000K LED lighting, and a 132 GPH pump. The filtration system is hidden in a compartment on the side of the tank. The filtration system consists of a foam block with cut outs for the included carbon and BioMax inserts. The LED lighting is strong and provides more than enough light for good coral growth. The lights are also adjustable between day and night. Fluval does sell an optional protein skimmer that you can substitute in.
It comes pretty much ready to go out of the box with minimal setup required. The one thing this kit is missing versus some of the higher end kits is a protein skimmer. It also does not come with a heater.
This nano reef aquarium is our top-pick in the best small saltwater tank category and packs quite a punch at less than $200. Check out the unboxing video below to see everything that comes with this kit and how to set it up.
What’s not included:
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Coralife 32 Gal. LED Biocube Aquarium Kit
The Coralife Fish Tank LED BioCube Starter kits come in two different sizes – a 16-gallon and a 32-gallon tank. We prefer the larger 32-gallon tank (the 16-gallon design seems a bit cramped for space to us) so that is the tank we will be reviewing here. Overall, this is a great plug-and-play saltwater aquarium kit. We really like the hinge-top canopy design on this tank and the integrated LED light and control panel.
This integrated LED lighting on this tank is a real differentiating factor compared to some of the other all-in-one kits. The LED light has 3 different color lights – bright white LEDs for daytime, sparkling blue Moon Glows for nighttime, and color enhancing LEDs for maximum beauty. The lid also has an integrated 24-hour timer with three independent channels and an automatic 30-minute sunrise/sunset and 60-minute moonrise/moonset functions.
The tank comes with a built-in, compact, and fully customizable filtration system and quiet submersible pump with adjustable return nozzles. The customizable filtration system is nice since the Coralife BioCube LED Filter Cartridges are pretty basic. Coralife makes a number of accessories for this tank including the BioCube Protein Skimmer and the BioCube UV Sterilizer. Both of which we would recommend upgrading to overtime.
The company also makes a matching stand – The Coralife BioCube Stand – but we have not personally seen this stand ourselves and some of the reviews on Amazon are mixed. The company does say this is the “new and improved” version with a solid back panel so it does sound like they have fixed some of the issues of the past. Keep in mind that this tank will weigh around 300 pounds when its full so you will definitely want to make sure you have a sturdy place to put it in your home or office.
Overall, we really like this kit. It is a true plug-and-play kit and is very easy for beginners to set up. You can buy just the fish tank kit itself; the tank and the stand, or one of the other more complete packages that includes also include the a BioCube Protein Skimmer, a BioCube Algae Cleaning Magnet, a Coralife Deep Six Hydrometer, and just about everything else you may need!
Last update on 2020-10-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
What’s not included:
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Innovative Marine 20 Gal. Nuvo Fusion Pro
Innovative Marine (I.M.) is a well-known name in the saltwater aquarium world and they really delivered with the Nuvo Fusion Pro 20 Gallon all in one saltwater aquarium kit. This is an excellent saltwater aquarium kit for both beginner and advanced aquarists.
While this tank has a more basic and traditional design then some of the other tanks we’ve looked at, we really like the LAGRE hidden overflow filtration compartment that is capable of holding all sorts of accessories. While the design is simple, this is a highly functional and clean-looking tank. The tank is made of high-quality 6mm low-iron glass and measures 24″L x 15″W x 13″H.
This 20-gallon aquarium doesn’t come with a stand but at only 20 gallons and 24″ x 15″, you probably don’t need one anyway (though they do sell one if you’re interested). This tanks small size would make it an ideal office desktop or home countertop tank. The tank does come with a pre-installed self-leveling rubber mat so you don’t have to worry about it scratching any surfaces or excess vibrations. The tank also comes with a mesh screen lid, which will allow your tank to breathe but will also accelerate evaporation so be prepared for that.
This kit comes with a whole host of additional equipment and accessories. First, starting with the pump, this kit comes with a 326GPH I.M. Mighty Jet DC Nano Return Pump, dual return hoses, and flared nozzles. The pump comes with a controller that provides 2 return flow modes (constant stream and a sine wave), a 1-touch feed mode, and 9 speed settings!
For filtration this kit comes with a I.M. 200 Micron Filter Sock and a 3-stage I.M. CustomCaddy with PurityPack Filter Media. As an added bonus I.M. has also thrown in a MicroMag magnetic glass cleaner. The only thing this kit is missing is a lighting system and a heater.
If you think you want to make a lot of modifications to your tank in the future, but don’t want something as large as a 50-gallon, then the I.M. NUVO Fushion Pro 20-gallon tank may be just the right tank for you. The large filter wall give you plenty of space to add additional accessories (e.g. a protein skimmer, heater, UV sterilizer, etc.) where they will be hidden out of sight. There is plenty of room to grow with this tank. And if you add up everything you get with this all-in-one kit, we think it is a great value too!
What’s not included
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SC Aquarium 66 Gal. Starfire Glass Aquarium Kit
What can we say, we liked the SCA 50-Gallon so much that we couldn’t help but review it’s bigger brother – The SC Aquarium 66-Gallon Starfire Glass Aquarium Kit. This tank is pretty similar to its little brother. It’s made from the same 10mm Starfire Glass except the tank is 8″ wider at 32″W x 24″L x 20″H (vs. 24″W x 24″L x 20″H for the 50-gal). While that may not seem like much, we find it to make quite a difference visually. Just look at how much larger the 66-gallon looks in this video.
While the design is similar to the 50-gallon, the 66-gallon does come with a heavier duty filtration system (as you might expect). For starters, this aquarium comes with the SCA-302 180-gallon Protein Skimmer (vs. the 50’s 65-gallon skimmer). The cost of the larger skimmer is about double that of the smaller one. The 66-gal also comes with a much larger 3-chamber measure 28″W x 17″L x 13.75″H (vs. 19.75″W x 16.5″L x 13″H for the 50-gal).
Otherwise the 66-gallon all-in-one kit is pretty similar to the 50-gallon. It comes with all the same piping and filtration media. It also does not include a light or heater. We like that it comes with its own heavy-duty stand as this tank will probably weigh around 800 pounds once its filled with rock, sand, and water! It’s also nice to have the large cabinet to hide all of your equipment.
The downside of the 66-gallon tank is that it is currently quite a bit more expensive than the 50-gallon tank on Amazon. While we certainly realize that this kit should cost more than the 50-gallon kit, we find it hard to justify the magnitude of the current price difference. We chose the 50-gallon over the 66-gallon for this reason.
What’s not included
How to Choose A Complete Saltwater Aquarium Kit
We all have different needs, different lifestyles, and different homes. Naturally there isn’t one single formula that will work for everyone. When starting up a new aquarium, a beginner will have the instinct to purchase something small thinking that it will be less work and easier to place in their home or office. However, small fish tanks are not necessarily easier to maintain as we discuss here.
It also comes down to price and one’s budget. Purchasing a smaller 10-gallon saltwater aquarium kit obviously costs much less than purchasing a 50-gallon kit. However, you should also consider whatever kit you buy to be a long-term investment. We recommend spending the money now and buying a tank that will make you happy for many years to come. Too many new aquarists dump a lot of money into a small 5 or 10-gallon tank only to wish they had bought something much larger 1 or 2 years later. Making a well-researched decision on what is the best long-term purchase will always be a good thing to do and will help you enjoy your new fishkeeping hobby longer.
Contrary to what you may think, a larger aquarium will be much easier to care for and maintain than a small one. Small tanks suffer from more frequent fluctuations in water levels and conditions and require more work from you to maintain a healthy balance.
If you have the space in your home or office, we highly recommend buying the largest volume tank that your budget allows. If you want to have a nano aquarium, then make sure that you are aware that it will not be less work to maintain because of its small size. We would recommend that a beginner start with at least a 20 gallon fish tank.
Of course, cost is a big factor for many of us when we are deciding what type of aquarium we want to set up. We recommend that you set an overall budget for your setup and then spend only about 60-75% of that on the aquarium kit itself because there will inevitably be additional purchases required. For example, each of the all-in-one kits we recommended will need some additional items to get them fully up and running.
However, a complete saltwater aquarium starter kit is often a great way to go about getting going. Usually these kits are priced so that buying it all at once in a kit is cheaper than buying each of the pieces individually. Other ways to save money include looking for promotions online or in your local fish store.
How Do All in One Aquariums Work?
Everything You Need to Get Started
As the name suggests, with an all-in-one aquarium kit you get pretty much everything you need to start your very saltwater or reef aquarium in a box. That is everything except the water and the fish!
If you have any questions about what is (and is not) included in your kit you can salesperson or the online retailer first before purchasing. It’s important to make sure you know what everything does and or is used for as well as be aware of any additional purchases you may need to make.
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some basic aquarium keeping knowledge before buying so you at least have a basic understanding of what it takes to set up, run, and maintain a saltwater tank. For a better understanding of each piece of equipment, you can visit our Aquarium Equipment section by clicking here.
Just Add Fish and Coral
Cycling your water is required before adding any fish. If you don’t, they very likely will not survive. Thus, some patience will be needed when you’re first setting up your new tank. Check out our detailed guide on how to start a saltwater aquarium to learn all you need to know to safely cycle your new aquarium kit.
Before adding any fish you will also want to take the time to research fish species, corals, and their compatibility. You need to make sure you’re well informed about your new friends and their needs.
Some fish can absolutely will not or cannot live with other fish species. You need to know this before going in otherwise you will end up losing some of your fish. You can do some research and also speak with your specialist at your local fish store to make sure your fish are compatible with each other.
You can also look around the store and online on places like Pinterest to get set-up ideas for your new tank. The sky is the limit when stocking and decorating your new aquarium! This is definitely the most fun part of setting up a new aquarium for most people.
What Are the Advantages to A Premade Aquarium Kit?
These all in one saltwater aquarium kits are usually very easy to set up, which makes them perfect for beginners. Just follow the instructions that are provided with each kit and this should minimize the beginners’ mistakes that many new aquarists make.
One of the easiest and most common mistakes to make when purchasing a new aquarium and separate accessories is choosing the wrong types of accessories for the tank size. You carefully select a bunch of different pieces of equipment but when you go to set it up you realize that none of it fits together. An all in one saltwater beginner kit provides peace of mind in that you know all the pieces go together.
One Stop Shop
With an all-in-one kit everything you need is in the box! You don’t have to spend hours researching the separate items and accessories that you will need to start up your saltwater tank such as filters and lighting. Someone has already done all that work for you and put together a kit that has everything you need to get started with your new hobby.
The price of the all in one saltwater aquarium kit will usually be cheaper than if you purchased the items separately. So if you have a tight budget, this may be a perfect option for you. You can always purchase other accessories or change the ones that were in the kit later when you have more money available.
There are some accessories that rarely come with an all in one aquarium such as heaters, UV sterilizers , RODI systems or feeders that you may want to add. You also will likely want to add some live rocks to your aquarium as well. Again, this is why you always want to leave some extra room in your budget for add-ons.
What Are the Disadvantages to a Premade Aquarium Kit?
The most obvious disadvantage is that the kit may not come with the parts or accessories that you like or would want to purchase. This likely isn’t an issue for a beginner but can be for more experienced aquarists who have experience with different products. Also, going with a premade kit may limit the expansion options for you in the future when you gain more experience and want to start adding more advanced things to your tank. That’s why we like the SCA tanks or the Innovative Marine tanks as they will allow you to grow with them for quite a long time.
A big issue with some of the premade fish tank kits, though not so much with the ones we’ve reviewed here, is that the quality of the individual components can sometimes be not as good as items that are sold separately. Very rarely will you find a kit that comes with the top of the line, most expensive accessories. This is because kits are more of a mass market item and are targeted towards the average person who may not care as much about having the top of the line equipment.
You may have noticed that some of the kits we reviewed – like the Innovative Marine NUVO Fusion Pro – have optional upgrades that you can purchase to take your tank to the next level. If you’re someone who needs to have the best of everything this might be a better option for you than an aquarium kit that is not highly customizable.
Things to look for in a saltwater aquarium kit
Before buying a saltwater aquarium kit you should do some research into the work required to set up and maintain a healthy marine environment. Setting up a marine aquarium kit is not a set it and forget it endeavor.
you can "set it and forget it".
A saltwater aquarium needs regular maintenance and cleaning. You also will need to perform regular water testing. Knowing how things work is always a bonus for you and an absolute plus factor on your success rate. Read our guide to clean the aquarium if you are not sure of how to maintain your fish tank because an all in one aquarium requires no more and no less maintenance than every other kind of aquarium.
Full or Partial All in One Saltwater Aquarium Kits
You will see some advertised kits that only come with the aquarium and the stand. With these you will still have to purchase all the equipment and accessories separately. If you have a particular style of decor in your home or office and want to choose your own furniture, then this is probably not a good option for you. You may not like the stand and want to change it anyway.
Some other kits are complete with tank, filter, filter media, water heater, lighting, filter pumps, protein skimmers, decorations, and sometimes even a basic beginner food supply. Sometimes these come with the stand, other times they don’t.
Is an All in One Saltwater Aquarium right for you?
So you think you want to start a saltwater aquarium? But you are looking for the easiest way possible to get started? If this sounds like you, then purchasing an all in one starter kit might be the right move for you. Purchasing a kit helps remove some of the anxiety around aquarium set-up and start-up (two different things!).
However, even with an complete aquarium kit, you still need to make sure to learn the basics before starting any aquarium. This will help prevent any unpleasant surprises or disastrous events that might harm your fish or coral.
Each of the all in one saltwater kits that we reviewed in this article are good quality and would be an excellent choice for starting your very own marine aquarium. However, our top pick is the SCA 50-Gallon Aquarium because of its size, the complete package it comes with, and it’s ability to be modified over time, which we think will give you many years of enjoyment. This tank comes with pretty much everything you need to get started minus a lighting system and a heater.
If the SCA 50-Gallon is above your budget level then we would recommend either the Fluval Evo XII, the Coralife BioCube 32 or the Innovative Marine NUVO Fusion Pro. If you’re looking for a more plug-and-play kit we would recommend the Evo XII or BioCube 32 but if you’re looking for something that is more customizable and upgrade over time we would recommend the NUVO Fusion Pro.
Either way, you can go wrong with any of these all in one saltwater aquarium kits. Buying a kit is a good way to minimize errors, maximize your success rate, and probably save some money too. Saltwater and reef aquariums make a great addition to any room or office and will always be a topic of conversation with your visitors.
Happy marine fishkeeping!