For many people, the concept of a self-cleaning fish tank seems too good to be true.

They think that it’s just something you can’t avoid. While fishkeeping is a ton of fun there are aspects that can feel like a chore (and cleaning your tank is one of them).

So when they hear about other aquarists using low-maintenance, self-cleaning aquariums they think it must be some kind of hoax.

We can assure you it isn’t.

Self-cleaning fish tanks are very real and very handy! There are a number of great products on the market that will save you a ton of time and make the whole fish keeping process much more enjoyable.

The issue is it can be a little tricky to figure out which ones are good, and which ones stink.

That’s why we’ve put together this brand new buyer guide for you. We highlight the very best self-cleaning fish tanks on the market so you can spend less time shopping, and more time enjoying your fish.

In A Hurry? Here’s Our Pick

If you don’t want to do any comparison shopping and simply get our pick for the best self-cleaning fish tank on the market, here’s what you need to know:

The Self-Cleaning Water Garden by Back To The Roots is our choice for the best product money can buy.

It’s a complete kit that comes with everything you need to get started right out of the box. Seeds, fish food, water conditioner, etc. It’s all in there.

It also comes with a money-back guarantee that removes any risk from the purchase. While we doubt you’ll want to exercise it, it’s nice to know that it’s there!

Our List Of The Best Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks

Finding the best self-cleaning fish tanks was a little harder than we anticipated. Since these aren’t as popular as traditional tank setups, sourcing information and feedback took extra time.

This made for a fun challenge because most of our buyer guides so far have been for more commonly used products (like rimless aquariums). Even though the research process ended up being a little slower, it was worth it!

We went through our traditional research process to find our initial group of candidates. Once we had this we poured over as many sources as possible to trim this list down. As this process picked up momentum the best self-cleaning aquariums started to rise to the top.

There was also a thorough spec review to make sure that everything fit our standards. Some of the tanks out there are poorly made and way too small for most fish to live in comfortably. This gave us the option to eliminate a few rather easily as well.

In the end, we’re very happy with our list of the best self-cleaning fish tanks out there. There is something for everyone!

If you simply want something low-maintenance, you’ve got options. If you’re interested in a more elaborate setup, there’s something in here for you as well!

1. Self Cleaning Water Garden By Back To The Roots

This is the most popular self-cleaning fish tank by a pretty wide margin. It’s affordable, does the job well, and looks great.

This tank is 3.5 gallons which is enough for small fish such as bettas. The top makes for a very wide area that can easily fit many plants which significantly increases how effectively it cleans itself.

The setup also means the plants on top will get a sufficient amount of water too. A common design flaw in some self-cleaning tanks is there are plenty of plants, but not enough water flow.

This leads to unhealthy plants and dirty water. With a setup like this, you need everything to be working optimally to see the benefits. This tank facilitates that relationship perfectly.

It comes with everything you need to get started as well. Wheatgrass and radish seeds, water de-chlorinator, fish food, and water conditioner are all included. This will save you a ton of time since you only have to make one purchase.

This kit by Back To The Roots also comes with a full money-back guarantee. The guarantee removes any risk and isn’t something you commonly find with many self-cleaning aquarium products.

Pros:

  • Adequate size for small fish
  • Great design to facilitate growth and cleaning
  • The kit comes with everything you need on day 1

Cons:

  • Only two kinds of plants included in the kit (not a big issue though)

2. Self Cleaning Aquarium By EcoQube

The EcoQube self-cleaning fish tank is definitely our favorite product in terms of aesthetics. While many other low-maintenance tanks look very standard, this one is quite beautiful!

It features a minimal and clean design that helps it complement whatever room it’s in. You can put this on your office desk and have it fit right in if you want (it might get distracting though).

The light mount doesn’t feel like an add-on as well. It really adds to the look and feel of this fish tank without being too distracting.

In this kit, you get the aquaponics filter, substrate, rock decorations, a cover, LED lights and a remote to control them! You have to pick up your own plants when using this tank, but that doesn’t add too much to the overall cost.

It does a solid job of cleaning the water but you’ll want to keep an eye on the water quality just in case something stops working. As low-maintenance as these tanks are, you should still be a responsible owner and make sure your fish are in a healthy environment.

This is probably one of the most popular self-cleaning betta tanks out there for all of the reasons listed above. The beautiful design of this aquarium goes well with bettas.

Pros:

  • Beautiful design
  • Solid light mount
  • Kit includes a lot of the basics

Cons:

  • Not as much room for plants as other self-cleaning tanks
  • Plants aren’t included in the kit

3. The AquaSprouts Garden

This is a unique self-cleaning fish tank setup and stands out from a lot of the others on our list. This is because there’s actually no tank included!

The AquaSprouts Garden is just a plant and light stand setup. It’s compatible with a wide range of ten-gallon tanks and simply fits over the top.

The reason for considering this instead of a complete kit is simple, it handles plants and self-cleaning VERY well. It’s definitely best in class when it comes to this.

So yes, you’re missing out on a tank. However, it’s a beast when it comes to everything else.

There’s a ton of room to fit a mix of herbs, veggies, and greens. This increased vegetation will do a better job cleaning the water in the tank than a lot of the smaller kid setups.

The pump and water flow is stellar and can be controlled via the included timer. There’s also some grow media that makes a world of difference for your plants.

The lighting bar where you can mount a number of grow lights is also top-notch. When you get your hands on it you can tell it’s well-made, and we haven’t heard any complaints about it so far.

Pros:

  • Great build quality
  • High-quality lighting

Cons:

  • No plants included
  • No tank

4. Microfarm Aquaponic Garden By Springworks

The Microfarm by Springworks is a fantastic self-cleaning fish tank setup that’s made to fit any normal 10-gallon aquarium. Like a couple of other products on this list, you have to get the tank yourself.

It features a very clean design that’s also very functional. There’s plenty of room to fit plants and the aquaponic flow tube does a very good job of bringing an adequate amount of water up to the roots.

The kit itself also includes pretty much everything you need. It has a grow bed, tank hood, light, clay-based soil, seeds (oregano and basil), a de-chlorinator, and bacterial additives to aid the process right out of the box.

The quality of the light and mount are both top-notch and something that you won’t find many complaints about. This is a crucial part of any self-cleaning fish tank so it’s nice to know you can rely on it.

While some people might think the t shape at the top is a little strange, we like it. It adds some symmetry to the whole setup and tapers upward quite nicely.

Pros:

  • Great build quality
  • The kit comes with all the essentials
  • Plenty of room for plants

Cons:

  • Not a budget buy

5. ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Indoor Garden System By Ecolife

This is another high quality aquaponic self-cleaning fish tank setup that doesn’t come with the tank. Despite this, the quality of the plant and lighting area is simply fantastic.

The build quality is great and is made to last. It comes with lights that are mounted on a sturdy light stand that won’t fail you like some cheaper products. These lights are LED and can be programmed or customized to fit your specific needs.

This low-maintenance setup is made for a mix of standard 20-gallon tanks. It can support enough plant life to handle this amount of water and has plenty of flow to ensure proper cleaning.

One of the things we like is this comes with one of the most thorough and helpful sets of instructional content out there. You get videos and helpful booklets that make this process easy to understand even if you’ve never had a self-cleaning fish tank before.

If you’re looking for the best self-cleaning aquarium for a 20-gallon tank this is definitely the one to choose. Even though it doesn’t come with a tank, the quality and performance you get more than makes up for it.

Pros:

  • Fantastic build quality
  • Best option if you don’t have a tiny tank
  • Large space for plant life and vegetation

Cons:

  • Not a budget buy
  • No tank included 

6. My Fun Fish Tank By As Seen On TV

This tiny half a gallon self-cleaning tank is a unique and highly reviewed product that we had to include. While it might not be large enough for some, others will find that this little aquarium more than does the job.

The pouring setup of this really makes it about as low-maintenance as it can possibly get. All you have to do is add clean water periodically and pour out the dirty water later.

It makes a great gift for anyone who’s looking for a low maintenance option that doesn’t break the bank (especially if they’re a beginner).

This self-cleaning aquarium also comes with an LED light and stone substrate to get you started. You’ll also receive one plant that is housed right in the middle of the tank.

We recommend getting some water conditioner if you decide to pick this up. This is not included in the base kit and is important because it removes traces of heavy metals from the water you add.

The build quality of this tank is rather impressive for the price. Everything feels sturdy and reliable and there aren’t very many complaints about things breaking down.

Our biggest concern about this aquarium is the small size. Even though it’s small enough to house something like a betta fish, it’s a little smaller than we would ideally like to see.

Pros:

  • Solid build quality
  • Affordable
  • Easy cleaning option

Cons:

  • A bit on the small side
  • The kit doesn’t include everything you need on day 1

7. Aquaponic Self-Cleaning Fish Tank By Penn Plax

We love the design of this self-cleaning aquarium by Penn Plax. This manufacturer is one that we’ve recommended quite often in our other reviews, and for good reason. They’re known for making incredibly high-quality products that do the job and last a long time.

The cylindrical design that this tank has definitely set it apart from the others on our list. This design choice really compliments the plant placement at the top and we wish more self-cleaning fish tanks would experiment with this.

This tank is just under one and a half gallons (1.4 to be exact) which makes it suitable for a small fish, but not super roomy. It’s important to have an understanding of the minimum tank size your species needs before buying it.

The cleaning efficiency of this tank is really impressive. The placement of the plant and size of the tank complement each other really well and results in a low-maintenance option that just works.

You don’t get a whole lot with this kit. You get the plastic tank, lid for the plant, and some growing substrate. It’s on you to get the particular plant you want and any water treatment products you might need.

Pros:

  • Looks great
  • Efficient water cleaning

Cons:

  • The kit is a little sparse
  • Plastic tank 

Why Would You Go With A Self-Cleaning Tank Over A Traditional Aquarium?

This is a very common question that we get whenever we talk about self-cleaning fish tanks. There are a large number of people that don’t really see the advantage of getting one compared to a more traditional setup.

The main appeal is how low-maintenance and easy to clean they are.

With a solid self-cleaning aquarium, you don’t have to spend nearly as much time cleaning and worrying about water quality compared to other tank setups. This is something that a lot of aquarists underestimate because they’ve never seen just how much time this can save.

The other benefit of this sort of tank setup is the appeal of the hydroponic system. It can be fun to add some plant life into the mix in a different way and see different forms of life help each other thrive.

If you’re someone who really likes growing plants and herbs then we highly recommend giving this a shot. It’s a fun and unique way to get out of the garden and tend to different kinds of plants.

Are There Downsides?

Absolutely.

Just like any unique setup or system, self-cleaning fish tanks have to make compromises in order to be buyer-friendly. A lot of these can be avoided if you decide to build your own setup, but that’s a whole other level of difficulty.

The main compromises you make when getting one of these tanks is the lack of flexibility. With a lot of kits or garden mounts, you’re forced into a specific tank size that’s often on the small side. It’s simply too challenging and expensive for large self-cleaning tanks to be a viable consumer product, so manufacturers don’t spend their time and resources producing any.

You also have limitations with the kind of peripheral equipment you can use due to space and design choices. Heaters, nano skimmers, filters, and pumps are all going to be far less customizable than with a traditional setup. This is something you should make sure you’re ok with before picking one up.

The Summary

This list of the best self-cleaning fish tanks is full of fun and well-made products that do their job. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance aquarium setup that will save you time and hassle you should definitely pick one up.

While they might feel a little funky at first, it’s quite fun to watch both your fish and plants thrive and help each other over time. It’s a complete ecosystem in the purest sense of the word and it brings a certain level of satisfaction when it’s all set up!

If you have any questions or suggestions for new self-cleaning aquariums that we should add to the list feel free to let us know. We want to make sure this buyer guide is as useful and relevant as possible, so staying in the know as new products are launched is very important to us.

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