Over the last 25 years, I have set up and maintained everything from Betta bowls to 4000 gallon aquariums that I’ve had to dive into. Surprisingly, out of all of those aquariums, some of the harder ones to maintain fall under the category of desktop aquariums.
The answer is simple. Water volume.
The smaller the amount of water in an aquarium, the faster its properties can change. The faster the properties can change, the greater the chance of fish getting stressed, sick and dying….all before you’re aware of it.
I often say that a 300 gallon aquarium is easier to maintain than a 3 gallon aquarium. I know that from experience. My son bought a 3 gallon aquarium once and we had a very hard time keeping fish alive. The parameters kept changing and the fish kept getting sick before we knew it.
So, how can you have a desktop aquarium with happy, healthy fish? By avoiding the very small tanks and getting one that has a little more water volume. My suggestion is a desktop aquarium in the 10-15 gallon range. It may cost a little more to get a larger aquarium, but you could potentially come out ahead by not replacing fish as often.
I scoured through Amazon and here is my top pick for a desktop aquarium that I would buy and why. In fact, out of all of the ones that I found there, this is my only pick.
Fluval Flex Aquariums
It is the Fluval Flex Aquarium which comes in two different sizes: 9 & 15 US gallon (34 & 57 L).
The first thing that I like about these tanks is the name….Fluval. Fluval is a brand name under the Rolf C. Hagen corporation that has been in the aquarium products business for decades. I have bought thousands of dollars worth of Hagen products over the years and am a big fan. They make quality products that just work. They are not a come and go Chinese company like the ones prevalent on Amazon these days. The parts are replaceable and it comes with a two year warranty.
The second thing that I like about these tanks is that they are made from glass. A lot of smaller desktop aquariums are made from acrylic. Acrylic is soft and will easily scratch which makes it harder to remove tough algae. I always avoid acrylic tanks if possible.
The next thing I like about these tanks is the filter system. It is built into the back of the aquarium where it is hidden from view and it contains three separate areas for mechanical, chemical and biological filtration. The best thing of all, though, is that they do not use replaceable filter cartridges. They have a reusable sponge that can be cleaned out repeatedly and a separate bag of carbon that can be changed on occasion. Many aquarium filter manufacturers use replaceable cartridges that have to be replaced monthly. When you start doing the math, these filters can be expensive to maintain! These Fluval tanks will have one of the least expensive filters to maintain.
The last thing I like is the lighting system. It is a fully adjustable LED system that can be used for regular lighting as well as blue lighting for Glo-Fish. It comes with a wireless remote that has a few other fun special effects.
What to Buy
The aquarium is not the only thing that you will need to buy. There are a variety of other accessories and chemicals that you will need. If you’re not familiar with aquariums and start looking at all of the available options, it can be overwhelming. I will list here most everything that you will need and avoid the things that you don’t. These chemicals and supplies are what I use in my aquarium maintenance business.
- Fluval Flex Aquarium – It comes with the tank, filter and lights.
- 9 Gallon Aquarium White or Black
- 15 Gallon Aquarium White or Black
- Fluval Flex Aquarium stand – Optional if you would rather have it on a stand than on a desktop. White or Black (Note: Make sure that your desktop will support 100-150 pounds when the aquarium is full)
- 10-15 pounds of gravel – I would get this locally.
- Fluval 50 watt heater – Go ahead and get this if you are going to keep anything but goldfish. (The heater will be the first thing to go out so get a quality heater such as this)
- Thermometer – It will monitor the temperature of the water.
- Small gravel vacuum – This is used to clean the gravel.
- Magnetic algae scraper – This will easily remove algae from the glass without getting your hands wet. It can be left on the tank if desired. I also recommend the metal blades.
- 5 Gallon Bucket – get locally and use exclusively for fish.
- Extra carbon bags – I will suggest replacing these every two months so get however long of a supply you want.
- Water test strips – These will not have an ammonia test but if you follow my advice exactly, you will not have a problem with ammonia and can save the money.
- Seachem Prime – Chlorine Remover
- Seachem Stability – Bacteria Starter
- Seachem Neutral Regulator – pH buffer and adjuster
- (I like Seachem products because the tend to treat more gallons for the money and they just work!)
- The Aquarium Maintenance Guide – this is my ebook on how an aquarium works and how to properly maintain it. Use the code 30OFF2019 to get 30% off of the price. Get it HERE.
- Download this .PDF to tell you exactly how to set it up, what and how many fish to buy, how to feed and how to clean it. DOWNLOAD