Self Cleaning Fish Tanks That Actually Work

 . in Fish Tanks

Spectacular blue and purple long-finned fish in a small tank, with pebbles at the bottom.

Fishkeeping is a serious business, and it requires quite a lot of effort. You have to learn everything you need to know about the fish you want to have, the tanks and accessories you have to buy, and how to maintain everything. It needs a pretty high level of commitment. Or does it?

There are many products on the market promising you the experience of having fish in your home without the hassle of cleaning the tank. A self cleaning fish tank sounds interesting, but is it true? The answer is yes, but you must be very careful about what you choose. Just because people are buying it doesn’t mean it’s a good product. And in this case, a good product is the one that causes no harm or stress to the fish. Their struggle is more important than ours, so we must choose wisely.

If you want a beautiful fish tank but don’t have the time or the commitment to clean it regularly, there are options for you. We’ll show you how to avoid misleading products on the market and find an aquarium that does the promised job. One that keeps your fish safe and frees you from the task of cleaning it. These are the self cleaning fish tanks that actually work.

Best Self Cleaning Fish Tank Reviews 2020

This product will give you the combined experience of having a fish tank and a garden, all-in-one. It will look great in your home, and if you have children, it would be a great learning opportunity for them. They can see a self sustaining aquarium in action and watch their small garden grow unattended.

How does it work? Fish fertilize the plants, and the plants do their part and keep the water clean for the fish. A very nice example of symbiosis. It’s not a perfect product, but it can help you have an interesting and relaxing experience.

AquaSprouts Garden has a cool design and it doesn’t take up a lot of space, so you will have no problem finding the right spot to place it. It’s easy to assemble, but you must keep in mind that the set doesn’t come with a tank. That may mean an additional cost, but you can also use an older 10-gallon tank, as long as the dimensions fit. It works with glass and acrylic.

As for the lights, it comes with a light fixture, but no LEDs or any other type of lights, you will have to get that separately. However, once it’s all set up, your plants won’t necessarily need sunlight to grow.

You also get a submersible pump that has a 1-year warranty. Unfortunately, it seems you may have to use that warranty, because the pump isn’t exactly high-quality. In any case, the manufacturer has a pretty great customer service, so you shouldn’t have any problems with that.

The set also includes a timer, which is essential for this kind of setup, and a grow media. It’s a special clay that allows bacteria to grow, and in time it becomes a mechanical filter. It also takes care of the roots, making sure the plants are doing well.

Rating
3.5/5

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Pros

Cons

What’s in the Box?

The AquaSprouts garden, a light bar, a pump and a timer, the grow media, a step-by-step guide.

For a more visual presentation, take a look at this video:

Our Verdict

Although it has quite a few negative aspects, this is not a bad product. It’s not a toy, but a complex and cool learning experience, so we didn’t expect it to be perfect. If you already have a tank that fits, it’s worth buying.

#2 – BiOrb Flow 30 Aquarium

Rating
3.5/5

If you’re in the market for a self clean aquarium, the BiOrbFlow can be a good option. It comes with everything you need to get started, but there are a few things you need to consider before buying one.

If we consider the aspect, it’s a great choice. It looks modern, and seems to be designed as a decorative piece, not just an aquarium. It’s an acrylic tank, so it’s light, it doesn’t distort the view on your fish. It’s also strong and comes with a 2-year warranty, so if there’s any problem you can solve it.

It includes a great LED lighting system. The LEDs don’t change color, but they look great, and you can turn them on and off whenever you want. In addition, the bulb will last up to 50,000 hours.

BiOrb has a five-stage filtration system: biological (ceramic), mechanical (foam), chemical, and the stabilization and oxygenation of the water. In theory, it seems an excellent setup, all you have to do is change the filter every 4 to 6 weeks. In practice, things are a bit different. While most products work well, it seems they also sent on the market a few faulty ones. But even if you get one of those, you can use the warranty and replace it.

You also get a low-voltage pump that is compatible with any BiOrb aquarium, so you can move it on another in the future, if you need to.

This is an 8-gallon tank, so if you choose just one or two low-maintenance fish, they will be quite comfortable inside. You still have room for a few plants and decorations, to complete the look.

Pros

Cons

What’s in the Box?

8-gallon acrylic aquarium, 12V transformer, air pump, airstone ceramic media 2 pounds / 900 grams, filter cartridge, water conditioner 5 ml, Beneficial Bacteria liquid 5 ml, standard LED light unit.

If you’re looking for aquarium setup ideas for this self cleaning fish tank, take a look at this video:

Our Verdict

It’s definitely worth buying this product, as long as you are ok with the overall price. That includes changing the filter every month. The price of the set itself is pretty good, considering what it offers. All that’s left is to find the easiest fish to take care of, and you will be stress-free.

#3 – Back to the Roots Water Garden, Self cleaning Fish Tank That Grows Food

Rating
4/5

This is a mini self sustaining ecosystem aquarium and water garden, a very interesting project to try with your kids. It’s only a 3-gallon tank, so it won’t take up much space, but is still large enough to teach your children about aquaponics.

Creating a small ecosystem in your home sounds amazing, but before you buy this product, let’s take a look at all its features.

A big advantage is that it includes everything you need to get started, even the seeds and supplies. It cannot have the same effect as a 10-gallon tank, but it looks pretty nice. This is the result of a partnership between Back to the Roots and other companies, to create a complete aquaponics set.

The product may not be exactly as great as advertised, but for a beginner, it’s not that bad. Don’t expect to grow all the herbs you need in your kitchen, but it will be an interesting experience. First of all, it looks great and is easy to set up.

As for the components, the water pump is easy to clean, though a bit difficult to take out of the aquarium. You grow the plants on a tray that fits very well on top of the tank, so fish won’t be able to escape, and the water won’t evaporate. Since we are talking about the tray, the access point to feed the fish is not very well placed. It’s right on top of the water pump, so it may suck part of the food before it gets to the fish. The food included in the set has another issue, it sinks too quickly, so it may build-up at the bottom.

Overall, the system works well. And all you have to do is add water once in a while and feed the fish. You don’t have to keep testing the water. Just keep an eye on the plants.

Pros

Cons

What’s in the Box?

3 gallon-tank, the grow bed, a submersible water pump, a bag of gravel, 5 plant pots, a bag of growstones, organic seed packs (Wheatgrass, Basil), a bottle of D-Klor, a bottle of Zym Bac, a pouch of Tidy Tank, a pouch of Fish Prep, a betta fish coupon, a bag of fish food.

If you want to see exactly how easy this is to set up, take a look at this video:

Our Verdict

You cannot expect to pay $100 and receive a perfect product. Considering the price, it is a good option for people who want to teach their kids about aquaponics. For an experienced aquarist, it’s not worth the trouble.

#4 – EcoQubeC Aquarium

Rating
4.6/5

EcoQube C is a no-clean desktop aquarium that definitely stands out. In fact, it promises the most efficient aquaponic system on the market. So, let’s see if that’s true.

The strongest point of this aquarium is the design. We were absolutely thrilled by it. It looks like a modern piece of art that has life growing inside it, so it’s pretty awesome. It would look perfect on a desk, in a conference room, basically anywhere people would need something relaxing to look at.

The lighting system enhances the look even more. You can even set the lights to change the entire atmosphere inside the cube. It can look like a bright day, a cloudy one, or even a small storm. That’s not necessarily useful for its inhabitants, but for those watching it’s a real treat.

The tank is acrylic, and it’s very clear and strong. As for the aquaponics system, it works well and is silent. It has built-in LED lights that do a great job. There are a few elements that aren’t exactly top of the line, like the remote and the wiring to the grow light.

Pros

Cons

What’s in the Box?

the acrylic tank with filter and activated carbon bag, a growing medium sponge, LED system, a power cord, and an adapter.

If you want to see this no-clean desktop aquarium, take a look at the video below:

Our Verdict

We think this is an excellent product, and the fact that it comes from a startup company makes it even more awesome. It looks modern and elegant, performs well and it really is a low maintenance fish tank, as advertised. The only downside is that it’s currently out of stock.

#5 – ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Indoor Garden System

Rating
4.6/5

Eco-Cycle Aquaponics is an excellent choice for a self sustaining aquarium, combined with the fun experience of growing your own produce. And this is a 20-gallon tank, so you will be growing much more than a little green onion. But let’s take a closer look.

If you have realistic expectations, this garden system will probably exceed them. The set doesn’t include the aquarium. It’s meant for a 20-gallon, but you may use a bigger one if the dimensions fit. The most important aspect is that it really is a self cleaning fish tank, if you set it up correctly. All you need to do is add water, wash the sponge every now and then, and feed the fish.

There is one thing we need to mention. While it’s sometimes advertised as the source of your healthy, self-grown produce, that is an exaggeration. This small garden system can’t provide such quantities. Large plants won’t even fit under the lights. But that’s not the point of this set. It’s meant to show how this small self sustaining ecosystem aquarium can give you a few delicious snacks, and relax you at the same time.

Pros

Cons

What’s in the Box?

A pump, filters (Biofilter, sponge filter, cover filter), light rack, chains to hang lights, tray, net pot holder, and 13 net pots, an instruction manual.

You can take a look at the following video to see the product all set-up:

Our Verdict

This is basically a really cool and pretty expensive toy. It’s worth the money, for sure, but you must make sure you are buying it for the right reasons. It’s perfect for a classroom, so the kids can learn about aquaponics. Or for your house, if you want a cool attraction and to grow your own salad. Consider the costs first, because it is $300 and it doesn’t include the tank. Even so, we think this is an excellent product worth buying.

#6 – BiOrb CLASSIC 15 Aquarium

Rating
3.6/5

We’re back to BiOrb, this time for a small fish tank. If you want an upgraded self cleaning fishbowl that looks modern and doesn’t take much of your time, this can be a good choice for you.

The design is the biggest asset of this mini aquarium. It looks so modern and bright, and really lights up any rooms. The water line isn’t visible, and that creates a beautiful effect. It looks like a futuristic fishbowl, and it will certainly relax you. The lights are high-quality, and they complete the overall aspect.

The lid is an interesting feature. It has a magnet, and it’s really fun to close it. However, if you need to add a heater or any other accessory that needs to be plugged, you won’t be able to close the lid properly, and it won’t look that nice.

Overall, the aquarium works well, you just have to add water and use the BiOrn water optimizer. But you have to be careful with the substrate. The quantity they provide isn’t enough, and you must get rid of small and sharp pieces, so they won’t hurt the fish.

Pros

Cons

What’s in the Box?

4 Gallon Acrylic Aquarium, a 12V Transformer, an air pump, an airstone, ceramic media 1 pound / 450 grams, a filter cartridge, water conditioners 5 ml, Beneficial Bacteria liquid 5 ml, an MCR LED light unit with remote control.

If you want to see how beautiful this would look on your nightstand, take a look at this video:

Our Verdict

We have mixed feelings about this aquarium. When it comes to design, it’s one of the most amazing fish tanks, and it seems to work pretty well. However, it’s pretty sensible, and the price seems a bit exaggerated. Not the price of the set itself, but for all the accessories. There are larger options for this aquarium, and they would probably be more adequate. But if you really want a small self cleaning fish tank, this could be right for you, if you don’t mind the price.

#7 – Life 15 Aquarium with LED Light – 4 Gallon

Rating
4/5

Here is another 4-gallon self cleaning aquarium from BiOrb, this time with a different design. It’s also an acrylic tank, with a 5-stage filtration system and LED lights. So, let’s see what’s different about it so you can decide which is better for you.

This is another example of great contemporary design, only this time it’s not a sphere. However, the sensation of a seamless aquarium is still there. The acrylic is clear, so you can fully admire your fish. It also has a perfect size, if you just want a small aquarium that you can place pretty much anywhere.

The tank does very well as far as functionality goes, too. The ‘good bacteria’ filtration works well. The waste goes to the ceramic media, where part of the toxins are filtered, and the rest of the waste remains in the sponge cartridge. Your job is just to replace the filter cartridge once a month, and change a third of the water. And feed the fish, of course.

So, this may not be a completely self sustaining aquarium, but it will take very little of your time, and in return, it will give you a beautiful and relaxing image. It could, however, include more items, considering the price.

Pros

Cons

What’s in the Box?

4 Gallon Acrylic Aquarium, a 12V Transformer, an air pump, an airstone, ceramic media 2 pounds / 900 grams, a filter cartridge, water conditioner 5 ml, Beneficial Bacteria liquid 5 ml, intelligent LED Light unit.

The aquarium comes in 3 colors, black, white, and transparent. Take a look at the video below to see the white one:

Our Verdict

It seems the BiOrb products follow the same recipe: great design, they work well, but the package doesn’t include everything you may want, and accessories are pretty expensive. However, small aquariums are not easy to clean, especially to self clean. So what matters is a great filtration system. If you don’t mind the price, it’s worth buying.

#8 – As Seen On TV My Fun Fish Tank

Rating
3.4/5

This is very different from all the other options above. It’s very small and very cheap. It’s mostly just for teaching your child how a tank can clean itself, and it won’t present any interest to many other types of buyers. But it is a self cleaning aquarium that actually works, so it deserves a spot on the list.

First of all, you should know that you still need to change the water, not just top it off. But that’s only necessary once every 7-10 days. Don’t change all the water, though, because you will be getting rid of the good bacteria as well.

The water pump does a good job, and also looks nice if you put it in the back. It is a nice surprise that it comes with LED lights, even if they operate on batteries. Considering the price, it offers a lot!

There are some things you can do to improve it, though. Instead of the pebbles, use ceramic gravel or volcano stones. That will help a lot with biological filtration. Not to mention if you add live plants, they will have a good place for their roots. And using live plants is a great idea, because then you won’t have that many algae. If you also add a few tiny snails, they will also help with the left-over food and algae.

There is one more thing we would like to underline before going to the pros and cons. While this is a fun way to teach your kid about fish and self cleaning tanks, this little aquarium isn’t really a good environment for the fish in the long run. It’s simply too small. Even if they survive in it, they will definitely not be comfortable. However, it’s a great option for a quarantine tank, hospital tank or any kind of temporary housing solution for your fish. Otherwise, don’t put fish in it, maybe just a few small shrimps.

Pros

Cons

What’s in the Box?

the tank, a lid, a water pump, LED lights that need lithium batteries, rocks, plastic plants.

If you haven’t seen it on TV, here it is:

Our Verdict

There are many positive and negative aspects of this product. But the fact is you cannot ask for more at this price. And it works, it’s a self cleaning fish tank! It’s a good idea to buy it and show your kids how it works, but don’t make it the permanent home for your fish, because they won’t be happy.

Why Should I Choose a No-Clean Aquarium?

Self cleaning fish tanks are usually chosen for educational purposes or for people who want to enjoy the fishkeeping experience but don’t have the time and the knowledge to take care of an aquarium. The truth is anyone can benefit from such a fish tank. They are small enough to be placed in so many places, even a dorm room. But the size doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. Of course, a larger and more complex tank is better, but that requires a lot of time and attention from your part. Choose a no-clean aquarium if:
  • You are a parent or a teacher and want to teach kids about fish and self cleaning-tanks
  • You are an aquarist who needs an isolation/hospital tank
  • You are a busy person who doesn’t have time to take care of an aquarium, but you still want to have one in your home or your office

How Many Types of Self cleaning Fish Tanks Are there?

As seen in the list of self cleaning fish tanks that actually work, there are two types:
  • Gravity based tanks. What you do is pour the clean water, and the pump pulls the dirty water out without affecting the fish or the decor.
  • The aquarium-water garden combo. These are more spectacular and efficient. The fish waste is used to fertilize the plants, and the plants clean the water so the fish can have a safe environment. Not only do they clean the water better, but you can watch your mini garden growing.

General Pros and Cons of Self Clean Aquariums

It’s not that easy to compare self cleaning tanks to normal ones, because there are many factors and points of view involved. So, let’s break it down into pieces:
Costs Time Type of fish Size Fish’ comfort Overall experience
Self cleaning tanks Lower Almost no time Only a few small types Smaller Lower Good
Normal tanks Higher A lot of time Many types Various sizes Much higher Significantly more satisfying
As you see, it depends on what your priorities are. But in general, if you have the time and budget as well as the disposition to maintain a normal fish tank, it will be more than worth it. But self cleaning tanks have their own advantages, as well as their target audience, so they are worth considering.

What Are the Fish that Don’t Need Filters?

All fish need clean water, so it’s best to have some sort of filtering system. Apart from the fishbowls, all tanks have filters. But there are certain types of fish that don’t necessarily require filtering to survive: betta fish, guppies, zebra danios, ember tetra, goldfish. However, we need to underline the word ‘survive’; they may live without filtering, but their life would be better if you add one.

Essential Facts on Self cleaning Fish Tanks

We mentioned a few specific terms in the reviews above, so here is more information to make everything clear.

Aquaponics

In an aquaponics system fish tank, you create a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. By growing plants on a tray on top of the tank, they sustain each other. The fish residue will be used by the plants in the grow medium. In their turn, the plants will do their part and keep the water clean for the fish, by absorbing the nitrogen. The aquaponics system has been around for quite a while, and it’s not specifically designed for a fish tank that cleans itself. It was created as an efficient way of growing both vegetables and fish together, especially in regions where there was a shortage of food. But it can also be an interesting and relaxing experiment in your own home.

Five-stage filtration system

A 5-stage filtration system aquarium is working on cleaning the water on different levels:
  • Biological – using good bacteria to absorb ammonia
  • Mechanical – the filter physically removes part of the waste
  • Chemical – using activated carbons or resins to remove particles that were already dissolved
  • water stabilization – using a water conditioner
  • water oxygenation – with an air pump and an air stone.
Some self cleaning tanks already have such a system included, as we saw on our list. There is also the possibility to buy a 5-stage filtration system separately for many types of aquariums.

How to Make Your Own Self cleaning Fish Tank?

The self cleaning aquariums on our list are ideal for busy people who don’t have the time or the energy to maintain an aquarium. So, most of them are pretty compact, the kind of nicely designed tank you can put on your desk. But what if you want a bigger tank, maybe even a saltwater aquarium with bigger and more spectacular fish? Can you have that without cleaning it regularly? The answer is yes, there are things you can do to make your tank as self sustaining as possible.

The Walstad method

Diana Walstad, a well-known ecologist, has established a method of creating a naturally planted tank. Her purpose was to create a self sustaining ecosystem aquarium that would require only minimal interventions from the fishkeeper. Her method includes recommendations on water hardness, temperature, as well as light recommendations. Light is extremely important in this method; Walstad even suggests that the plants would benefit from ‘light siesta,’ or light breaks during the day. She also shows how the substrate should be prepared, how the water should circulate in the tank, what creatures and plants to place inside, depending on the size of the tank.

Useful tips to set up your own self sustaining fish tank

These are simple pieces of advice any experienced aquarist would give you. While your aquarium may not end up completely self sustained, it will need much less of your effort.
  1. Choose a larger tank, they are easier to maintain.
  2. Use undergravel filtration and box filters, as well as a strong pump to make sure the water keeps moving.
  3. Don’t add too many decorations, as they may affect the water flow.
  4. Use many live plants.
  5. Don’t place too many fish in the aquarium. You must also choose fish that won’t be breeding like crazy.
  6. Add fish like Hoplosternum and Acanthopsis, because they will stir up the substrate.
  7. Don’t overfeed the fish! They won’t benefit from it and you’ll just have extra residue to deal with.
  8. The water needs to be tested regularly.
  9. Never place the tank under direct sunlight, algae will grow excessively.
  10. Use a cleaning crew, like snails or microcrustaceans, to help you with the cleaning.
You will still have to feed the fish, add water and test it, but it won’t be time-consuming.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to treat the water? Even if the instructions your aquarium came with don’t say anything about that, testing and treating the water is always a good idea. Even for a tank as simple as My Fun Fishtank, a bit of water conditioner will work great. Can aquaponics be organic? They absolutely can be. Just make sure the seeds you use are organic and that you don’t have any creatures inside the tank that can affect the quality of the vegetables. For instance, turtles can carry salmonella. What are the possible problems of self cleaning fish tanks? Small no-clean aquariums can have a few issues. First of all, one of the most important things for any fish tank is to keep the water quality as stable as possible. And it is difficult to control the PH and the temperature in such a small container. If the water parameters change, they can cause high levels of stress for your fish, and they can get sick, because their immune system will be weakened. Secondly, toxins build up much faster in a small volume of water. If the self cleaning process doesn’t work well, it won’t be a good environment for your fish. You must make sure the nitrogen cycle isn’t interrupted or affected. Then, there’s the oxygen. In any tank, you need to have a healthy exchange of gas between the water and the outside world. Water needs to move so the oxygen can get in. And that’s more difficult in small no-clean desktop aquariums. What are AVO fish tanks? It’s a project created by a British designer, a self cleaning fish tank that doesn’t even need to have the filter replaced. All you would have to do is add water and feed the fish. It uses automated LED lighting that mimics the different colors and intensities natural light has during the day. It’s a revolutionary concept. However, since it’s the product of a Kickstarter campaign, it will take some time to enter the market.

Conclusion

If you would like to admire a small piece of an aquatic environment in the comfort of your home, but don’t have the time or the willingness to perform regular maintenance, you need a no-clean aquarium. Of course, that means you will have to make a compromise. It won’t be that large, it will have fewer and smaller fish, but it will still be a great experience. However, before buying one, make sure creating a safe and comfortable environment for your fish is your top priority. And the good news is there are many self cleaning fish tanks that actually work, and we’ve prepared a complex list for you. We added all sorts of aquariums, from small, simple and very cheap, to rather expensive grown-up toys that will become your new addiction. Just because you don’t have the time or don’t know how to clean a fish tank doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one. But you may have the surprise to get hooked on this and to take the next step to become a real aquarist.

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