7 Best Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks (Gravity and Aquaponics)

Best Self Cleaning Fish Tank

Fishkeeping is a very interesting and enjoyable hobby until it comes to the part of scrubbing algae off the tank walls or siphoning fish waste off the substrate. However, with the advent of self-cleaning tanks, the task of maintenance can be drastically reduced or completely avoided.

The only downside with these tanks is that they are usually small in size, but if you prefer having a buddy on your desktop or on your kitchen countertop, it would be wise to get one.

With that in mind, this article looks at the best self-cleaning fish tanks so as to help you find a perfect match for your fish keeping needs.

You can also read other product reviews of betta fish tanksmall fish tankNano reef tank.

IMAGE

​PRODUCT

​FEATURES

Ecolife ​Aquaponics Fish Tank

1. Ecolife Aquaponics Fish Tank (Best Overall Self-Cleaning Fish Tank)

  • 20-gallon capacity
  • Closed-loop aquaponics system
  • Requires no water change for a year
  • Programmable LED lighting with a built-in timer
Tetra 29095

2. Tetra 29095 (Self-Cleaning Fish Tank with a 3i Filter)

  • Quiet 3i filter
  • 3-gallon capacity in a cube shape
  • Plastic construction with a pedestal base
  • LED lighting
Penn-Plax APON2

3. Penn-Plax APON2 (Best Self-Cleaning Fish Tank for Tropical Fish)

  • 1.4-gallon capacity; suitable for a single tropical fish
  • Aquaponics system with a ceramic substrate
  • Affordable
  • Cylindrical shape
As Seen On TV 56028

4. As Seen On TV 56028 (Best Budget Self-Cleaning Fish Tank)

  • Affordable
  • Gravity cleaning system
  • Easy to maintain
  • Small and lightweight plastic construction
EcoQubeC 1001b

5. EcoQubeC 1001b (Self-Cleaning Fish Tank with Wireless Controlled LEDs)

  • Wireless remote-controlled lighting
  • Differently-colored LEDs with multiple effects
  • 1.5-gallon capacity
  • Plastic construction
biOrb 45618

6. biOrb 45618 (Orb-Shaped Self-Cleaning Fish Tank)

  • Unique and aesthetic orb shape
  • Lightweight acrylic construction
  • 4-gallon capacity
  • True 5-stage filtration
Back to the Roots 31000

7. Back to the Roots 31000 (Aquaponic Self-Cleaning Fish Tank)

  • Closed-loop aquaponics system with grow stones
  • Quiet submersible pump
  • 3-gallon capacity
  • Includes multiple accessories

PRODUCT

1. Ecolife Aquaponics Fish Tank

(Best Overall Self-Cleaning Fish Tank)

Ecolife ​Aquaponics Fish Tank
  • 20-gallon capacity
  • Closed-loop aquaponics system
  • Requires no water change for a year
  • Programmable LED lighting with a built-in timer

2. Tetra 29095

(Self-Cleaning Fish Tank with a 3i Filter)

Tetra 29095
  • Quiet 3i filter
  • 3-gallon capacity in a cube shape
  • Plastic construction with a pedestal base
  • LED lighting

3. Penn-Plax APON2

(Best Self-Cleaning Fish Tank for Tropical Fish)

Penn-Plax APON2
  • 1.4-gallon capacity; suitable for a single tropical fish
  • Aquaponics system with a ceramic substrate
  • Affordable
  • Cylindrical shape

4. As Seen On TV 56028

(Best Budget Self-Cleaning Fish Tank)

As Seen On TV 56028
  • Affordable
  • Gravity cleaning system
  • Easy to maintain
  • Small and lightweight plastic construction

5. EcoQubeC 1001b

(Self-Cleaning Fish Tank with Wireless Controlled LEDs)

EcoQubeC 1001b
  • Wireless remote-controlled lighting
  • Differently-colored LEDs with multiple effects
  • 1.5-gallon capacity
  • Plastic construction

6. biOrb 45618

(Orb-Shaped Self-Cleaning Fish Tank)

biOrb 45618
  • Unique and aesthetic orb shape
  • Lightweight acrylic construction
  • 4-gallon capacity
  • True 5-stage filtration

7. Back to the Roots 31000

(Aquaponic Self-Cleaning Fish Tank)

Back to the Roots 31000
  • Closed-loop aquaponics system with grow stones
  • Quiet submersible pump
  • 3-gallon capacity
  • Includes multiple accessories

1. Ecolife Aquaponics Fish Tank – Best Overall Self-Cleaning Fish Tank

Ecolife Conservation Aquaponics Self-Cleaning Fish Tank
  • Capacity: 20 gallons
  • Material: Glass
  • Dimensions: 24 x 12 x 20 inches
  • Shape: Cuboid

Ecolife’s fish tank stands out as the best self cleaning fish tank due to a number of reasons. It has a large 20-gallon volume, which gives you enough space to keep more fish.

The product also has a closed loop system, with a garden at the top where plants clean water for the fish while the fish fertilize the plants.

Such a setup not only allows you to have healthy living fish but also enables you to grow fresh organic food through a full year without requiring any water changes in the tank. All you need to do is add a little water from time to time because the plants use water to grow.

To support the plant growth, a set of programmable LED lights are set up above the garden, which makes it possible to run the aquarium indoors.

These lights have 4 grow settings to support seeds, growing, flowering and leafy plants by lighting up in different colors.

A built-in timer makes it possible to create on and off times for the LEDs, effectively giving you more control over the plant growth process. The only problem is that this tank is very expensive.

Pros:

  • Big in size. It can accommodate more fish
  • Water cleaning garden at the top
  • Can run for a full year without any water change
  • Programmable LED lighting ​

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Glass construction makes it very delicate

2. Tetra 29095 – Self-Cleaning Fish Tank with a 3i Filter

Tetra LED Cube Shaped Self-Cleaning Fish Tank
  • Capacity: 3 gallons
  • Material: Plastic
  • Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 10.5 inches
  • Shape: Cube

Tetra’s LED cube-shaped fish tank is not really a self-cleaning system on its own. It comes equipped with Tetra’s 3i filter, which makes it acquire the “self-cleaning” status.

This filter is part of Tetra’s Whisper line, which means it is extremely quiet, small in size and can be hidden by clipping it behind the tank so as to leave you with uninterrupted views of the fish.

However, the filter needs frequent maintenance as compared to using plants and requires an additional air pump to run it.

The tank itself is quite small, with a capacity of only 3 gallons, making it suitable for small tropical fish such as goldfish or bettas.   

Bright white LED lights at the top make it possible to show off these fish as well as any decorations that you may have installed inside the tank. 

Construction wise, the unit is made out of clear plastic and has a full top lid with a small feeding hole closer to the front side. This design means that you can fill water to the top without worrying about the fish jumping outside. 

A pedestal base keeps the clear acrylic from touching the floor and makes the tank look like its floating midair.   

Pros:

  • Extremely quiet 3i filtration system
  • Small size makes it easy to manage
  • Bright white LEDs.
  • Plastic construction makes it very lightweight
  • Pedestal base provides good support

Cons:

  • Filtration system requires frequent maintenance
  • Needs an additional air pump to run the filter

3. Penn-Plax APON2 – Best Self-Cleaning Fish Tank for Tropical Fish

Penn-Plax Aquaponic Self-Cleaning Fish Tank
  • Capacity: 1.4 gallons
  • Material: Plastic
  • Dimensions: 8 x 8 x 10 inches
  • Shape: Cylinder

With its small 1.4-gallon capacity, Penn-Plax’s APON2 tank is ideal for tropical fish such as goldfish, betta, white cloud minnow, and bloodfin tetra, but can accommodate only one fish.

The tank is also quite affordable and features a planter at the top, which is composed of a ceramic substrate. Plant roots grow through this substrate and into the water so as to consume all the waste and toxic substances to the fish.

However, the tank does not feature LED lights and therefore, should be placed close to natural light. Alternatively, an artificial lighting system can be bought and installed separately.

An important thing to note here is that you should research about the plant’s toxicity because the setup allows the roots to grow into the tank, which means that the fish swims and nibbles on the roots. If harmful, the fish might die.

Pros:

  • Small capacity; ideal for one tropical fish
  • ​Aquaponics setup with ceramic substrate
  • ​Relatively affordable

Cons:

  • ​No LED lighting

4. As Seen On TV 56028 – Best Budget Self-Cleaning Fish Tank

As Seen On TV 56028 Self-Cleaning Fish Tank
  • Capacity: 0.5 gallons
  • Material: Plastic
  • Dimensions: 4.75 x 6 x 10 inches
  • Shape: Trapezoid

As Seen On TV’s self-cleaning fish tank is the most affordable unit in this review, and this is particularly due to its small size and simple design.

Unlike aquaponics-based or filter-based systems, the 56028 features a gravity cleaning system that requires no power and makes the maintenance process very easy.

Most of the fish waste and excess food settles down at the tank bottom. What a gravity system does is to simply allow you to pour water into the tank and the dirt at the tank bottom is siphoned outside through a disposal tube, without sucking out the fish.

As a result, the 56028 is the perfect fit for beginners because it is the lowest maintenance fish tank in this review.

Construction wise, the unit is made using plastic, which makes it very lightweight. Combined with its small size, it makes it very easy to move around with your fish.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Small and lightweight.
  • Gravity system requires no power to run
  • Very easy to maintain

Cons:

  • No LEDs
  • Manual water addition is required

5. EcoQubeC 1001b – Self-Cleaning Fish Tank with Wireless Controlled LEDs

EcoQubeC Self-Cleaning Fish Tank
  • Capacity: 1.5 gallons
  • Material: Plastic
  • Dimensions: 7.5 x 7.5 x 9 inches
  • Shape: Cube

EcoQubeC’s 1001b is equipped with a set of LED lights, which are controlled by a wireless remote control to produce different colors that are ideal for the different stages of plant growth.

Apart from colors, this lighting system can be programmed to create lightning or cloud cover effects, leaving you with a very beautiful display of the aquarium.

Other than that, the unit is composed of a small garden for one plant at the top and an acrylic 1.5-gallon fish tank at the bottom.

Structurally, the tank is made using plastic, which is generally lighter and stronger than glass. On the downside, this piece is relatively expensive for its size

Pros:

  • LED colored lighting with wireless remote control
  • Lightning and cloud cover lighting effects
  • Strong and lightweight.

Cons:

  • Quite expensive for its size

6. biOrb 45618 – Orb-Shaped Self-Cleaning Fish Tank

biOrb Classic Self-Cleaning Fish Tank with LED Light
  • Capacity: 4 gallons
  • Material: Plastic
  • Dimensions: 13 x 13 x 13.2 inches
  • Shape: Sphere

biOrb’s classic fish tank stands out due to its shape. When lit up, it looks like a glowing ball and with the right decorations inside, it looks like a glowing moon.

The good thing is that it comes with its own LED lighting system, which is very energy efficient and makes it possible to show off the cool orb design with the fish and décor inside.

This is boosted by an acrylic construction, which makes the tank 93% clearer while also being 50% lighter and 10X stronger than glass.

On filtration, the orb features a true 5-stage filtration process, making it the best small-sized self-cleaning aquarium.

This hidden filtration system is run by an air pump that saturates the water with oxygen and creates a circular flow. This then collects the fish waste on the ceramic media at the bottom of the tank, where natural biological filtration takes place. 

The remaining waste is trapped by a sponge cartridge while resin particles and natural stabilizers remove toxic substances and balance the pH levels.

Overall, oxygenation, stabilization, biological, chemical and mechanical filtration is done in a single cycle.

Pros:

  • Aesthetically good looking
  • LED lighting system
  • Strong and lightweight acrylic construction
  • Very clear walls
  • 5-stage filtration system.

Cons:

  • Unlike fully natural aquaponics systems, it requires power to run

7. Back to the Roots 31000 – Aquaponic Self-Cleaning Fish Tank

Back to the Roots Water Garden Self-Cleaning Fish Tank
  • Capacity: 3 gallons
  • Material: Plastic
  • Dimensions: 13.3 x 9.4 x 13.3 inches
  • Shape: Trapezoid

Back to the Roots’ water garden is a fully closed-loop ecosystem that is basically a mini-aquaponics setup.

The tank has a trapezoid shape with a garden at the top and a 3-gallon fish tank at the bottom. Grow stones are included in the package and they help to set up the garden as soil substitutes.

For circulation, a quiet submersible pump is included, and its purpose is to round up the waste-filled water inside the tank and pump it upwards to the plant roots. These roots absorb the waste and filter the water, then return it back to the tank clean and safe for the fish.

Other accessories included in the package are radish sprout seeds and organic wheatgrass for growing on the garden, a coupon for getting a betta fish, fish food, natural fertilizer and gravel for the tank bed.

Pros:

  • Aquaponics setup; allows for food growth
  • Comes with a submersible pump for water circulation
  • Includes several accessories in the pack
  • Plastic construction makes it very lightweight

Cons:

  • No LED lighting
  • Lacks mechanical filtration for dealing with dirt and debris

How to Buy the Best Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks

How to Buy the Best Self-Cleaning Fish Tank

1. Type

Self-cleaning fish tanks can be classified into two main categories. These are

Gravity-Based: Gravity-based self-cleaning aquariums require no power to run. Basically, the tank features a disposal tube that runs down to the bottom part inside.

As the fish’s waste and excess food collect and pile up on the tank bed, adding fresh water prompts the disposal tube to siphon water out from the tank base, which then sucks all the accumulated waste.

This makes the maintenance process very easy because you only need to add fresh water to the tank-top and that’s it. However, the task of adding the water is very manual and needs to be done more often and depending on the number of fish inside.

Aquaponics-Based: Aquaponics based systems are usually more expensive than gravity-based systems because they feature gardens on their upper side and some have LED lighting to support plant growth on the garden.

The good thing though is that they make maintenance very easy because they are basically closed-loop ecosystems. The only task left to do is to add some water regularly into the tank because it is consumed by the plants as they grow.

Buying Advice: If you can afford it, it is better to invest in an aquaponics setup such as Back to the Roots' 31000 because the closed loop ecosystem makes fish keeping more worry-free.

However, if you are on a budget, a gravity-based ​self-cleaning tank like As Seen On TV's 56028 is best. 

2. Capacity

It is important to consider the capacity of a fish tank primarily because of 2 reasons.

First, if you have a small desktop space to spare for the tank, you better get a small capacity tank such as Penn-Plax's APON2 because ​of its small footprint. However, if you have ​enough space, a big tank like Ecolife's unit is best.

Second, if you plan to keep a lot of fish, you must get a bigger tank, say from 10 gallons and above. However, if you are content with one fish, a small tank will do.

3. Material Construction

Fish tanks are either made ​using glass or plastic (acrylic).

​Glass material is very clear and does not discolor over time. This means that you will get good views of the aquarium throughout its lifetime. However, ​glass tanks are expensive, heavy and ​require careful handling.

On the other hand, acrylic is quite cheap, strong and much lighter than glass. This is why it is very easy to move plastic tanks around the house. However, poor quality acrylic tends to fade over time and affects the clarity of the aquarium’s view from the outside.  

If you can afford it and are careful enough, a glass fish tank such as Ecolife's ​Aquaponics​ unit is the best ​to buy.

4. Shape

An aquarium’s shape factor is mostly considered due to aesthetics. ​Cube or cuboid tanks are very common and thus, nothing stands out about their shape.

However, spherical or orb fish tanks such as biOrb's 45618 are very unique and with the correct lighting ​plus decoration, they can drastically transform your desk space.

5. Accessories

Accessories are always an added plus. When it comes to self-cleaning fish tanks, accessories come in the form of fish food, fish coupons, gravel and grow stones among many others.

Check out Back to the Roots' 31000 for a large accessories set.

FAQs

1. Which fish are the best for self-cleaning fish tanks?

Because self-cleaning fish tanks are small in size, the best fish to have in them are small tropical fish such as goldfish, betta, white cloud minnow, and bloodfin tetra.

However, make sure that you only put a few of them, or even just one, because the volume might be too small to accommodate more than one fish.

2. Are self-cleaning fish tanks suitable for beginners?

They are suitable for beginners. In fact, they are the best for beginners because such people might be forgetful or even neglectful of the responsibilities associated with fish keeping.

This means that if the tank requires a lot of attention, such a person might cause the fish to die or live in very poor conditions. However, with a self-cleaning system, most of the times the tank takes care of itself.

Conclusion

Fish tanks have come a long way from the very basic systems that required regular manual cleaning to self-cleaning tanks that make fish keeping a stress-free hobby.

​From the list above, we recommend Ecolife's ​Aquaponics tank because it can hold lots of fish, has an aquaponics system that eliminates water changing by up to 1 year and features programmable lighting that supports plant growth. 

​However, if you have limited space, biOrb's 45618 is the best self-cleaning fish tank to buy due to its unique shape and 5-stage filtration system.


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