The Best Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks (2024 Review)

A fish tank on a table
Home Aquarium
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 13, 2024
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It’s widely recognized that maintaining a healthy aquarium can be quite time-consuming, especially for individuals with busy schedules. However, a self-cleaning fish tank can offer a practical solution. It simplifies the task of keeping your aquarium in good condition without requiring a large investment of your time.

This type of aquarium normally features a pump that siphons out dirty water as you add fresh water to the top, but it can also be an aquaponics system (combination of aquaculture and hydroponics). However, choosing the right one for your budget and needs can be confusing as there’s a lot that you need to consider, such as the size, setup, quality, and features.

So, if you’re interested in finding the best self-cleaning fish tank or want to know more about this style of aquarium, you’re in the right place!

Article Summary

  • Self-cleaning fish tanks are designed to make aquarium maintenance easier and quicker.
  • These tanks may have pumps that siphon out dirty water as you add clean water, or they can be aquaponics systems combining aquaculture and hydroponics.
  • Proper aquarium maintenance is necessary for all fish tanks, including self-cleaning ones.

On to the Reviews…

Top Pick

Aqueon LED MiniBow Small Aquarium with SmartClean Technology

The Aqueon LED MiniBow offers SmartClean Technology that allows you to do water changes in under 2 minutes, making it one of the best self-cleaning aquariums on the market. It comes with a good selection of accessories like a filter, LED aquarium hood, elevated base, and food samples.

Top Pick: Aqueon LED MiniBow Small Aquarium with SmartClean Technology

One of the best self-cleaning aquariums is the Aqueon LED MiniBow, which boasts SmartClean technology that makes water changes quick and simple (it takes less than 2 minutes!).

It has a volume of 5 gallons, which is a decent size for nano aquatic species like betta fish, dwarf shrimp, endler’s livebearers, and chili rasboras. You get a compact hood that has LEDs built into it, alongside a power filter and elevated base.

This provides you with almost everything you need to get started keeping fish! Also included with the kit are a setup guide, filter cartridge, and both fish food and water conditioner samples, which are all nice extras.

One of my favorite aspects of this self-cleaning tank is just how easy it is to set up! Each component integrates well, and the setup guide explains all the necessary steps in detail.

However, the provided filter isn’t the best quality – it’s a little weak and can stop working after a few months. It might be worth buying a separate 5-gallon fish tank filter just to be on the safe side.

That said, I still think it’s a fantastic self-sufficient setup that accomplishes its intended purpose (i.e. makes tank cleaning easier!).

Specs

  • Dimensions: 14.5” x 10” x 13.5”
  • Weight: 5.25 lbs
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Volume: 5 Gallons

Pros

  • Makes water changes an easy and quick task
  • Comes with a power filter and LED hood
  • Includes extras like water conditioner, food, and a filter media cartridge
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Filter is not the best quality
Best Value

Back to the Roots Indoor Aquaponic Garden and Fish Tank

The Back to the Roots Water Garden Duo is a good choice for those new to fish keeping or self-cleaning tanks. It comes with pretty much everything you need to get started, like a submersible water pump, seeds, growing media, and water conditioner.

Best Value: Back to the Roots Indoor Aquaponic Garden and Fish Tank

If you’re looking for an affordable self-sufficient setup that won’t break the bank, the Back to the Roots Water Garden Duo is a great choice as it includes a media bed and aquarium!

You can grow houseplants, succulents, or organic microgreens all-year round – the fish fertilize all the plants due to the waste they produce, while the plants clean the tank water!.

Everything you need to begin a healthy aquatic system is included in this aquaponics kit, including fish food, water dechlorinator, water pump, radish and wheatgrass seeds, growing medium, and a fish coupon.

However, the Back to the Roots aquaponics and hydroponics systems are quite small (this model is only 3 gallons), so your stocking choices are limited to small fish and invertebrates. I’d suggest dwarf shrimp, aquatic snails, or perhaps a few chili rasboras for a self-cleaning tank this size.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 13.4” x 13.4” x 9.5”
  • Weight: Not Specified
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Volume: 3 Gallons

Pros

  • Ideal for beginners
  • Comes with a submersible pump
  • Includes seeds, water conditioner, and growing media

Cons

  • Tank size is only 3 gallons
Editor’s Choice

AquaSprouts Garden, Self-Sustaining Desktop Aquarium

This self-sustaining aquarium kit offers a good selection of accessories to help you achieve a low-maintenance setup.

Editor’s Choice: AquaSprouts Garden, Self-Sustaining Desktop Aquarium

For aquarists that need a great-quality and visually stunning self-cleaning fish tank kit, the Self-Sustaining Desktop Aquarium from AquaSprouts Garden is an excellent option.

It comes with a black single-piece garden bed that fits any standard 10-gallon aquarium. It snaps into place with ease, which makes setup super simple. The matte color and style of the garden bed looks lovely and would suit any aquarium!

The kit also includes a light bar and a pump with a timer, all of which work great. The pump has a flow rate of 160 GPH, which is plenty powerful enough for a 10-gallon tank.

Unfortunately, this aquaponics kit doesn’t come with an aquarium, so you’ll need to purchase a 10-gallon fish tank separately.

That being said, I still think it’s a great kit for fishkeepers who want to set up an aquaponics system as it provides you with almost everything you need to get started.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 28” x 8” x 17”
  • Weight: 24 lbs
  • Material: Plastic
  • Volume: 10 Gallons

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Comes with a light bar
  • Includes a powerful pump

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with an aquarium

Betta Fish Tank Glass 5 Gallon Self Cleaning Small Aquarium

This fun fish tank is a good choice for small fish species as it has a volume of 5 gallons. It comes with a powerful 3-stage filter that makes it a low-maintenance aquarium, as well as a vibrant LED light and aquarium hood.

Betta Fish Tank Glass 5 Gallon Self Cleaning Small Aquarium

Another one of the best self-cleaning fish tanks is this one from Tararium, which provides you with almost everything to get started owning fish, with the benefit of being easy to maintain. It has a capacity of 5 gallons, so it’s a decent size for a betta fish or other nano species.

The aquarium is made from high-quality glass that is ultra durable. You get a filter that offers 3-stage filtration to keep your aquarium crystal clear, alongside a tank hood and LED light that features 7 colors.

I really like the latter as it makes your aquarium stand out and gives it that “wow” factor.

Unfortunately, despite being labeled as a betta fish tank, the included filter is a little too powerful for this species. You may need to lower the flow or use a separate filter to be on the safe side!

Specs

  • Dimensions: 16” x 15.25” x 11”
  • Weight: 12.55 lbs
  • Material: Glass
  • Volume: 5 Gallons

Pros

  • Powerful 3-stage filter
  • Programmable LED lights with 7 different colors
  • Made from high-quality glass

Cons

  • Filter may be too strong for bettas

BiOrb FLOW 30 Aquarium with LED Light

The BiOrb FLOW 30 Aquarium is a solid choice for aquariums looking for a tank that requires minimal maintenance. It comes with a 5-stage filtration system that keeps your aquarium water clean, as well as a huge variety of accessories like LED lights, air stone, and 12V transformer.

BiOrb FLOW 30 Aquarium with LED Light

Next up is this BiOrb FLOW 30 Aquarium, which provides superior water quality thanks to its five-stage filtration system. It’s a good choice for freshwater fish and saltwater fish as it’s made from durable acrylic.

The filter is air-driven, so it creates high water flow and water circulation for maximum oxygenation. It also makes the aquarium maintenance very minimal to allow for a self-sustainable system.

On the way down, the flow collects fish waste, debris, uneaten food, etc, and draws it through ceramic media to allow the biological filtration (where the good bacteria is housed) to soak up some of the toxins.

The leftover waste and debris is collected in the sponge filter, then the water goes through the resin particles and natural stabilizers to eliminate toxins and stabilize the pH. Lastly, the clean water is oxygenated during its way up the bubble tube!

The self-cleaning aquarium kit comes with a huge number of accessories, including a 12V transformer, air pump, air stone, ceramic medium, filter media cartridge, water conditioner, beneficial bacteria liquid, and even an LED lighting system.

Unfortunately, this self-sufficient aquarium can be a little difficult to clean as there are a lot of different parts. On the plus side, if you add plenty of live plants to the tank, I think the aquarium can be turned into a highly self-sufficient setup due to its excellent filter.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 15.5” x 10.25” x 14.75”
  • Weight: 7 lbs
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Volume: 8 Gallons

Pros

  • 5-stage filtration systems for a healthy environment
  • LED lights
  • Made from sturdy acrylic
  • Includes a lot of accessories

Cons

  • Can be difficult to clean

Penn-Plax Aquaponic Planter and Aquarium

This aquaponics fish tank from Penn-Plax is a great choice for aquarists on a budget or those new to self-sufficient setups. It includes ceramic planting media to enable healthy plant roots.

Penn-Plax Aquaponic Planter and Aquarium

The last best self-cleaning aquarium I recommend is the Penn-Plax Aquaponic Planter and Aquarium. Although a little smaller than some of the other setups in this list, it’s still a decent choice if you’re on a budget.

Aquaponic systems are self-sufficient as the waste produced by fish/invertebrates feeds the plants, while the plants help keep the water clean and healthy. 

The tank has several side openings to make it easy to access the interior and feed your aquatic pets. It comes with ceramic planting media that is efficient at retaining water and nutrients for healthy plant roots.

The main downside of this fish tank is that it is only 1.4 gallons in volume, which is too small for any species of fish. However, you could use the tank for a few dwarf shrimp or a couple of aquatic snails like mystery snails.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 8” x 8” x 10”
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Material: Plastic
  • Volume: 1.4 Gallon

Pros

  • Compact design
  • Multiple side openings for easy access
  • Comes with ceramic planting media

Cons

  • Too small for fish but ideal for shrimp/aquatic snails

What Is a Self-Cleaning Fish Tank?

A self-cleaning fish tank is an aquarium that is designed to be low maintenance and usually has a pump that siphons out dirty water as you add clean water to the top.

Another type of tank that can be described as self-cleaning or self-sufficient is an aquaponics system. This uses both aquaculture and hydroponics (growing plants without soil) in a single environment.

The fish waste fertilizes the plants and the plants clean and help filter the water!

Aquariums with lots of aquatic plants (live, not artificial decorative plants) and a good-quality filter can also be considered low-maintenance as they provide a stable, healthy aquatic ecosystem.

Advantages of Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks

The main advantage of using a self-cleaning aquarium is that they are easier and quicker to maintain than regular tanks.

While you’ll still need to perform water changes on a self-cleaning setup to keep the water healthy, it will take a lot less time to do so.

Are There Disadvantages to Self-Cleaning Tanks?

Commercial self-cleaning aquariums tend to be smaller than standard fish tanks as they don’t normally come in larger volumes. 

Most units are designed for desktops and small spaces, so they are unsuitable for bigger fish species or multiple fish.

You’ll need to check the capacity of the tank to make sure it is appropriate for the fish you want to house in it. For example, a single betta fish needs a minimum of 5 gallons.

Although not a golden rule, the “1 inch of fish per gallon of water” is a good guideline to follow when stocking your tank. However, you’ll still need to consider the bioload and activity level of the fish.

Some species like tetras are small in size but very energetic, so they need a good amount of space to thrive.

How Does a Self-Cleaning Fish Tank Work? 

A self-cleaning setup works by using a pump that siphons out dirty water from the aquarium as you pour clean water into the top. 

An aquaponics system, on the other hand, contains both plants and fish/aquatic animals. A water garden sits at the top, which soaks up dirty water (and nutrients from fish waste) from the tank below.

Self-Cleaning Setup vs Regular Setup

A man scrubbing the fish tank glass
An Aquarists Cleaning A Fish Tank

Compared to regular fish tanks, self-sufficient setups are less time-consuming to maintain as they are mostly self-sufficient or offer features that make water changes easier to do.

NOTE

Bear in mind that self-cleaning aquariums tend to be much smaller than standard aquariums, so your stocking choices may be limited.

Is There a Fish Tank You Don’t Have to Clean?

All fish tanks need cleaning at some point, though some aquariums like an aquaponics system don’t need to be maintained as frequently as they are relatively self-sufficient. 

The plants in the water garden are fertilized by fish waste and help clean the tank water to make aquarium cleaning very minimal.

What Fish Tank Doesn’t Require Water Change?

Heavily planted tanks don’t need as frequent water changes as basic setups as the plants take in macronutrients from fish waste, which also provides clean water to the fish.

However, even these types of setups need to be monitored regularly with an aquarium testing kit to ensure the water parameters are stable and within a healthy range.

Do Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks Work?

No aquarium is truly self-cleaning, but those labeled as self-cleaning or self-sufficient are easier to maintain. You’ll still need to perform regular water changes, monitor water parameters, and clean the substrate with a gravel vacuum. 

Do You Need to Clean Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks?

Yes, you still need to clean self-cleaning aquariums. Although easier to maintain, self-sufficient setups don’t remove the need for regular water changes.

How Do You Clean a Self-Cleaning Fish Tank? 

A self-sufficient tank requires the same aquarium maintenance as a regular setup, though it may be easier to perform water changes as it usually has a pump that siphons out dirty water as you add clean (dechlorinated) water to the top.

If you have an aquaponics system, you’ll need to remove the plants and fill the media bed with fresh water to clean the media and remove old roots and organic matter with a shovel. Be sure to clean the plumbing system, including tubing and fittings, too!

Flatten the media and replant your plants, and that’s all there is to it! For large aquaponic and hydroponic systems, you can use a compressor to inject air into the media bed once it is filled with water. This technique will create air bubbles to loosen up the organic matter, which you can then remove.

TIP

Keep an eye on your water quality and parameters by using an aquarium water testing kit regularly.

How Often Do You Need to Clean a Fish Tank?

This mostly depends on the volume of your tank, the size/number of fish you own, and whether you have live plants or a powerful filtration system. However, most aquarists perform weekly water changes (normally around 10% to 15% of the water needs to be changed).

Larger, understocked aquariums will need less maintenance than smaller and overstocked ones, particularly if they are equipped with live plants and a powerful filter. 

How to Set Up a Self-Cleaning Tank

This varies slightly from model to model, but most self-sufficient fish tanks feature a pump that dirty water pours from as you add clean water to the top. That’s all there is to it regarding setup!

An aquaponics setup, however, can be set up by building a media bed and placing it snugly at the top of your tank. Fill the bed with media like clay pebbles or gravel and add seeds/house plants – wheatgrass, cucumbers, strawberries, tomatoes, basil, and sage are some great choices if you want fresh organic produce.

You’ll then need a plumbing system that consists of a pump, tubings, and fittings to circulate water from the media bed and into the tank.

  • Allows you to perform water changes in under 2 minutes
  • Simple to set up
  • Includes a good variety of accessories
  • Great beginner tank
  • Includes a pump
  • Comes with seeds and water conditioner
Best Value
  • Simple to install
  • Includes a light bar
  • Comes with a powerful pump
Editor’s Choice

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this guide on the best self-cleaning fish tanks helpful and were able to find the right one for your needs.

Which is your favorite self-sufficient setup? I’d love to hear what you think on our social media platforms. Be sure to share this post with your friends and family too!

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