7 Different Types Of Fish Tanks You Should Know

types of fish tanks
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Last updated on July 12th, 2022 at 06:18 pm

There are so many different types of fish tanks out there, and each one comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

The types of fish tank you choose will depend on your personal preferences, the size of your living space, and how much you’re willing to spend. However, no matter what type of fish tank you go with, there are some things that are true of all of them.

When you first decide to buy fish, you might be overwhelmed by the different types of fish tanks available to you. After all, there are dozens upon dozens of designs and styles out there to choose from.

But fortunately, there are seven main categories of fish tanks that you can look into when deciding which one will suit your needs best.

So, before you spend your hard-earned money on an aquarium, it’s worth taking some time to learn about the different types of fish tanks available so that you can make the best decision possible.

This article discusses the seven different types of fish tanks you’ll find in stores today so that you can make an informed decision when choosing one for yourself or your family.

5 common types of fish tanks requirements

Each type of fish tank has specific requirements that need to be fulfilled. While all fish tanks will have some requirements in common, each type of tank is different. That said, there are five common requirements that most types of fish tanks have, they are filtration, lighting, heaters/heating equipment, water conditioners, and a water pump.

Of course, there are many other types of fish tanks that may not require these items (for example a bowl) but for our purposes, we’ll focus on aquariums and ponds as they’re by far the most popular options for new hobbyists.


The first requirement for any type of fish tank is a filter. The purpose of a filter is to remove waste from your aquarium while maintaining good water quality. Filters can be powered mechanically or biologically and come in various sizes depending on your needs and how large your aquarium is.


The second requirement is light. This can come from either natural sunlight or artificial sources such as T5 fluorescent bulbs which emit light in narrow bands corresponding with what plants use best for photosynthesis.

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The third requirement is a heating unit. Aquariums must be kept at an appropriate temperature to support life and keep your fish healthy. A heater should always be used in conjunction with a thermometer so you know exactly what temperature you’re keeping your tank at.

Water conditioners

The fourth requirement is a water conditioner. Water conditioner helps neutralize chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals found in tap water which can stress out fish or even kill them over time if left untreated.

Water pump

The fifth and last requirement is a water pump. Some types of fish tanks don’t need pumps, but those that do, rely on them to circulate their water supply through filters and back into their aquariums. Pumps also help oxygenate your water which is important for supporting plant growth.

Most types of fish tanks will also require substrate, decorations, and plants to create a more visually appealing environment for both you and your fish.

Types of fish tanks

types of fish tanks

Coldwater freshwater tank

These types of fish tanks are excellent for beginners because it only requires basic maintenance. Coldwater freshwater tanks are typically rectangular and are stocked with small, non-aggressive fish such as betta fish or black mollies. These tanks do not require high levels of care and maintenance, making them ideal for people who have busy schedules but still want to enjoy their aquarium hobby.

However, a downside to coldwater freshwater tanks is that they lack visual appeal due to their minimalistic appearance. They can also be difficult to maintain if you don’t plan on taking care of your tank regularly. Because these types of fish tanks are easy to maintain, they are great options for first-time aquarists who may not be sure if they will like keeping an aquarium at home.

Coldwater marine tank

The coldwater marine tank is a great fish tank for anyone looking to keep hardy fish species, such as clownfish or puffers. Typically kept between 50 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, these tanks often include a built-in filtration system, live rock, and sand.

They also require more work than other types of fish tanks because they require frequent water changes. For anyone interested in keeping angelfish or red coral, then one coldwater marine tank would be ideal. However, for those who are not willing to put in all that extra effort, it might be best to look into other types of fish tanks.

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Tropical freshwater tank

types of fish tanks

A tropical freshwater tank contains fish that are native to warm waters. This is probably one of the most popular and easy-to-maintain types of fish tanks, as freshwater fish don’t require special conditions. They can live in any type of water, as long as you keep it clean and change it regularly.

However, if you want your tropical freshwater tank to look good, it’s essential to add plants to brighten up its environment. Plants will also help filter out toxins from aquarium water and provide shelter for some species of fish. Tropical freshwater fish include guppies, mollies, angelfish, platys, and swordtails.

Tropical marine tank

Tropical marine fish tanks are a great option for aquarists who want to keep colorful tropical fish, live corals, and other invertebrates in their tanks. These aquariums need powerful filtration systems and will contain heaters. Aquariums with these set-ups usually have lighting that simulates both daytime and nighttime hours.

Tropical marine fish can be quite picky eaters, so be sure to provide foods that closely mimic their natural diet. A few examples include brine shrimp, sea cucumbers, and fresh vegetables. You’ll also need to do frequent water changes, as most tropical marine fish produce more waste than they consume. Some popular species include clownfish (like Nemo), tangs, and gobies.

Brackish tank

The brackish tank is an interesting crossbreed between a freshwater and saltwater aquarium. The water is only slightly salty, which means it’s still safe for fish that need pure freshwater but which won’t kill any tropical fish accustomed to saltwater.

These types of fish tanks are in between both environments, it’s a nice compromise for those who want to do a bit more than simple freshwater or basic saltwater tanks. Most people start with a 10-gallon tank, as they are usually cheaper than larger ones and easier to maintain. They are also small enough that you can put them on a table or other surface without taking up too much space.

Reef tanks

types of fish tanks

A reef tank is a fish tank that is equipped with live coral and other aquatic animals such as starfish, snails, and small crabs. Usually, these tanks are filled with living rock and require special filtration systems to keep it all clean. The reason for having a reef tank is that, unlike most fish tanks, it gives you an opportunity to see lots of different types of marine life up close.

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Reef tanks can be expensive because you have to replace your water every few months or so. These tanks usually house soft corals, sea fans, hard corals (like stony corals), sponges, clams, nudibranchs (mollusks), crustaceans (such as hermit crabs), and more.

Breeder tanks

Ideal for live-bearing fish, or those that have offsprings. A breeder tank usually has no filtration, so regular water changes are a must to maintain clean water.

Good for large fish, who need lots of room. Breeder tanks come in glass or acrylic. Glass is more attractive and allows you to watch your fish swim around and interact with each other while they spawn; acrylic is less expensive but heavier and harder to maintain.

This type of tank also needs very specific lighting, which can get costly. If you plan on keeping cichlids, goldfish, or discus in a breeder tank, make sure it’s at least 10 gallons per inch of fish (for example: 10 goldfish would require 100 gallons).

Substrate based fish tanks

types of fish tanks

In a substrate-based tank, you build your own ecosystem. You place large rocks, wood, etc. into your tank and then plant aquatic plants in between them. Since there is little control over water quality (since you’re letting Mother Nature do her thing), such aquariums are often very natural-looking.

If you want to create an ecosystem but don’t want to fuss with cleaning it too much, try a substrate-based aquarium! A lot of people also love that substrate-based tanks are typically less expensive than other types of tanks.

Small biotope fish tanks

A biotope aquarium has plants, rocks, and substrates from a specific geographic area. A typical biotope aquarium is from Lake Malawi, but you can create a biotope tank from any geographical area in your world. Biome tanks are usually very attractive because they look great even if they are not full of fish.

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These types of fish tanks also require very little maintenance. Because these tanks do not have filtration systems, it is important to keep water quality high by performing partial water changes on a regular basis.

For example, every other week replaces 25% of your tank’s water with fresh water that matches or exceeds the temperature of your tank’s current water temperature. This will help maintain good bacteria levels in your aquarium while reducing nitrates and phosphates that build up over time without proper filtration systems.

Large tropical public fish tanks

The large tropical public aquariums are among the types of fish tanks that are typically found in larger metropolitan areas and they house many different types of marine life. They have a very high admission price because admission is heavily subsidized by non-profit foundations that raise money for scientific research, public awareness, and public education programs for children.

Visitors to large tropical public aquariums can expect to see a wide variety of marine life from all over the world including sharks, whales, dolphins, alligators, and sea turtles as well as exotic fish from various climates.

Ocean bio parks and marine life sanctuaries

Ocean parks are also categorized among the types of fish tanks because they are fantastic for kids, but if you want to get your hands wet with some fish-sitting and don’t have a pool in your backyard, consider looking into a fish sanctuary.

These marine life refuges allow you to volunteer hands-on with different species of marine life, some of that may be in dire need of care or finding new homes. The best part is that many sanctuaries offer guided tours so you can learn about their mission while getting up close and personal with their rescued animals.

Some popular examples include The Aquarium at Fort Fisher in North Carolina, The Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key Florida, and The National Aquarium in Baltimore Maryland.