Best Desktop Aquarium

Adding an aquarium to your office space can do a lot to improve your work conditions. Having an aquarium with even a few fish can relieve stress and provide some entertainment when you are in need of a distraction. There are lots of options for smaller aquariums that will easily fit on most desks.

They don’t take up too much valuable desk space and they are relatively light. This article will dive into some of the things you should be looking for when buying a desktop aquarium and then we will discuss our list of the 7 best desktop aquariums.

Desktop Aquarium Considerations

Your Office and Desk

Before you buy a desktop aquarium, you should make sure they are allowed in your office. Check with HR, your boss, your office manager, whomever, to make sure they are allowed.
You also should make sure you have an appropriate place for your aquarium. Most of the aquariums we recommend are between 2 and 5 gallons which puts their weight at about 20-50 lbs. Make sure your desk can support this much weight.

Also, the footprint of most of these aquariums is about 12”x12”. Do you have a place to put that?
Another thing to consider is you’re going to place several gallons of water in your office. Where is your computer? Do you have any other electronics that should be kept away from water? If your aquarium is well maintained, there is no reason for water to leak, but there will inevitably be spills during water changes.

Do you have space for an extra piece of furniture that could hold your aquarium? If so, then that’s the recommended way to go. If not, consider putting your aquarium on the corner of your desk opposite your computer.

Things to You’ll Need

Aquarium Starter Kit

Fluval Spec III Aquarium Kit

It is critical that you buy an aquarium kit and not just a bowl. A starter kit will come with a filter, heater, lights and a few other miscellaneous items to get you started. Tropical fish produce waste which MUST be filtered and removed through water changes. Fish will not live long without a filter and a filter will prevent any offensive smells (you don’t want to be that guy).
Lights are included with desktop aquarium kits. Fish tanks should have their lights on between 12 and 14 hours a day. Unless you are working 7 days a week for 12-4 hours a day (and I hope you aren’t), it’s best to put lights on a timer (where possible – dependent on your kit).


Your aquarium should have gravel. The rule of thumb is 2 lbs of gravel per gallon of water. There are many different colors of gravel so choose one that you like. Remember that some of the starter kits come with options for different color lights. If you decide to buy an aquarium with these lights, choose a gravel color that complements your lights and fish color.


Your desktop aquarium should also have a few decorations. A small fake plant and one other non plant decoration is usually a good starting point.


There are a few other things you’ll need to get your aquarium set up and running. You’ll need a water treater. This will neutralize any harsh chemicals in your tap water and make it safe for your fish. You’ll need a water testing kit. You’ll use this weekly to make sure conditions are still safe for your fish. You’ll also want a fish net to transfer your fish into the tank and of course fish food.

Even with all these miscellaneous things, you should be able to get setup and running for less than $100.

What Fish?

There are numerous options for smaller tanks. In fact, we’ve written a whole article about it. Find it here. Here are a few ideas:
(1) Betta Fish
(1) Goldfish (5 Gallons Minimum)

TheJammingYam [CC BY-SA 3.0]
TheJammingYam [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Do you need a Heater?

Betta fish need to be kept in water that is in the upper 70s F. Most houses and offices are not that temperature year round. So if your tank has a betta, it likely needs a heater. Goldfish are coldwater fish and should be kept in water temperatures in the 60s F. This typically works well with most office ambient temperatures. Shrimp and snails are more adaptable and can be kept in either heated or unheated water.
These are a few heaters we recommend for these smaller tanks.
Marina Submersible Aquarium Heater, Betta Fish Tank Heater, 25-Watt

PULACO 25W Small Aquarium Betta Heater with Free Thermometer Strip, Under 6 Gallon Fish Tanks

Aqueon Small Aquarium Fish Tank Submersible Mini Flat Heater Up to 5 Gallon Aquariums

7 Best Desktop Aquariums

Fluval Spec III Aquarium Kit, 2.6-Gallon, Black

The Fluval Spec III Aquarium Kit is a 2.6 gallon small aquarium with several features that aren’t common on every micro aquarium kit. The lights and filter are on separate power cords so you can set your lights on a timer without shutting down your filter.
Some users have reported that the filter is too strong for a betta even on the lowest setting. So set the filter to the lowest setting and put filter sponge over the intake to help limit the amount of water flowing.

Marineland Contour 3 aquarium Kit 3 Gallons, Rounded Glass Corners, Includes LED Lighting

The Marineland Contour Glass Aquarium Kit is comes in both 3 gallon and 5 gallon options. Its LED lights have two setting, one for daylight and one for moonling. This kit has two power cords, one for the pump and one for the lights, giving some flexibility for setting up a timer on the lights. The pump is very quiet and isn’t overpowering for betta fish.

Marineland ML90609 Portrait Aquarium Kit, 5-Gallon

The Marineland ML90609 Portrait Aquarium Kit is a 5 gallon aquarium with curved front corners. While most 5 gallon tanks are longer than they are tall, this aquarium is taller than it is long. This will allow you to put this 5 gallon tank in a smaller area where a 5 gallon tank wouldn’t ordinarily fit.
While the filter is very quiet, its flow is a bit too strong for betta fish. Some users have fixed this by turning the filter down as low as it will go and installing filter sponge over the intake.

Tetra 29003 Crescent Aquarium Kit, 5-Gallon

The Tetra Crescent Acrylic Aquarium Kit comes in 3 gallon or 5 gallon options. It is made of acrylic and has a curved front viewing wall. The filter is sized appropriately for the aquarium and the discharge from the filter is a good flow rate for a betta fish.
Some users have reported that the LED lights included in the package are too bright and it has created some discomfort in their fish. This is easily remedied by cutting small bits of electrical tape and putting it over some of the LED lights.

Tetra 29095 Cube Aquarium Kit, 3-Gallon

The Tetra 29095 Cube Aquarium Kit is a 3 gallon starter package that comes with lights, a filter, an air pump, a lid, and of course the tank. The lighting consists of 9 LED lights that do a good job of dispersing light evenly across the aquarium. The light is on a separate power cord from the filter allowing you to set up a timer.

GloFish 29045 Aquarium Kit with Blue LED light, 5-Gallon

The GloFish 29045 Aquarium Kit is a 5 gallon aquarium made out of acrylic, which is lighter than glass and stronger than plastic. There are 15 blue LED lights which provide a perfect amount of light and disperse the light appropriately out over the tank. The blue lighting allows for a lot of options for stocking with fish that complement the light color well.
The one downside to this kit is that there is no lid. This can work if you have fish that don’t jump, but can cause a major issue if you do have a fish that jumps.