The Best 3 Gallon Fish Tank: Equipment & Stocking Guide Covered

Our guide to choosing the best 3 gallon fish tank will help you with all you need to know about one of the smallest nano aquariums!

By Matt Thomas
Last updated on

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best 3 gallon fish tank

A 3 gallon fish tank is one of the smallest nano aquariums you can buy. You may wonder whether a 3 gallon tank is large enough for your fish. Or you may think, ‘how can I find the best 3 gallon fish tank?’

We’ve used our combined experience to test a wide range of 3 gallon tanks and answer these questions for you. And we found the Tetra LED Cube Shaped 3 Gallon Aquarium to be the best 3 gallon fish tank based on it’s great layout and robust design.

But we’ve also got plenty of other options for you, from GloFish to glass tanks. So let’s jump straight in and take a look!

  1. Best Overall: Tetra LED Cube Shaped 3 Gallon Aquarium
  2. Best For Value: Koller Products AquaView Fish Tank
  3. Best Cylinder Tank: Koller Products AquaView 360 Aquarium
  4. Best Glass Tank: Marineland Contour 3 Gallon Glass Aquarium Kit
  5. Best For GloFish: GloFish Crescent Aquarium Kit
  6. Best GloFish Alternative: Tetra GloFish 3 Gallon Aquarium Starter Kit
  7. Best Color Alternative: Tetra ColorFusion 3 Gallon Tank

Best 3 Gallon Fish Tank Picks Reviewed

When looking for the best 3 gallon fish tank there are many factors to consider, from shape and size for your desk to the right filtration system. We reviewed all of these tanks against these criteria to bring you our top picks!

1. Tetra LED Cube Shaped 3 Gallon Aquarium

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Cube, 3 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 10.32 (w) x 11.95 (d) x 17.5 (h) inches, 4.4 pounds
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Equipment Included: Tetra 3i Whisper Power filter, pedestal base, LED light
  • Best for: Overall

With it’s cubed shape and base of 10.32 x 11.95 inches, the Tetra LED Cube gives a great balance of good surface area for oxygen exchange for your fish while fitting nicely on your desk.

The pedestal base and rimless sides give a perfect eye-level view of your fish, while the durable acrylic construct makes it safe for children and families. And the 3 stage Whisper 3i Power filter has a flow rate of 20 GPH, just right for a 3 gallon fish tank. 

Some owners report the filter doesn’t have an adjustment switch, but it is possible if you insert a flow valve between the pump and filter. But overall this is a very affordable and well-built tank praised by many reviewers as a perfect small fish tank!

2. Koller Products AquaView Fish Tank

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Half-cylinder, 3.5 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 11.25 (w) x 8.75 (d) x 13.5 (h) inches, 3.8 pounds
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Equipment Included: Energy-efficient LED lighting with 7 color choices (4 transitioning and color combinations), 25 GPH internal power filter
  • Best for: Value

The half-cylinder design of the Koller Aquaview makes for a really stylish yet affordable aquarium that gives a great view of your fish from any angle. At 11.25 inches wide but only 8.75 deep you can even fit it on a sturdy side table!

It has a 25 GPH power filter which is more than enough to keep your water in optimal condition, and the Koller Products XS filter pads are easy to change. The 7 color LEDS have 4 clever transition modes allowing you to set day and night effects to mimic the cycle of your fish.

We also found the 2 and 4 hour light timers particularly useful as you can set them and go off to bed without having to turn them off! Overall you get a lot of great value here in a well-made and affordable tank.

3. Koller Products AquaView 360 Aquarium

koller cylinder fish tank

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Cylinder, 3 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 10.25 (diameter) x 14.5 (height) inches, 4.0 pounds
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Equipment Included: Aquarium hood with integrated LED lights in 7 colors, Koller Products hanging power filter
  • Best for: Cylinder Tank

Another high-quality, affordable tank from Koller Products, the Aquaview 360 gives a full 360-degree viewing angle of your fish. So it’s perfect if you want to display it centrally in your room. At 4 lbs, it’s also one of the lightest tanks making it appropriate for a small, sturdy table.

It has the same 25 GPH clip-on filter as the Koller Aquaview aquarium, which is powerful yet quiet to keep your water clean and clear. And the 6 colors and white light daylight mode, coupled with 2 and 4 hour timer mean you can easily set day and night cycles for your fish.

This is a great tank which receives a lot of praise from owners, for those who want an affordable option or have a small space like a dorm room or bedroom.

4. Marineland Contour 3 Gallon Aquarium Kit

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Cube, 3 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 11.82 (w) x 11.62 (d) x 12.05 (h) inches, 8.0 pounds
  • Material: Glass
  • Equipment Included: Sliding canopy, hinged rail with white LEDs for daylight and blue for moonlight setting, hidden 3-stage Marineand filter with adjustable pump
  • Best for: Glass Tank

With it’s sleek, contoured design in glass, the Marineland Contour is an excellent alternative to  the Tetra LED Cube. It even has a well-fitting, glass lid which slides easily giving great access for feeding. And because it’s clear glass, you can even see your fish from the top!

The white daylight LEDs are enough to support low-light plants, and the blue moonlight mode means you can choose between day and night to support your fish’s natural cycle. It also has a 3 stage filter that is quiet on it’s lowest setting. 

You can remove the filter output nozzle to slow the return flow, which is perfect if you have fish that don’t like a lot of current. And the activated carbon filter cartridge has a ribbed back giving more surface contact with the water, helping keep your water crystal clear!

5. GloFish Crescent Aquarium Kit

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Half cylinder, 3 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 12.9 (w) x 6.88 (d) x 12.5 (h) inches, 4.7 pounds
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Equipment Included: Clear lid with feeding hole, 6 blue LED airstone, Tetra internal filter, Tetra air pump, airline tubing, airline connector valve
  • Best for: GloFish

The GloFish Crescent Aquarium Kit is a 3 gallon half-cylinder tank perfect for keeping your GloFish in a small space. With the 12.9 x 6.88 inch base and crescent front it will easily fit on a desk while giving a great view of your fish.

It includes a 6 LED airstone which not only oxygenates the water for your fish, but the blue GloFish lights are specifically designed to enhance the color of your GloFish. And the Tetra Whisper Bio-Bag cartridges are easy to replace in the filter.

Some owners report the filter pump can be noisy on its high setting, but is much quieter when turned down. Overall this is a quirky, cool tank for your GloFish that will go great in a dorm or kids bedroom!

6. Tetra GloFish 3 Gallon Aquarium Starter Kit

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Rectangular (tapered), 3 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 14.6 (w) x 8.8 (d) x 11.2 (h) inches, 2.0 pounds
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Equipment Included: Aquarium light with blue LEDs, Tetra internal filter, Tetra medium filter cartridge, aquarium set-up guide
  • Best for: GloFish Alternative

As an alternative to the Crescent Aquarium Kit, the 3 gallon aquarium starter kit offers a similar setup in a squarer tank. But we also found the fact that the viewing pane is wider than the back, at 14.6 inches, means you get a great view of your fish but can take up slightly less room.

Some do say that the lid is not always a snug fit but can be slightly adjusted by pushing down the clips.

But overall as with other GloFish tanks, this aquarium gets great reviews from owners on the GloFish blue LED lighting which really highlights the colors of their fish!

7. Tetra ColorFusion 3 Gallon Tank

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Half cylinder, 3 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 12.9 (w) x 6.88 (d) x 12.5 (h) inches, 1.0 pound
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Equipment Included: Clear lid with feeding hole, ColorFusion LED airstone, Tetra 2 stage internal filter, Tetra air pump, airline tubing, airline connector valve
  • Best for: Color Alternative

In a similar style to the GloFish Crescent kit featured earlier, the Tetra ColorFusion 3 gallon tank has a 12.9 x 6.88 inch base which will fit perfectly on your desk.

Where this tank differs from the GloFish aquarium is the lighting. The ColorFusion features a bubbling disc that cycles through red, green, blue, pink, and yellow LEDs giving an automatic rainbow of colors to your tank!

Some people report that the bubbler and filter need to be turned down to prevent overspill from the top of the tank. But overall owners highlight this as a great value and nicely built tank that makes for a very cool nano aquarium.

Guide To Buying The Best 3 Gallon Fish Tank

When looking for the best 3 gallon fish tank to suit your needs there are several things to think about.

small fish in 3 gallon fish tank

Should I Choose A 3 Gallon Fish Tank?

A 3 gallon aquarium is often the perfect choice if you have a very small area such as a desk, in a dorm room, or in a child’s bedroom. But people are sometimes unsure as to whether 3 gallons is actually big enough to keep fish humanely.

3 gallons is in fact fine as long as you follow a couple of things. Firstly, only keep nano fish that are an appropriate size for the tank and won’t outgrow it. Secondly, keep the right amount of fish and don’t overstock. And thirdly, make sure your tank has appropriate heating and filtration.

I’ll go into all these later on, but as a final point, don’t make the mistake of thinking a small tank will be easier to keep. Smaller nano aquariums are actually more challenging to maintain as the smaller volume means more water changes are needed to keep the parameters in check.

Material: Glass vs. Acrylic In A 3 Gallon Fish Tank

Many 3 gallon fish tanks come in acrylic. This material is around 17 times stronger and 50% lighter than glass. So if you have kids or pets and think your tank could get the occasional knock it’s a great option. It’s also a good material if the tank is intended for your child’s bedroom.

Some 3 gallon aquariums come in glass, which makes them slightly heavier. Although glass is cited as being clearer than acrylic in reality you won’t be able to see much difference, especially in a small tank. Acrylic will retain it’s clarity if you maintain it by buffing the surface.

Size And Dimensions

3 gallon fish tanks come in a range of shapes and styles including cubes, cylinders, and half-cylinders. It’s important to check the dimensions of any tank you have your eye on, but as a rough guide a base area of 12 x 12 inches should be enough to accommodate your tank.

And because 3 gallon aquariums usually come as all-in-one kits you don’t need to worry too much about whether filters and lighting will fit as they are all built-in already. One exception can be heaters, so if you need to buy one separately be careful to check it will fit the tank.

Quality And Price

You’ll generally find 3 gallon fish tank kits range from anywhere between $30 to $80, but either way they are almost always under $100. But do check each kit to see what equipment is included as this can vary. Most of the time a filter will be provided, but often a heater is not.

It’s also important to research the quality before you purchase your tank. A good way is to check reviews on sites like Amazon. Pay particular attention to how well the lid fits the tank, the efficiency of the filter, and whether anyone has reported any issues with leaking seams or seals.

Equipment For A 3 Gallon Fish Tank

Many 3 gallon fish tank kits come with the essential equipment, but some items, such as heaters, are often excluded. Here’s what to look out for.

Filter For A 3 Gallon Fish Tank

As tanks get smaller, filtration becomes even more important to keep the water clean and help remove ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. Thankfully, many 3 gallon fish tanks come with filters included which also means you know they will fit in the tank.

But do check that the filter has the correct flow rate. For a 3 gallon tank a filter should be capable of cycling all the water 5 or 6 times an hour. So a filter with a flow rate of 20 gallons per hour (GPH) or higher is ideal. Many kits provide adjustable pumps of around 20 to 30 GPH.

Lighting A 3 Gallon Fish Tank

LED lights often come as part of a 3 gallon fish tank kit. Usually they will be integrated into the hood or lid. Look to see whether they can be programmed to go on and off, and whether they have daylight and blue moonlight settings. Some are even dimmable.

It’s important to be able to provide periods of light and dark to mimic the natural day and night cycle of your fish, and these features will help you do that. Do also check the power output as if you want low light plants you’ll need LEDs of around 6500k, the equivalent of natural light.

Heater For A 3 Gallon Fish Tank

Whilst there are some circumstances where you might not need one, if you’re keeping tropical fish it’s more than likely you’ll need a heater.

To heat a 3 gallon aquarium you’ll need a heater of around 10 to 15 watts. Heaters of this wattage are often quite small, but do make sure they are short enough to sit fully submerged in your aquarium.

Other Equipment

3 gallon aquariums don’t need a tank stand and can fit on your desk or cabinet. Just make sure your furniture can take the weight. An acrylic tank weighs about 35 lbs when filled, and for a glass aquarium it’s often closer to 45 lbs.

If your heater doesn’t have a thermometer built-in then make sure you get one too. Most sit in the tank and you can quickly check the temperature daily when you feed your fish. 

You should also invest in a test kit so you can check your water parameters. This becomes more important with smaller water volumes, and in a 3 gallon aquarium you should check your water parameters once or twice a week.

shrimp in 3 gallon fish tank

Best Fish For A 3 Gallon Fish Tank

As a 3 gallon fish tank is small, you may think you are limited on the fish you can keep. But do your research and you can find some beautiful fish. Often you’ll only have room for a single species, but you can also keep invertebrates or shrimp. 

Here are some of our top suggestions:

  • Chili Rasboras: These beautiful, tiny fish only grow to around 0.8 of an inch. They are a very peaceful shoaling species so keep them in a group of 6 in a 3 gallon fish tank.
  • Neon Tetra: A well-known aquarium fish, neon tetra grow to 1 – 1.5 inches. They are peaceful, schooling fish and you should keep 3 to 4 in a 3 gallon tank. 
  • Otocinclus: These bottom-dwelling catfish are great algae eaters and grow from 1 to 1.5 inches. You should keep 3 to 4 so they’ll be all you have room for in a 3 gallon tank.
  • Zebra Danio: Zebrafish are hardy, social fish that should be kept in a group of 3 to 4 in a 3 gallon tank. They usually grow to 1.5 inches but can grow to 2.5 inches which may mean they’ll need to move to a larger tank in the future.

Many people often keep a single betta fish in a 3 gallon tank. Whilst bettas can survive in a tank this size, you would need to keep a very careful eye on water parameters and instead we always recommend 5 gallons as the minimum size.

Similarly, some keep a trio of guppies in a 3 gallon aquarium. Again, a 5 gallon fish tank is much better for a group this size. And also bear in mind guppies are prolific breeders so only keep males in a small tank!

Setting your aquarium up with invertebrates or shrimp is a great way of stocking a 3 gallon fish tank. They tend to spend more time at the bottom and don’t require the same amount of swimming space as fish. Here are some great options:

  • Cherry Shrimp: Growing to just 0.5 to 0.8 inches, Cherry Shrimp are very peaceful and easy to care for. You can stock around 5 to 10 in a 3 gallon tank.
  • Ghost Shrimp: These bottom feeders are perfect for keeping your tank clean as they feed on leftover food in the substrate. They usually grow around 1.5 to 2 inches and again you can keep 5 to 10 in a 3 gallon tank.

3 Gallon Fish Tank Set Up Ideas

You can use your 3 gallon fish tank for a number of purposes as well as a straightforward nano aquarium. Check out some of these ideas:

  • Nano Tank: As long as you have the right filter and heater, keep appropriate fish, and don’t overstock, a 3 gallon fish tank is a great nano aquarium for a small space.
  • Shrimp Tank: 3 gallon aquariums can be great for shrimp as a beginner. Depending on species, you can keep around 5 to 10 in a tank this size.
  • Quarantine Tank: It’s always best to quarantine new fish to check for disease before adding to your main tank. A 3 gallon fish tank can make a great quarantine tank.
  • Breeding Tank: While 3 gallons is too small for a main breeding tank, you can use it to isolate breeding pairs or vulnerable fry while they mature instead of a breeding box.
  • Paludarium: This is a semi-aquatic tank used to keep aquatic and terrestrial life together. A 3 gallon tank is really only enough room to focus on plants though.

Our Verdict

We found the Tetra LED Cube Shaped 3 Gallon Aquarium to be the best 3 gallon fish tank overall, based on its well spaced cube shape and solid acrylic structure. But if you plan to keep GloFish the GloFish Crescent or GloFish Aquarium Starter Kit are perfect options.

Whichever you choose, always remember these are small aquariums and you should keep the right type and number of fish. Follow this guidance and you’ll have happy and healthy fish right on your desk!

FAQs

Have questions about 3 gallon fish tanks? Here are the answers to some of the most common ones.

Should I Use A 3 Gallon Tank?

As long as you keep the appropriate nano fish, such as those covered earlier, and don’t overstock then a 3 gallon fish tank is perfectly fine to keep your aquatic pets healthy.

What Is The Best 3 Gallon Fish Tank?

We found the Tetra LED Cube Shaped 3 Gallon Aquarium to be the best 3 gallon fish tank overall. But take a look at the rest of our alternatives to see what suits your needs best.

How Many Fish Can I Keep In A 3 Gallon Fish Tank?

This really depends on the species but is often around 1 to 3 fish. Some smaller schooling species may need up to 6 fish, but you’ll need to research each species.

Photo of author
AUTHOR
Matt Thomas
Matt has been keeping fish since junior high when he used to look after his parent's tank. He loves guppies, cichlids, and his crowntail betta named Bobby.

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