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Home > Fish > Freshwater vs Saltwater Aquariums 2024 Review: Pros & Cons

Freshwater vs Saltwater Aquariums 2024 Review: Pros & Cons

Setting up an aquarium can be an exciting thing to do. Choosing the plants and fish you want, along with designing the overall aesthetic of the tank, can be a lot of fun—albeit time-consuming and challenging. Many people struggle to choose between freshwater and saltwater aquariums, though. After all, freshwater tanks aren’t much more than goldfish, right?

On the surface, saltwater tanks feel much more exciting than freshwater tanks due to their complexity and the unique and exciting creatures available to them. However, many people underestimate the amount of time and money that aquariums can take, so it is important to carefully choose which aquarium type is right for you to ensure you are happy with your decision and don’t end up going way over your budget.


Overview of Freshwater Aquariums:

yellow fish in aquarium
Image Credit: Krys Amon, Unsplash

Types of Freshwater Aquariums

There are a ton of types of freshwater aquariums you can set up for your home, from cold water to tropical tank setups. You can keep community tanks or single-species tanks, depending on the types of fish or other animals you’d like to keep. You can also keep freshwater tanks solely for the purpose of aquascaping or designing the tank with plants and other types of natural décor instead of fish-keeping. As a bonus, freshwater aquariums can be extremely affordable for just about any budget.

What Are Freshwater Aquariums Good For?

Freshwater aquariums can be fantastic for several purposes. Some people prefer to keep freshwater shrimps or other invertebrates, while some people enjoy keeping fish. Freshwater tanks provide a multitude of species you can keep. Maybe you’d prefer to keep large community tanks full of shoaling fish, or maybe you’d like to keep a singular animal, like an Axolotl. No matter your preference, you have tons of options with freshwater aquariums.

  • A large number of setup possibilities
  • Multiple species available
  • Plenty of affordable options
  • Lots of aquascaping options
  • May seem less interesting at first


Overview of Saltwater Aquariums:

starfish in an aquarium tank
Image Credit By: alseeger, Pixabay

Types of Saltwater Aquariums

There are two primary types of saltwater aquariums. Some people enjoy keeping basic saltwater aquariums, which is what you might think of when you imagine a saltwater tank. Other people prefer to keep reef tanks. Reef tanks are a specific tank type that allows you to keep some of the more delicate invertebrates that may not be suitable for general purpose tanks, like corals.

The vast majority of saltwater tanks are tropical tanks, but you can also set up a temperate or cold-water saltwater tank with proper guidance and a willingness to invest extra time and money into getting the perfect setup.

What are Saltwater Aquariums Good For?

Saltwater aquariums may provide fewer tank types than freshwater aquariums do, but that doesn’t make them boring. There are a huge number of beautiful and unique creatures and plants you can keep in a saltwater aquarium. These tanks can be extremely eye-catching due to the colors and shapes brought about by the unique animals that live in saltwater environments.

  • Can be used for general purpose or keeping delicate plants and animals
  • Unique options available
  • Eye-catching plants and animals
  • May cost more money to set up and maintain


Are Saltwater Aquariums More Expensive?

Unfortunately, saltwater aquariums tend to cost significantly more than freshwater aquariums, although there are exceptions. You may set up a $1,000 freshwater aquarium if you choose a specialty or custom tank or if you invest in rare and expensive species. On the other hand, you may be able to set up a saltwater aquarium on a budget, but it’s much more difficult to do.

Saltwater tanks cost more than freshwater tanks for a few reasons. The primary reason is simply the “extras” required by a saltwater tank. Salt, obviously, is a requirement. Saltwater tanks also require specific chemicals that don’t crossover with the water treatment chemicals needed for freshwater tanks.

Another reason that saltwater tanks often end up being more expensive is because saltwater fish and invertebrates often cost more than freshwater species. Some rarer species can sell for upwards of hundreds or thousands of dollars per animal. Many pet stores don’t even carry saltwater species, so you may have to special order them or purchase them from small businesses, which can lead to higher costs than buying at big box pet stores would.

Freshwater Aquariums Saltwater Aquariums
Can be budget-friendly Likely to cost more
Lots of options available Fewer options
May seem less interesting on paper May be more unique
Easy to find supplies for More difficult to find supplies

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Quick Look: Our Top Choices

Image Product Details
Best Freshwater Aquarium Cobalt Aquatics Microvue Aquarium Kit Cobalt Aquatics Microvue Aquarium Kit
  • Large number of setup possibilities
  • Multiple species available
  • Plenty of affordable options
  • Best Saltwater Aquarium Lifegard Crystal Aquarium Lifegard Crystal Aquarium
  • Can be used for general purpose or keeping delicate plants and animals
  • Unique options available
  • Eye-catching plants and animals
  • Our Favorite Freshwater Aquarium:

    Cobalt Aquatics Microvue Aquarium Kit

    Cobalt Aquatics Microvue 30 Aquarium Kit

    The Cobalt Aquatics Microvue Aquarium Kit is a great way to get into keeping a freshwater aquarium. This aquarium features high clarity glass and includes an internal filter and mini-LED light. It also has a low-profile hood and a leveling mat to protect the tank and the surface it sits on.

    Our Favorite Saltwater Aquarium:

    Lifegard Crystal Aquarium with Side Filter

    Lifegard Crystal Aquarium with Side Filter

    The Lifegard Crystal Aquarium with Side Filter is our favorite saltwater aquarium. This tank is made with ultra-high clarity glass, precision-cut edges, and invisible glue joints to allow for maximum visibility. It also has a built-in filtration sump system with an included submersible pump and everything you need to get your filtration system up and running.



    Choosing between a freshwater and saltwater aquarium is a completely personal decision based on the types of animals and plants you’d like to keep. However, you might be surprised to see what kinds of options freshwater aquariums offer to you. Many people underestimate the beauty and uniqueness that freshwater aquariums can offer.

    Saltwater aquariums also offer a huge amount of unique beauty, but generally at a higher price than a freshwater aquarium. Saltwater aquariums, in general, cost more than freshwater aquariums, and that includes stocking the aquarium with livestock.

    There are no true pros and cons between the two types of tanks, though, because which type you go with should be dependent on what you like, your knowledge level, and your willingness to thoroughly research the needs of your tank.

    Featured Image Credit: Top: Freshwater Aquarium (M-Production, Shutterstock) Bottom: Saltwater Aquarium (Vojce, Shutterstock)

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