fishes in a tank

What Are Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks & How Do I Pick One?

Self-cleaning fish tanks offer a low maintenance aquarium option for fishkeepers who may enjoy taking care of their beautiful fish but are turned off by the upkeep that comes with it.  Whether you’re grossed out by dirty fish water, don’t have the time to properly clean your fish tank, or are a beginner fishkeeper who’s worried about incorrectly cleaning your tank, self-cleaning fish tanks might be for you. But self-cleaning tanks require some thought and knowledge before deciding whether or not they’re right for you and your fish—and we’re here to help you with that!

What Are Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks?

A self-cleaning fish tank is designed to clean itself automatically. It uses various techniques to lessen the need for manual cleaning and maintenance. This type of fish tank is ideal for busy fish lovers who want to spend less time maintaining their tank and more time enjoying and caring for their fish. 

How Does a Self-Cleaning Fish Tank Work?

Self-cleaning fish tanks use a closed ecosystem and specialized filtration systems that naturally clean the tank water. They typically include a substrate that produces beneficial bacteria that converts ammonia into nitrites and nitrates, as well as a pump that circulates and oxygenates the water. There are 3 types of self-cleaning fish tanks that function in different ways.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Self-Cleaning Fish Tank?

Self-cleaning fish tanks have numerous benefits, including:

  • Less maintenance for you
  • Healthier environment for your fish
  • Time saved from weekly or bi-weekly tank cleaning.
  • Aesthetically pleasing without the need of chunky filters

🐠 Have you just purchased your own self-cleaning tank? Here are a few quirky fish tank decoration ideas to add some personality to it. 

What Are the Drawbacks of Using a Self-Cleaning Fish Tank?

While self-cleaning fish tanks have numerous benefits, they also have some potential drawbacks to consider. 

  • More expensive than regular tanks 
  • Unsuitable for fish that produce lots of waste 
  • Limited capacity as they only come in smaller sizes
  • Potential malfunctions

Types of Self-Cleaning Fish Tank

There are various types of self-cleaning fish tanks, each with unique advantages and features.


Gravity-based self-cleaning tanks use the power of gravity to clear the tank of waste and debris. The bottom of the tank is sloped in such a way that waste can slide down to a collection area. The waste is then removed from the tank and placed into a different container using a siphon tube. This kind of fish tank is relatively easy to construct and doesn’t need electricity or any specialized tools.


Fish, plants, and bacteria work in harmony to keep the tank clean. The waste that the fish produce is converted into nitrates by bacteria, which the plants then take up as nutrients. The plants, in turn, produce oxygen that the fish need to survive. 


Mechanical self-cleaning tanks use special filtration systems to remove fish waste and debris from the tank automatically, although they use a variety of techniques, including mechanical, biological, or chemical filtration. Larger debris, such as uneaten fish food or waste, are removed by mechanical filtration, whereas smaller particles of fish waste and harmful chemicals are broken down by beneficial bacteria in biological filtration. Chemical filtration uses activated carbon or other substances to remove impurities and toxins from the water. 

Our Top 5 Small Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks

  1. Betta Fish Tank, 360 Aquarium with LED Light

    360 Aquarium with LED Light, 1 Gallon Fish Bowl is a prime example of a gravity-based self-cleaning tank. The shape of the bottom of the bowl pushes debris to the middle, and when new water is added, dirty water is pushed up through the tube. 

    • Most affordable
    • LED color lighting
    • Only for tiny fish (1 inch) because of its small size of 1 gallon
    Buy Now
    05/23/2024 07:29 pm GMT
  2. VIVOSUN 3-Gallon Aquaponic Fish Tank

    VIVOSUN 3-Gallon Aquaponic Fish Tank uses biological self-cleaning functionality to promote fish health and plant growth. 

    • Thermostat, flow pump, and ceramsite included
    • Natural oxygen supply circles every 2 minutes
    • Small
    Buy Now
    05/23/2024 07:39 pm GMT
  3. PONDON 5 Gallon Fish Tank
    $49.99 $35.99

    The PONDON 5 Gallon Fish Tank offers mechanical self-cleaning filtration using a small, automatic air pump. 

    • Can add air stone
    • Rounded corners
    • Doesn’t include a heater
    Buy Now
    05/23/2024 07:14 pm GMT
  4. Hydroponic Garden Aquaponic Fish Tank Plants

    Hydroponic Garden Aquaponic Fish Tank is a garden bed to build a self-cleaning 3-gallon tank. 

    • Fits a large aquarium (10 gallons)
    • Submersible 160-gallon per hour pump and a mechanical timer included
    • Expensive
    • Tank not included
    Buy Now
    05/23/2024 08:34 pm GMT
  5. Fish Tank with Filter and Light Self Cleaning System

    The Glass 5 Gallon Self Cleaning Small Aquarium Starter Kits is a 5-gallon self-cleaning tank that employs mechanical filtration, using a built-in water pump.

    • 120 gallons filtered per hour
    • High-quality glass
    • Expensive
    Buy Now

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Self-Cleaning Fish Tank

Tank Size

When selecting a self-cleaning aquarium, the tank’s size and shape should be taken into account. The tank needs to be big enough to hold the amount of specific fish you intend to keep, since overcrowding can cause your fish stress.

🐠 Here are our top freshwater fish for a 5-gallon tank.

Tank Shape

The tank’s shape needs to be suitable for the species of your fish. Some fish species require tall tanks with lots of vertical space, like the angelfish, while others need a wide, shallow tank with plenty of swimming space, like the betta fish. 

Filtration System

Many filtration systems use a combination of mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration techniques. The filtration system you select must be suitable for the size and species of your fish. 

For example, fish that produce lots of waste like goldfish, oscar fish, and african cichlids, require strong filtration systems that offer mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. Others, like guppies, are hardy fish that can tolerate a wide range of water parameters and only need biological filtration.

Cost and Maintenance

Self-cleaning fish tanks can vary in price, depending on the size, features, and filtration system. Consider the tank’s upkeep requirements and the price of replacement parts or filters as well as any extra supplies, like heaters or lighting.

How Do You Maintain a Self-Cleaning Fish Tank?

Although self-cleaning fish tanks are designed to require less maintenance, they still require some care to keep the fish healthy and the tank clean. 

Cleaning Schedule

Even though the tank is self-cleaning, regular aquarium maintenance should still be carried out. Depending on the kind of self-cleaning fish tank you have, you might need to clean the filter or remove debris from the tank. If you see any indications of growths like algae, you’ll also need to thoroughly clean the tank.

Water Quality Monitoring

Regular monitoring of the water quality is essential for a healthy and happy environment for your fish. Check the water’s pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels frequently to make sure they’re within acceptable limits. Additionally, keep an eye on the water’s temperature to make sure it’s suitable for the fish in the tank.

Feeding Tips

Overfeeding may result in an abundance of waste and debris in the tank, which may disturb the ecosystem’s normal balance. Don’t feed your fish more than they can consume in a few minutes; instead, feed them little and often

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using A Self-Cleaning Fish Tank

Fishkeepers may find self-cleaning fish tanks to be a convenient and low-maintenance option, but there are some common mistakes to avoid when using them:

  • Overstocking, leading to stressed-out fish
  • Overfeeding, resulting in too much waste and debris in the tank
  • Not monitoring water quality
  • Not performing regular maintenance

Self-Cleaning Fish Tanks: Are They Right For You?

Self-cleaning aquariums are a convenient and low-maintenance option for fish keepers. While there are some drawbacks to them, the benefits such as less maintenance, a healthier environment, and convenience, make them an excellent choice for many fish keepers. Just remember to carefully consider factors such as tank size and shape, fish species, and filtration system to determine if self-cleaning fish tanks are right for you and your fish.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *