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Bow front aquariums offer a solid difference form the majority of flat-paneled aquaria. While they cost more, they have an aesthetically pleasing form in addition to allowing a broader range of sight inside your aquarium.
The question for most of us is what is the best bow front aquarium? Well, let’s dive in and I’ll show you ten great options and then help you figure out what you need to end up with the best bow front aquarium possible.
Here are the bow front aquariums that I will be reviewing:
- SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set
- SeaClear System II Acrylic Aquarium
- Fluval Flex 15-Gallon Aquarium Kit
- Hygger Horizon 8 Gallon LED Glass Aquarium Kit
- Aqueon LED MiniBow Kit
- Tetra Aquarium Kit, 5 Gallons
- Aquatop Pisces 5-Gallon Bow Front Aquarium
- AquaTop 14.3G Eurostyle bow front Glass Aquarium
- Penn-Plax Water World Luxury Large Bow Front Acrylic Aquarium
- AquaVim Glass Bow Front Tank Aquarium
1. SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set – Best Overall
The SeaClear System II is available as a 46-gallon aquarium with a nice curve to the front. It comes with lights and a reflector, helping to remove some of the higher-priced bits of equipment right from the outset. This is an acrylic aquarium, so it’s also more impact resistant than glass.
Overall, it’s a decent setup to begin with. Add filters and a heater and you’ll be good to go, at least if a community tank is your plan. It has more than enough space for most people’s plans, and it’s also an attractive, ultra-clear tank.
While a solid set, the price is a bit high and the light fixture isn’t great. It’s an old fluorescent fixture that uses T8 bulbs, which are… not exactly top-of-the-line anymore. Switching to an LED fixture is a must for those keeping plants.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for an easy route to a community tank then you’ll find this aquarium is awesome. With a minor upgrade to the lighting, you can also use it to successfully make an amazing planted tank with a smooth aesthetic.
- Great size
- Comes with light
- Acrylic is good at handling impact
- Has a background
- A bit high in price
- Included light fixture isn’t suitable for mid-to-high lighting plants
2. SeaClear System II Acrylic Aquarium – Runner Up Kit
An upgrade of the system above, the SeaClear System II is a nice little 46-gallon bow front tank with an integrated filter. The back portion of the tank is walled off with plastic, creating an ideal spot for filter media and a powerhead to push water through it. It even has a spot for a protein skimmer if you’re going the saltwater route.
Also included is the same lighting system as you’ll get with the SeaClear System, a T8 fluorescent fixture. Add in a good hood, and the tank is a solid basis for a new system of any type, but anything more specialized than a guppy tank may require a bit more investment.
There aren’t any serious failings for what the system is, but it is rather expensive. The powerhead for the filter could be a bit more robust and selling fluorescent light fixtures with the advent of LED grow lights still feels a bit weak. These are easier to upgrade than you’d think, however, and the filter compartment in the back still keeps you from requiring a HOB or canister filter even if you need a new pump.
The SeaClear System II is easy to set up, looks great, and has some nice extra features. If you can make the initial investment, it’s not a bad way to get started with a good bow front tank.
- Internal filter section with a powerhead
- Included light fixture for basic lighting
- Acrylic remains much stronger and clearer than glass
- Included hood
- Rather expensive
- Included equipment is very basic, may need an upgrade soon after purchase
3. Fluval Flex 15-Gallon Aquarium Kit – Best Small Bow Front Kit
Fluval makes great all-in-ones, and the vertically bowed Fluval Flex is one of them. This kit is ready to go: just add substrate, a heater, and your flora and fauna. The internal filter is a 3-stage, and the internals are better than most kits.
It also includes a great light for getting plants to grow and a tight-fitting hood. The grid design at the top looks a bit goofy, but it actually does well at hiding the calcium stains that inevitably occur as a tank’s water evaporates. It’s also remarkably easy to hide cords and equipment due to the design.
It’s a bit on the expensive side, like all Fluval kits, but it’s a unique tank design that can’t be easily replicated. You should also keep in mind the 15-gallons are… a bit exaggerated. The tank actually has closer to 10 gallons of usable area if you take out the filtration area, and around 13 gallons if you include it. Treat it as such when stocking and you’ll be fine.
With all that said, it’s hard to beat this kit for a bow front take. The cost is a bit steep, but you’ll have minimal further equipment costs and the tank is great if you keep in mind the actual usable area within.
- Unique vertical bow front gives a great view
- Grid pattern hides water evaporation and the “ring” at the top of the tank
- Comes with lighting and filtration
- Makes it easy to hide cords
- Less than 15-gallons of usable space
- A bit expensive
4. Hygger Horizon 8 Gallon LED Glass Aquarium Kit – Runner Up Kit
Another vertical bow, this time a half-bow, is available with the Hygger Horizon kit. This kit includes most of the equipment you need to get started, in a glass aquarium with an impressive front. The bow’s angle allows you to get a good look at the bottom of the tank, making it ideal for those who like to keep invertebrates.
It also comes with an attractive “stone” backing made of foam that can provide cover for smaller fish. The filter is only 2-stage, unfortunately, but it’s whisper-quiet and the lights provided are suitable for most plants. The filter is actually quite powerful for the tank’s size, so you may want to be careful about the livestock you put in.
The filter does mean you may need to skip some of the less active nano-fish. It also lacks a hood, although the rectangular top makes it easier to find one than with horizontally oriented bow fronts.
Overall, this is an excellent bow front nano-kit for home use. It comes with everything you need (except a heater) and it provides a good amount of space to host plants and smaller fish and invertebrates comfortably.
- Great overall look with a unique front
- The back has faux-rocks to provide a natural look
- Glass tank with high clarity
- Almost everything included in the box
- No hood included with the kit
- The filter may be too powerful for extra small fish and fry
5. Aqueon LED MiniBow Kit – Best Budget Kit
If you’re looking for a cheap way to get a small bow front aquarium in your home, this may be it. The equipment is pretty mediocre overall, but as a Betta tank or one housing a few small schooling fish it’ll work great with just a heater added.
This is an acrylic tank, so it’s a good choice for desktops where pets and kids may encounter it. The kit is actually quite cheap for what’s there as well, and there’s room for future improvements if you’d like. The kit comes with a hood, so you won’t have to spend time figuring out a way to seal the top either.
The problems with the tank are tied to the advantages. The equipment is middling at best, and the light needs more power for serious plants. The large pieces of plastic also have a cheap feel, but I’ve seen no reports of leaks so it’s largely an aesthetic manner.
If you’re looking for a cheap, small bow front aquarium for your desktop then Aqueon has you covered. Just be aware of the limitations of the equipment before you buy it so you’re not in for a surprise
- Great price for a small kit
- 5-gallon size is perfect for desktop tanks
- Acrylic construction is impact resistant
- Just needs a heater to be ready to go
- The cheap plastic construction of the hood
- Mediocre filter and lighting
6. Tetra Aquarium Kit, 5 Gallons – Runner Up Budget Kit
On the very bottom end of things, you can sometimes find a del. This kit from Tetra is the most budget-friendly option on this list and it’s great for a kid’s tank or someone very new to the hobby. Experienced aquarists may want to give it a pass.
The tank comes with a built-in filter and has a unique shape that allows it to fit in corners. It’s also made of acrylic, meaning impact resistance and high clarity until it scratches. Despite the low price it also manages a great attempt at the seamless look, which you normally pay a premium for.
Apart from the tank itself, there’s not a whole lot to write home about. The equipment works, but it limits what you can do with the tank unless you invest in an upgrade. The build quality means it won’t leak, but apart from the tank, the parts are a bit weak and cheesy.
If you’re aware of that, however, this is a nice tank for beginners or kids. It resists impact, limits what you need to buy at the outset, and will make a perfect home as long as you keep it light on the bio-load.
- Very budget-friendly
- Comes with a filter and lights
- Very nice overall tank design
- Impact-resistant due to acrylic construction
- Equipment is very mediocre, will need upgrades for serious use
- Needs upgrades for anything other than a single Betta or small community tank
7. Aquatop Pisces 5-Gallon Bow Front Aquarium – Best Bow Front Nano Kit
This is one of my favorite small kits, especially with the deep curve on the front. It allows you to view the tank from anywhere in the room and see deep inside, the curve extends all the way to the back panel.
There’s also an included filter, lights, and you can even replace the individual filter cartridges with proprietary replacements. That’s a big advantage, most people will end up converting other kits as time goes on due to a lack of replacement media. It’s also made of glass, which is great fo the price.
The biggest downside is also the biggest advantage: the deep curve leaves less room for fish than you’d expect in a tank this size. The filter is also in an awkward location which makes it hard to cover without resorting to full-blown fabrication of a rear portion of the tank.
For those who want a more complex desktop tank, however, the bones are all here with this little 5-gallon tank. The limitations can be thought of as a challenge for more advanced aquarists, but the equipment is great for the price.
- Super deep bow for large viewing range
- Comes with good equipment
- Filtration media can be exchanged for proprietary media
- Glass construction for longevity without scratching
- The footprint is a bit odd, leading to less room
- Hard to hide the filter
8. AquaTop 14.3G Eurostyle bow front Glass Aquarium – Best Bare Bow Front Tank
If you’re looking for a bigger, trusted brand of bow front then you’re in the right place. This 14.3-gallon tank is a good size for a community tank and the overall construction is top-notch. This is a bare tank, so you’ll need to get all of your own equipment.
The one extra it does have is nice: it comes with a leveling mat that keeps everything nice and straight once it’s on the stand. It’s also easy to account for the footprint since the bow is relatively shallow, allowing you to use normal stands.
There aren’t many downsides here. The tank is a bit expensive, which hurts when you also have to buy all the new equipment. It’s also got a relatively shallow bow, which may not be to everyone’s tastes.
Still, if you’re looking for a solid bare tank to begin a new project it’s hard to go wrong, as long as it’s the right size for your needs. It’s easy to use, but you’ll still need to find the filters, heater, and lights to make the tank truly your own.
- Excellent overall construction
- Comes with a leveling mat
- Easy to find a stand for
- Glass construction for longevity
- A bit expensive for a bare tank of this volume
- Shallow bow may not be to everyone’s tastes
9. Penn-Plax Water World Luxury Large Bow Front Acrylic Aquarium – Best Luxury Kit
If the sticker shock doesn’t get you, this is a great kit for the home. This is a larger tank, running at 58 gallons and has a ton of extras built in. The whole tank comes with a 100% inclusive stand, and the top is designed for extra storage.
All of the integrated equipment is pretty good. That includes the light which is often a weak point even in much, much cheaper kits. The stand is high-quality, designed to hold the weight of the tank and integrate it into your home.
The downside? The cost. While it’s easier than dealing with a custom maker, the price is similar to getting a completely custom job done in normal materials. The tank is also a bit shallow in my opinion, making it most suitable for large schools of small fish instead of fauna like Discus or Cichlids.
That said, if you have the money to burn and just want to get an aquarium set up at home… well, this 58-gallon beast might be just what you’re looking for.
- Great stand with built-in storage
- Comes with all needed equipment
- Deep bow designed for viewing
- All-in-one purchase
- Very expensive
- Shallow from front to back
10. AquaVim Glass Bow Front Tank Aquarium – Runner Up Luxury Option
Similar to the other luxury option on this list, this AquaVim kit is pricey but has a lot to recommend. That includes the integrated stand, which looks very similar to the above tank, but this tank is larger at 70 gallons. It does lack lights and filters, but it’s easy to see why.
Instead of the normal equipment kits, this tank comes pre-drilled for a sump and even has PVC pipe ready to go for creating your tank. The area underneath the tank has magnetic doors and is the perfect place to keep your sump out of sight. One other bonus: AquaVim uses low-iron glass for better clarity and to remove the green edges that are shown when regular glass is looked at lengthwise.
On the other hand… it’s really expensive and I feel they could have included at least a token light at this price point. This is a pricey way to get things done. Still, you’re paying less than you would for a custom tank and you get a low-iron glass.
While it’s a hefty investment and requires more money to get up to speed, this is a great kit for those who want to add a large tank to their home. Experienced aquarists in particular are going to love having a pre-drilled tank and a good place for a sump built right into the stand.
- Low-iron glass for higher clarity
- One of the biggest non-custom bow fronts available
- Pre-drilled for sump intake
- Excellent stand built to high standards
- Very expensive
- No included filter or lights
Why Use a Bow Front Aquarium?
bow front aquariums have a large curved panel on at least one section of the tank. They’re usually made as a standard tank with the bow front, or as a corner tank with two straight panels and a big curve, making a tidy corner aquarium.
While there aren’t any quantifiable advantages to using a bow front, there are some good arguments for using them:
- Footprint- You can fit a lot of aquariums into a corner with a corner bow front. They can also add considerable volume while only increasing the footprint of a tank a bit. That said, a taller tank is a better idea for those who are really trying to save space as long as the fish don’t mind it.
- Different View Angles- The different viewing angles you can use with a bow front are nice, if not game-changing. The long curve tends to encourage people to check out the details of the tank, and it allows a bit better vision in the back corners.
- Broader View- With deep bows, it can be much easier to see clearly into a tank from multiple angles in the room. It’s not just different: you also get the ability to peer into the tank from angles other than head-on.
- Tank Aesthetic- Most people think they look better than standard tanks, and I agree with that assessment. While a personal taste thing, it’s the main reason that most people go with a bow front tank, the rest are just added bonuses.
The only real disadvantage is that bow fronts generally cost more than a similarly sized tank made with just straight panels. The curves are a bit more tricky than cutting sheet glass, and there’s a bit more processing when you’re forming acrylic with a curve instead of a straight panel.
As far as opinion goes… I prefer bow fronts whenever possible. Doubly if the tank is going to have a lot of small animals since the extra viewing angles make it easier to observe hiding shrimp or schooling tetra.
What to Look for in Your New Bow Front Aquarium
You’ll want to keep an eye out for a few things when you’re looking at these aquariums. The following list should help get you off to a good start!
Consider Your Plans
Your plans are the most important thing when it comes to the tank. Bow fronts are suitable for any type of tank, but careful consideration should be given to the footprint of the stand you’re planning to use.
I recommend finding a good stand and then building everything else around it. Unless you’re going with one of the smallest options, a dedicated stand is required to hold the weight.
Apart from that, you’ll also need some idea of the fauna you’re planning on putting in the tank. Always add a bit to whatever you’re planning on putting in the tank. A little bit of extra leeway will let you add new fish or invertebrates that you didn’t have in your initial calculations. It’s doubly important if you tend to impulse buy.
You’ll also need to get an appropriate amount of substrate for the tank. The usual one pound per gallon rule holds true here, but you may need a touch more in bow front aquaria larger than 29 gallons.
One thing that I don’t see people spend enough time on is making sure the tank has a good hood available. There are internal concerns, for escape artist animals, and external ones like pets to take into account.
If you have cats, I can guarantee they’re getting on top of the tank when you’re not around and a good hood will keep them from taking an unexpected, and messy, bath.
With that in mind, you can go on to picking the tank itself.
Kit or No Kit?
There are three basic ways that tanks are available:
- Integrated Kits- Tanks that have equipment built in. Most will require a heater, but otherwise, the equipment comes in the kit. The Fluval Flex is a good example of these kits, and quality varies depending on the manufacturer.
- Equipment Kits- It’s sometimes easier to just buy all of the equipment with the tank. It can save money, but if you’ve got strong opinions on filters, heaters, and other bits of aquarium equipment they may not be suitable.
- Bare Tank- The cheapest option, but you need to get all of your equipment separately which usually ends up costing more than a tank with included filters and such.
If you’re new to the hobby, I recommend using an integrated kit or at least purchasing a tank that comes with what you need. That way you’re not having to worry about finding equipment after the tank has arrived.
My experience has been that the equipment included with equipment kits is usually decent, but it’s rarely my favorite brand. For those of us with multiple tanks, it’s less of an issue, since there’s usually old equipment floating around in a box somewhere.
Size the tank appropriately for your stand, but you need to figure out how many fish, what kind, and other details before you buy the tank. That will influence your sizing.
The usual rule is one inch of fish per gallon. That’s a decent way to look at it, as long as you use common sense. Putting a 5” fish in a 5-gallon tank, for instance, isn’t a good idea.
Bow front tanks come in both glass and acrylic.
Acrylic tanks are very clear, but they tend to become scratched up over time. You can buff out scratches, but it’s been my experience that after a few years they usually end up looking foggy.
Acrylic is a good choice to save a bit on costs, and also if you have small children or rowdy animals in the house. Acrylic can take impact much better than glass, and it’s easier to fix any surface damage that occurs.
Acrylic is also lighter, which can be a factor for maneuvering large tanks into place. That said, the water contained within is much heavier than the acrylic and the weight difference for a filled aquarium is minor.
Glass, of course, is the most common material for tanks. It’s clear, hard enough to resist scratching, and does the trick. A glass tank, if not broken, will never end up becoming cloudy from scratches.
Low-iron glass bow fronts are available, but they’re usually custom jobs. Low-iron glass is more expensive, but it provides a clearer view of the inside of the tank. It also does away with the “green” effect that glass takes on when viewed lengthwise, a minor but of aesthetics that makes a big difference.
This is hard to judge from pictures, but it’s one reason going with a trusted brand is a good idea. A single bad seal can lead to a tank leaking over time, and the leak will get worse as time goes on.
For large tanks, that can be quite costly. Especially if you have some sort of catastrophic failure.
The majority of knock-off tanks will be fine. But if you get the one that’s not you can be in for a big surprise. I recommend avoiding anything with a reputation for leaks.
There are a few more things you may be looking for.
The biggest one is finding a tank that’s been pre-drilled. While not a high priority in smaller systems, once you get over 55 gallons or so a sump is a good idea. Sumps add water to the system, allowing you to have a higher water volume than the tank itself holds.
Drilling glass is no one’s favorite task, and doing it on a tank is even more of a pain. You need a drill that can function around water without shocking you, diamond bits, running water, and patience.
Or you can skip it and find a tank that’s been pre-drilled.
The other big “extra” is a hood. Making one for a bow front is kind of a pain, since you need to cut the arc exactly out of the material, so look for one that fits right out of the box for the best end results.
The Bow to Show
Bow front aquariums are great, especially for display tanks in rooms where they’ll be seen from multiple angles. They’re also a limited market unless you get into customs, so finding the best bow front aquarium means digging a little bit.
But it’s hard to pass up the chance to show more of your tank with a bow front. So now it’s just a matter of adding the right one to your home!