By Rum Springa
on 2013-11-04 Ugly duckling out of box but IF you are willing to spend more on upgrades, you'll have a swan
Now obviously this is quite a long review, but I try to address most of the questions that are being asked here in the main description and want you to make an informed decision of what you are getting, especially since you will be most likely taking care of a live pet in this and want something both attractive and a healthy place for your pet in the long term. So here goes:
I switched my Betta, Sushi, from a tetra 1.5gallon tank Tetra 29137 WaterWonders Aquarium Cube, 1.5 Gallons, Black
because with the added heater in that small volume of water, it was raising temps too high. You can click on my name to see review of that unit and see pictures of how I generally setup this 3 gallon unit.
For this 3 gallon unit as is, out of the box, I cannot recommend this tank (see CONS) >>BUT<< if you are willing to spend some more on upgrading what comes with this unit, you can have quite a good and attractive tank using this tank as a starting point. The PROS and CONS I list here (as well as the 2 out of 5 stars rating I gave it) will deal with just the tank as supplied right out of the box. Let's start with the good stuff.
1) Elegant design: I know this is subjective, but having no dark edge bezels is nicer in my opinion. The raised base is solid when water and gravel are added. It's nice to be able to see "all" of the tank with minimal breakup of the entire look from most angles.
2) Supplied clip on LED: Mine has 9 individual LEDs that all came working (no dead LEDs) and nicely and evenly disperses light at an apparent comfortable level that does not bother my Betta. Unlike the 1.5gallon version, this LED unit is completely separate with its own power cord and not fused to the filter. NOTE: I do not believe these LEDS are suitable for most live plants (no way to verify as I could not find any documentation in box/online at what Kelvin these LEDs are at). But based on price of other trusted aquarium LED plant lights, I doubt you are getting plant/photosynthetic capable LEDs with this unit.
3) CUTOUTS: Has in the back right (if tank is facing you)approximately 3inch wide x 2inch deep cutout that will fit an after market filter comfortably (which this tank is going to require as the supplied filter is not recommended, see CONS). In front, similar to the 1.5gallon version, has a square cutout making it extremely easy to feed fish. More importantly, all the cutouts are rounded which is a major plus as I've seen other acrylics at this price point come with roughly cut edges that can nick you.
4) SMALL FOOTPRINT: just a tad larger foot print than it's 1.5 gallon counterpart and one of the reasons I bought this particular unit. If you are looking for a nice but small accent aquarium that can be put on almost any stable surface that can handle at least 30lbs (water is about 8lb/gallon x3 + rocks + plants, etc), then this might be the aquarium for you. There are other similar acrylic aquariums sold here on BTA-MALL, but most are not square / are rectangular / looks like they could take up more space. This is a nice compact design.
1) FIT and FINISH: Not nearly as good as the 1.5gallon, which surprised me. The 1.5gallon version has a slightly curved top that fit flush with the edges. This one comes with a "flat" top. I put that in quotes because BOTH 3 gallon tanks I received actually had bowed /curved edges in the front that up close is noticeable and detracts from the neat elegant lines this tank is supposed to give off. So at eye level, you can see it plain as day open gaps in the front edges. (If I have time, I will upload pics of the bowed edges) Looking online, all pictures were flat and flush so I think this is a manufacturing defect and I ask anyone else who has this tank to chime in and let me know if they also received tanks with bent tops. Even after months, these edges remain up, they didn't settle down. As the material is acrylic I didn't want to chance putting on a heavy object to "flatten" the tops out. I cringe every time I clean the tank and see these edges. Very annoying.
2) INCLUDED FILTER and PUMP IS JUNK: many people will see free filter and included pump and think that's great. Well on BOTH the units I received, the pumps were OBNOXIOUSLY LOUD and one of them vibrated so badly near the tank it was visibly distressing my Betta. One pump was actually louder than my refrigerator when the the icemaker motor was making ice. That's just not acceptable. Do yourself a favor and once you open the box, just throw out that filter into the garbage. I'm dead serious. Also, since the pump is separate from the filter and connected via tubing, if the power goes out, you risk having water drain out of the tank onto the floor so you would be wise to buy a check valve if you insist on keeping the supplied crappy filter/pump. I suspect the only reason this cheap filter was thrown in was so that you would be locked into buying their branded replacement filters. Kind of like when razor blade company gives you a free razor so you you are locked into buying their blades. You would do much better for your fish and your sanity to buy an after market filter, I suggest and reviewed the Azoo Mignon 60 filter here: AZOO Mignon Filter 60
Also, the Azoo filter fits perfectly at the back cutout and even with the extension, will easily clear the ground floor on this 3 gallon tank.
3) Acrylic material: This is both a pro and a con. A pro because acrylic looks nice. A con in the long term because it scratches quite easily so you have to be really, really careful while cleaning this tank, even if you are using an acrylic approved sponge.
OPTIONAL RECOMMENDED UPGRADES:
Well, if you've made it this far you might still be interested in buying this tank. Good. The following are suggestions on how you can pimp out this tank and make it really stand out and shine and make your fish more comfortable and remain healthy.
1) LIVE PLANTS: Now if you are going to just stick with the supplied LED light fixture then I can only recommend "set it and forget" plants that don't require (but it helps if you do) plant food and proper Kelvin rated light fixture. The following suggested plants should do well in low to medium light and this particular tank (they are thriving in mine with just the included LED lamp).
A) marimo moss ball
B) java MOSS, see me review here: Java Moss - Vesicularia Dubyana - Live Aquarium Plant (5x5sm)
C) java FERN (Microsorum Pteropus): there is a guy who sells it here on BTA-MALL, but the price seems a bit high for what you are getting, so I suggest first checking out your local fish store and compare prices. I bought mine at local store.
NOTE: if you insist on using artificial plants then I suggest using silk plants (with no metal stems) or if you are at the pet store, make sure they pass the "panty hose test". As mentioned in my 1.5gallon review: Most people will be tempted to put in decorations, plants, etc into this tank and specific to Bettas, almost all of them will tear Betta fins or worse. Bring some panty hose with you to the pet store where you are thinking of buying your fixtures and if it easily catches and/or shreds the hose, it's probably not for this tank + Betta.
2) HEATER: If you are intending this tank for a Betta, then a heater is a must have. This is this one I am using in this tank: "Hydor 7.5w Slim Heater for Bettas" and reviewed here: Hydor 7.5w Slim Heater for Bettas and Bowls up to 5 gal
3) PROPER FILTER with proper inline filter products:
As mentioned before, the Azoo Mignon 60 filter but that too needs a little work.
I added the following products:
A) Aqua Clear Biomax 20: Aquaclear 20-Gallon Biomax
which provides a massive surface area for "good" beneficial bacteria to culture and grow on. If you get the suggested filter, stick with Biomax 20 because I suspect anything larger won't fit in the filter chamber.
B) Aqua clear sponge insert: Aquaclear 20-Gallon Foam Inserts, 3-Pack
This higher quality sponge provides decent mechanical filtration i.e. traps all the big crap and junk from returning back into the tank and will provide some substrate for beneficial bacteria (not nearly as good as the Biomax though)
If I have time, I will upload more recent photos of the 3 gallon setup with a mix of live and silk plants. The tank looks quite good once "pimped" out and the water chemistry with usual water changes has been rock solid stable. Sushi is apparently very happy in the larger volume of water and is extremely bright and fins just look outstanding. I've received many compliments on this setup from family and friends who have come over. This is small enough to make a very attractive accent piece almost anywhere (don't recommend in direct sunlit areas).
I still have the 1.5 gallon tank setup with no fish in it. I use it as an emergency hospital tank (hope I never need it for that purpose) but mostly just a place where Sushi is put when I'm doing the monthly thorough tear down clean of his main 3 gallon tank (remember this tank even with filter will require weekly water changes).
BOTTOM LINE: If you intend just to buy this as is and not put in the upgrades, I can't recommend this tank at all. However, if you are willing to upgrade and you are looking for a small footprint aquarium and can live with the (likely) bowed top you are going to get, then this becomes a STRONG BUY recommendation.
I know this was very long, but I hope it helps you. If you are willing to put in some extra money, I think most will be quite happy with this tank.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to shoot them at me, I will try to get back to you if I notice them.