First Impressions and Breakdown: Tetra GloFish Aquarium Kit 3 Gallon

First off, happy birthday to meeee!

Actually, my birthday is tomorrow, but my parents went ahead and gave me my gift:  a 3-gallon GloFish aquarium kit.  Awesome!

Now, I’ve got some reservations about the kit that don’t really have anything to do with the product itself, and I’m going to go ahead and get those out of the way.  First, no current species of GloFish comes anywhere close to being appropriate for a 3-gallon tank.  The ones pictured on the box are genetically-engineered zebra danios, and having kept them in the past, I can vouch for the fact that they need at least 20 gallons of swimming room… bare minimum.  The GloFish skirt tetras aren’t suitable for a tank this small, either.

The other little quibble I have with the kit is the brochure of misinformation and half-truths that tank companies always seem to include with their tank kits.  They generally nod at the nitrogen cycle without really explaining it or giving good instructions for doing it safely, without harming fish.

Now that I’ve stopped quibbling, let’s have a look at the actual product.  The kit includes:

Tetra GloFish Aquarium Kit

Tetra GloFish Aquarium Kit

  • 3-gallon plastic bowfront tank
  • black trim/frame for the bottom of the tank
  • clear plastic lid
  • 16-LED light unit
  • light clamp
  • light clamp screws
  • light power adapter
  • Tetra Whisper internal filter
  • Tetra medium filter cartridge
  • filter hanging hook
  • filter power cord brace
  • extra suction cup

Check out the photo gallery below for a better look at the included parts and setup process.

As this is a “first impressions” review, please note that I’m not running the tank yet. I’ll post an update once everything is going.

Pros

  • The tank has a nice footprint — small but wide for more swim room.
  • The lid almost completely covers the top while leaving space for filter access, the light brace, and a couple of power cords and/or air tubes.
  • There’s a cord clamp on the bottom trim that is meant to help keep your power cords separated and untangled.  (See photo below.)
  • The filter uses a standard Tetra cartridge.
  • The lights are a bright, pretty blue.
  • There’s an extra suction cup for the filter, meaning it can be taken out and used in a larger tank if you want to replace the filtration in this kit.
  • The open design of the filter should allow for easy customization of the filter media.

Cons

  • The lid doesn’t fit as well as I’d like.  UPDATE: It fits better after filling the tank with water!
  • The cord clamp on the bottom trim doesn’t really work as intended — it’s too small for the filter cord and too large for the light cord.
  • The filter uses a standard Tetra cartridge.
  • The lights are a BRIGHT blue.
  • I don’t think I’ll ever get plants to grow under these lights.

Potential modifications

I’m putting serious thought into cutting a custom lid from acrylic sheets (available at places like Home Depot), as I’m planning to use this tank in my classroom and I don’t necessarily want lots of open areas on the top of the tank.

I have come to dislike the standard Tetra filter cartridge — although I’m still using them, somewhat modified, in two tanks as of this writing — because the filter floss basically IS the biofilter.  Instead of using the included cartridge, I’m planning to place a layer of floss in the bottom of the filter chamber, then fill it up with some lightweight biomedia like AquaClear’s BioMax.

The lighting unit is not really “attached” to the tank; it just clamps on, which means that it can be easily replaced with a variety of other clip-on lighting fixtures. I’m planning to keep the included lights, though, just to have something different.

Final verdict

I’m excited to have this tank, and I’m looking forward to putting it in my classroom.   Naturally, I am a little paranoid about having a live tank in a high school classroom that’s not made out of 3-inch thick shatterproof glass and bolted to both the floor and the wall, but since the tank is small enough to be a desktop tank, I’ll always be nearby.

Since GloFish are out of the question, I’ll be stocking the tank with a betta and possibly some inverts.  I’ll be putting some thought into what color of betta would look best under the blue lights — right now, I’m thinking a pale blue or red betta would be awesome — and I’ll be sure to post plenty of photos!

UPDATE:  See the first of those photos (of the setup, but without the fish) here.

Disclaimer: This is an unsolicited, unsponsored review. The seller or product manufacturer has not reimbursed me in any way for this review. My opinions are my own; your mileage may vary.