Tank Lids: Necessary or Optional? Pros and Cons

Do Aquariums Need Lids Pros and Cons

Many aquariums sold in stores come with the option of a lid or without one. But what purpose does it serve? What are the pros and cons of having a lid?

An aquarium lid serves several useful functions such as preventing fish from jumping out, reducing evaporation, containing heat and humidity, and providing a barrier against debris and airborne contaminants, but there are also drawbacks to consider.

If you are new to this hobby, the decision to purchase an aquarium with or without a lid can be daunting. So, let’s delve into this question.

List of Pros and Cons

Pros:

  1. Jump prevention
  2. Evaporation reduction
  3. Light fixture placement
  4. Prevents dust and debris
  5. Safety issue
  6. Pest control
  7. Temperature regulation
  8. Controlled humidity in a room

Cons:

  1. Reduced gas exchange
  2. Restricted lighting
  3. Maintenance inconvenience
  4. Difficulty with equipment installation
  5. Temperature regulation
  6. Price Considerations
  7. Aesthetics
  8. Limits the emersed plants options
  9. Accumulation of condensation

Some of the pros and cons listed here can fall into both categories, such as temperature regulation. Others, like aesthetics, are a matter of personal preference. Nevertheless, below I will try to explain and describe why I think so.

Pros:

1. Jump prevention

An aquarium lid can help prevent jumps, particularly for fish species known for their jumping behavior, such as bettas, gouramis, tetras, etc.

Additionally, if snails, crabs, or crayfish are kept in the tank, they too can crawl out and escape.

Without a lid, our pets are risking injury or death from impact or desiccation if they land outside the aquarium.

2. Evaporation reduction

A crucial function of the lid is to reduce the need for frequent water top-offs in the aquarium.

An aquarium lid reduces water loss from evaporating. The main problem here is that water evaporation can lead to the accumulation (increased concentration) of dissolved substances and hardness salts in the water.

This alters the water composition, increasing the presence of harmful substances and heavy metals while also raising water hardness.

Therefore, it’s recommended to top off with distilled water or water treated with reverse osmosis filters.

3. Light Fixture Placement

In most cases, aquarium manufacturers include a built-in light fixture in the lid, which is quite convenient as it eliminates the need to purchase it separately.

Sometimes, aquarium lids come with built-in filters, timers, and even automatic fish feeders, which can be particularly handy when the aquarium is bought as a gift, as it comes as a complete unit requiring no additional expenses except for fish, substrate, and plants.

4. Prevents dust and debris

Without a lid, dust and debris will definitely get into your aquarium making it look untidy and potentially harming your fish.

This is especially true in the corridor, garage, or kitchens, where cooking grease and fumes can settle on the water’s surface. It is just a matter of time.

5. Safety issue

Do Aquariums Need Lids Pros and Cons - catA lid also stops objects from falling into the tank, which is important if you have kids or pets. Cats, for example, may be curious about fish tanks, and there’s a risk of accidents if a pet or child falls in. So, a lid helps keep your aquarium safe and clean.

6. Pest control

Open aquariums are susceptible to infestation by pests and parasites.

For instance, some species damselflies and dragonflies can deposit their eggs by settling on vegetation, inserting them into plant stalks (known as endophytic eggs), while others can just fly across the water dipping the end of their abdomens into the water and releasing eggs.

Diving beetles can fly in if the tank is near a window. Additionally, mosquitoes may deposit larvae in the water.

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7. Temperature regulation

A cover can help retain heat, especially in aquariums without heaters, thus maintaining a more stable temperature.

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8. Controlled humidity in a room

When water evaporates from the surface of the aquarium, it releases moisture into the surrounding air, increasing humidity levels in the room.

However, with a lid in place, less water is able to evaporate directly into the air, leading to lower humidity levels.

This is particularly important in rooms with multiple or large aquariums, as the combined evaporation from these tanks can significantly contribute to higher humidity levels. Without lids, the increased humidity may create a damp environment conducive to mold and other issues.

Cons

1. Reduced gas exchange

An aquarium lid can indeed lead to reduced gas exchange. This is because the lid creates a barrier between the water surface and the surrounding air, limiting the exchange of gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Without sufficient gas exchange, oxygen levels may decrease and carbon dioxide levels may increase, potentially leading to imbalances in water chemistry and affecting the health of aquatic inhabitants.

2. Restricted lighting

At first glance, aquariums with lids seem to have only advantages. However, this is not always the case. Some drawbacks include:

  1. Inconvenience for maintenance.
  2. Weak built-in lights.
  3. Intense heating from some lights.
  4. Hinders the installation of equipment.
  5. May obstruct emerged plants if you have any.

This is why “built-in light fixture in the lid” often doesn’t satisfy hobbyists aiming to grow light-demanding plants, requiring them to undertake significant modifications.

3. Maintenance inconvenience

Having a lid on the aquarium with a built-in light fixture effectively illuminates the underwater space when installed on top. However, when removed for maintenance and placed nearby, it no longer provides adequate lighting to the aquarium.

As a result, all maintenance tasks are performed under insufficient lighting, which can be highly inconvenient.

While some designs feature light fixtures that can be raised to facilitate aquarium cleaning without removing the lid, this doesn’t entirely solve the problem. The situation changes significantly if you have a hanging light fixture that can be easily raised to provide ample lighting for maintenance tasks without obstruction.

4. Difficulty with equipment installation

Having a lid on the aquarium can make it difficult to install other equipment.

Despite manufacturers providing spaces for hoses and wires, it often happens that the purchased external filter has bent pipes that prevent installation with the lid. As a result, you may need to do without the lid or change the filter. Modifying the lid yourself is not always possible and may void the warranty.

5. Temperature regulation

Adding a lid to the aquarium, especially with extra lights, may heat up the water and air above it.

This can harm floating plants and make the tank too hot, especially in warm weather. To counter this, some aquarists use fans to cool down the tank, but this also makes the water evaporate faster and gathers more dust on the surface.

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6. Price Considerations

When evaluating lid options we often prioritize sturdy constructions that withstand deformation and maintain their appearance even

Obviously, quality lids, equipped with effective lighting and convenient features like flip-up mechanisms, often come at a premium price, constituting a significant investment.

7. Aesthetics

In my opinion, having a lid on the aquarium makes it look less natural and beautiful. It simply hides the open, serene feeling of the underwater world.

So, while lids are practical, they can spoil the aesthetic charm of the aquarium and make it less enjoyable to look at.

8. Limits the emersed plants options

Some aquarium plants have the ability to grow both submerged underwater and emerged above the waterline. So, having a lid on the aquarium can be incompatible with certain plants that grow and bloom above the waterline.

Basically, this can restrict their growth, making it challenging for these plants to thrive in their emersed form. As a result, they may struggle to grow properly or even die off.

9. Accumulation of condensation

Condensation may form on the underside of the cover, obstructing the view of the aquarium and requiring regular cleaning.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, whether to use an aquarium cover depends on various factors such as the type of aquarium inhabitants, personal preferences, and the specific needs of the aquatic environment.

It’s important for aquarists to evaluate their specific needs and preferences before deciding whether to invest in one.

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