Fluval Edge 12 Gallons Aquarium with LED Light

Hey everyone, thanks for reading my previous post about the Tetra Cube 3 Gallon aquarium kit. I really enjoyed writing it and I have the feeling that this next product I intend to write about today will be just as enjoyable.

This is also an aquarium kit – this time a 12 gallon one. We’re no longer talking about an entry level product, but more about a designer product which besides functionality strongly emphasizes good looks and elegance.

Striking the Right Balance

As we’ll see a bit later in the article, trying to combine these two features into just the right product may be a tricky endeavor. It involves both great risk and great satisfaction in the end, but also some controversy. Fluval’s EDGE 12 Gallons with LED lights seems to do just that, so I guess you can now better understand my interest in the product.

Shortly on Producer and Brand

So, I’m curious how the Rolf. C. Hagen Corporation, the producer – under the Fluval brand – of the EDGE 12 Gallons Aquarium with LED lights, and simultaneously the world’s largest pet products manufacturer and distributor, solved the riddle of functionality plus design equals great product, or IF they solved it at all – in this case at least.

I believe it’s important to give you just a few lines on Hagen Inc and the Fluval brand, so that you may better understand the context.

Good to Know about Hagen Inc.

  • they’re the name that comes to lips for the entire industry when talking pet products;
  • started as a family business in 1955;
  • owners of the Fluval brand – one of the best known for selling products for tank owners market;
  • include modern tech into aquarium design to provide unique fish tank ownership experiences.

So we’re talking about a product by a company with a more than 35 years tradition in reliable elegant design for the market they’re in.

Introducing the Fluval Edge 12 Gallons Aquarium with LED Light

Fluval 1

With such a business card, the product enjoys quite a high profile and is popular among fish tank owners. Our old friend Amazon testifies to this point, with a 4.2 out of 5 possible stars rating, based on 222 customer reviews.

As already mentioned above, this is an aquarium for more advanced users. Actually, the more I learn about it, the more I get convinced that with this model you need considerably more patience and some additional financial investment in order to be able to fully reap its benefits.

The tank was created to mesmerize the eye and create a true feeling of elegance for the owner. This is achieved in four ways:

  • Cubic shape – although not new, the concept is somehow unusual and lends an attention-grabbing effect to the product, especially when well positioned within a room;
  • No visible wires and hoses – this is actually one of the best selling points for this product;
  • LED lighting system – makes the tank the highlight of the room and turns it into an excellent conversation opener / ice breaker in most social contexts;
  • Filled to the brim, allowing to see the critters from above in quite an original angle.

Now that you have the overview, let’s get down to the details which make this product desirable for so many but quite controversial for others.

Unboxing and Physical Description

This is a glass made product, which is excellent. Plastic made tanks have their own charm and may look trully beautiful, but nothing trully beats glass, in my opinion at least.

I don’t like saying this, but be prepared mentally to return the product at least once before actually using it, as it may arrive broken. It happened often enough, as the mail guys well… don’t understand or don’t care for the “Handle with Care” sign on the boxing.

Fluval 12 Gallon Cubic Tank_2

When it does arrive safely and in one piece, the tank weights 42 pounds or about 19 kilos. It’s not small. Taken out of the mailing box, it’s 22.2 x 17 x 14.3 inches and weights 34.5 pounds, which translates into 56 x 43 x 36 cm and 16 kilos for those using the metric system. The form factor is the one of a slightly imperfect cube – imperfect in the sense that length, depth and height are not perfectly equal.

The box has quite a sophisticated and nice looking design on the outside and it is properly compartmentalized on the inside using cardboard sheets to host all the components of the kit. Inside it you’ll be able to find:

  • a small white box containing the filter media, labeled as such;
  • the aquarium lid, a square shaped box without the bottom face, packaged separately in plastic;
  • the LED light unit and the back column designed to hide the electrical wiring; packaged separately as one unit in plastic;
  • the tank itself, also packed in plastic sheets; has a 6 by 5 inches cutout in the upper side for feeding, cleaning and placing stuff inside;
  • inside the tank, there is the filter box, several small bottles with water conditioners, 2 x filtering tubes and an instructions manual
  • in a separate cardboard compartment beneath the tank there is the metal stand, which goes with the back column and the lid to make the beautiful support system you can see in the photos.

AquaFilter 20

The only piece which does not have it’s own place inside the box is the filtering system – it is simply placed inside the tank in a separate box. This allows it to be thrashed inside and expose it to potential damage. I find it a bit weird Hagen does that, considering the filter is quite an important piece of the entire setup – of any tank setup, for that matter.

Anyway, further down the road with the unboxing. Inside the filter box we find the actual filter, which Fluval brands and sells as EDGE, but which is actually an AquaClear 20 Power Filter model they have been producing and distributing successfully for a long time.

Finally, inside the filter media box, in separate plastic packaging, there is the sponge, the filter medium and the Biomax biological expansion mass, which can also be acquired separately.

Putting the Tank Together

Before setting the tank up, you should choose an appropriate location for it. It can stand comfortably on an office desk – actually – I’ve seen several such cases where the tanks were nicely integrated into an office setup. At home you can place it anywhere you like, keeping in mind however the lighting needs of the plants and fish you plan to keep or – very important, this one – the access of other house pets to its.

People seem to agree that this is one the most cat proof fish tanks out there, but as with some felines there’s never enough people around available to supervise their mischief, the fact that tank access is limited to the 6 by 5 inches cutout its actually a good thing.

What you need to do first is put together the foot of the stand and the back column where the electrical wiring and the body of the filter are hidden. Both components are manufactured from metal, treated and painted for use with fish tanks. It’s fairly easy to do it, just be careful that while inserting the column into the base not to clip the electrical wire of the LED lamp, which is placed inside and goes out from the back of the column towards the plug through an opening.

Next you place the tank on the base. This also needs a bit of extra attention. At the top of the back column there are two hooks. When placing the tank on the base, you need to be sure that both hooks come over the edge of the tank and solidly fix it in place on top of the base.

However, the hooks are not a fail-proof system. I remember reading a customer review which said that the equilibrium of the entire setup is not quite stable. You can read the whole story here. Myself I tend to believe this is rather an exceptional case. Others however think the tank has the potential to be dangerous for kids, who tend to lean on it while trying to get a closer view at the critters inside. There have been no unfortunate accidents reported, but as an extra precaution, don’t leave small kids unsupervised in the vicinity of the tank.

Anyway, after hooking the tank in place, you can now place the filter installation. If set up correctly, it should fit perfectly inside the body of the back column. Next you can let down the lamp and cover the entire setup with the metal lid which you took out of the box earlier.

Of course, you know have to take everything apart in order to be able to fill up the tank with gravel, the plants substrate, toys, decorations and last but not least – fish.

About the Filter – AquaClear 20 Rebranded to Fluval Edge

Ok, we now get to the filter part of this post. For the more experienced tank owners, this filter should not be unfamiliar.

As stated before, the filter is often the most important part of the entire tank setup, as it ensures the survival of the critters inside. This is clearly more true than ever in the case of Fluval Edge 12 Gallons, as this tank only allows limited gas exchange between the water inside and the outside world. The exchange takes place through THE small cutout in the upper side of the tank, also used for feeding the fish or cleaning the tank and which is only 6 by 5 inches.

At the rate gas exchange would take place through this cutout, it would soon be clear it’s insufficient to ensure healthy living inside the tank. As such, Fluval provides with this EDGE aquarium model an AquaClear 20 filter model. The 20 in the name shows that it is best suited for fish tanks with a capacity of up to 20 gallons of water.

Including a better than required-capacity filter Fluval made a good decision taking into account the limited gas exchange process.

Now, how good this filter is for the entire tank setup is an endless discussion, as it very much depends on the number of fish inside, the plants and the decorations setup. With either of these going over the limit in terms of numbers or being placed in an unfortunate position, the filter could get less efficient in doing the job. Theoretically, however, it should be enough to provide a healthy environment for the fish if the one inch per gallon of water rule is respected and no physical obstacles are in its way.

I did a bit of research on Amazon about the filter, but as usual, the user feed-back is mixed, ranging from people complaining that it’s too loud, to people saying it can’t do the job as it does not affect the lower half of the tank to people complaining the filter gathers sand and gets clogged or to people saying it just works perfectly.

The sand thing is true but at least can be easily solved by using a Pre-Filter Sponge 3 Pack for Fluval Edge Aquariums, also available on Amazon.

Pre Filter Sponge 3 Pack

There is no rule here one can use except that it really depends on how you organize things inside the tank and simultaneously balance your fish population.

For those of you who are actually curious on the details of how this filter works this is the link to the instructions manual

On Lighting the Fluval Edge 12 Gallons Aquarium

The default lighting system the kit includes is a 21 LEDs lamp. It provides some nice illumination considering the cubic form of the tank. The lamp can be raised and lowered over the aquarium via the hinge it is attached with to the back column. When access to the tank is not required, the lamp is covered by the metal cube-shaped coverlid.

The really nice thing about it is that the lamp can run on different settings for the day and for the night. The day setting offers a nice white light, while the night light sheds a very beautiful blue-tinted light, which looks wonderful in the dark.

Now here’s the tricky part, which kind of shows that Fluval did not quite think things through in all usage scenarios. The functionality vs. design balance is disturbed here, in my opinion at least.

If for instance it happens that you run your filter on a higher setting, it will produce some water turbulence, which, in the case of brimm-filled tanks at least, is bound to generate splashes. Water drops from these splashes and even water evaporating from the tank, end up inside the lighting installation, leading, over the course of several months, to failure of some of the LEDs or the entire lamp. Several people complained about it.

The solution to this is two fold, both requiring some degree of compromise. The first one is obvious – not running the filter on high capacity. This diminishes probability of water splashing, but prohibits full use of the filter and does not solve the water evaporating aspect.

Second solution is not keeping your tank filled up to the brim. This avoids the splashing but does not avoid trouble caused by evaporation and is a deviation from the advertised usage model, which promises you being able to see your fish from any angle, including from above.

Fluval EDGE 42 LED lamp
Fluval EDGE 42 LED lamp

Well, just in case both solutions fail you – which is not an unusual case, but neither is it a constantly recurring one – you can always upgrade to the Fluval EDGE 42 LED lamp, which is something Fluval would kindly recommend you do, especially if you’re inside the two years warranty period provided for the kit.

If your warranty expired, then you’re out of luck and you’ll have to pop up some additional 50 bucks for the new lighting system.

One other thing to mention while I’m still on lighting is that as it was the case with the Tetra 3 Gallons kit, the lamp which comes with the Fluval EDGE 12 gallons is insufficient to provide lighting conditions for living plants, except perhaps anubias (anubias barteri) and some sub-aquatic ferns. It’s positioning in the middle of the aquarium and towards the back is not very favorable to uniform light distribution. This however is almost entirely corrected by the use of the 42 LEDs version, which is much stronger and able to reach all corners of the tank.

Stocking the Fluval Edge 12 Gallons Aquarium

Stocking is tricky for any tank because it touches on the most important aspect of tank owning – the pets inside. Who wouldn’t desire a piece of the great coral reef, together with those beautiful critters you only see on Discovery Channel inside his or her own home? Unfortunately, this is not possible for most tank owners.

The good news is that this tank can be used for sweet water and salt water setups, though the last version is more difficult to come by.

I can’t go into the details of stocking as this would turn the post into a never ending story. There are lots of combinations available, you just need to carefully do your research in order to be sure the critters are compatible as species, have enough space and a habitat resembling at least partially to their natural conditions.

The general recommendation is to stock it with 4 to 6 brightly colored fish. When applying the one inch per gallon rule, you should always consider the mature size of the fish. To find out all the info you need just use Google and research it.

Here’s a thread on www.aquariumadvice.com forums about stocking a Fluval EDGE 12 Gallons in a fresh water setup. For a salt water setup you’ll have to dig more info yourself as marine setups are harder to come by.

Other good-to-know things on stocking the 12 gallons EDGE:

  • bettas (betta splendens) are not recommended for this tank as they need to breath surface air and the tank is designed for brim filling, with most of the water surface covered;
  • goldfish (carrasius auratus) are also not recommended because of size; you need at least a 20 gallons tank for them.

All this information can be a bit overwhelming, but as I said in the introduction, this setup is not for the faint-hearted hobbyst 🙂

Ok, so we spoke so far about the nice things that make this tank a very beautiful and I would even say sophisticated looking piece of decoration.

But now’s the time to say also a few words on the baddies. Which are kind of biggies, if you think about it. I’ll start with the most important one – cleaning and maintenance.

Cleaning and Maintaining the Fluval Edge 12 Gallons Aquarium

As you can probably imagine, the cleaning and maintenance of this model is made entirely through the 6 by 5 inches opening already mentioned. This makes the entire operation at least a bit difficult.

a) Wall algae cleaning:
Cleaning the walls cannot be done using the usual tools because of the difficult angle they would have to be inclined at. By consequence, you will need to buy a special magnetic algae cleaner to perform the operation. There are two such cleaners available on Amazon – only one specifically designed for the EDGE tank, the Fluval EDGE Algae Magnet.

Fluval EDGE Magnet Algae Cleaner
Fluval EDGE Magnet Algae Cleaner

Of course, there is always the option of treating the water to reduce the quantity of phosphate, nitrate and nitrite and slow down algae development, but these options are a bit more expensive.

This is the first point where the limitations of this tank design become evident and where Hagen Inc made a decision to sacrifice functionality over design, thus unbalacing the equation we were discussing about in the beginning of the post.

b) Adding decorations & seeding plants:

This is another of the points which make it clear that the tank was not designed with the beginner hobbyist in mind – which is not a bad thing. Sophistication however does have its price. In this case – you have to be careful in how you plan your aquascaping, as you can’t get inside the tank objects larger than the 6 by 5 inches opening we mentioned earlier. One way to go around this would be to cut the decorating item in half and put it together inside the tank. While this would work for a wooden log, for instance, in the case of artificial decorations this means using water resistant and chemically inert adhesives to do it. While true hobbyists may have nothing against it, other users may start to feel annoyed already by the inconveniences generated by the tank design.

c) Rescaping the tank:

Unless you own special tweezers which allow you to seed and manipulate the plants or move the decorations around, you will have to do it by hand. This will prove difficult, especially the first time, when you realize that in order to do it you have to first take out a part of the water inside. Otherwise it would overflow as remember? – the tank is filled to the brim. So you either buy a pair of tweezers by Fluval or other producer or do the rescaping by hand.

So – these are the main three points for this Fluval EDGE 12 gallons tank where the decision to prioritize design over function is not compensated by the increase in looks and sleekness, for me at least, and where the equation mentioned at the beginning of the post seems to provide some weird results.

The main thing which comes into mind when looking carefully at these points is that perhaps Fuval is trying to attempt some cross selling for some of its aquarium tools, as in order to do the tasks a tank owner may perform using normal tools, an EDGE owner has to pop some additional 8 to 10 bucks, which is not much if you’re passionate about fish tanks, but we’re talking about the principle here. Not to mention the additional 50 dollars that you might have to spend for replacing the LED lamp if your warranty expired.

Recap Time

I don’t know about you guys but I feel the need for a recap.

On the positive side we have:

  • no visible hoses and electrical wires;
  • elegant design concept, glass made, available in black and white;
  • proved filtration system;
  • multiple settings LED lamp with white and blue-tinted light;
  • easy to place within the room;
  • water treatment solutions added to the box;
  • nicely designed package & user manual.

On the negative side there are not so many, but “they go deep”, as they say, especially the first ones:

  • difficult to clean walls;
  • difficult to aquascape and rescape;
  • difficult to catch fish for moving purpose;
  • needs partial emptying in order to allow hand access;
  • hand access too small for adult male hands;
  • LED lamp may collect splash or evaporated water and get damaged in some usage scenarios;
  • needs aditional investment for a positive relationship with the owner.

Oh look, they are the same in number 🙂

Buy It or Not?

Well, this is a tough one. I believe it essentially comes down to expectations and how much time and money you’re willing to put into it.

If your looking for something which looks very sleek and elegant you’re okay with it requiring extra attention for maintenance and some additional investment, then this can be a true love affair.

If on the other hand you’re more of a practical type and believe that while keeping pets you need to prioritize function over design and not the other way around, then perhaps you should look somewhere else. Or be willing to pop the extra cash required to acquire the rest of the things required to make this tank a long lasting, safe home for your fish pets.

As far as pricing goes, this is not a cheap item. At USD 155 + USD 4 shipping costs and possibly other costs incurred during usage, the initial investment can dent your allowance if you’re on a budget. But hey, it’s the Fluval brand you’re acquiring from.

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