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Should You Put a Cover Over a Fish Tank? Tips & Exceptions

When setting up an aquarium, there are several decisions you need to make. While the size and fish tank material are important, you should also decide whether or not you should put a cover on your fish tank. 

Quick Answer

You should put a cover on your fish tank to keep your tank clean, protect your fish and keep water levels and temperature stable. However, there are some exceptions to this guideline; for instance, you don’t need a cover if you have tall plants or if you need continuous access to your fish tank. 

In this article, I’ll consider the reasons for putting a cover over your fish tank and discuss everything you need to know to help you determine whether you need a cover or not. I’ll also explain the different types of covers available and provide some suggestions of the best types to consider. 

Why You Should Put a Cover Over a Fish Tank

Many tank enthusiasts argue that it’s in your favor to put a cover over your fish tank, as several benefits come with doing so. Here are six notable reasons why you might choose to use a cover:

To Help Fish Grow

Some studies have found that when a fish tank is covered, the fish may grow better. For instance, a study conducted on rainbow trout discovered that when tanks were partially or fully covered, the trout grew bigger than those in tanks that weren’t covered. 

Similarly, a study on brown trout came to the conclusion that when the trout were reared in a covered tank, they were both longer and heavier than trout, which were not in the covered tank. 

Having a cover is especially useful if you’re rearing fish for consumption. However, having a cover can help the fish in my aquarium at home grow, creating a more beautiful and vibrant aquarium. 

To Mimic Natural Aquatic Environments

Most fish in aquatic environments find some form of covers such as rocks, algae, or other underwater structures. A covered fish tank will create the illusion of cover for your fish, helping them feel more secure. 

To Prevent Fish From Jumping Out

Some fish, such as goldfish and guppies, can jump out of their tanks. They typically do this to search for cleaner water, more food, or water with a better pH. However, in a home environment, this is dangerous as the fish aren’t jumping into another body of water. 

Installing a cover will stop your fish from jumping out of your tank. Even if you don’t have fish prone to jumping, it’s still helpful to have a cover on the off chance they do jump. 

To Prevent Water From Evaporating

While fish tanks are typically not kept directly under the sun, some evaporation is expected. If you live in a less humid environment, water will evaporate faster. If you allow too much water to evaporate, your fish may struggle to survive. And, if more water evaporates, it’s more likely the tank gets polluted, which may also adversely impact your fish’s health. 

To Stop Smells From Spreading

Some fish tanks naturally develop an odor due to the fish, the plants, and the gases accumulated in the water. While the fish may thrive in this environment, it doesn’t make for a pleasant smell in your home. A fitted cover will prevent the smell from spreading around your home. 

To Help Keep the Tank Clean

If your tank doesn’t have a cover, dirt and other obtrusive substances will likely get into your tank. This may include fur, dust particles, hair, and even larger objects that accidentally fall into the tank. This debris can impact your fish’s environment and health. 

When You Don’t Need a Cover for Your Fish Tank

In general, you should put a cover over a fish tank, but there are some exceptions. For instance, if you have several tall-growing aquatic plants, it’s not recommended that you use a cover. You may also choose not to have a cover if your aquarium plants need a lot of light or if you need easy access to your aquarium. 

However, if you choose not to have a cover on your fish tank, just make sure: 

  • The species of fish you have can’t jump 
  • Your tank is out of the reach of pets and children who may put foreign objects in the tank 
  • You’re continuously checking your tank’s pollution and water levels 

With that addressed, let’s take a look at some exceptions to when a cover is necessary:

You Have Tall Aquatic Plants

If you’re growing plants that need a lot of vertical space, a fish tank cover may prevent them from growing. Stunting their growth will impact the aesthetic of your aquarium and also the health of your plants. Some of the plants which grow tall include

  • Amazon Sword. The Amazon Sword grows fast and tall; mature Amazon Swords can be up to 16 inches (41 cm)  tall. If your aquarium height is less than 16 inches (41 cm), you may not need a cover for it. 
  • Corkscrew Vallisneria. The Corkscrew Vallisneria seagrass can grow up to 20 inches (51 cm). It’s used as a background plant and will thrive if your fish tank doesn’t have a cover. 
  • Ludwigia repens. The Ludwigia repens can grow up to 19 inches (48 cm) and are relatively easy to grow and maintain. They’re great for adding color to your aquarium. 

If you have some of these plants in your aquarium, you should consult with an aquarium specialist to decide whether to put a cover on your fish tank. 

Your Plants Need a Lot of Light

Some plants need a large amount of light to thrive, and a cover may inhibit a large amount of light from getting into your aquarium. If you have several plants in your tank which need a lot of light, then they may do better in a tank without a cover. 

Some aquarium plants in need of lots of light include: 

  • Water Wisteria. These freshwater plants grow tall and need lots of light. 
  • Pygmy Chain Sword. Pygmy chain swords need 10-12 hours of high-quality light a day. A fish tank cover may inhibit the quality of light they receive and stunt their growth. 
  • Rotala macrandra. These are pretty high-maintenance plants that need lots of lighting and soft water. When in the right conditions, they have vibrant red leaves. 

You Need Easy Access to Your Tank

Some fish tank covers can be heavy and pretty cumbersome to move. There are several reasons why you may want continuous easy access to your tank: 

  • To clean your tank. If you have trouble with your tank’s filter, you may need continuous access to clean your tank manually. 
  • Your fish are spawning. During the breeding season, you may need to move any fry quickly out of one tank into another to make sure they survive. Leaving your tank’s cover off will make it easier to remove the fry. 
  • To nurture plants. Newly installed plants may need extra care, such as trimming and fertilizer. Having easy access to your tank will help with plant maintenance. 

Types of Fish Tank Covers

You can consider several different types of fish tank covers, including glass lids, hoods, and canopies. To decide which one is right for you, consider the type of fish tank you have, your budget, and whether you need it to have any other features like lighting. 

This section considers the features, benefits, and drawbacks of each type of fish tank cover.

Glass Lids

Glass lids are one of the most common types of fish tank covers. They typically tend to cover the whole tank and may have spaces for pipes and feeding panels. Some of the advantages of using glass lids are they allow you a better view of your tank and offer great coverage. 

Here’s a more detailed look at the advantages of glass lids: 

  • Offer aesthetic value. You will see into the tank from the top when your tank has a glass lid. This will help you observe the fish, plants, and other features of your aquarium from various angles. 
  • Cover the full aquarium. Unlike some other types of aquarium covers, a glass lid will fit over the top of your fish tank. Using a glass lid will stop dirt from entering your tank and prevent water from evaporating. 

You can purchase glass lid covers on; I recommend the Aquarium Masters Lid – Glass Canopy Two Piece Set. This is an excellent choice because it’s built-in plastic strip allows you to insert tubing and filters through the lid. It comes in a variety of sizes. Just be sure to measure your aquarium before purchasing. 

However, glass lids can be hard to move if you need to access the tank for maintenance. They can also easily break. 


A fish tank hood is a cover slanted downwards with a small opening to feed your fish. Fish tank hoods are popular as they project light into your fish tank, help keep the temperature of the water stable and protect your fish from hazards. 

Here are just a few of the many benefits of having fish tank hoods: 

  • Improve the lighting conditions in your fish tank. You can install tube lights into many fish tank hoods. Because of the way they’re shaped, they project light into the tank, which improves the aesthetics of your tank and helps your plants grow. 
  • Temperature and water stability. A hood helps keep the temperature of your tank’s water-stable as it prevents heat and cool air from getting in. It will also stop water from evaporating. 
  • Protection. Hoods can be securely fitted onto your fish tank and offer protection from pets, children, and foreign objects from falling into your tank. 

The Tetra LED Aquarium Hood, available on is an energy-efficient hood with built-in white LED lights that create a natural underwater effect. It has two hinge sets and comes in various sizes, ensuring it’ll be compatible with your fish tank. It also has built-in access for filters and other equipment your fish tank may need. 

Another great option to consider is the MarineLand LED Light Hood has a built-in LED light that can be changed to blue night light. The hood is domed and allows you easy access to the tank for feeding and maintenance. It’s available in a variety of sizes. 

Fish Tank Canopies 

Canopies are typically made with wood and are selected to blend with the decor of your aquarium and your environment. Canopies aren’t as protective as hoods and glass lids but can offer some cover for your fish tank. 

Some of the benefits of canopies are: 

  • Lightweight. Canopies are made with light material and are easy to move, which allows for better accessibility to the fish tank. 
  • Decorative. Canopies are the best option if you want to use the cover to enhance the aesthetics of your fish tank. They’re designed to blend with your aquarium, making it seem as though your aquarium is built-in instead of stand-alone. 
  • Lighting included. Most canopies have room for built-in tube lights. 

Indeed, canopies can be more expensive than glass lids and hoods and more challenging to install. Still, they’re worth considering if aquarium aesthetics matter to you. 

An excellent fish tank canopy is the R&J Enterprises Birch Wood Aquarium Canopy, available on It has a high gloss finish and has provisions to install lights. It will elevate your aquarium but is quite expensive. 


You should put a cover on a fish tank to protect your fish and your aquarium environment and keep your tank and its surrounding areas clean. However, there are some instances where you may not need a fish tank cover. You don’t need a cover if you have plants that grow tall or need to access the inside of your fish tank. Consult with your local aquarium specialists to decide which option will be best for you.