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Nano Saltwater Tank Setup, Part 4

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Nano Saltwater Tank Setup Congratulations, the wait to add things to your tank is over. During the cycling stage hopefully you observed various things popping up all over you live rock if you added some.

If you wish to still move your rock more, you should use gloves to protect yourself from harmful creatures in your tank. Now that your tank is cycled, you can move onto stocking your tank.

First Additions (inverts):
Saltwater Snail Now that your tank is cycled and ready for creatures, you may now begin stocking your tank similar to a freshwater tank. Saltwater systems take longer to become established so adding gradually is a good idea. You may begin by adding snails, and certain crabs (careful which crabs, many are predators) as they are hardy creatures to add first. Some snails include cerith, astrea, and nassarius snails. Avoid turbo snails in a nano tank as they can get quite large. Hermit crabs are ok to add, blue leg are considered one of the least aggressive species of hermits. Make sure you add extra shells as they are hermit crabs and they may take the shell of a snail if they don't have extra shells. Emerald crabs are also ok to add to a tank, they eat bubble algae and are good scavengers. Depending on the size of your tank and your decision of how many of each to get if you want any, add small groups once a week to gradually increase the bio-load in the tank.

Second Additions (shrimp/fish)

Two weeks after all your snails and crabs are added and as long as your tank is still stable, you may now add shrimp. Shrimp are more of delicate inverts and should be added later. Two main types of easily kept shrimp are peppermint shrimp and skunk cleaner shrimp. The peppermint shrimp is better suited for a small tank than a skunk cleaner shrimp is. Only one shrimp should be added in a nano tank, though sometimes none depending on the size. After the shrimp is added (if you are adding them), you may begin to add your fish. Being a nano tank you will probably add only one or two fish, in which case you can add one one week and another a week or two later.

Final Additions (corals)

Mushroom Coral Your final additions to a tank would be corals if you are adding any. It is a good idea to wait 3-6 months after establishing your tank to begin to add corals to your tank. Research your specific coral demands before purchasing a coral.


That is about it to setting up a nano saltwater tank. Maintenance isn't much different from freshwater, clean equipment as normal, change water weekly, test aquarium water at user preference (once a week), and top off water mid week to keep salinity at a steady level. There is no set rule to adding creatures after the cycle is complete but really you shouldn't add much at one time. It is better to add a little each week and gradually increase the bio-load in the tank so as not to create a mini-cycle. Hopefully this has provided some basic insight into setting up a nano saltwater tank.

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About the Author:
My name is Austin or atmachine on the forum. I run cross country and track for my school and also enjoy reading, paintball, and of course keeping fish. I have a 29 US gallon freshwater tank along with a 5.5 US gallon saltwater tank. My fish and inverts that I keep include guppies, angels, bettas, otos, plecos, rasboras, gobie, shrimp, snails, crabs, mushrooms, polyps, and feather dusters. ATM's FishLore Forum Blog and ATM's Fish and Aquarium Blog

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