5.5 Gallon Saltwater Nano Tank

wrs2
  • #1
Hello all!

I have a basically empty 5.5 gallon tank that I was thinking about making into a salt water.
When I say basically empty, it just have a male guppy that will be soon going into my other tank when I upgrade in a couple of weeks.

The tank is all filtered with a Aquaclear 20 HOB and a sponge filter (which I will lmove to a different tank)..

I've had a Saltwater tank in the past, but that was SO long ago. All I know is that I would need to get some live sand and live rocks and marine salt.

Would I be able to keep fish in a 5.5 or just inverts? I kind of wanted a fire goby.
I just need some suggestions / advice on how to proceed.
Thanks!
 
sullivanbay94
  • #2
Following
 
Lorekeeper
  • #3
So glad to see another pico/nano springing up!

So, here's a basic run down of what you'd need for a 5.5 gallon FOWLR tank:

Adjustable heater (78-80F is your best temp, IMO)
4-6 lbs of live rock (dry or wet, your choice)
4-6 lbs of sand (Aragonite is your best option. Live sand is kinda snake oil to me, so I always recommend the dry stuff. If you wanted really easy maintenance, going barebottom is a better option)
Salt (I use IO Reef Crystals, but for a FOWLR you'd be fine with regular marine salt)
RO/DI or Distilled water
Refractometer

...and that's about it!

An AC 20 would be perfect flow. Remove all of the filter sponges, and just run carbon and/or purigen. Or, make it into a DIY HOB fuge.

You CAN do fish in a 5.5, but there aren't a ton that'd do well long-term, IMO. By fire goby, do you mean firefish? If so, I'd say that you could get away with one. I'd rather see a firefish in a 10, but a 5.5 won't be overstocking as long as you're on top of water quality.

I'd actually recommend looking into some of the smaller gobies to start. Clown gobies (I just got one!) and neon gobies come to mind right now. You also have Trimma Gobies, Yellow Neon gobies, and the Green Banded Goby. If you're looking for something a bit more free swimming, a firefish is probably your best option. You could also do a goby-shrimp pair.

If you aren't prepared for weekly water changes of around 30-50%, I'd avoid a fish. There are tons of inverts that'd be great in a 5.5. That might be a better option since you're just now getting back into SW.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
If I did fish would I be able to have hermit crabs as well? Last time I had a Saltwater tank it was just a blue damsel fish and a shrimp. I may have had hermit crabs but it was like 12 years ago so I can’t recall!

And the HOB needs only carbon? In it? Nothing else?
 
Lorekeeper
  • #5
For sure! You'll need at least some snails for a clean up crew, and you can have some hermit crabs with them. The scarlet legged reef hermits are the least aggressive towards snails

Yeah, you don't even really NEED carbon, I just find it useful. All of your bacteria will live on your live rock.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
So the HOB is just for the flow then?
 
Lorekeeper
  • #7
Pretty much. Flow and for running any sort of nitrate and/or phosphate reducing media you might want to use.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
I can get some CaribSea Aragonite Aquarium Sand at PetCo for like $5.
Live Rock isn't that much money either at my LFS. I can get the distilled water cheap too.
I need to look at prices of salt though. And the
Refractometer, does that need to be something fancy, or just like a basic one that measures salinity?
 
Lorekeeper
  • #9
I'd make sure that the live rock from your LFS doesn't look like it has any sort of pests. A lot of smaller LFS's who don't deal much in Saltwater will bring in cheap LR with a ton of pests, and in those sort of cases, your better off to buy dry live rock and cycle that way.

The refractometer can be pretty basic. I use a cheap one off of Ebay, and it's accurate to 0.0002 or so of a really nice "industrial" grade refractometer.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
Oh no this LFS has a great Saltwater selection and has been doing it for more years than I have been alive!
But I wonder what you mean by pests? Just so I can keep a look out anyways just to be safe!

Now, what would the difference between an refractometer and something like this be?
 
stella1979
  • #11
Your link leads to a hydrometer, which was the norm many years ago when refractometers were unaffordable for your average reefer. These days, a refractometer can be had for $20 and they are WAY more accurate than a hydrometer.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
So basically it’s the same thing just one isn’t as reliable as the other?
 
stella1979
  • #13
I wouldn't say it's the same thing as they work completely differently. They serve the same purpose but the refractometer offers precision and accuracy while the hydrometer does not.

Salty tanks need freshwater added daily because water evaporates but salt does not. If you don't top off, the tank will become too salty. The smaller a tank is, the faster the salinity swings. This would be dangerous to life in the tank, so maintaining a stable, consistent salinity is key. You'll want a good tool to be sure you're doing that.

I'm sorry, but hydrometers are garbage where reefing is concerned, and here's just a few reasons why.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
I don’t want a reef, no corals for me!
This sounds like more work then I remember, which is probably why my fish didn’t live that long back in the day.
 
Lorekeeper
  • #15
Even without corals, any invert or fish will need a consistent salinity in order to live a healthy life.

A refractometer is a worthwhile purchase, I promise.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
So one on ebay for 14.44 should work fine?
 
Lorekeeper
  • #17
If it seems to have decent reviews, sure. Mine was $20 and has lasted for a long time.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #18
Do you all premix the salt water? I was wondering if that could be done and left in a bucket or a bin or if it has to be done when ready to change the water.
 
Lorekeeper
  • #19
Do you all premix the salt water? I was wondering if that could be done and left in a bucket or a bin or if it has to be done when ready to change the water.
I usually mix my water in 5 gallon buckets about 4-5 hours before a WC. Or, I do it the night before.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #20
And instant ocean would be fine for salt? I found it for a good deal on chewy and I have a coupon there too haha!
 
Lorekeeper
  • #21
Yeah, instant ocean is what I use.
 
stella1979
  • #22
Instant Ocean is a great option. It's used by many commercial aquariums as well as Jason Fox. Check him out sometime.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #23
Now is there a certain type of light I would need or can I just use any old LED light as it's going to be a FOWLR tank and won't have any corals.
 
Lorekeeper
  • #24
You can use any light you want on a FOWLR tank.

That said, you'll probably get the best color out of your fish around the 10000K point, IMO. If it were me, I'd go with an E27 base lamp (desk lamp, or clip-on lamp) with either this bulb or this one

Or, if you wanted more of a "daylight" look, you could go with a 6500K bulb in a lamp. You can get those at Lowes or Walmart for like $10.
 
stella1979
  • #25
Listen to Lorekeeper He's the man around here when it comes to budget nano lighting that makes a tank look great.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #26
I will look into those lights!
For now, seeing as it's just FOWLR, I will use a basic light and save up some money for something better!


If I was to get a goby or some sort that is suitable for a 5.5 g, would they require sand or would a bare bottom tank be better?
Also, if one doesn't really use a filter for keeping a cycle alive, how does that work? Is that what the live rock does?
Sorry so many questions! I tried to search this all on YouTube, but I can't seem to find anything that answers the specific questions or the videos are too long and I get easily distracted haha
 
Lorekeeper
  • #27
Questions are great! Better to ask questions rather than make mistakes later.

Some gobys require sand, and some don't. Clown gobys don't require sand, since they perch on rock and other hard surfaces in the tank. Firefish are free-swimming, so they're fine in barebottom tanks too. If you have a specific fish you're wondering about, you can Google search and get a specific answer really easily!

The live rock holds all of the bacteria, yes. In freshwater, that bacteria grows on filter sponges and such. In saltwater, it'll grow on your live rock and other hard surfaces. That's why you want pourous live rock instead of something really dense, so there's more surface area for bacteria to grow. Saltwater bacteria actually will grow on sponges and filter pads, but sponges just cause nitrates in saltwater tanks. They collect debris and end up being more trouble than they're worth, 99% of the time. I only run a sponge when I'm trying to collect debris, or if I know I'll need a pre-cycled sponge for a quarantine tank down the line.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #28
Okay, so then if I have live rock it should come with bacteria which will help cycle the tank? I know how to do a cycle in a Freshwater tank no problem, but this just seems a tad bit more complicated!
Also, has anyone used the Fritz Turbo start? I saw it on a Coral 12g YouTube video. I always use TSS+ for my Freshwater tanks and I've never had any issues with fish loss (I only ever lost 1 rasbora since I started back up with my tanks in early April - not counting the bettas from petco that died within 3 hrs of buying....) So I was wondering if this is basically the same thing OR if one doesn't really need to cycle with live rock.
 
Lorekeeper
  • #29
SOME live rock will come "Cured" and might already be cycled and ready to go. However, you'll pay a premium for it IF you can find it, and there's no guarantee that the rock will actually be cured well. Personally, I'd recommend just going with some quality rock from a quality store (or from online), and cycling that way.

I've never heard of Fritz Turbo Start, but people use Dr. Tim's One and Only with good success. I've heard of that one cycling a tank in about a week pretty often, but there's no guarantee. As for Coral12G... I've never made it through much of his content, due to some personal qualms with his tanks/video structure, so I have no idea how reliable he is. But, I'd still recommend Dr. Tim's if you're looking for a bacterial starter.

The idea is the same with Dr. Tim's, but it's more of a traditional cycling approach. Instead of adding TSS+ and adding fish pretty much immediately, you'd add ammonia, then Dr. Tim's, and wait out your cycle for a week or two. As far as I know, there's no way to insta-cycle a saltwater tank short of using cycled live rock or cycled filter media, and those are hard to find if you don't already have a cycled tank.

You DO need to cycle with live rock. There's probably not much bacteria living on rock that you'd buy. But, it's the same idea as FW. Once you add ammonia, bacteria will grow, and the process is like the exact same (on the surface) as FW.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #30
Okay sounds very similar!

I'm going to head to the LFS tomorrow and get some prices and see what they have! I want to upgrade my other tanks once the PetCo dollar per gallon sale starts hopefully on Sunday, so I may actually have a free 10 gallon instead of a 5.5 to use. That may be pushing my budget though. As a teacher who doesn't get paid over the summer I have to watch my aquatic spending haha
 
Lorekeeper
  • #31
Okay sounds very similar!

I'm going to head to the LFS tomorrow and get some prices and see what they have! I want to upgrade my other tanks once the PetCo dollar per gallon sale starts hopefully on Sunday, so I may actually have a free 10 gallon instead of a 5.5 to use. That may be pushing my budget though. As a teacher who doesn't get paid over the summer I have to watch my aquatic spending haha
Wish I had a PetCo nearby! All we have as far as chain stores is Petsmart, and they don't seem to run deals as much as Petco. Not much variety, either.

I definitely feel the budget pains, though.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #32
What’s the point of base rock? Can I mix that with live rock in a tank?
 
Lorekeeper
  • #33
Base rock is pretty much dry live rock. It's used since it's cheaper, and doesn't come with any pests (or good creatures). I usually try to mix dry rock in with live rock with a 3:1 ratio. 15lbs of dry rock to 5 lbs of live rock. You can mix at any ratio, though.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #34
What would be pests that come on the life rock?
The LFS sells FijI live rock. They actually also have what it being listed as real purple reef rock, but that's crazy expensive.
 
Lorekeeper
  • #35
Fire worms, Aiptasia, Manjano Anemones, Brittle Starfish, and the occasional Mantis Shrimp. You actually want a lot of stuff that comes with live rock. Bristle worms, Asterina Stars, Pods, Macroalgae, and the occasional hardy coral can be found on live rock. They'll be important to your tank.

But, all of those (except the Aiptasia) are pretty rare. Fire worms aren't too common, neither are bad starfish. Manjanos seem to be hard to find (I want to keep some in their own tank...), and Mantis Shrimp don't seem to hitchhike very often. They're actually kept as pets, but are bad news for fish and other inverts.

FijI rock is good. I'd just look it over with a flashlight to make sure you don't see any anemones are bright red worms. Real Purple Reef Rock pretty much gives the impression of an insta-aged tank. It's painted purple so that it looks like coralline algae has taken over. I wouldn't mind trying it at some point, but it's got some mixed reviews. Not worth the price to me at the moment, and I want someone that I trust to review it, but it might be worth it one day. I'd go Fiji, though.

Just a tip: Pick out lots of smaller pieces with pores and grooves, rather than a few large, solid ones. The lighter the rock, the better filter it'll be. I've got a few really solid and large rocks in my 10 gallon that I wish I hadn't picked out. The more small rocks you have, the more scaping choices you have. The more grooves you have in a rock, the more ways you can stack them... following me?

If not, most FijI rock is pretty good anyway.
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #36
Following haha!

So I’m thinking maybe I would go with a clown goby, but I would try out with a couple of small hermit crabs or snails first to see if they survive before I get a fish. I don’t want to kill anything since I wouldbenew to Saltwater so I want to start small.

I only see the blue legged hermit crabs though. How many would I need in a 5.5 gallon?
 
Lorekeeper
  • #37
Personally, I'd go light on hermits and heavy on snails.

So, maybe go with 6 Cerith Snails, 5 Nerites, and 2-3 small Hermits to start with.

A clown goby is a great choice! They come in a tank of varieties as well. I just got a yellow clown goby for my 3 gallon - love the little guy!
 
wrs2
  • Thread Starter
  • #38
I saw one today at the LFS and it was adorable!
I really wanted a fire fish but the tank is probably too small.

I know they had those Cerith snails at the LFS but I will have to look at a different one for the Nerite snails.
 
Lorekeeper
  • #39
I'd agree that the tank is a bit small for firefish. It's been done, but if you take a look at Stella's firefish in a 20 long, you'll see how big and active they can get. I think a 10 is a good bare minimum for me.

Cerith snails are what I have, mostly. They seem to be really good with diatoms and film algae on rocks, but don't touch the glass much. The nerites I've got spend most of their time cleaning the glass. Good duo, IMO.
 
KaderTheAnt
  • #40
Following!

I’m actually considering turning this large jar I have into a salty and this might help me come up with some plans.
 

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