Building A 5g Reef Tank For $200!

Discussion in 'Saltwater Aquarium Builds' started by Nart, Oct 30, 2018.

  1. Nart

    NartWell Known MemberMember

    A quick back story, so you can grasp the concept of this build:

    About a month ago, I was offered an opportunity to take on a budget nano build from Oceanbox Designs. The criteria was to see if i could build a nano reef tank that incorporated their magnetic surface skimmer, as well as their mini 50w heater. The catch was, it had to cost less than $200 and also leave the display free of any equipment (except for the magnetic surface skimmer box).

    Items used for this build:
    Aqueon 5 gallon tank
    Aquaclear 70 HOB
    Aquaclear 30 impeller
    Oceanbox Designs AC70 Magnetic surface skimmer
    Mini 50w heater w/ external temp control
    Generic 12" 24x3W LED Light (Purchased from eBay)

    Let's start!

    The tank with the lights and HOB filter... and you're pretty much half way done. (not even kidding)
    Next up... fill the tank with some RODI water, mix in some salt. I used salt from Tropic Marin.
    I always have extra cycled bio-media on hand... so this tank was cycled pretty much instantly.
    Next up was to create a very simple rock-scape. Spent 20minutes tops and it was pretty much done. I prefer the minimalist look for a few reasons.
    1) Ease of cleaning 2) More water volume 3) Less rock clutter, to let the corals define the scape

    Went over to my frag tank, grabbed some easy corals and started gluing it to the rock structure.
    I also decided to go bare-bottom for this build. Easier to keep the tank clean without sand and I also wanted to maximize the tank space with as much corals as I could.
    Corals used: Duncan, green star polyp, kyptonite candy cane, frogspawn, zoas, balstomussa, monti cap, and mushrooms.

    Here's the equipment from Oceanbox Designs

    In goes the heater... love the external temp control btw!
    Magnetic surface skimmer attached.
    Very easy install. Just remove the bottom intake from the AC HOB and slide the surface skimmer right in.
    (What's not in the picture, I swapped out the original AC70 impeller, to the AC30 impeller. This helped to decrease the flow)
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2018
  2. OP

    NartWell Known MemberMember

    Packed the tank with a little more corals... Leather coral, acan, and pulsing xenias.
    All relatively easy corals to care for.
    As you can see, the green star polyp is already starting to grow it's mat on the bottom glass. Exactly the look I am going for.

    The FTS after a few weeks of letting everything settle in.
    Notice, no extra equipment in the display. You can barely even spot the surface skimmer box.

    The total cost of everything (except rocks and corals)? $187!
    This is by far one of my favorite budget nano builds. It's simple, low maintenance, and clean.
    I feed the tank reef roids and phytoplankton once a week. Dose Tropic Marin's All-For-Reef every 2-3 days. 50% water change every 2 weeks.

    That's about it! I was able to meet all the criteria from my supporter for this build.
    What do I think about the magnetic surface skimmer box and mini 50w heater so far?
    Both are very good products.
    I love the fact that I am now able to surface skim any surface gunk and detritus.
    As for the heater, it keeps the temperature pretty consistent. It drops it by 0.5 degree at most at night due to my cold apartment being 68 degrees ish. The external temp control makes it very easy to dial in.

    @Tanks and Plants @stella1979 @Lchi87 @thesoulpatch @grantm91 @Culprit @Waterloo
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2018
  3. ValerieAdams

    ValerieAdamsFishlore VIPMember

    I love this. It makes me want to do it lol. It looks amazing!!
  4. BichirKeeper84

    BichirKeeper84Valued MemberMember

    Very nice! Going to put any fish in?
  5. OP

    NartWell Known MemberMember

    @ValerieAdams what's stopping you?? :) :)

    @BichirKeeper84 Ah yes! For a tank this size and environment, my choices are pretty limited. Either Neon Gobies or Clown goby. I think I am going with a yellow clown goby, it should be a nice mellow addition to the 5g.
  6. Fanatic

    FanaticFishlore VIPMember

    I always love your tanks, Nart :)
  7. Ohio Mark

    Ohio MarkWell Known MemberMember

    Ouch. That was MTS syndrome flaring up again.... Along with some SW fever...
  8. OP

    NartWell Known MemberMember

    @Fanatic d'aww... that means a lot. Really much appreciated for the kind words.

    @Ohio Mark MTS syndrome is life. I found that there's no cure for it.... baha
  9. Fanatic

    FanaticFishlore VIPMember

    Yes, of course :)
  10. BichirKeeper84

    BichirKeeper84Valued MemberMember

    @Nart so to small for a clown fish eh? If you do a yellow clown goby would there be room for shrimp/snails?
  11. OP

    NartWell Known MemberMember

    @BichirKeeper84 Yeah, if you're really wanting a clownfish or two, I would personally step up to a 10g and eventually move them into a 20g+ when they get bigger.
    Yup! there's room for shrimps, snails, hermits, and crabs even with a clown goby in a 5g. I actually have 3 tiny blue leg hermits in the 5g right now. They help me pick at the misc algae i have growing.
  12. ElectricBlueCrawfish1

    ElectricBlueCrawfish1Valued MemberMember

    Yo! Not a five gallon tank!! Look at the size of his hand to the tank, that is a ten gallon bro! What are the tank dimensions?
  13. OP

    NartWell Known MemberMember

    it’s a 5g. I know exactly the amount of saltwater I fill the tank with. Otherwise my salinity level would’ve been way off when I started this tank. Please PM if you have any further questions.
  14. bitseriously

    bitseriouslyWell Known MemberMember

    A small saltwater tank is on my someday list, can’t even see it from here, it’s well beyond the horizon. But this makes it seem quite easy and achievable!
    How do you think this project which scale up for a 10 gallon, or a 10 gallon hex, or even a 20 gallon long? What I mean is, would the same hardware be appropriate, or would you need to upsize the filter, skimmer and/or heater?
  15. OP

    NartWell Known MemberMember

    @bitseriously The same equipment will pretty much work for a 10g as well. Originally this was suppose to be done with a 10g tank, but after some debate back n forth, we decided it could be done with a 5g as well.
    If you went with a 20long you would just have to get double the heater and a longer light. Everything else would be the same. Hope this helps! It is totally doable. I did my best to keep this build as simple as possible so that anyone can replicate it too.
  16. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    It took me a day to find this, but I hope I'll be forgiven as this mom is uber busy around Halloween.:p Funny, @Fanatic took the words right out of my mouth. I always love @Nart 's tanks!!! :D:D:D Would it surprise anyone here that his old IM25 thread inspired my own little reef? Yep, this guy is an excellent salty mentor and an inspiration to many.:happy:

    Perhaps I should comment on this too.;) My reef tank is a 20g long AND uses an AC70 with an AC30 impeller. :D Can't fit the 75W heater inside, but I sure wouldn't mind that surface skimmer. The impeller downgrade wasn't to slow flow through this larger tank though, it was to slow flow through the HOB because an AC70 also makes a perfect little refugium on a small tank.:D So, with rocks in the tank being the biological filter, we don't need to worry about upsizing the HOB, only what we want to do with that HOB. The thing that really comes to mind when reading your questions @bitseriously is that an AC70, even with its original impeller, will not provide enough flow for a 20g long. So, the upgrade for a tank this size, (other than the heater and light), comes in the form of a powerhead or two within the tank to increase overall flow.:)
  17. OP

    NartWell Known MemberMember

    @stella1979 Stella has become my inspiration, especially so for endurance and patience :) anddd my mentor as well :D
    Very good point on the extra power-head Stella! I forgot that the 20Long does need a power-head of some sort.
  18. bitseriously

    bitseriouslyWell Known MemberMember

    @stella1979 @Nart So in a smaller reef or fowlr tank, as I understand it, much of the biological filtration can happen in the main tank, on live rock and sand surfaces. Whereas most fw setups create an ideal environment for high bb populations in a filter (higher flow, constant delivery of food, ie ammonia/nitrites), in sw setups the flow in the main tank is high(er) enough that bacteria on the substrates/surfaces, mostly live rock, receives that high flow and food delivery via powerheads etc.
    So there's some user choice/preference in terms of external filtration or not, and refugia or not (at least for these smaller setups). The optional refugia is basically a slow-feeder for the corals, yes/no? Or is it more for fish?
  19. Waterloo

    WaterlooValued MemberMember

    AHHHHH!!!!! I love it <3

    Do have one question? Totally get why you would switch out the propellers to reduce flow and see it pretty often but haven't seen a tutorial on this just because its just stupid easy to do?
  20. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    In a sw tank, much of the biological filtration happens in tank regardless of tank size. :) Some rubble or biomedia in a filter or sump is good for additional filtration, (particularly if the tank doesn't have a lot of rock, what we call minimalist scapes, like Nart's :) ), but it also can help provide a home for microfauna. This is a benefit to the fish because a thriving pod population means healthy snacks. :) There are choices in terms of external filtration that will usually have to do with biofiltration, nutrient reduction, and/or microfauna population. This is why I prefer a refugium to a skimmer when it is possible to choose one over the other... because a fuge provides a perfect environment for pods to live, eat, and breed. I have not needed a skimmer on the 20g, but think if I went to 50g's or larger, I'd want filtration space for both a skimmer and a fuge. :) Hope that answers your question.;)

    It is stupid easy.;) The motor/pump box comes right off of the Aquaclear and the impeller is only held in by a magnet. So, you just slide the old one out, and the new one in.;)