Setting Up Nano Tanks: A Complete Guide

kangadrew

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Hey guys, I've seen a lot of questions from people asking about how to set up nano tanks. I personally believe that setting up and maintaining a nano aquarium is harder than maintaining a 1,000 gallon aquarium. So, let's get started!PROBLEMS WITH NANO AQUARIUMS<ul><li>Temperatures can easily fluctuate in smaller aquariums. In the ocean, temperatures are pretty stable, with only minor temperature changes. It can be expensive, as, depending on where you are located, you could need a heater, chiller, or both. You cannot just rely on room temperatures to keep the aquarium warmed - it doesn't work that way. During the day, temperatures will be higher because of your lights. A general rule is that if your temperature changes 2 degrees Celsius or more over a 12-hour time period, then say goodbye to your livestock. Any more than 2 degrees Celsius and the fish will not stand any chance of surviving.&nbsp;</li><li>Your salinity will rise due to evaporation, unless you have an auto top-off system installed. This is especially true for smaller aquariums kept cool by fans and not a chiller. Fans work to cool the aquarium by speeding up the evaporation process. If you're gone for 2 or 3 days with nobody to watch your tank, there will be a lot of evaporation, especially if it's hot. Your livestock will be extremely stressed from the rise in salinity unless it is topped off with freshwater.&nbsp;</li><li>Being a small aquarium, the pH levels will fluctuate just like the temperatures. Dissolved organics and things dying from your live rock will lower your pH within a few months. If you don't do weekly water changes, or if you overfeed, your pH will lower.&nbsp;&nbsp;pH shock will cause stress, and likely death in some or all of your livestock.</li><li>Ammonia ant nitrite are, as anyone setting up a saltwater aquarium knows, lethal to fish and corals. They will both easily build up if you don't perform regular water changes, preferably every week. If you combine that with over feeding, your tank will quickly go under. If something bad happens in a nano aquarium, it will happen pretty quickly.&nbsp;</li><li>Almost everybody setting up their first nano aquarium can't help but to try and keep as many corals and fish as they can in their aquarium. Usually when a lot of organisms are kept in the tank, they are fed a lot, which lowers pH and builds up ammonia and nitrite. Usually everything will be fine for a few days, and then your tank will come to an end shortly after that.&nbsp;</li></ul>EQUIPMENT<ul><li>To start, you're going to need an aquarium. You could go with a normal glass aquarium, and that would be fine. If you go that route, pick up a glass aquarium that is either 5 gallons, 10 gallons, 15 gallons, or 20 gallons. Some people consider 29, 30, and 40 gallon aquariums to be nano. If you want to think of those as nano, go ahead. I consider these small aquariums, but they could easily be nanos. However, glass aquariums are harder to make look nice, especially small ones. Your best bet for setting up a nano aquarium is buying a kit. The WAVE kits work nicely, and include a hood , lighting system, and a place to put a filter on the back. However, you can go to your LFS and they should have kits there for sale that include a bit more. The best ones to use are cubes, if possible.&nbsp;</li><li>Whether or not you're keeping corals, you should use lights. Again, WAVE makes lighting systems that are good for nano aquariums. You can buy blue bulbs for that unit for a more blue-ish look. One of those should be enough most soft corals and LPS. MinI PC's, T5's, and Metal Halides all work nicely too. Usually if you buy a kit, it comes with a hood and light though. About 18 watts of light works nicely for most nano tanks.&nbsp;</li><li>A HOB filter works best, although naturally filtering can also be used. If you buy the WAVE tank, it comes with a slot for a HOB, so you might as well get one. If not, use live sand and live rock to filter the water, plus water changes. With a filter, you want about 15-20x turnover. If you can find one with a surface skimmer, bonus points to you. I have seen them on eBay before. For media, you want to replace the cartridge that it comes with and buy a phosphate remover cartridge, and use activated carbon along with it. Keep the sponge inside too, if it has one.&nbsp;</li><li>You'll likely have to heat your aquarium. A 25 watt heater works best, but if it's a larger tank you can use a 50 or 75 watt heater. The Ebo Jaeger line works very nicely.</li><li>Making saltwater is one of the most important parts of setting up a nano aquarium. A 30 gallon trash can can be used to mix your water. To start, you need a source of RO water. You can purchase a unit, or just buy it when you need it from your LFS. TAP WATER IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! You'll also need a source of salt, and buying salt by the 5 gallon bucket is the best choice, because it's usually cheaper to buy in bulk. You will also need to measure the salinity. This can either be done with a hydrometer or a refractometer. For nano tanks, a refractometer is the better choice as it's more accurate, and accuracy counts when it comes to nano tanks. The salinity should be about 35ppt, or 1.024 to 1.027 specific gravity.&nbsp;</li><li>You need to make sure your parameters are perfect. A very basic list of parameters to test are ammonia, phosphates, nitrate, and nitrite.&nbsp;</li><li>You need decor and substrate in your tank. Live rock and some sort of sand are your best bet. Sand can be live sand from your LFS, or sugar-sized aragonite can be used. I would recommend live sand unless you have a filter, then it's your choice. Live rock should be used at the ratio of 1.5 pounds of rock per gallon of water. Since this is the base of your biological filtration, get the most expensive rock the LFS has.</li><li>You'll need a few other things for your aquarium. Powerheads (Maxi-Jet are nice) are good if you have a weak filter, or no filter. Some type of siphon is necessary for water changes. Some sort of Mag Float is good for keeping algae removed from the glass. A turkey baster is good for target-feeding, removing dust from live rock/corals, and removing small amounts of water. Some type of marine-safe glue is useful for making rock structures and attaching corals to rocks.&nbsp;</li></ul>SETTING IT ALL UP (BASIC STUFF HERE!)<ul><li>So, you have all your materials. Time to start. The first step is to fill your tank and test for leaks, Just return it if it's leaking and get a new one. Clean it out using a sponge and vinegar. Then, let it empty and dry.&nbsp;</li><li>If you choose to make a background, do it now. I like to paint the tank with black paint. You can also use paper backgrounds.&nbsp;</li><li>After that, start setting up your filter. Test it, and do the same as you would to for any aquarium. See, this is really simple!</li><li>So everything is working, everything is set up, and everything is clean. Let's start building it. Start by placing your tank in a place where it will be evenly supported and not receive too much direct sunlight. Then, attach filters, a heater, lights, substrate, and then water. Let this cycle for about 8 to 12 hours before adding your live rock. When placing rock, make sure that you have space to add corals, but you can still access your equipment. You should also be able to use your Mag Float on the glass without hitting any rock. You can use reef-safe cement, cable ties, or PVC pipe to hold rock together.&nbsp;</li><li>To add water to the tank, the trick is to add it slowly using a siphon. After adding in the water, let it settle for about 3 days, so that the water is not clouded anymore. If it takes over a few days, get some sort of clearing agent from your LFS.</li><li>Test your water regularly and wait for the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate spikes to occur (basic tank set-up stuff here guys). Once it has hit zero, wait for a week to introduce any livestock, just to play it safe. After they hit zero, small organisms and hitchhikers will come out of the rock and live in your sand bed. Some are good, and some are not so good. Check other resources for them, and how to get rid of the bad ones.</li></ul>STOCKING YOUR TANK<ul><li>So now the fun begins. Your tank has cycled, and it's all ready for corals and inverts and fish. So, let's see what is suited to go in your nano tanks.</li><li>Let's start with corals. The best beginner coral is the Ricordea mushroom.&nbsp;Other good beginner's corals include Rhodactis mushrooms, Xenia corals, Star polyps, smaller leather and finger corals, nepthya corals, Zoanthids, and Gorgonians. Leather, finger, and gorgonians get a bit big for nano tanks, so you'll need to prune them every so often.</li><li>If you're more experienced, corals like SPS frags, candy cane corals, and sun corals are good choices too. Be prepared to keep up with nutrient levels if you're keeping sun corals. If you're really up for a challenge, get some LPS frags, as they are very hard to keep.</li><li>For fish, you generally don't want anything that gets over 3 inches long (although maybe more if you're using a 20-40 gallon tank, you could get away with something bigger). Tangs, butterflies, etc are a big no-no. Gobies are a nice choice, and the best species include the neon goby, any types of clown gobies, any types of trimma gobies, and any types of eviota gobies. The firefish is perhaps the best and most interesting nano fish. Ocellaris, percula, and skunk clownfish are good choices if you like them. Pretty much any small damselfish, say, 3 inches or under, will do nicely in a nano tank. Any types of blenny in the genus <em>Ecsenius </em>will do nicely in a nano tank. A cool predatory fish is a frogfish - they survive and thrive in a nano aquarium. Dottybacks are colorful fish that also do pretty well in nano aquariums.&nbsp;</li><li>For inverts and a CUC, you'll want at the very least a CUC (clean up crew) to keep algae and diatoms at bay. Turbo and astraea snails keep algae and diatoms off the live rock in your tank. Vibex snails and cerith snails will keep the sand bed clean, and vibex snails have the added bonus of cleaning up leftover food.&nbsp;</li><li>Another living thing that most reef aquariums don't have are macroalgae species. They are commonly found in aquariums' refugiums, as a means of biological filtration. They can be kept very well in nano reefs, and provide more hiding spaces for fish.&nbsp;</li></ul>LIVESTOCK NOT TO KEEP<ul><li>I'm sure every advanced reef keeper knows exactly what I'm going to say about the first fish to not keep in nano reefs, especially for beginners. They're cheap, small, and beautiful fish with a real personality. However, they are incredibly difficult to get to eat, and most die. Of course this fish is the mandarin dragonet. I've got a pair of them in an established 235 gallon system at my house, along with other somewhat peaceful fish. DO NOT GET THESE FOR A NANO AQUARIUM.</li><li>There are a lot of fish that can be bought very small and look like they will fit nicely in a nano aquarium. However, they will almost always grow out of that aquarium. The long list includes tangs, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, lionfish, pufferfish, and angelfish (yes, dwarf ones too).&nbsp;</li><li>There are common invertebrates that also should not be kept in any sort of nano aquarium. Carnivorous starfish (pretty much any except sand sifting and brittle stars) can easily eat inverts and fish in such a small tank, and they will usually outgrow the smaller tanks. Any type of sea slug or nudibranch should be avoided. Turbo snails are okay in reefs, but astraea snails are a better choice, as they don't get big enough to knock over corals.</li><li>Flowerpot corals, galaxia corals, and frogspawn corals are ones that should be avoided, as they are difficult to keep, and some are toxic, and most get too large for nano tanks.&nbsp;</li></ul>MAINTENANCE<ul><li>Maintenance for nano aquariums is a little bit more work than that of larger systems. So, let's start our final part of the guide, shall we? </li><li>Every Day Chores:&nbsp;Fish should be fed very small amounts once in the morning and&nbsp;once at night. You should also top off any water lost from the aquarium. You should check and make sure all of your organisms are surviving and make sure they are all in there. Water temperature and specific gravity should also be checked every day. It's also recommended to check all of your mechanical equipment and make sure it's all working. Calcium and a buffering agent should be added every day if you keep corals, or maybe clams. Clear off salt creep from any equipment, and wipe down your filter every day.&nbsp;</li><li>Twice A Week Chores: Make sure to test all the parameters necessary for a reef tank once a week (nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, and phosphate). Testing calcium and alkalinity are also good things to test for reefs. Cleaning your aquarium glass is also a good thing to do. You should also rinse your filter sponge, if there is one present.</li><li>Once A Week Chores: A 10 percent water change should take place every week. You should buy mechanical filter media in bulk, and replace it 3 days before or 3 days after your water changes (not any carbon though).&nbsp;</li><li>Once Every 2 Weeks: Clean off your aquarium hood in order to remove and buildups of minerals. Also, make sure to used vinegar and clear out the tube of your filter intake.</li><li>Once Every Month: Soaking your filter and any other mechanical equipment in white vinegar should be done to remove any sort of buildup. Replace carbon every month too.&nbsp;</li><li>Once Every 3 Months: The only thing for this category is to replace bulbs every 3 months to 6 months, or as soon as they burn out. Don't skimp on this if you have corals.</li></ul>Well guys, I guess this insanely long writeup is coming to an end. Hopefully this helps anyone new who is hoping to set up a nano reef, or just a nano FOWLR. Best of luck to all beginner and experienced hobbyists!
 
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kangadrew

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Darn it, is there any way that can be reformatted? I copied and pasted it because there was an error, and it want to that. Thanks!
 

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