Talk me out of it..... Please

Mistwalker
Member
I've had a FW nano tank for two years now and I love the hobby. For those two years I've valiantly fought the urge to get a second tank but I now find myself weakening and being drawn to the dark side of multi tank ownership. I'm really fancying a go at a nano reef tank. Please tell me I'm a fool and should walk away now.

Seriously though, how much more difficult is a reef tank to manage than a FW tank? I'm more interested in the coral side of things than the fish as my FW tank fills that role for me. Setup and stock appears to be more expensive than FW but once established, are they any more costly to maintain? I currently use RO from my LFS for my FW tank and intend to use their RO saltwater for my reef tank, if that's generally a good idea over mixing it myself?
 
ALonelyBetta
Member
I’m not here to talk you out of it, I’m here because I am almost in the same situation. I love FW nano tanks, I already have a couple. But I also want to atleast try a saltwater nano tank. I get the impression that keeping a saltwater tank can be more complicated than fw. And perhaps even more complicated considering its a nano tank. Either way I’d like to hear others opinions also.
 
The2dCour
Member
There is a thread chronicling the details of a fellow setting up and prepping his saltwater nano on here if you search around. I seem to remember it taking several months of meticulous planning to accomplish. From what I gathered nano salt tanks are extremely hard compared to a "normal" sized one.
 
Prest12
Member
Talk you out of it? Do you know us? I don’t have any saltwater tanks, but I tend to hear that they aren’t necessarily more complicated, just different. Coral will add some difficulty, along with it being a nano tank. I’m sure once you find a good way to do things, it won’t be as difficult at is one was. Yes, setup will be more expensive, like.. a lot. I would imagine maintenance costs, though, are fairly similar. About using the RO water with saltwater, if your lfs is anything like mine, that’s the whole reason they have it. Remember, I’ve never done this. If somebody gives conflicting information, theirs is probably the right one.
I saw Jesterrace here earlier. They can probably be much more helpful.
 
mimo91088
Member

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ALonelyBetta
Member
Whelp I guess I know what I’m gifting myself for my birthday.
 
AggressiveAquatics
Member
If you do decide to do a sw tank then you will need a high wattage light for corals and what my sw lfs uses is water straight from the ocean. If you have an lfs near you that specializes in saltwater they might have some for sale.
Also nitrates. Corals are sensitive to nitrates so try and keep those at below 10
 
Jesterrace
Member
AggressiveAquatics said:
If you do decide to do a sw tank then you will need a high wattage light for corals and what my sw lfs uses is water straight from the ocean. If you have an lfs near you that specializes in saltwater they might have some for sale.
Also nitrates. Corals are sensitive to nitrates so try and keep those at below 10
Yes and no on the lighting. There are a number of great LEDs in the 50-60 watt range that would grow corals very well on the nanos (ie AI Prime 16HD). Wattage was more of an issue for T5 or Metal Halide type lighting systems.

Nitrates. Honestly it depends on the type of coral. If you have soft corals and LPS (Long/Large Polyp Stony Corals) they prefer dirtier water (ie 10-20ppm range). My tank is LPS exclusive and my corals are definitely unhappy if the nitrates dip below 10. For SPS (short polyp stony corals) you would be correct though that they tend to prefer cleaner water in the under 10 range.
Mistwalker said:
I've had a FW nano tank for two years now and I love the hobby. For those two years I've valiantly fought the urge to get a second tank but I now find myself weakening and being drawn to the dark side of multi tank ownership. I'm really fancying a go at a nano reef tank. Please tell me I'm a fool and should walk away now.

Seriously though, how much more difficult is a reef tank to manage than a FW tank? I'm more interested in the coral side of things than the fish as my FW tank fills that role for me. Setup and stock appears to be more expensive than FW but once established, are they any more costly to maintain? I currently use RO from my LFS for my FW tank and intend to use their RO saltwater for my reef tank, if that's generally a good idea over mixing it myself?
It really all depends on how crazy you want to get with it in terms of cost and maintenace. Fish Only really isn't much harder than your average planted freshwater tank and I would even say a softy or easier to keep LPS tank isn't much harder than Fish Only. I would avoid SPS (Short Polyp Stony) corals to start as they are the most demanding for water parameters, flow, lighting and dosing trace elements.

Are they more costly to maintain and will they require more maintenance than most freshwater setups? YES. Are they this insanely complicated or expensive pedestal that some place it on? NO.

The biggest thing will be getting an RODI System or Water Source. Natural Seawater can be used but unless you have the ability to collect it out from shore it's really not cost effective compared to having your own RODI System. Once you have your RODI System, other than the water used and the cost of the salt crystals themselves there are no recurrent costs beyond the occasional resin/cartridge replacement. As for the LFS is it regular RO or RODI (DI adds a De-Ionization resin that strips out all the impurities in your tapwater). RO can work, but RODI is best. If it is RODI and they do RODI/Salt pre-mix for a reasonable price then it can be a good option. Keep in mind you will also need fresh RODI Water to top up between water changes since water evaporates but salt doesn't. A Refractometer to measure salinity, a powerhead for underwater current, a tank heater that is saltwater capable (avoid the cheap fixed temp ones) and a solid HOB Filter (ie Aquaclear, Seachem Tidal) is pretty much all you need for a nano tank for mechanical equipment. For lighting it all depends on what your plans are for corals. I would say a good all around solution for the money would be a chinese black box (aka Mars Aqua/Hydro, Viparspectra) and that will cover up to a 2 foot cube of space for pretty much any coral you could want to grow.

For Fish, stick with hardier varieties (ie Ocellaris or Percula Clownfish, Cardinalfish, Gobies). Stock your tank on the lighter side. Saltwater fish are more territorial and need more space. For a 10 gallon tank 2 fish would be a heavy bioload, for a 20 gallon 4 fish would be a heavy bioload. The higher the bioload the trickier it is to maintain.

As for maintenance plan on a MINIMUM of weekly maintenance with them. You will have to do weekly partial water changes on a nano for sure (ie 20-30% of the tank volume). As the tank matures you will need to do a minimum of weekly algae scraping and plan on changing the filter floss, pad, etc. every few days.
 
  • Thread Starter
Mistwalker
Member
The2dCour said:
There is a thread chronicling the details of a fellow setting up and prepping his saltwater nano on here if you search around. I seem to remember it taking several months of meticulous planning to accomplish. From what I gathered nano salt tanks are extremely hard compared to a "normal" sized one.
Thanks Cour. I hear what you say about nano tanks being more difficult as that's what they say about FW too, though I've not hit any major snags...... yet.
 
Fishproblem
Member
Take a look at the build thread in my signature! It's been fun to set up, and I'm just about through my cycle. I'll be ready for corals soon, but so far I've been trying to document the process in as much detail as I can. I say go for it, but do a LOT of research.
 
  • Thread Starter
Mistwalker
Member
Prest12 said:
Talk you out of it? Do you know us? I don’t have any saltwater tanks, but I tend to hear that they aren’t necessarily more complicated, just different. Coral will add some difficulty, along with it being a nano tank. I’m sure once you find a good way to do things, it won’t be as difficult at is one was. Yes, setup will be more expensive, like.. a lot. I would imagine maintenance costs, though, are fairly similar. About using the RO water with saltwater, if your lfs is anything like mine, that’s the whole reason they have it. Remember, I’ve never done this. If somebody gives conflicting information, theirs is probably the right one.
I saw Jesterrace here earlier. They can probably be much more helpful.
Like you, I've heard that it's certainly different but then I hear various opinions on difficulty ranging from mildly difficult to the worst thing on the planet. I do intend to stay patient and do things slowly. A proper fishless cycle and then just one or two easy corals to act as test pilots until I know I can keep them alive and happy. I'll be asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of reading, too.
ALonelyBetta said:
Whelp I guess I know what I’m gifting myself for my birthday.
Go for it, Betta
Mistwalker said:
Thanks Cour. I hear what you say about nano tanks being more difficult as that's what they say about FW too, though I've not hit any major snags...... yet.
AggressiveAquatics said:
If you do decide to do a sw tank then you will need a high wattage light for corals and what my sw lfs uses is water straight from the ocean. If you have an lfs near you that specializes in saltwater they might have some for sale.
Also nitrates. Corals are sensitive to nitrates so try and keep those at below 10
Thanks for the tips, AA. Right now I'm looking at a (almost) complete kit that seems to be getting good reviews as a beginner setup. It's the Fluval EVO Marine Aquaium Kit with Reef LED Lights - 57 ltr. I haven't posted a link as I'm not sure if that's allowed or not.
Jesterrace said:
Yes and no on the lighting. There are a number of great LEDs in the 50-60 watt range that would grow corals very well on the nanos (ie AI Prime 16HD). Wattage was more of an issue for T5 or Metal Halide type lighting systems.

Nitrates. Honestly it depends on the type of coral. If you have soft corals and LPS (Long/Large Polyp Stony Corals) they prefer dirtier water (ie 10-20ppm range). My tank is LPS exclusive and my corals are definitely unhappy if the nitrates dip below 10. For SPS (short polyp stony corals) you would be correct though that they tend to prefer cleaner water in the under 10 range.


It really all depends on how crazy you want to get with it in terms of cost and maintenace. Fish Only really isn't much harder than your average planted freshwater tank and I would even say a softy or easier to keep LPS tank isn't much harder than Fish Only. I would avoid SPS (Short Polyp Stony) corals to start as they are the most demanding for water parameters, flow, lighting and dosing trace elements.

Are they more costly to maintain and will they require more maintenance than most freshwater setups? YES. Are they this insanely complicated or expensive pedestal that some place it on? NO.

The biggest thing will be getting an RODI System or Water Source. Natural Seawater can be used but unless you have the ability to collect it out from shore it's really not cost effective compared to having your own RODI System. Once you have your RODI System, other than the water used and the cost of the salt crystals themselves there are no recurrent costs beyond the occasional resin/cartridge replacement. As for the LFS is it regular RO or RODI (DI adds a De-Ionization resin that strips out all the impurities in your tapwater). RO can work, but RODI is best. If it is RODI and they do RODI/Salt pre-mix for a reasonable price then it can be a good option. Keep in mind you will also need fresh RODI Water to top up between water changes since water evaporates but salt doesn't. A Refractometer to measure salinity, a powerhead for underwater current, a tank heater that is saltwater capable (avoid the cheap fixed temp ones) and a solid HOB Filter (ie Aquaclear, Seachem Tidal) is pretty much all you need for a nano tank for mechanical equipment. For lighting it all depends on what your plans are for corals. I would say a good all around solution for the money would be a chinese black box (aka Mars Aqua/Hydro, Viparspectra) and that will cover up to a 2 foot cube of space for pretty much any coral you could want to grow.

For Fish, stick with hardier varieties (ie Ocellaris or Percula Clownfish, Cardinalfish, Gobies). Stock your tank on the lighter side. Saltwater fish are more territorial and need more space. For a 10 gallon tank 2 fish would be a heavy bioload, for a 20 gallon 4 fish would be a heavy bioload. The higher the bioload the trickier it is to maintain.

As for maintenance plan on a MINIMUM of weekly maintenance with them. You will have to do weekly partial water changes on a nano for sure (ie 20-30% of the tank volume). As the tank matures you will need to do a minimum of weekly algae scraping and plan on changing the filter floss, pad, etc. every few days.
Wow! That's a lot of info, Jester. Thanks very much for taking the time. I'm perfectly fine with a good maintenance regime. My FW tank, although a nano is a heavily planted with Co2 tank and I do a 50% water change on it every Sunday without fail. I actually enjoy all the testing and messing about with additives to keep on top of water parameters etc. so don't consider it a chore. As I say, I'm more interested in the coral side of things so will only be looking at a couple of fish max and whatever clean up crew is necessary. You mentioned weekly algae scraping. Is algae any bigger or lesser a problem in saltwater than fresh?

I'll definitely be wanting to just go with the easier coral types as you suggest until I have some experience under my belt. I'm not sure exactly what kind of RO my lfs provides. All I know is if I don't specify when I go to get some for my tank, they ask if I want RO fresh or salt. I'll have to ask them when I go next time. They tend to be a bit rushed lately though with all the covid shenanigans they have to comply with at the moment. As you may have spotted in a previous post, I'm currently looking at a beginners AIO setup but have already seen a few YouTube vids on it suggesting some upgrades such as a backup heater and additional filter medium container. I'm a little confused about a protein skimmer as some ppl recommend getting one and others say you don't need one on a nano tank.
Fishproblem said:
Take a look at the build thread in my signature! It's been fun to set up, and I'm just about through my cycle. I'll be ready for corals soon, but so far I've been trying to document the process in as much detail as I can. I say go for it, but do a LOT of research.
Hey FP, thanks very much for the link. I haven't started reading it yet but a quick scroll shows me you've gone into a massive amount of detail on your build so I've bookmarked it and will definitely be using it as a reference. Thanks again.
 
Jesterrace
Member
Algae is definitely a bigger problem with saltwater than freshwater. Coralline algae is a hard crusted pink/purple algae that starts taking off in saltwater tanks usually between 9 months to a year after the tank has been set up and it takes an algae scraper to get rid of it. It's not such a big deal on the side wall of that tank and the rockwork but you will be doing a bit to keep up with keeping it off of your display glass or it can obstruct the view to the tank and if it gets really out of control it can suck vital nutrients out of the water. In a nano tank it will definitely take less time and effort than it does for me to keep my 90 gallon cleaned off.

As for the skimmer, I would skip one on a nano tank. Many of them aren't worth the purchase price and the ones that are will cost you a mint in the UK (tied with Canada for one of the most expensive places to be in the hobby). Protein Skimmers are better suited for larger sized bioloads on larger tanks with full fledged sump systems. An in sump protein skimmer is also far more efficient than the HOB varieties or the ones that fit in the rear chamber of an AIO nano-tank. I used to have one of the better HOB Skimmers and I have an in sump skimmer on my current 90 gallon reef that has a 29 gallon sump and my in sump skimmer is just an average one and it outperforms my HOB Skimmer in every respect. Bottom line save your money, stick to a regular water change routine, don't overfeed (ie no more than the fish can eat in 2-3 minutes) and also stick to a cleaner food source (ie LRS Reef Frenzy) and a lighter bioload and that will go a long way to making a skimmer unnecessary on your tank.

As for Corals Soft Corals aka Softies are generally considered easiest, but I have actually had the best luck with LPS Corals (aka Long Polyp Stony Corals) in my tank. Personally I find LPS to be the best looking of the bunch and my tank is LPS exclusive now. Among my favorites: Branching Frogspawn and Hammer Corals (avoid the Wall variety as they are a lot more finicky), Blastos, Trachyphillia and now Acans are also growing on me. Amazing looks and Colors to all of them. For softies and LPS you generally want your nitrate levels a bit higher (which is good as it means you don't have to work as hard to keep them down) and they do good with moderate flow and lighting, so you don't have to create a vortex of current or blast them with super bright light.
 

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