What Tank Size Is Best For A Reef Tank?

FishGirl38

HI all, I'm in the works of planning out a saltwater reef set up, but Id really like to focus more on the coral/anemones than the fish. Was thinking an assortment of compatible corals and maybe 2 clowns and a small clean up crew/shrimp. What sized tank do you think would work best in maintaining corals? Is a 20H much too small (was thinking yes) I have a 45G that might work nice, but its about 36in high, and was concerned about light and depth.
 

PufferFish-FishMan

2 clowns in a an 20 gallon would be ok. But keep a eye on the nitrate levels. I have a 30 gallon tank with 1 puffer, 1 tang, 2 clowns, and 1 damselfish. They are doing fine. But make sure your Cal, Alk, Mag levels are correct.
 

ValerieAdams

20 long is a good place to start with out doing a sump. It's got a good footprint and a lot of people start off with them. Length is much much better than height. I wouldn't do the 45 if it's 36 inches high, you'd probably struggle with lighting.

stella1979 Lchi87 Culprit Jesterrace
 

Culprit

HI all, I'm in the works of planning out a saltwater reef set up, but Id really like to focus more on the coral/anemones than the fish. Was thinking an assortment of compatible corals and maybe 2 clowns and a small clean up crew/shrimp. What sized tank do you think would work best in maintaining corals? Is a 20H much too small (was thinking yes) I have a 45G that might work nice, but its about 36in high, and was concerned about light and depth.

20 high would be a no-no. Reduces lots of stocking options because of a small footprint. Also lighting is more difficult because of the depth. A 20 long is a perfect starter tank without a sump, use something like an HOB refugium such as a modded Aquaclear 50/110, a powerhead, lights, and your good to go. However, a 40 breeder with a sump is also perfect dimensions for a first tank, and gives you a bit more play with stocking options, more room for corals to grow, and also parameters don't change as quickly.
 

Lchi87

Everything Culprit said.

Go for length and a roomy footprint over depth. If you’re looking for a plug and play option, check out AIO or All in One tanks. These have chambers behind the display where you can hide your equipment so your display is nice and clean and takes the guesswork out of sumps and modding HOBs. They don’t typically make them in huge tank options but if you want to start out small, that’s what I would do if I could do it all over!
 

Jesterrace

2 clowns in a an 20 gallon would be ok. But keep a eye on the nitrate levels. I have a 30 gallon tank with 1 puffer, 1 tang, 2 clowns, and 1 damselfish. They are doing fine. But make sure your Cal, Alk, Mag levels are correct.

A 30 gallon is way too small for ANY Tang for anything but a short term quarantine/holding tank. I sure hope you have plans to upgrade in the near future. 70 gallons is considered the MINIMUM to keep even the smallest Tangs long term.

@ the OP, as has been mentioned length is the dimension that matters most to fish in saltwater tanks and height once you get beyond about 21 inches becomes nothing but added pain in the butt for lighting and an absolute bear to ensure proper flow and cleaning/maintenance. 20 gallon Long at a Petco dollar per gallon sale is a popular choice for cost and flexibility as it gives you a 30 inch long tank with a relatively shallow height (which is great for both corals and smaller saltwater fish). A couple of things to be aware of though given your focus. 1) Corals are the more expensive and demanding side of the hobby (ie more expensive lighting requirements and water quality demands), so be prepared to open up the wallet 2) anemones generally require well established tanks with bright lighting to do well. That means it's best to give it several months before adding one and make sure you have a light that will keep it happy.

If your focus is more on corals and the 'nem then I would just stick with a 20 gallon Long as it will help keep the costs lower. The bigger the tank, the more lighting, rockwork and corals will be required and the cost goes up exponentially.

A 20 Long will permit a total of 3-4 of the following list of fish:

1 or 2 Ocellaris (ie Nemo) or Percula variety clownfish
Royal Gramma Basslet
Cardinalfish
Smaller Gobies
Smaller Blennies
Possum or Pink Streaked Wrasse

As for all in one tanks, it is true that many of them make attractive options for newbies. Unfortunately the problem with many of them is that people who want to keep them long term generally upgrade the filtration, lighting, etc. which kind of defeats the purpose of the all in one units. That said there is one manufacturer for smaller AIO tanks that offers a really good "Bang For Buck" type option and that is the IM Nuvo Fusion tanks in the 10-30 gallon range. My personal favorite of the bunch would be the 30 gallon Long as you get a 3 foot long tank out of it, which adds some additional options for fish IMHO.

Here are the best options of the bunch IMHO:



 

Culprit

A 30 gallon is way too small for ANY Tang for anything but a short term quarantine/holding tank. I sure hope you have plans to upgrade in the near future. 70 gallons is considered the MINIMUM to keep even the smallest Tangs long term.

@ the OP, as has been mentioned length is the dimension that matters most to fish in saltwater tanks and height once you get beyond about 21 inches becomes nothing but added pain in the butt for lighting and an absolute bear to ensure proper flow and cleaning/maintenance. 20 gallon Long at a Petco dollar per gallon sale is a popular choice for cost and flexibility as it gives you a 30 inch long tank with a relatively shallow height (which is great for both corals and smaller saltwater fish). A couple of things to be aware of though given your focus. 1) Corals are the more expensive and demanding side of the hobby (ie more expensive lighting requirements and water quality demands), so be prepared to open up the wallet 2) anemones generally require well established tanks with bright lighting to do well. That means it's best to give it several months before adding one and make sure you have a light that will keep it happy.

If your focus is more on corals and the 'nem then I would just stick with a 20 gallon Long as it will help keep the costs lower. The bigger the tank, the more lighting, rockwork and corals will be required and the cost goes up exponentially.

A 20 Long will permit a total of 3-4 of the following list of fish:

1 or 2 Ocellaris (ie Nemo) or Percula variety clownfish
Royal Gramma Basslet
Cardinalfish
Smaller Gobies
Smaller Blennies
Possum or Pink Streaked Wrasse

As for all in one tanks, it is true that many of them make attractive options for newbies. Unfortunately the problem with many of them is that people who want to keep them long term generally upgrade the filtration, lighting, etc. which kind of defeats the purpose of the all in one units. That said there is one manufacturer for smaller AIO tanks that offers a really good "Bang For Buck" type option and that is the IM Nuvo Fusion tanks in the 10-30 gallon range. My personal favorite of the bunch would be the 30 gallon Long as you get a 3 foot long tank out of it, which adds some additional options for fish IMHO.

Here are the best options of the bunch IMHO:

Most all-in-one tanks are fantastic, but some are pretty terrible. Take for instance the biocube. *shudder*. Waterbox and Innovative Marine make some awesome looking tanks. However... if you think it's in your future to upgrade, I might stick with a 20 long for now. If you have the proper equipment, and decide not to upgrade, you could always just upgrade the tank alone to a nicer AIO.

2 clowns in a an 20 gallon would be ok. But keep a eye on the nitrate levels. I have a 30 gallon tank with 1 puffer, 1 tang, 2 clowns, and 1 damselfish. They are doing fine. But make sure your Cal, Alk, Mag levels are correct.

I do really hope you don't have a tang or a puffer in a 30 gal. Especialy the tang. I have two bristletooth tangs in a 20 long right now and I can tell that they feel trapped, too small, and a little opressed. Behaviour has definitely changed. Once they go into DT I'm expecting a huge behaviour change.
 

Jesterrace

If he has a ValentinI Puffer then it should be okay long term. Any other though and I agree it won't work.
 

Nart

hold up. hold up.
20G H is perfect for the OPs original stocking.
She said she wants to focus more on the corals itself than fish. If she's only getting 2 clowns, I don't see the problem with it.

For just 2 clowns and some anemones and other easy corals, a 20 gallon long or 20 gallon high is just fine.
Many many routes to go. I would determine your budget and work around that.
 

Jesterrace

Fair enough nart. I would agree that a standard 20 gallon would be cheaper to light as many high end lights will cover a 24 inch cube with a single light. @ the OP, if you are looking to keep things cheap a Mars Aqua Chinese Black Box will definitely light a standard 20 gallon and do well for coral growth:



If you want full customization you could do this:



If you want to ensure really good penetration with max customization you can go with this:
 

FishGirl38

Thank you for everyones' responses. I should've mentioned my specific agenda to give yall a better idea of what I'm doing with this plan, the tank wouldn't be a display tank, or really a tank for fun. I actually work at an LFS. So, the tank, the light, the organisms, in terms of price....have all been spoken for...I'm not worried about a 'budget' per se, least not yet. I know I'll end up spending some money but I have some play room.

and my whole, overall, REASON for doing this, would be to LEARN more about corals and anemone's. how to keep them, how to feed them, what to feed them, what to do if they're not looking great etc. so that I know for myself, so that I can better help customers. and maybe, help all my co-workers learn so were all adept with corals and such.

My mother...(who also works with me....) is planning for a fish only salt tank...she'd like a 90G or more...but I just want to do corals and anemone's. I may not even add fish in there....I just know clowns have a symbiotic with bubble tip anemone's and if I could actually observe that, that'd be neat. I also understand the tank would need to cycle for at least 6-8 months (least I would cycle it for that long, maybe add a single damsel in the second month to monitor for consistency.).

Right now, I currently HAVE 3 ten gallons, a 20L, a 45H (that's 30x36in tall, it might just be 28in tall but it's up there) and a 75G with S/A cichlids. the 20L is being used as a holding tank for male convicts...till I can weave out all my males and donate them, they're being held in the 20L so they don't continue to breed. when I rid myself of those I could just use the 20L BUT, that tank is underneath my 45 on an iron stand, so the stand would be another issue. I really like the idea of a 40B. it's lower and has a ton of depth for the footprint.

I def. wouldn't do an 'all-in-one' tank just because I feel like there's a lot that could go wrong, and with an all in one, I'm limited with what I can do filtration wise...not like I can replace the built in filter...and usually those systems are all....closed up (like the bio-cube and the lid on those) so...I couldn't add another source of filtration either.

Also, with corals and anemones, is a sump necessary? I'd love to have one, I've just never gone through the process of installing one, and a DIY would probably be better in my case. Could I do corals and anemone's with a canister filter?
 

Jesterrace

A sump is not necessary on a smaller tank. Usually 55 gallons or larger is when I recommend sumps (some go less, but it's a matter of opinion). I would say that a 40 breeder would be a wonderful setup, but if you are only getting 1 or 2 smaller fish it's definitely overkill and although the display will be bigger it will cost quite a bit more to fill it out with corals, extra rockwork, etc. You definitely don't want a tall tank as they are a pain in the butt for lighting, proper flow (which can lead to issues with ugly red cyano bacteria or dino), and just flat out maintenance for cleaning. For most people I would say that anything above about a 21 inch depth is a waste (unless you are getting a really big tank with the largest fish available in the hobby). I say this as a guy with a 24 inch deep tank (I hate the depth as it definitely causes issues for me in the long run).

As for a canister filter, I definitely DO NOT recommend them. They are the most problematic and labor intensive means of filtration in the Marine Aquarium hobby, as they are very prone to trapping the nasties and becoming out of control nitrate factories. Stick with an open HOB filter with lots of media options or the ability to be easily modified into a Macro Algae refugium (ie Chaeto). The Fluval 50 or larger or Seachem Tidal 55 or larger filters would work great on a 20 gallon tank.

As for the cycling, it definitely doesn't take 6-8 months (although I would wait roughly that long before adding a 'nem as they require well established tanks to do well). Generally the guide I give most people is 30-60 days (not because it always takes that long, but because it can take that long). It all depends on which option you go with. Live Rock and the man made equivalents (ie Caribsea Life Rock) generally cycle faster because they already have bacteria on them, whereas dry rock will need to be seeded with bacteria and needs to let it establish.

Oh and be aware that 'nems go where they want to go and can sting corals. Not saying it can't be done, just saying it's good to be aware of that fact. Personally I don't care for them as I think they are more hassle than they are work (then again, I'm also not a big clownfish person).
 

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