Nano reef tanks can be a challenging yet rewarding. After all, who wouldn’t want a piece of the ocean in their home. The good news, is that there are plenty of resources online, forums, and local groups that support this wonderful hobby.

Nano Reef Tanks are not hard to keep; however, they do require patience and commitment. With proper planning, any aspiring reef keeper can be successful. To start off on the right foot, education is your friend. The more that you know about saltwater reef keeping, the more you will enjoy this journey. As marine enthusiasts, we should strive to maintain a thriving ecosystem for the inhabitants. There will be undoubtedly some trial and error, however, most of the common mistakes can be avoided.

As implied by the name “nano” these reef tanks typically range between 15-35 gallons. Keep in mind in most cases, the same care required for nano tanks is the same for larger aquariums.

Let’s discuss some of the advantages for maintaining a nano reef tank.

• Where space is limited, nano tanks have the benefit of consuming a small “foot print.” They are perfect for placing on a desk or keep in a one-bedroom apartment!
• Nano tanks can be cost effective compared to larger aquariums. From live rock, coral, fish, lighting, power heads, and supplies – all can be affordable on a small budget.
• Staying on top of your investment will make maintenance tasks a breeze. At the minimum, you should check your water chemistry weekly, and perform a 25% water change weekly as well.
• Nano aquariums are available as “ready-to-go” out of the box. Typically, they include lighting, filtration compartment, pump, built-in overflow, and heater compartment.
• Nano fish tanks don’t have exterior plumbing to deal with, protein skimmers, sumps, etc. This is a major advantage and greatly simplifies your tanks setup and maintenance.
• Mini reef tanks are simple to move if needed (maybe to a friend’s house while you are on vacation 🙂
• Nano tanks require less electricity to run.

How Much Time is Required to Maintain My Nano Reef Tank?

You should plan on inspecting (enjoying) your tank daily. At the very least, you should check the salinity levels and replace the evaporated water, clean the glass, and feed your fish daily. Also, keep in mind some corals need to be fed as well.

In order to ensure your tank is stable, monitoring and topping off evaporated water (with freshwater) is critical. If left unchecked even for a day, your water parameters can deteriorate quickly. Because this task is so importantly, most reef keepers at some point choose to install an automated top-off system.

Make sure the water temperature, and the overall water chemistry is adequate. You don’t need to pull out your test kit daily, however, weekly is encouraged to ensure a healthy reef tank. Keep in mind small changes in your tank’s parameters could have detrimental effects on your animals. Having said that, routine maintenance is your best friend. Weekly water changes go a long way in keeping water chemistry at optimal levels. Because nano tanks house a small amount of saltwater, minor changes in water parameters can cause problems.

On the other hand, a major advantage of mini marine aquariums is the fact that water changes are quick and easy to perform. Also, a quick glance at your filter media is recommended to to avoid any possible “clogging” or water flow disruption.

It’s a good idea to teach a friend or family member about the basic chores required for your reef tank. Inevitably, you will need some help when you are away.

What kind of Fish Can I Put in My Reef Tank?

When deciding what type of fish to place into your mini reef tank, there are some considerations that you must keep in mind. Since you will be limited on the amount of fish you can keep, choose wisely; how aggressive fish are towards other fish you wish to keep, how big can the fish grow, is the fish hardy (can withstand fluctuating water chemistry).

Also, is the fish safe with your future corals? Since you are building a reef tank, you most certainly will be keeping coral. Choosing a “reef-safe” fish is paramount to ensuring the longevity of your corals. Many fish will “pick” at corals which will cause undue stress and their ultimate destruction.

Since you are dealing with a small aquarium, the limited space could cause your fish to become aggressive (even if they are known to be peaceful). Therefore, it is best to keep the number of fish in your nano tank low. On average for a reef tank that is approximately 20 gallons, you should do fine with 3-4 fish. Obviously, you could house more, however, you should error on the side of caution. Start with adding a couple of fish, and keep track of your tank’s water chemistry. As long as your aquarium is managing it’s bioload, you should be ok to add an additional inhabitant.

Therefore, make sure to do some research before choosing the fish for your tank. Great options include clownfish (Ocellaris), royal gramma, neon goby, and my personal favorite the coral beauty angelfish!

When purchasing fish from your local fish store, make sure to ask the sales representative for suitable animals for your tank. Most individuals who work at saltwater aquarium stores are very knowledgeable and can offer great suggestions. I personally support my local fish store vs. buying online as much as possible.

How small can nano tanks be?

When beginning with keeping saltwater fish, many industry gurus can agree that starting with a 35-55 gallon tank is a good start for the beginner. In theory, because a larger aquarium houses larger volume of water there is some “play” in maintaining stable water parameters. The drawback for choosing a larger reef tank is cost. In some cases, this can be significant.
As mentioned above, tanks that are between 15-35 gallons are considered mini or nano tanks. Therefore, I would not suggest to keep a nano reef tank that is smaller than 15 gallons. Although it is more than possible to maintain saltwater tanks smaller than 15 gallons, the difficulty increases – significantly.

What is the best location for my nano reef tank?

It is best to choose a room with adequate air conditioning. This is especially important for those living in warmer parts of the country. When in a cool room, your aquarium heater can easily maintain the ideal temperature (78 degrees). However, if the space where you place your aquarium gets too hot, there is no cost effective “device” to cool your tank. Increased temperatures can lead to several problems with the health and stability of your tank. Unwanted algae can explode quickly, your animals can get stressed and become susceptible to disease, etc.