nano aquarium

The Big Scoop on the Nano Aquarium

What is a nano aquarium?

Nano aquarium is the term given to any moderately small aquarium. For all intents and purposes, I consider any aquarium under 30 gallons in volume to be a nano. For a many of us, our saltwater tanks tend to get bigger and more complex over time. A nano aquarium is essentially the polar opposite of that–a small, relatively less complex system enjoyable because it is the antithesis of a giant reef tank. 

What makes a good nano aquarium?

nano aquariumA nano aquarium benefits significantly from its small scale. You can achieve relatively good lighting and water flow with some basic equipment, because the volume is small and all the animals will be fairly close to the lights. Maintenance tasks are important in any saltwater tank, but they become extremely important with a nano aquarium because there is no room for error, so a good nano aquarium must be easy to maintain.

JBJ and Marineland make a few ‘out of the box’  options that are great place to start.

 What are the best fish for a small aquarium?

The best fish for a nano aquarium will:all in one nano

  • Be small in size
  • Substrate attached–meaning they don’t generally stray far from their home

The clownfishes and gobies (common clownfish, percula clownfish or skunk clownfish, neon gobies, clown gobies or just about any of the other small gobies) are ideally suited for life in a nano.

What are the best corals for a nano aquarium?

Picking corals for a nano aquarium can be a bit challenging. Coral frags can be extremely tiny, but when fully grown, many coral species can be quite large and any coral could easily take over a small tank. The ideal corals are hardy and tolerant of the water parameters in a nano reef tank and also relatively slow growing.

From a soft coral perspective, a small frag of the cabbage leather coral or a devil’s hand leather coral may be suitable, although if you are successful, you will need to frag the coral to keep it to a suitable size–because adult colonies will be much too large for the small tank.nano aquarium with corals

I don’t recommend you keep those leather corals in conjunction with large polyp stony corals, so consider this an either-or recommendation, not an ‘and’ recommendation, but any of the branching euphylia corals, specifically the hammer, frogspawn or torch corals, can be a good addition to a small tank. These large polyp stony corals grow moderately, and if you keep to the branching varieties, you can fairly easily frag the branches to ‘prune’ the coral (not a term that is used very frequently in the saltwater aquarium hobby) to keep it to the right size.

Zoanthids and mushroom corals are other great choices. 

What is the secret to nano aquarium success?

Two words: “water changes.” The only downside to keeping a nano is that the small size of the aquarium provides little room for error. For this very reason, you probably want to keep your nano aquarium relatively simple, and you will want to be diligent and consistent with your maintenance chores. Diligence and consistency are valuable traits with the upkeep of any saltwater aquarium, but they are especially important with a nano aquarium. Perform water changes consistently and you will keep your water parameters within the optimal range and have success with your nano aquarium.

Written by Albert B. Ulrich III

Author of The Reef Aquarium Series of books:  The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide, How to Frag Corals, 107 Tips for the Marine Reef Aquarium and the Reef Journal.Follow me on Google +, Twitter and Facebook

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