Nano Reef: Big Possibilities in a Mini Aquarium

by Aquatics on September 13, 2010

Written by Stacie R. who works in Drs. Foster and Smith’s Technical Support Department.

12 Gallon Nano Aquarium

Have you heard of a nano reef aquarium? In general, an aquarium anywhere from 8 gallon to 24 gallon is a nano size aquarium. Water chemistry in nano aquariums is very important. Any variation in water parameters in a nano tank will be more stressful on the inhabitants than a 55-gallon aquarium. It is more important to use RO (reverse osmosis) or distilled water in a nano tank than a larger aquarium. When setting up the tank, you should use 1 lb of live rock per every gallon of water. This will help with the biological filtration to ensure the levels stay consistent. 

Canister filters work well for smaller aquariums where space can be an issue. It is hard to have filters hanging on the back of the aquarium, when you need the room for other items such as a heater and a protein skimmer. Commercially available nano aquarium kits solve space issues. They feature integrated filtration systems designed to maximize filtration options and to maintain aquarium aesthetics. It is essential to clean and maintain your filters in a nano tank, as the water volume is smaller. Doing your daily, weekly, and monthly tank maintenance is very important in your nano tank. Testing the water parameters every week is crucial.

Catalina Goby

When choosing your livestock for the aquarium, it is imperative to research fully each species to ensure they will co-exist together. They need to be species that do not require a lot of space to swim around. Fragile fish will for the most part not do well as they will get sick often. Keep in mind when adding corals to pick a coral that does not need a lot of space around it. Most mushroom and polyps and some soft corals will do well in nano tanks. Check out our informative features on for nano reef compatible fish and corals.

Feeding your specimens in your nano tank should be done sparingly since excess nutrients are very harmful in a small aquarium. Having a good cleanup crew of small hermit crabs and snails will help keep the balance.

Having a nano aquarium can be wonderful however, it may be extremely challenging for the beginning aquarist. It is imperative to keep up with the maintenance of your aquarium. Do not overcrowd or overfeed the aquarium. Have a good filtration system and light system for coral growth. Be prepared to frag corals, as it is possible they will outgrow the aquarium. As long as you are ready to invest for the long haul, you can have a wonder “Little Reef!!”

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosemary September 13, 2010 at 9:46 am

Man, I thought cats, dogs and birds were a lot of work. I don’t think I would like to take care of fish, and definitely not salt-water fish.

Melissa September 13, 2010 at 11:26 am

Rosemary – Aquariums are actually pretty simple to take care of, once you learn the ropes. Most hobbyists start off with a more simple freshwater aquarium, and eventually start up a saltwater aquarium. Many of my coworkers here have aquariums and they take very little work – generally feeding everyday of course, and basic maintenance. Seems like about once a week water changes. But all in all, I’d say they take less time than dogs, cats and birds, that’s for sure! They are very soothing to have. My parent’s have a nano-freshwater aquarium and they love it (with very little maintenance). A nano saltwater aquarium can be more challenging, though is often a good starter as well.

Rosemary September 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Maybe they are easier to care for than I think, but, still, what do you do with them if you have a hurricane? We have two autistic children, plus the critters. Anything over a Catagory 1, we leave. After Rita, we had no power for over a week, and Ike left us with no power for almost three weeks. I shudder to think about trying to take a fish tank with you, but the alternative would be leaving the poor things alone in a hot house with no filtration or food for who-knows-how-long. At best, everything would be fine, but you could wind up with a broken tank, a wet car, and kitty sushi, or else that horrible dead fish smell in your house. I think I’ll just lok at other people’s fish for now.

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