The Nano Reef Tank – Is It Suitable For The Beginner

When a beginner starts to research this hobby cost obviously becomes a factor and for very good reason.

The larger the aquarium which is chosen the more equipment which is required, more water, more lighting, more salt etc.

The list goes on and on.

For this reason the potential saltwater aquarists heads one of normally four ways.

  1. The decision is made not to progress any further into the hobby.
  2. The decision is made to either save money for the purchases or purchase gradually over time
  3. The decision is made to cut corners
  4. The decision is made to start a [tag-tec]nano reef tank[/tag-tec]

Option 1 is a shame if this decision is chosen. Although it may appear that the aquarium is going to cost the earth it does not have to be that way – unfortunately though there are a lot of people who do choose this option.

Option 2 is normally a hard one to take but is one which is worthwhile doing. A good aspect of this option is that it tests one valuable aspect of the aquarist – patience.

Option 3 unfortunately is chosen a lot and corners are cut to save money. Corners which will over time turn around and bite you. Therefore over time the aquarium actually ends up costing you more.

Option 4 in my opinion is a great option to choose. There are a lot of aquarists choose from the outset to keep a nano reef tank rather than opt for a larger saltwater aquarium.

So I guess the burning question is how hard is it to keep a nano reef tank and can a beginner do it?

With a nano reef tank there are considerable savings to be made. With the aquarium being of a smaller size then the physical purchase price of the aquarium will be less, less aquarium filtration (live rock for example) will be required as well as salt, water, water pumps/powerheads,lighting, heating etc.

It is not just the purchase price either which is cheaper. The running costs of the aquarium are considerably lower as well.

On the other side of the coin though there are areas which the aquarists will need to concentrate on – [tag-ice]aquarium care[/tag-ice] and [tag-self]aquarium maintenance[/tag-self].

With the aquarium being of a smaller size it will hold less water. With their being less water in the aquarium there is a lower volume for pollutants etc to mix with, therefore it can be harder yet not impossible to maintain the excellent water conditions required. Another area to consider is that the water will heat up and cool down quicker, therefore the aquarist will need to keep a careful eye on the temperature to ensure that stability is maintained. Again with their being less water in the aquarium water evaporation can affect the aquarium more as the salinity can change quicker than in a larger aquarium, to combat this the aquarist will need to ensure that regular water top ups are performed.

On another note less corals and fish will be able to be kept in the nano reef tank. Some people who keep a nano reef tank do not have and fish but prefer to keep corals only. In some instances shrimps etc are added. The reason for this is the waste which is produced by the fish and the fact that we need to physically feed them. Keeping fish in an aquarium means that there will be pollutants, pollutants by physical waste from the fish as well as any uneaten food. This does not mean that you cannot keep fish in a nano reef tank – you can as long as you are careful with your selection and do not overstock.

In a way have fewer corals, fish etc in the aquarium is actually a blessing. The bigger the aquarium the more corals and fish you can keep, however it is hard to watch them all. With a nano reef tank you can carefully study each coral, watch it grow and learn more from it that you probably can with an aquarium which has 50, 100, 150 + corals in it.

In the future of course if you so desire then you can upgrade to a larger aquarium. You do not need to – you can keep the nano and watch it grow into an item of beauty – nature at it’s finest. If you do choose to upgrade at a later date then you may have then opportunity to be able to re-use some of the aquarium equipment – the heaters for example could be re-used or possibly the actual aquarium could be used as a refugium.

So yes a beginner can do it – they can start a nano reef tank as long as they are diligent.


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3 Comments
  1. very good information here but for salt water nano tanks for beginners, when we do water changes can I prepare the water in advance and keep it for like weeks in a covered bucket and then use it when it comes for water changes? Or is it advised to only mix the salt and the water one day earlier before making water changes? Which is better?

  2. Hi Janssen,

    Yes you can prepare the water in advance. I would probably not do premixed saltwater though. I would keep the water in a closed container and then remove what you need to mix with salt when it is time to do your water change.

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