“Nano” aquariums: The term “nano”, refers to any aquarium with a display tank that holds 30 gallons of water or less. During the earlier years of reef tank keeping, nano reefs were thought of as near impossible due mainly to the restrictions of early technology. Water quality is always a very big concern when it comes to keeping coral alive, happy and growing, and older aquarium filtering technology made it much harder to keep nitrates close to zero. Luckily for us, new ideas such as refugiums and chemical reactors have made keeping a small, colorful reef not only possible, but even a good starting point for anyone looking to get into reef keeping. Benefits up a nano aquarium: • Ease of stocking. o Many coral species can take a long time to grow into larger colonies, and even longer to grow to a size that fills out your aquarium. With nano aquariums, a small amount invested in coral can go much farther to giving your tank a true reef look. • Most nano aquariums are also much easier to set up. o Many nano aquarium sizes now come in pre-assembled tested aquariums kits. You can easily find a kit that will include: tank, filtration, lighting, flow and heat. This makes getting the proper equipment together much easier for anyone new to the process. • Deciding to set-up a nano aquarium can also help to cut costs. o Setting up a reef is never a cheap endeavor, but with a smaller more inclusive tank set up you can greatly reduce overall costs. The initial equipment cost will be much less and with less space you will need less fish, salt, substrate, rock and chemicals. The smaller lights of a nano aquarium will also help to cut costs on your energy bill. • Technical accomplishment. o Many nano reefers also enjoy the accomplishment of setting up and maintaining a small reef that just a couple of decades ago was thought of as impossible. • Space constraints also make nano reefs a great option for some. Down sides of the nano aquarium: • Smaller system volume can lead to lower water conditions. o There are many bad chemicals and good chemicals that need to stay in balanced exact amounts in a reef system. When there’s less total system volume, the bad chemicals have less water to dilute into causing them to rise faster. Less system volume also means you have less of the good chemicals needed in your water, which can lead to these levels dropping faster than is desirable. Both of these problems can be surmounted by keeping a close watch on water parameters and doing maintenance accordingly. Another thing to consider when thinking about keeping your water quality in check, is to add a larger than normal sump. The added volume will make your reef much easier to keep happy. • Heat issues due to lighting can also be a major concern. o Many reef lights put out a substantial amount of heat, which is only perpetuated by the small system volume and small surface area of a nano tank. In many cases a small clip on fan can be a viable solution to this problem, but in extreme cases expensive chillers may be needed. A good way to start combating this problem before it starts, is to buy lighting powerful enough for the coral you want to keep and not more. Also keep you aquarium away from direct sunlight and place your tank in the coolest area possible. • Many aquarists feel constrained by the selection of fish available for nano aquariums. o Naturally due to space and filtration constraints, there are less fish available that can be successfully kept in a nano aquarium long term. Before picking the tank size that’s right for you, be sure to research the species of fish you would like to keep and plan accordingly. • Underpowered filtration. o Most all-inclusive nano’s come with a wet-dry filtration system which can lead to nitrates, and most also do not come with a skimmer. A few more considerations: As always live rock or dry rock is highly recommended as filtration for a nano reef aquarium. The usual one and one-half to two pounds per gallon of rock is recommended. A sand substrate is also recommended for a nano tank both as a buffering agent and as filtration. Anywhere between two and four inches of sand is a good starting point. As with any reef tank, there are many things to consider before beginning to set-up, but nano reefs have several very specific variables that require close attention and thought before deciding to jump in. Always be sure to do your research first and take it slow with everything you do.