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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I realize this is a freshwater website but I am a member here, and I have been dabbling with some research on nano reef tanks and wanted the opinion of anyone who may have some insight before I joint a salt water forum.

I eventually may try a nano reef tank, the smallest I can start with. However this is a bit controversial depending on what you are trying to achieve, I obviously want the live rock and corals, I will want a snail/shrimp possibly both. I think I may want a single clown fish too and that is it, this is where the controversy comes in.

I have seen cheap nano reef tanks built out of a 5.5G tank, however it seems like if you want a single clown fish people really recommend a 10G tank so I am not sure if keeping a clown fish in a 5.5G is a reasonable goal?

This is where I may either break down and go to a 10G or skip the clown fish until I get the inverts/coral down and decide it is for me.

Back to equipment, I have seen people with a 5.5G use a normal HOB filter rated for a 10G tank combined with a small power-head and they claim it works for them. The problem I think about here is how are they removing protein with just a HOB? It seems like the much better alternative would be to use a 5.5G or 10G and turn it sideways so you use it the deep way, then seal in a piece of glass to block-off a utilities/equipment compartment in the back which can act as a sump area for a skimmer? I have seen HOB skimmers that are separate units, I would run both a HOB filter and skimmer side by side which would save me the hassle of making all sorts of compartments in the back but I would still use the partition to hide the heater and possibly extra bio media...the compartment could be extremely narrow this way if I use both HOBs with a small partition. Then I could leave it open top because of the HOBs, and use them as planters sort of like a saltwater riparium, the plants would hide the compartment and HOBs.

Thank you!
 

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The trick here is to figure out what you want to keep in the system and then build the system around that. Since you want a clown and corals, you should get something reasonable in size. Keep in mind that you need to allow for growth and clowns can get up to 4 or 5 inches long.

I would say that if you jusy want corals and inverts, you could set up a 5.5 gal tank, but this is a little tricky to maintain if your not experienced. Corals need excellent water conditions. I'd say a 10 gal tank is doable for a clown, but still a bit small. Consider opting for a 15 gal tank. It's not that much bigger and the additional volume of water will make things easier, especially when your new to this. The tank also has the advantage os being 24 inches long, so a lot of lighting fits on it well.

On a nano a decent hang on tank filter will do just fine. A skimmer is optional, since it's fairly easy to maintain the tank with water changes. You change 5 gal of water, and you have made a 33% water change on a 15 gal tank, or a 50% water change on a 10 gal tank.

I wouldn't bother with additional bio media. You simply don't need it in SW reef systems. That why you have all that live rock. That is a massive amount of bio media. You'll easily be able to hide your heater behind all this.

I also wouldn't bother trying to add various compartments in the tank. They are a pain to construct, and decrease available water volume. If you really want a tank like this, your best option is going out and getting something like a Red Sea C-130. It's about 34 gal, a bit larger than what your looking for, but is an all in one, more or less complete system. You can often find them used at an excellent price.

Lastly, join one of the reef forums. Sometimes they can be a bit intimidating, but you'll get much better answers to your questions. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Thank you for you reply! I would say that the space I have for it right now is more important than a clown fish, unless there are other fish I can run in a nano?

I do not have room for any external equipment under a stand, I plan to use a floor safe as a stand next to my bed. With that being said I really want a cube, and I may be able to save money by just converting a freshwater nano cube. I will not have much room for coral so I may have to stick to certain types that do not compete/sting one another so that it can be as dense as possible. I can not see going any bigger than an 8 gallon cube, I will look around at tanks and see what I can find.

I will certainly end up joining a forum before making any investments.

I would like to build around something like a JBJ 6G Nano Cube, sell the hood on eBay before I even use it and upgrade to a better lighting system keeping it open top:
 

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One other thought about SW tanks is that it's very easy to get SW splash all over everything. It can make a big mess. This can really get bad with open top tanks. Although that is not reason alone to not use an open top.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I may leave the top on since it will be by my bed I will not want any light leakage. I did some measuring and I can fit a 12 gallon JBJ tank where I want so I think I may do that when the time comes, with 12 gallons I can fit a single clown or something I'm sure.
 

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Reef Central (reefcentral.com) would be an excellent resource for your endeavor; there is a nano tank forum under the special interests group section. I ran a 10 gallon nano with a clownfish for 9 years, and the RC forums were quite helpful. IME, my saltwater nano was far more maintenance intensive (daily water top offs and cleaning salt creep) than a low tech 10 gallon planted tank, but wasn't more difficult.

Many nano reef tanks are run w/o a skimmer, as water changes are used to keep up with removal of dissolved organics, and if you are using live rock, that generally replaces the HOB filter (at least for biological filtration). I suggest figuring out what lighting you will need/use for the corals you want to keep prior to settling on a tank; there are a lot of great LED fixtures in the reef world, but figuring out which will fit your system and goals is tricky. Having a detailed plan and concrete goals before you set up a tank will really be helpful.

With regards to saltwater nano fish, live aquaria has a decent list.

With regards to using the floor safe as a stand, if it is metal, saltwater splash WILL get onto it and corrode the metal. A coat of marine grade metal paint (such as is used on metal boats) may stop this from occurring; I haven't tried this, but certainly will if I ever use a metal stand again for any aquarium.

FWIW, if I had it to do over again, no way I would do anything smaller than 29 gallon, preferably a 40B. Having said that, success with a 10 gallon nano is absolutely possible.

Good luck!
 

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nano-reef.com is a great resource. While they aren't really a nano board nowadays, the community there is really great and tight knit. Less arguing than ReefCentral or reef2reef about small things and more open to newbies (in my opinion). I think a 12G JBJ cube is a great intro. Just make sure you are constantly topping off the water as it evaporates and the salt doesn't, meaning that a lower water level than usual means a higher salinity than usual and that's not good.

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Hey teebo, I just left saltwater aquarium keeping, it was fun for a while but a tricky hobby. A few things, I had a 90 gallon tank and a 20 gallon quarantine tank, a far cry from nano, but one thing to understand is the smaller the tank, the harder to maintain. You have to be very careful with evaporation on a small tank, it will throw off your salinity quickly, and lead to a higher percentage of salt in the water than is safe. My 20 gallon I had to constantly test, but 90 gallon was much less effort. Corals are as mentioned very fussy. They need perfect conditions, good lighting, very clean r/o water, very accurate salinity and well established tank, you must cycle fishless with saltwater or you WILL have losses, cycling with some live rock is the way to go. 2 months at least before adding fish, clowns are quite resilient so a good choice. I'd put 2 small ones in a 15 gallon tank, especially if they're mated, it will be much more interesting that way and much later maybe a bubble tip anenome that will be host them. Snails are great, cleaning the glass all day,you can get a few of those after there's been some algae for them to graze on. Shrimp, I'd put one cleaner or one blood shrimp. Or another cool option, as I had, was a pistol shrimp watchman goby pair. They work together, the shrimp is blind and digs burrows, and the goby keeps a lookout and brings food and sifts the live sand. Shrimp are more touchy to water parameters so fish should be first. Best thing is probably to check kijiji or lfs for package deals, they're "usually" put together for a reason. I'd recommend a small surface skimmer to help remove the protein and a small sump, much easier to clean but a canister would be good too, for hob make sure it's a good size, probably rated from at least double your water volume. It's a tricky hobby but worth it, the colours are unmatched in freshwater (no offense) haha. And as mentioned earlier reefcentral.Com is a fantastic forum, I am also a member there as well. Best of luck, and definitely ask questions, there's so much to learn is sw. Cheers! Oh and p.s. when starting a siphon by mouth in a saltwater tank, have an empty glass ready to spit in! And perhaps a cold beer nearby doesn't hurt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Lots of talk about evaporation in a nano, it will be topped off daily as it is bedside however with a JBJ unit the tank is pretty well sealed so evaporation should be at minimal?

The more I look into this the more I want an anenome, the clowns have fun in them! I never cycle with fish in any tank.

I am pretty set on the JBJ 12 gallon sealed tank, with an in-tank sump in the rear which has spaces for my heater, media, mini surface skimmer, sponges, etc. I may not start with live rock because of hitch hikers, I may start with live sand and dry rock just let it cycle for a while I am in no rush!

Thank you
 

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...
The more I look into this the more I want an anenome, the clowns have fun in them! I never cycle with fish in any tank.

I am pretty set on the JBJ 12 gallon sealed tank, ...
If your going to get an anemone, wait for about one year after the tank is set up. They require excellent lighting by reef system standards. They also require high quality water and a well established tank.

You should also have a much larger tank for an anemone. I once had a green bubble tip anemone fill almost 2/3 of a 90 gal tank. You need not go that large, but I'd recommend a 40 gal breeder as about a minimum size.

I am talking about the large clownfish hosting kinds of anemones here. You could use the small rock anemones or mushroom anemones with out any problems, but clowns don't usually host in them.
 

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Wow that is a beautiful tank for sure. But a person doesn't need to be an expert to run any sort of tank, that's what these forums are for, asking questions when you're not sure and learning as your go. As long as your take your time, and do your homework a tank like that is attainable. It will take time though, patience is paramount in reefing. As far as the bubble tip taking up a lot of space I disagree, most grow to certain size then they split into two, the other could be sold or possibly traded at your lfs. You'll see when you get to that point that they will wander around in your tank to find their favorite spot according to light and current so make sure he finds a home before adding hard corals as they can be damaged by it moving around. Here is how I would do it: cycle with dry live rock, a little bit of living live rock with coraline algae growth (and yes, check for hitchikers) once cycled add maybe 2 clowns, wait a few weeks and add shrimp and snails, maybe 3-6 months layer if you've had no losses add an anenome or soft coral, and a few months later again some hard corals if you like. That's how I'd rate them based on ease of keeping so that's why the fish you could add first, next inverts, then anenome or soft coral and lastly hard coral. You're 12 gallon will work, just keep it simple with how much you put in it, and a tank like that is very attainable. But as a side note, I'm not a big fan of lids, I used egg crate only to keep fish from jumping out, mainly wrasse, they sometimes feel the need to explore. Salt creep was never a problem in my tanks, people you don't have bubbles like in fw tanks, except for the protein skimmer return which would be in your sump, a little guard will help with that. Lids prevent gas from escaping in my opinion, but if your sump has anot open top it may not be a problem. Plus evaporation is just a sign to add fresh water which is good for life in the tank. As you can see in my old tank that was fishless in the first pic while fish were in quarantine for ich, I had algae issues due to bad water, an r/o unit would have fixed that but having one wasn't possible. For hard corals it's necessary though. In the third pic you can see where the anenome chose his spot, about two feet away from where I placed it, but at least he was visible, sometimes they hide in the back in a large tank.
 

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So I was trying to quote davek on needing large tank for an enenome and failed, I hang my head in shame. I disagree though, I haven't seen them take over a tank like that, but I could be wrong.
 

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[/QUOTE]
You should also have a much larger tank for an anemone. I once had a green bubble tip anemone fill almost 2/3 of a 90 gal tank. You need not go that large, but I'd recommend a 40 gal breeder as about a minimum size. [/QUOTE]

I have never seen a bubble tip anenome grow that large, usually they grow a certain size then split into two seperate anenomes, is it possible it was a carpet anenome? They can cover a great deal of real estate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
That tank is pretty much what I want, it has enough color to keep me entertained for its size.

Thanks for the advice I would have added my cleanup crew before the fish, and possibly corals before the fish. In freshwater I usually cycle, then plant adding cleanup crew at the same time then wait a while before I add my fish (feeding cleanup crew).

I personally have all open top tanks, but that is freshwater. Some of the reasons to keep a lid with this setup is being next to my bed I am not sure how strong the smell of salt would be, and mainly light-bleeding I do not want any light overshooting the tank....my head will be about 18" from the tank. Also its perfectly fit and comes with the tank already, I will make sure I lift it once a day to release any built up gasses as long as there is enough space above the water for them to build in.

Wow nice tank how big is that? With the price of corals I can not see having that much surface area to fill, I would want it densely colored even if its a larger tank which means I am probably limited to what can live up against each other. I have a question that has always picked my brain about saltwater tanks...what is the deal with the multi-colored algae looking stuff that covers the glass, rock, and power heads? I always wondered why people never cleaned all that color off their hardware in the tank but it actually looks nice.

I had no idea anenome moved! I thought all corals were like plants; they can stretch and grow but not get up and move. Maybe an anenome is a plant and not a coral? Maybe I should do more research before asking these questions. Can a carpet anenome be pruned back the way you prune freshwater plants??
 

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I kept a 10g nano Reef for many years that had nothing more than an Aquaclear 110 (with sponge only) and a single powerhead. I kept some corals and two clownfish.

I also had a 20g with the exact same set up except I made the AC 110 into a mini refugium.

Don't over think them. All you need is a ton of live rock, water movement and a light stock and you're golden. Very easy to keep. (easier than a planted tank).

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnzPP0jZ15Y


I think you should make one of those :)

they are the cheapest and easiest to run, due to no topoff machinery needed and they run 4 days in between topoff. they do the wall of color you want, too small for fish but that's your liability anyway in a small reef tank, the fish. not the coral.

size is not what determines stability in a reef, this vase is older than 90% of reef tanks online. control of params like temp and salinity are what really matter in reefing, the rest is just weekly water changes. the reverse is actually true in reefing, the smaller it is the easier it is to run vs a large reef but only if temp and salinity controls are in place, without them then dilution and gallonage certainly matters.

but with salinity control in place, you can change all the water in this tank in 3 mins, and keep it perpetually clean, much easier than working on a larger tank. if algae grows on a rock in one of these, you lift it out and remove it. with a large tank people tend to spend mos and yrs doing things to the water, and waiting for hope.

the square tank you have pictured is more common but it requires daily topoff or auto eq to do it, and its footprint is a lot bigger than the vase. the vase is bubbled, the airpump is louder that may not work for you. both of these tanks have the same stability challenges despite their size differences...anything under 15 gallons or so behaves similarly
 

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Keep it as simple as possible. Know what's important (this is the most difficult part - read, read read) and stick to it. I would say that the important things are:

1. Keep your parameters as stable as possible. Salinity is big in a small tank due to evaporation. Monitor it. If you keep corals, monitor calcium/magnesium/alkalinity/pH. Nothing but heart ache if you don't.

2. In a nano, you have limited equipment options. Get the best filter, etc. that you can. Don't mess with things like refugiums unless they offer something you need (such as a place for pods to reproduce for specific fish that you shouldn't keep in a nano any way). Make a list of equipment you think you should have and then remove anything you don't think you need.

3. Keep logs of everything you do to the tank or anything you see hapen. It's easy to tinker with reefs - as well as fun - but it also causes problems for people all the time.

4. Go slow! There's a popular and accurate phrase in the hobby that says "nothing but death happens quickly". A lot of times letting it run its course is the best option unless it's something really important, like a sick fish.

5. Take all advice with a grain of salt. This is a hobby where established knowledge gets overturned all the time. While I think everything I've said is great advice, I'm just some rando on the internet. This is all based on my experiences and readings. When I started almost 10 years ago, the prevailing thought was that nitrates and phosphates were dangerous and had to be removed for the health of fish and corals. Now people are dosing nitrates in their tanks! - As a corollary to this point, don't get caught up in fads either. They can waste your tank if you aren't careful (and even if you are)!

6. Know your limits.

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