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Maintaining Nano Reefs/Saltwater Aquariums


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Hey Everybody!

Just posting a discussion post for Saltwater/Nano Reef Aquariums, personally I'd really love to start one however after reading various articles, it seems like quite the hassle to maintain one so it would be great if any the forum member who maintain a saltwater aquariums could five me an idea of the things needed to do when they maintain their aquarium.

On a side note, is this cool?


It's a desktop saltwater aquarium, (well a guess a mini reef ecosystem on kickstarter) and I just wanted to let everbody know hahaha :D

I personally think it would be a great beginnner kit for people who want to have an easy saltwater ecosystem.

Cool Right?

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That tank is rubbish... You won't have any stability or ability to stabilise that tank. It is way too small. Go for something like the Aquanano range and then modify with marine led lights from ebay.

It's not that they are hard, they just require more care than a tropical set up does. If you ignore the water for 2 days in a nano, it can all go to ****. trust me, I just lost $200 worth of fish and anemones and corals due to a tiny ammonia spike. My bettas would have laughed at it, my marines died. Nano Marine tanks are notoriously prone to flucuating temperatures especially in summer. *shrug*

They are expensive to set up- decent coral and fish you're looking at $30+ per item.

I used a Heto 400 for my inital set up- it's got a nice flow rate and a good light for a small tank, and water changes are easy. I'm currently running an AR620 as a nano 90L and it's not doing as well. I'm seriously considering turning it into my community tank for female bettas, and then switching to my 2ft Aquaone Horizon 80 as a marine with LED lights and hooking it into a 2ft sump- this would allow a nano skimmer to be installed and lots more rock, water and algae.

In saying that, there's nothing quite like coming home to happy little clownfish rolling around in an anemone...

Edited by Curious_Chaos
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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey CalicoRain

Thought I would add my 2 cents.

I've found setting up and maintaining Nano relatively easy and cheap once I understood what I was doing.

When i was making mistakes it was time consuming and expensive.

Everyone has there own ideas. Below is just my opinion that has worked best for me in the past.

You will need


size - (no real minimum - has seen it done in 8litre)

Lid not needed but will stop evaporation and reducing salinity fluctuations

Preferably with sump to put filter medium - otherwise you can get away with a power filter

Ligts: LED lights (can use other lights but these IMO are most suitable for nano)

Preferably several

Small Pump:

Protein skimmer and wave makers are not needed unless you have larger nano, the skimmers are generally noisy and a wasted of money for a small tank.

Filter medium: Coral sand and live rock, If you have a sump, bio-balls , and activated carbon

A good supply of seas water or RO water from your LFS. Occasionally i will use mineral water.

Some people use tap water but i seriously advise against this.


Nano's are prone to spikes in ammonia, salinity etc.. and as such only stock with hardy fish/inverts/corals in Nano's.

Corals: Soft corals and large polyp stonies, no small polyp stonies

Fish: Small max 2

Inverts: turbos, nassarious snails, no shrimp, not crabs, no trochus


10-50% Water change depending on feeding

Good luck :bighug:

Edited by MelbourneGlobal
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Thanks for the quick summary! It's really hard to find information which sums things up for saltwater aquariums

I was thinking of buying this picotope aquarium

JBJ Picotope Aquarium

Its looks like it is worth the cost and the stock lamp apparently is capable to keep some corals

The only problem I'm having is whether a powerhead or not since many people suggest one

Its looks pretty good and when I have enough spare cash and time I'll invest in one of these, there's been alot of positive reviews and tons of videos on YouTube with the tank in action which is great!

Is there anything else I need to know?

And thanks everybody!

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Yep that could work.

That's a very small tank but it could support something.

What has worked for me.... (I don't know what you know, so I'll just be thorough and say everything)

Firstly everyone who starts with corals should be made aware that some corals for example Zoanthids have palytoxin which is extremely toxic. Many people (myself included) have unknowing handled corals without safety gloves/masks/glasses, while not knowing the dangers of toxins getting in eyes/mouth/cuts. LFS will happily sell you stock that can poison/spike you etc.. always google it and wear safety gear.

Water Parameters

All the bacteria etc that you need in the reef will live in filter medium,sand & live rock.

I would go to the LFS and get a small piece of Live rock and/or live sand. Put it immediately into tank, this will significantly reduce your cycling time (I put morphs in the same day as the live rock and they survived and grew).

This will also introduce clean up Crew (CUC) worms etc... you need these

If you get Live rock posted it may die.

Putting a lid on will make evaporated water drip back into tank and help keep salinity more stable. (I don't do this as i hate the look of the lid)

Top up water lost from evaporation with fresh water.

Nano environments are not very stable by nature and are generally incomplete environments - so the tanks is really relying on is constant supply of new salt water.

Constant regular water changes are key to keeping this tank alive. You tank is really small so there is no reason why you can't do a 50% change a week. (or break that down into small changes)

If your doing a 50% change heat your water first.

People say this is Reef safe etc... but this is just a general rule

IMO Not suitable for your new tank

Strombus snails, trochus snails and hermit crabs - may be reef safe in a large environments but in a cramped Nano environment there is no space to go around corals/rocks so they are forced to go through these, knocking them down and damaging them.

Peppermint shrimp - will probably attack your corals.

Starfish - will starve.

Seas Urchin - will need to be target feed but i wouldn't go there.

Fish - space and tank can't handle bio load. Might get away with a small goby but not sure how happy it would be.

SPS - lighting not suitable.

Clams/Mussels - will starve

IMO you could stock

Corallimorphs - all colour except red


Ricordea - Only by themselves as the tend to use allelopathy killing other coral

Sea Anenomie - You could but i wouldn't. You would need better lighting and don't stock anything else (When they move around finding a spot that like they will sting everything). If it bleaches you would have to target feed.

Turbo snails - Get them they will clean for you.

Nassarius snails: Will aerate sand - you will need to feed them

Duncan coral

Plate/Fungia coral - may need better lighting and or target feeding

Torch, Hammer, Frogspawn: Would only get a small one due to space. Don't keep with anything else as they can sting other coral

There are other corals that you may be able to keep but i have no experience keeping yet so i won't comment on: Xenia,goniopora,bubble,acan etc...

IMO I would do the following

Make sure you get a power head or pump they need oxygen!

Buy live sand and live rock.

Buy 4 turbo/algae snails (careful some LFS sell snails that are misidentified)

Buy Zoanthids and/ Corallimorphs (only get morphs attached to rock).

Do regular water changes with RO/DI water or sea water. If you use tap water it will get really messy.

Could grow with just lights, but could target feed coral with bits of shrimp/brine shrimp or Amino Fuel.

Good Luck

Note: Why this string is in the Shrimp/Invert Forum i don't know

Edited by MelbourneGlobal
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Receiving information from someone who has experienced keeping saltwater aquariums is great

I was in a way planning for a pico reef, with some small corals etc. Sometime in the future I will definitely try and set up a saltwater aquarium pico/nano reef and all this information was extremely useful, Thanks ALOT[/i.

I'm most likely get the hang of fresh water aquariums before I jump into nano reefs, but it will help anyone else like me who is interested

Thanks heaps :D

OT: I put this in Shrimps inverts because nano reefs can stock shrimps and invertebrates and I don't really know where else I could post a topic like this

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I went to a fish shop near Fremantle (WA) today and they had some amazing reef and corals but in larger tanks... I can understand the temptation. As cliche as it sounds the clown fish looked cool as they popped out of cover.

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