And You Would Be…?
As a student of the sciences at Rutgers
University, I became particularly interested
in marine biology and fishkeeping, and I
also served as an editorial intern for TFH
this past summer (which was an awesome
experience by the way, if any of you college-age readers out there are interested for
next year!). After my first saltwater tank
a few years ago, I was disappointed that
I couldn’t afford sufficient lighting and
filtration to create a full reef.
One thing about many of the nano
naysayers is that very few have ever even
tried to keep a nano. Most insist they’re too
difficult to attempt and only recommend
tanks at least 40 to 55 gallons. Well, I’ve
defied convention, joined the revolution,
and started my own nano reef. And I didn’t
fail in keeping things afloat—at least not
All or Nothing
Some of the perceived benefits and
pitfalls of nano reefs are easily outlined.
Beginners often think a small reef is
possible at a small price, and if the tank is
small, it must be low maintenance, right?
If you’re new to nanos, you may believe
these myths. If you’re a pessimist, on
the other hand, you’re thinking the water
parameters are impossible to keep track of,
and any fluctuations are uncontrollable.
Well, both parties are right—and wrong.
Follow me on the arduous journey I took
to build and maintain my own nano, and
you’ll see both sides of the battle.
Plenty of Choices
In choosing a nano reef, I would have the
ability to house corals that I was previously
unable to keep in my insufficient FOWLR
tank. The desire to house zooxanthellae-dependent organisms was very strong for
me, so I loved the idea of affordable all-in-one setups (herein referred to as AIOs)
with strong lighting and efficient filtration
systems built in.
After discovering the bustling online
forums devoted to nanos, I had many
of my initial questions answered, and a
window for future guidance. I recommend
any interested hobbyist begin by digging
through such forum threads, and some
good books, like the Nano Reef Handbook
by C. R. Brightwell (T.F.H. Publications,
2006). With some research, I selected an
AIO, which arrived at my doorstep quickly,
along with a few accessories.
An anemone shrimp Thor amboinensis explores a zoanthid in its nano reef home; while opinions
vary on nano reefs, some touting their supposed ease for beginners, others recommending them
for experienced aquarists only, the beauty of a well-stocked nano reef is undeniable.
You have a few choices with nano setups, That’s a Real
one being the tried-and-true standard Little Skimmer
seamed glass tank with external filtration, Many add-ons can be incorporated into
skimming, and lighting, or even a separate a standard mini-reef, but are considered
refugium. You can either build a system overkill for nanos. While this applies to add-from individual parts or choose one of the ons like wavemakers, there are components
many AIOs on the market. The various designed in nano sizes that you don’t want
manufacturers of these seem to be in to be without—the best example being the
competition to see who can most effectively various tiny protein skimmers now on the
pack in the most features, so there are some market.
good choices out there. Having biological, chemical, and/
The model I chose has two 24-watt or mechanical filtration is also a must,
compact fluorescent actinic and daylight especially for the biological/natural kind,
lamps over 9 gallons (over 5 watts per which works wonders in a small setup.
gallon, more than minimal for corals), I utilized macroalgae in the sparsely lit
and separate filter chambers built into the refugium (illuminated at night to prevent
tank. The deciding factors in making my pH swings) for nitrate removal, along with
choice were the cleverly cornered protein some live rock and sand. In a small volume,
skimmer and refugium basket with a you must use as many methods as possible
built-in light for macroalgae. However, to remove undesired elements, so plan
I’ve yet to see a small AIO that perfectly for biological, chemical, and mechanical
integrates every necessity of a successful filtration if possible. An external filter for
nano reef. a slightly larger setup is not a bad idea