The all-in-one (AIO) tank is first set up with live
rock placed in a couple inches of water.
either—just don’t create excessive water
Among many nano components, price
doesn’t necessarily correspond with size,
and as with most things, you get what you
pay for. A quality nano component won’t
be cheap, so don’t think nano size should
translate to nano price. Skimmers, filters,
and lights can be had rather affordably, but
their abilities will be limited in comparison
to the more costly ones of similar size.
Sure, Go Overboard,
Just Don’t Drown
Of course there are must-haves for your
nano reef: heaters, thermometers, GFI
powerstrips, and test kits; and while it’s
something I wouldn’t try on a well-stocked
system, you can debatably go without a
protein skimmer. But if you don’t mind
spending the extra cash, you can throw in
things like powerheads, chillers, auto top-offs, monitors, wavemakers, and the like.
Add whatever you feel is necessary, just
don’t overcrowd your system (and try not to
After filling the tank, the clouded water needs
time to settle. While the tank may look clear
afterward, a few weeks must be allowed for
cycling unless you’re seeding from a pre-existing setup.
constantly trip your circuit breaker, either).
At first, you can save a lot of money by
leaving things out, but you’ll find yourself
slowly spending what you saved.
You can purchase reverse-osmosis (RO)
water from your LFS or another source,
but the costs eventually add up, and you’ll
be wishing you made the investment in an
RO unit, no matter how small your setup.
The most convenient (not least expensive)
solution for me was an RO system for
daily top-up water, and pre-mixed saltwater
from my LFS for 2½-gallon weekly water
changes, merely a time saver.
So you’ve got your nano tank and
components, you’ll now need to consider
placement. Once filled, you must consider
the location of the tank to be permanent—
you wouldn’t want to disturb your microenvironment once it’s settled. Also, no
matter the size, moving even a partially
filled tank runs the risk of stressing the
seams, leading to a potential flood, albeit a
Place your reef in a place
with significant traffic,
where it can
often, but not
frequent fluctuations in ambient
temperature. Heat can become a big problem
for your nano, so pick a place that won’t get
too hot. My parents inadvertently got the
right idea when they made me house my
first salt tank in the basement (so as not to
ruin my mother’s floors). It wasn’t exposed
to the heat of the first floor, so it was safe
from fluctuations. Temperatures within a
small tank can rise or plummet with the
ambient temperature, so a cool basement
is not a bad idea, just use a good heater as
well, and check the tank daily.
A leak test is in order next. For even the
smallest leak you’d have to remove all of
the sealant, and completely redo it. With a
new aquarium, return it to the dealer for a
replacement if you detect any problems.
Once you know your tank holds water,
place the components in their respective
locations. Don’t become a gadget-a-holic, as I did. Running too many pumps
shouldn’t add a lot of heat, but you may
accidentally draw too much water from
your filter chamber (in the case of an
AIO). I implemented a powerhead and a
UV sterilizer in my 9-gallon nano, but not
without placement considerations.
A good rule of thumb is one pound
of live rock per gallon, with live-sand
substrate a half-inch thick. Clean up your
live rock first (I prefer a quick freshwater
dip), then aquascape against the bottom of
the dry aquarium.
Pour in water and live sand, enough to
hold the aquascaping in place, then cover
the entire area with a clean plastic bag,
the one the live rock came in, for instance.
That way, when you pour in pre-mixed,
temperature- and pH-adjusted saltwater,
you won’t move the micro-rockwork.
Remember, it’s not called live rock for
nothing; keep it moist this entire time and
fill the tank as quickly as possible, so you
don’t get too much die-off, which would
throw off your water chemistry.
Do I Really
Need To Wait?
While debate wages over whether to seed
tanks with sand and rock from established
setups, both sides present reasonable
arguments, applicable to mini and nano
reefs. Using old live rock and sand, you’re
seeding your new nano with microfauna
you’ll otherwise be waiting to establish.
This flowerpot Goniopora sp. is rather
intriguing, yet admittedly was an unresearched
purchase made by the author. Clownfish may
choose this hard-to-care-for species as a host,
bringing about its demise.