One of the most common ways to get rid of build ups that hinder your view of your tank on the glass of your tank. This easily removes algae build ups or other nuisances on your glass. They should come in four different size. Small cost about $9, medium about $18, large about $30 and last but not least x-large around $122
NanoAquatic Reef Guide
The smallest tank size we recommend is 10 gallons. The most popular type of fish for nano aquariums, such as gobies, require at least a minimum of 10. Anything below 10 should be kept as a coral and inverts only tank as most fish will experience stunted growth. This occurs not only due to the aquarium size but because of the lack of water quality that nano provides over bigger sized tanks. Below we will guide you with our very own 10 gallon tank. If you choose a different size, we'll adjust and add information accordingly as we go along. We've divided the guide into three sections, 1) Tank Setup, 2) Essentials and
3) Equipments. Those who are considering fish only, follow the numbers with the blue fish.
If you choose a lighting fixture(which we'll get to later) without a timer built into it, you can go ahead and grab one. Coralife Digital Power Center should cost about $30, these only control your day and night lighting so if you want to save some money, just pick up a timer from Home Depot. You can probably get one at $10.
You can get these just about anywhere for under $5 even for a large one. If you're trying to catch your fish even in your nano tank, we suggest getting the medium one. Small are too small to catch anything other than slow moving little creatures, definitely wouldn't try to catch fish with it. If you have a tank above 30+ gallons you might consider having two or three of these in different sizes though you can get away with one.
There are hundreds of skimmers to choose from, but we're going to review the ones we've used thus far. Though nano tanks do not necessarily need a skimmer(if you're following the routine water changes), they are good to have if your reef is stacked with corals and if you wish to not do water changes as often as it's normally required. We never skimp out on a good skimmer as good water quality is a must.
For our small 5 to 10 gallon reef setups(without sumps) we use the Taam's Rio Nano Skimmer. Though this skimmer has mixed reviews, it was easy to set up and worked great for our tanks(you need to follow the instructions carefully). These generally go for $31. For setups that we use hang-on back refugiums like the CPR AquaFuge, we use the AquaticLife Mini Skimmer 115($55). They fit snug inside the refugium and also worked amazingly(this skimmer requires an easy mod which you can look up on Youtube). The one we chose for this particular 10 gallon with 5 gallon sump, we chose the Tunze Nano DOC 9002 Skimmer($134). This skimmer is rated between 10 to 52 gallons, but since our 10 gallon is stacked with corals we like to over-skim. What we love about the AquaC Urchin Skimmer w/ Maxi-Jet 1200 is that they fit in DIY sumps really well and they work right out of the box(after a good rinse), with no mods necessary. We use the Urchin for our 20 gallon with 10 gallon sump. This skimmer is rated at 20-75 gallons so you can use it for bigger tanks. Last but not least, we used the AquaC EV-120 Skimmer w/ Mag Drive 5 Pump for our 125 Gallon that we used to have(had to take it down due to financial reasons). One of reefer's favorite SWC 120($225) is added as well.
OPTIONAL: Emergency air bubble
This Silent Air B11 "Life Insurance for Your Fish!" was a lifesaver many times when we used to live in a neighborhood where electricity went out constantly. There are a lot of old buildings, houses and neighborhoods in New York City where this happens often so it's best to keep these around to provide just enough air for your livestock to breathe and survive. When your electricity goes out these turn on automatically and surprisingly they last for a very long time. If your entire city is out then obviously you need a generator. These cost about $20 and you need to grab an air stone which should be less than $1.
Carbon filter media
Carbon filter media is much needed to keep your pH level in check. You can place your cabon filter in the sump. Generally carbon filter bags like Boyd's Chemi-Pure($7 for 5oz) & Chemi-Pure Elite($10 for 6.5oz) come pre filled in a bag and can be placed anywhere (we like to put it in the return pump section of the sump). Make sure to rinse it before adding it. One bag is sufficient for a small 10 gallon setup like ours and they last about six months. There are lots of different brands of carbon out there that work great, but you would most likely have to purchase the filter bag seperately(they aren't expensive at all).
Another method to use carbon filter media is to place them in a power filter, like the AquaClear Hang-on filters, or in a Carbon filter media reactor like the NextReef's MR1. AquaClear 20 should cost around $40 while NextReef's MR1 goes for around $111. We only use this method for tanks 30 gallons and above, to avoid hassle we just use a bag of Chemi-Pure Elite.
Boyd's Chemi-Pure Elite AquaClear PowerFilter NextReef MR1 Media Reactor
When choosing the right powerhead or pump for your main tank, you would have to do some math by multiplying your water volume with what's called a "turnover." To figure out what your water volume is, you need to measure your lengthxwidthxheight from your sandbed to your top water cut off line. Then follow this link to calculte your water volume here. Different corals need different amount of flow. For example, you can get by with 10-20x turnover for softies, LPS might require 20-30x turnover and SPS at 30-50x & up. To make it simple, we had one Hydor Pico Ev-Mag(180gph, $24) in a 5 gallon softie tank, two Hydor Koralia Nano(240gph/each, $32/each) in a 10 gallon LPS-SPS tank, etc. In conclusion, the more flow the better(do not try to fit the minimum turnover), but make sure you don't go over your limit where the flow creates sand dunes and sand tornados.
NOTE: If you want to skip all this hassle, just get a EcoTech Vortech MP10 ES. You can control the flow to your liking. Personally, we never go cheap with powerheads so for tanks 10 gallon and above we always keep the MP10. They cost a hefty price of $235, but it's worth every penny.
Hydor Koralia Hydor Pico Evo-Mag
Fish food (Dry or Frozen, or both)
We purchased both Ocean Nutrition Formula One($10.50 for 7oz) and Two($10.50 for 7oz). One contains protein while Two provides more green. When shopping for fish food, it's best to buy varieties so your fish can get different kinds of nutritions, mix things up a bit. Frozen foods are good to have as well, 16oz flat pack of Hikari Brine Shrimp should cost about $9, but when purchasing online, different websites might charge you different prices. Hikari Mysis 16oz flat packs might cost a little more so if you want either of these in cubes, the 3.5oz cube packs are much cheaper. You might want to grab a squirt feeder(est. $20) when feeding frozen foods.
When feeding your fish dipping your food in SeaChem's Garlic Guard will keep your fish healthy(better appetite and better immune system). If you have a Tang in your tank, make sure to buy seaweed. We use the "Bulk Green Seaweed 100 Sheet" pack by Two Little Fishies($40). Make sure to purchase a seaweed clip as well($3.50).
3 - EQUIPMENTS
Keep your livestock warm. You will probably get many different opinions on this topic, but generally anywhere between 75-85 degrees would be best. Having temperatures slightly lower or slightly higher than that doesn't mean everything in your tank will die, but you might experience slower growth rate in your corals. You will experience casualties when above 90. Choose which temperature works best for you. If saving some electricity is part of your plans, then lower the temperature in the 74-78 range.
When choosing a heater, we typically go for the shatterproof heaters like the Aqueon Pro Heater. A 50watt costs about $25 and though it says the heater is good for up to 20 gallons, these would be best for a 10 gallon. A 100watt goes for $27 and a dollar more gets added as you go higher to 150watt, 200watt and 250watt. A 100watt is perfect for a 20 gallon. Always try to go a little higher in wattage than the ratings especially if you're keeping that sump with extra water volume. When we choose a glass heater, our favorite is the Eheim Jager TruTemp heaters. These are accurate and they last a very, very long time.
NOTE #1: Some people like to keep two heaters in their sump just in case one blows out.
NOTE #2: Depending on your region, how cold or how hot your area is, you should choose your wattage. With our 10 gallon main tank and a 5 gallon sump, we use a 75 watt heater because New York City does tend to get really cold winters.
OPTIONAL: Phosban Reactor
These are for bigger sized tanks, anything above 40 gallons because you really won't have space for tanks that's smaller. Nano aquariums don't necessarily require these if you keep up with your water quality by doing your routine water changes. If you're still struggling with your phosphate levels, just do bigger water changes. The most popular phosban reactor is the one pictured on the left, Two Little Fishies GFO Phosban Reactor 150 should cost about $35. The phosphate removal media should cost about $13 for 150gram bottle.
EcoTech Vortech MP10w ES
Tunze Turbelle NanoStream
Lighting (LED, T5 & Metal Halide)
You can follow the general 3watt per gallon rule for T5s or follow this link if you're going to choose LED, here. There is no iron rule, everything is according to what kind of corals you have. To show some examples of what lighting is sufficient in what type of setups, we'll list some below as we go along.
NOTE: Set the timer to 7-8 hours for LED lights. If you experience algae breakouts, bring the time down a bit and adjust accordingly. Metal halide should be on about 8-10 hours. We had our T5s on for about 10-12 hours for blue lights and about 5-7 hours for all lights in between those 10-12.
We had this 36" ATI T5 PowerModule fixture 6x39w($550?) equipped with ATI 39w T5 bulbs(Aquablue, Blue Plus and Purple Plus) over a 40 gallon breeder(measuring 36"x18"x16"). This was enough to keep all kind of corals including SPS and Clams. We also had the ATI T5 SunPower($364) on top of a 20 gallon tank, but a 4x24w was enough. Remember to change your bulbs every 9-12 months.
The K2 Viper Metal Halide 70w fixture was used on a 14 gallon biocube(measuring 15"x15-1/2"x16-1/2"high). We were able to keep SPS close to the surface of the water(top 3/4 of the tank). Most LPS and softies thrived on the mid and low levels. This specific model is discontinued but should give you some sort of an idea about metal halides. Since they aren't available in the market anymore, you can find one on Ebay for about $75. Remember to change your bulbs once a year.
For the price you pay for a good T5 fixture, not to mention the bulbs, there is no reason why you shouldn't be purchasing a LED fixture. You save ton on energy and LED bulbs last much, much longer! One of our favorite LED fixture for our 10 to 20 gallon tank setups is the Kessil A150w($225). While the Kessil A150w lights up the 10 gallon without any dark spots, you might experience a conical dark spot on the 20 gallon. If this is the case, just lift the light fixture a bit higher(though you lose a little light intensity). Make sure to purchase a Gooseneck($35) if you don't have anywhere to hang the fixture. At first, when you purchase this light, it doesn't seem as bright as the metal halide to the naked eye, but these lights pack a punch that will keep your SPS and Clams more than happy. The colors of my corals that recovered from brink of death was spectacular. Kessils tend to look a lot more blue than what their color spectrum states, so we went with the 10000K(Sky Blue).
For those with bigger tanks, go with the Kessil A360w. This served awesome for our 45gallon Oceanic Cube(24"x18"x25"). Two of these should be enough for a 75 gallon tank. Unlike the A150w, you can dim the A360s, both the light intensity and color balance.
For those going towards fish only or fish w/ invert only setups, one Marineland Double Bright LED fixture should be enough. The 18-24" fixture costs around $60, 24-36" around $85, 36-48" at $115 and 48-60" about $170. If you think one is not bright enough, get two.
We had this Hydra Aquatics Retina I LED fixture($100) for our nano 5 gallon bow. Despite some mixed reviews, we found this fixture to be very bright and sufficient for any softies and some LPS. One thing to note though is that the fixture's light is very white, so you might want to supplement it with some extra blue LEDs.
Another excellent LED you should look into is the EcoRay lighting. The 60DX model is discontinued and replaced by the EcoRay 72DX($380) which has dual dimmers like the A360w. This lighting should cover 24" in length as two were sufficient for our 55 gallon frag tank.
This $290 fixture was our favorite for our nano 10 gallon reef. Everything was fully controllable with the dial and through the little screen. The Maxspect Razor Nano R420R will surely satisfy many nano reef enthusiasts.