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It’s A Small World After All

One of the areas of the aquarium hobby that has boomed in recent years is the phenomenon of the mini, or nano, aquarium. Many models of small complete systems have hit the market, and it is now easier than ever to succesfully keep these pint sized wonders.

There are a few important things to consider when planning your nano-tank set up. Small tanks are notorious for having unstable water quality. Water quality and temperature changes occur much easier, and faster, in a small tank than in a larger system simply because there is less water to buffer and absorb changes. Even a five gallon water change can take out a lot of good bacteria and may be causing the same “new tank syndrome” that many aquarists experience when setting up their aquarium. Cloudy water and a brown algae bloom typically mark the end of the cycling process as bacteria neutralize nitrites and create nitrates that feed algae. These blooms usually die off on their own within a few days, but try keeping your water changes small to avoid this “re-cycling”. For example, instead of changing 25 percent of your water a couple times a month, try changing 5 to 10 percent every week or two. If you have to do a larger water change, keep a product with a live bacteria culture like Biozyme or Hagen’s Cycle on hand to replace the bacteria you remove. Increasing the amount of water in your system can also help to keep the water quality more stable. A small pump, some tubing and an extra tank can make a simple refugium to increase the volume of your system, allowing for a more stable display tank . With the addition of a light source, this extra tank can also be used to grow macroalgae to eat up extra nutrients, as a nursery for copepods and other live foods, or even as a safe haven for harassed fish and invertebrates. An extra 5 or 10 gallons will help to stabilize your water quality and prevent algae and bacteria blooms. Between water changes, avoid overfeeding your fish and invertebrates by using a feeding station to contain floating foods and a feeding syringe to target-feed directly to your animals. Make sure that you are choosing size appropriate species of fish and other animal, while this is important in any size aquarium, it is crucial in small aquarium. Try to stick to community fish, and be conservative with the number of fish that you are keeping. Heavy fish loads require heavy feeding, and can quickly overtax small filtration systems. Small systems take a little extra TLC than large tanks but can be well worth it in the end.


One comment

  1. avatar

    hi Dave!
    Great Article once again. It was very, very helpful. I have recently set up a Saltwater Aquarium, and I have brown algae blooms on the Live Sand. I have 3 Hermits, and 2 Chromis in there now.


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About Dave Acland

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After graduating from Coastal Carolina University with a BS in Marine Science in 1996, I started my professional career in 1997 as an aquarist at Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC. This was an amazing experience, in which I gained invaluable hands on training in exhibit design and construction, as well as husbandry skills for a wide range of animals. In 2000 I started working at That Fish Place as one of the staff Marine Biologists, with the responsibility of maintaining one of the largest retail fish holding systems in the world. I presently hold the position of Director of Aquatic Science, where I oversee the operation of our 35,000 gallon retail aquarium systems, and provide technical support for our mail-order and retail store customer service staff. As an aquatic product specialist, I also provide support for our purchasing and marketing departments, as well as contribute web content and analysis. As a Hobbyist I acquired my love of aquariums from my father who was keeping a large aquarium in early 70’s, and set up my first aquarium when I was 12 years old. I have now been keeping aquariums for over 35 years, and through this time have kept more aquariums and types of fish than I can remember. I set up my first Saltwater aquarium in 1992, which led me down the path I still follow today.