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.