Nano reefs are one of the fastest growing segments of the mini-reef hobby. In the past, smaller aquarium tanks were only maintained by aquarists with lots of experience, as it was quite a challenge to maintain the proper water parameters. Today, however, with new designs available, the smaller mini-reef aquariums are often the first tank a new hobbyist will set up. The Nano Reef Aquariums have proven to be a great way to be introduced to keeping corals. There are several different models available to choose from, ranging from 14 to 32 gallons in size. Below are some of the common models.

The BioCube 14 gallon system includes the aquarium and built-in filter system and circulation pump. The lighting is provided by two 24W PowerCompact bulbs. The larger 29 gallon system has a larger circulation pump and includes two 36W PowerCompact lights. The light ballast part of the power cord and both units include cooling fans. The systems also include LED moonlight emitters for use during the night.

The JBJ 24 Gallon Deluxe Nano Cube has two 24W Daylite/Actinic bulbs for those corals that require higher lighting intensity, such as the Small Polyp Stony corals (SPS). Under this intense lighting most any type of coral will do fine, with the obvious exception of low light corals like the Sun Polyps. The Deluxe model uses an electric ballast with a disconnect cable for easier maintenance and has cooling fans and LED moonlights.

The PowerCompact bulbs used in these systems are designed to work at peak efficiency for 12 to 14 months before they should be replaced. The water pump used in the three stage filter will need to have the impeller system cleaned to maintain the proper flow rate. Some hobbyists add a small powerhead to the Nano system to provide more current and motion in the cube for the benefit of the corals.

New designs now offer Nano aquariums with Metal Halide HQI bulbs for really intense light (JBJ 28 gallon, BioCube 29 gallon HQI) or LED emitters. The LED emitter system from JBJ has 25, 3W 14K daylights, four 3W actinic blue and two 1W moonlight emitters. The LED system will produce significantly less heat and is designed to last up to 10 years before needing replacement! The JBJ 28 gallon systems also include two circulation pumps attached to a wavemaking devise allowing the user to set the on/off.

The 32 gallon RedSea MAX might push the limits of a “Nano” aquarium, but does include all the parts required to set up the aquarium. It has two circulation pumps, a wavemaker timer, a light timer and a protein skimmer all built into the system. Two 55W PowerCompact bulbs provide lighting.

While many people use the Nano Cubes for a mini-reef, this system can also be used to set up a small environment for an anemone and a pair of Clown Fish. Another option is to use this system for a display aquarium for Seahorses where they will be able to compete for the available food. Other fish compatible for the mini-reef set up include Jawfish, Firefish, small Gobies/Blennies or Dottybacks. Cleaner Shrimp and several types of snails and small Hermit Crabs can be used to help control algae. The ratio of live rock to volume of water is usually higher in a Nano Cube than a regular aquarium, increasing the likelihood that the live rock will also act as a de-nitrification system. Partial water changes will still be required to help maintain proper water parameters.

The all-in-one Nano systems are easy to set up and require minimal amounts of sand/rock/equipment to complete the system. With proper patience, planning and maintenance, they offer a great opportunity to successfully set up a small marine environment in the home.

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