Modifying your Nano Aquarium

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JBJ 24-gallon Nano Cube

JBJ 24-gallon Nano Cube

There are many different nano aquariums on the market today, ranging from the tiny 6-gallon JBJ Nano Cube to the 34-gallon Current USA Solana or the Deep See Aquatics Neo Nano. There are some aquariums as small as 3 gallons, but those typically have the name “pico” as opposed to “nano”. These terms “pico” and “nano” are often heatedly debated, including arguments about maximum and minimum sizes to be considered a nano. But these arguments are better left to another discussion. For now I would just like to focus on making that tiny aquarium of yours better equipped to handle your livestock.

Lighting

Sunpod Over Nano Cube

Sunpod Over Nano Cube

*Picture of a 150-watt Sunpod over a 24-gallon JBJ Nano Cube

One of the most important things your nano aquarium is lacking is appropriate lighting. Since most of these tanks are too small for virtually any number of fish, the aquarist tries to compensate by creating a little coral garden. Corals, as mentioned over and over again in this hobby, require a healthy amount of light…which the nano aquariums most certainly lack. To remedy this, many nano keepers have either replaced their stock lights or simply added to them.

Eggcrate Over Nano Cube

Eggcrate Over Nano Cube

*Picture of “Eggcrate” Preventing Fish from Escaping from the Open Top of this Nano Cube

Replacing the hood of the nano aquarium with a better light fixture is easiest in my opinion. The hood is very easily

Nano Cube Reef Tank

Nano Cube Reef Tank

removed and a small light fixture can be placed on top of the aquarium. A very popular light is the Sunpod metal halide light fixture from Current USA. It comes in a variety of sizes and bulb wattages, though I think the newer models only come in 250-watts. Another popular light fixture is the Current USA Nova Extreme Pro 20″ model. It is an all T5HO light fixture, which is great for those aquarium keepers who don’t want to own a chiller or run their electric bill through the roof.

Acan Lord in Nano Cub

Acan Lord in Nano Cub

The other path that the nano keeper takes is modifying their stock nano hood. There are a few companies out there, like Nano-Tuners for example, who sell lighting packages that people can install into their hood. Some mods are simple and add another compact fluorescent bulb or two to the hood. Others replace the lighting scheme altogether and swap the stock lights for metal halides. I do not favor this approach for a few reasons. For one, it is very expensive to buy the kits. Secondly, the hood stays in place over the aquarium, but you’re adding more heat. Not having proper ventilation at the top of the tank can cause the temperature in the aquarium to be quite high.

Filtration

Percula Clownfish in Nano Cube

Percula Clownfish in Nano Cube

In the world of nano filtration, as with the lighting, there are several modifications that the aquarium keeper can utilize. Very few of the nano aquariums come with any real filtration. Instead, they come with a small pump that circulates water through the rear chambers containing ceramic rings, bio balls, and filter sponge. There are a small handful of nano-type aquariums that come with protein skimmers, but these are usually inadequate. To fix the stock filtration media problem, simply removing the

Tunze Nano Skimmer in Nano Cube

Tunze Nano Skimmer in Nano Cube

media and replacing it with live rock is a vast improvement. The live rock will provide just the right amount of surface area for bacteria to grow and thrive on, and will provide a home for all sorts of critters.

Another vast improvement is the addition of a protein skimmer. Since most nano aquariums don’t have one at all, even an inefficient skimmer will be an improvement. But, nobody wants to waste their money on useless equipment, so do try and get the best. The Tunze 9002 is a spectacular little nano skimmer, though there are a handful of other decent nano skimmers on the market.

The last type of filtration I would like to discuss is adding a refugium to your nano setup. A refugium is a smaller aquarium that houses beneficial macroalgae like

Rose Bubble Tip Anemone

Rose Bubble Tip Anemone

caulerpa or chaetomorhpa. The refugium for a nano tank is usually a hang-on style, but I have also seen people modify the chamber in the back of their nano to accommodate these macroalgae.

Water Flow

Water flow in a saltwater aquarium is very important. The flow of water prevents detritus from building up, eventually decaying and releasing harmful nutrients back into

Maxima and Squamosa Clams in Nano Cube

Maxima and Squamosa Clams in Nano Cube

the water. In addition to helping remove these harmful nutrients, water motion in the tank helps bring beneficial nutrients to corals. The standard nano aquarium only comes with one pump. This lone pump is used primarily to circulate water through the rear chambers of the tank. With the flow lacking in the display portion of the setup, many nano keepers add flow via powerheads or swapping the stock pump for a higher-flow model.

Powerheads are an easy add-on to any aquarium. Simply place it in the aquarium

Florida Ricordea in Reef Aquarium

Florida Ricordea in Reef Aquarium

and plug it in. But some of the powerheads are too large and block out too much light. Responding to these complaints, EcoTech Marine introduced the ever popular Vortech MP10, which has all of the same features as its big brothers, the Vortech MP20 and the Vortech MP40w. But regardless of which brand or model pump you go with, increasing the flow will greatly benefit the health of your setup.

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  • Izzy

    Isn't a Bubble Tip a little large for a nano? Unless it's the only thing you want to have it ….. for a little while at least….

  • the wild bta's get kind of large, but a lot of the captive raised ones stay pretty small and split pretty often.