Setup Ideas for a Small Saltwater Aquarium

Tropical fish swimming in aquarium outside kitchen

With saltwater, how tiny of an can you have? Although you may choose to set up an with a volume of less than 40 gallons, often known as mini, micro, nano, and pico tanks, most seasoned aquarists will tell you that the greater the amount of water you are dealing with in an aquarium, the better. What's the key reason? Because the water volume is bigger, there are fewer concerns about quick environmental changes.

Small Aquariums Are Unique

With such a little amount of water, if a water quality concern arises, such as excessive ammonia, it can quickly escalate, resulting in devastating consequences if not addressed immediately. Although ammonia may be present when a high volume of water is present, it normally accumulates gradually and may be considered diluted due to the larger volume of water involved. Because it takes a bit longer for an issue to reach a critical level, a situation like this can be handled more calmly.

Tips for the Smaller Saltwater Environment

Smaller isn't always better, and before you decide to build a tiny saltwater system or buy a mini/nano aquarium kit, there are a few critical things to consider while setting up and maintaining an aquarium with a capacity of less than 40 gallons.

  • You should be patient and diligent.
  • Provide adequate filtration and . (Example: Don't use an up to 10-gallon capacity hang-on power filter on a 10-gallon tank, but upsize to a 20 or 30-gallon unit.)
  • Incorporating a is a definite plus to remove fast-accumulating and troublesome organic matter.
  • Keep pre-filtering materials clean.
  • To stay on top of what is happening in the aquarium, the water should be tested frequently.
  • Depending on how much bio-load is in an individual system, a regular weekly, bi-monthly to monthly 25 to 50 percent water change is essential for maintaining good water quality, which relates back to the importance of testing the water.
  • Choose tank occupants carefully, and don't overload the system by overstocking.
  • Do not overfeed, especially with foods that can quickly pollute the water.
  • Be cautious about adding buffers, adjusters, trace elements, supplements, other additives, as well as medications. These things can tip the balance of the system very quickly.
  • Monitor the temperature, especially when making water changes. Residual heat from lights, pumps, a skimmer, and other pieces of equipment may cause a water temperature change.
  • Don't overpower the system with too much light. Using the standard 3.5 to 4.0 watts per gallon formula (Example: 10 gallons x watts), suitable wattage VHO fluorescents, power , T-5 high output tubes, compact HQI, LED and combination bulb fixtures are good choices. Mini-aquarium kits make lighting easy, because they come equipped with built-in lighting systems. If you plan to keep corals and other zooxanthellae hosting invertebrates, you have to choose the right set up that will support the types of reef animals you plan to keep.
  • To avoid disease problems, which can result in having to treat the aquarium, take the time to quarantine new livestock before placing them in your show tank.

Don't fall into the trap of being dissatisfied and angry with aquarium maintenance and then giving up because you were unprepared. The key to success is understanding what is required of you before you start an aquarium and then committing to doing everything you can to maintain it. This is especially true when it comes to keeping a tiny aquarium.