Nano Reef: 10 Steps For A Quality Setup

I know all the hobby related to Aquarium is expensive but when it comes to having a saltwater experience in your aquarium then maintaining it can be an exhausting and expensive job.

So, to avoid that there is a mini version through which you can replicate the persona of saltwater and through this, you can easily replicate the real environment of the ocean.

This version or alternative we should call is known as Nano Reef and here we are going to discuss everything about it.

First, let make this clear that what exactly Nano Reef is? Take a normal aquarium and convert it into a saltwater environment, but all of this process is done on a smaller scale.

As you know when it comes to setting up a Saltwater environment for your fisheries is done in a 125-gallon full tank and in this miniature version you can easily maintain it at an affordable price.

All in all, maintaining and fulfilling its requirement is easy and cheap compared to setting up a saltwater environment in a 125-gallon full tank. 

As you are setting this set-up for your fisheries thus you have to compromise on the number of fishes that you can pet, as this is a small and affordable set-up thus you can have less amount of fishes in that aquarium.

If you want something then you have to compromise on something else. 

Keeping all the consequences aside here are 10 easy steps to set-up a Nano Reef in your house. 

10 Steps to Set-up Nano Reef:

Nano Reef1

Here we are going to discuss the top 10 best effective methods through which you will be able t set-up a Nano Reef by yourself and can provide your fish pets with an ocean-like environment

Step #1- Choose Fish Tank Accessories:

Fish Tank Accessories

Starting with the size of the tank as it is miniature thus you have to keep the fish quantity low and according to that, you have to choose the fish tank size so that your fishes don’t feel congested and trapped.

They could move freely and easily around the tank. But if you want our opinion then we would recommend it.

You choose from the 3 most common sizes that are perfect for setting up a Nano Reef environment. These sizes are 14, 29, and 40-gallon fish tanks.

But if you can’t decide by yourself which one is the perfect size for you then there are various blogs and articles that you can read to come to a conclusion.

you can then easily select which size of the fish tank would be perfect for you to set-up a Nano Reef.


Do you know what is a common lighting setup for a Nano reef? You should choose Power Compacts, Fluorescent light tubes, and Metal Halides as they are way more support for this type of environment when compared to any other lighting setup. 

Why? You might wonder? It is because other lighting setups can create a shimmering effect in such water conditions that can be disadvantageous for the fishes.

And due to its salt-like nature, the water can easily damage other lights that you install.

Thus choosing one of these mentioned lighting setups can be the best option for you because this can be long-lasting and it can keep your fishes comfortable and provide them a natural habitat like feeling. 

Remember that every bulb that is colored in fact every bulb is colored; but the bulb that you choose has a dedicated temperature for the color that it emits, this is called Kelvin.

So, for this type of setup you can use any type of kelvin measured bulb but so far when the tests were conducted then it was shown there are specific Kelvin measurements that you should use in order to increase the efficiency and life span of the bulb.

These Kelvin measurements are 10 actinic, 12 actinic, and 20ks actinic.

Now: it completely depends on your choice that which color that you want to illuminate your nano Reef.

When it comes to Actinic lighting then it can emit some light that is strong and dark, with a dark purple hue thus enabling some abilities that you can’t have with any other light setup.

This ability includes illuminating and providing a fluorescent vibe to your corals, and various fishes thus making your Nano reef look beautiful and elegantly lit. All in all, it will make your Nano Reef look more vibrant and full of colors.

After that, your concern is how many wattages that you need to set-up depending on the fish tank size. You need to calculate that.

But we have eased your job and we have provided some examples that you can use considering each and every factor. If you have a soft coral Nano reef then 4 wattages per gallon of power would be more than enough.

But if you have inserted some stones and pebbles in your Nano reef then using 8+ wattages of power per gallon would be enough.


Fish Tank

When it comes to heating then it is not that much complicated than it was with the lighting setup. With a warm and well-heated home to can easily maintain the temperature of a nano Reef.

But if your home is rather cold or you live in a cold place where your home is well-freeze then it would be hard to maintain the temperature. 

As I don’t know if you know this or not that in the ocean there is a constant array of sunlight thus it is adapted to warm and partially cold.

So, if you live in a cold place or your house is cold then you need to buy a 50 or 75watt heater that can help you maintain the temperature of the nano reef. 

So, now you can easily set up and provide your fishes and your new Coral Nano reef setup with a more natural environment. Because when it comes to Nano reefs then they are used to heat and heated environments. 

Filteration Set-up:

Now: coming to the circulation of water in the nano Reef. For this, you will require a powerful powerhead so that it can easily manipulate water in your Nano Reef.

For example, you will need a powerhead that has a turnover rate of 20x for a gallon in the tank. Here is a common reference so that you can understand; for a 40gallon tank, you will require 800gph of the powerhead. 

In a Nano Reef, you can use any filter but we recommend you using a submerged filter system. Why?

Because it can provide the water with protein skimmers thus dissolving any organic matter that is stored in the water. And using a mechanical or chemical filtration system is more preferred, with that.

If you are setting up a stony Nano Reef then you would also need a calcium reactor so that it can clam the freshwater produced. 

Step #2- Natural Filteration Method:

Natural Filteration Method

Do you know that there is a natural filtration system that’s how the oceans work? And if you want to set that up then this process is pretty easy.

To make your natural filtration system work and to have a well set up for your nano reef you need to get real sand and rocks to improve the environment and have a natural filtration setup.

With that, not only getting live sand and rocks is enough you have to handpick the rock and make sure that your preferred rocks are curvy. You might wonder why curvy?

There is a reason behind this when you set them up then they fit into places and closing all the gaps thus eventually they will create a coral system to support your Nano reef environment.

With then you can easily set up a natural filtration setup for your Coral Nano Reef environment.  

And there is a specific amount of rocks and pebbles that you should input into your system so that they can easily create a natural filtration system.

Here are some recommended and tested amounts of rocks and sand that you should input to get a natural filtration system in your Nano Reef.

  • You can add 1 pound or rocks in a gallon to get a proper natural filtration.
  • You should add at least 5 pounds of sand in a gallon to achieve well-maintained natural filtration.

Step #3- Location of the Aquarium:

You need to place the Nano reef Aquarium on a place that is stable and it should have a flat surface.

The location of the aquarium should be ideal, with a leveled surface and a choice that surface is strong and durable and it should be able to handle the weight of the fish and the tank itself.

The weight of the tank and fish included can be calculated up to 200+ pounds thus you need to make sure that the surface you chose can bear such weight as it is heavy and there are few surfaces that can manage such type of weight. 

And if there is not a surface present in your house that can handle this much weight then you can get it from the store.

In order to have a stable and long-lasting Coral Nano Reef set up putting it in a proper location is vital and having a sturdy surface for that is also important. 

So, when you are out there to get one then you should calculate correctly and according to that calculation, you should buy the surface for your Nano Reed setup. If not then it will break or leak eventually damaging your Nano Reef setup.

And coming towards the location of the tank in which you have set up a nano Reef system. The location should be reachable. What I mean is that?

You should place the aquarium in a place where there is frequent movement of people. Why? You might wonder?

Because in the first few weeks when you have installed the nano Reef system then the aquarium is stabilizing and it would need constant supervision from you. Thus you should place it where you can reach it easily.

With everything, you will be able to maintain and set up a proper nano Reef system that can be good and beautiful.

Step #4- Prep For the Set-up:

You will require water that is non-chloral in the case to fill the nano Reef tank. And to fill your tank we would recommend you to get R.O water that is reverse osmosis water and this type of water can easily be bought at any pet store near you. 

And you have to get high-quality synthetic salt for your Reef so that it can replicate the moisture and texture of saltwater. With that, you would need a hydrometer to read the concentration and level of salt that you have inserted in the water. 

Step #5- Filling the Tank:

Filling the Tank

When you have done all of that and you have taken every precaution and measures that we have told you yet. Now: you are ready to fill the Nano Reef tank with water and adding salt.

In the above heading, we have also discussed what you will need to add the salt and how you should add salt to the tank. 

So, when you have added water and you are adding the salt then you should make sure that you have read all the instructions provided on the salt wrapper for better results.

Step #6- Salt Readiness:

Now: it’s turning for you to add salt. Yes I know we have discussed it before but here we will discuss adding salt in your Nano reef in detail and verify numbers for adding salt.

When you are adding salt, then you should check through the Hydrometer that you got and I told you earlier. 

And when that Hydrometer hits 1.023 then you would know it is time to mix the salt with the present water. And to mix it you can use the powerhead and place it submerged. It will be easy for you to mix it.

Step #7- Inserting a Proper Heater:

Inserting a Proper Heater

If you remember then I told you if you want a proper setup then you might need a heater to keep the environment of the tank warm.

Now: is the time to insert the er in the tank. When you have inserted it then you need to set it up at a stable and steady temperature of 78 degrees.

And when the temperature is stabilized and your tank is balanced then it will be the time that you entered rocks and sand in the tank when the gravity is in balance with the water temperature, you can place the sand and rocks into the tank.

Step #8- Placing the Hardscape:

When you are placing the rocks then you should be sure that you are placing them as widely as possible. Why?

You might wonder because it will provide your fishes with more space than it is thus they can swim freely and easily with that because of the well-spread position of rocks they will find places to hide. 

And if your concern is that you can’t form patterns well, you should not worry about them because as the fishes are adjusted in the environment then you can rearrange the rocks whenever you like.

And as soon as the rocks are set-up then you have to pour in the sand and you should make sure that you have to evenly spread the sand across the tank to level out the thickness for the surface in the aquarium.

When you have done all the setup then you need to wait until the sand is settled in.

Step #9- Cycling – Preparing the Tank For Fish:

Cycling – Preparing the tank for fish

Now: it’s time to move the fishes into their new home. Excited right? Well, you should be but you need to consider few things right before you enter fishes in the tank. 

These are precautions that you need to take for making it easy for the fishes to settle in and stay healthy.

You need to add ammonia to the water and you need to check the rate or concentration of ammonia every 2 days until the level comes down to 0.

The same process you will repeat for nitrites and nitrates. The nitrates are harmless regarding nitrites and ammonia and it can be added up to 20 ppm max.

But for any safety, you should check every chemical proximity until it is come down to 0 as it can be safe for the fishes.

Step #10: Adding the Fish

When everything is taken care of. You should add fish in the tank carefully because if you hurry to add fish and somehow get unstable then it is possible that your fishes might get disturbed and they might fall out of the tank. 

So, taking this into consideration you should add fishes with care in the tank and it will be better than if you added fishes few at a time so that the fishes which are entering the tank can get used to the environment. 

If you enter fishes all together then they might be unstable and be disturbed. They won’t get the time to inspect the surroundings of the tank. Thus this is important for you to add fishes a few at a time and add them slowly.

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