Are Nano Reef Tanks Hard To Keep?(You will be surprised)

If you are planning to set up a nano reef tank, you probably heard the rumors saying that nano tanks are hard to keep. That is not necessarily true. 

Nano reef tanks are not difficult to keep. I’ll admit they can be challenging at times in terms of maintaining high water quality but they are no different than any other saltwater tank in terms of difficulty. They require research and routine maintenance as all saltwater tanks do.

 There are some differences between keeping a nano reef and a larger tank which I will mention in the article. After reading the information, you will be confident that you can set up a nano reef tank without issues that you will be proud of.  

What is a nano reef tank?

These are small saltwater aquariums under 30 gallons in size that contain coral colonies. A common size for a nano reef tank is 10 or 20 gallons. 


Advantages of keeping a nano reef tank

Nano reef tanks have many advantages over larger tanks. 

#1. They are cheaper to purchase.

This is not always the case, but in general, a nano tank will cost less to purchase over a large tank. It will depend on the equipment that comes with it, brand, size, etc. Not only are they cheaper to purchase, but they will cost quite a bit less to set up. You won’t need as much rock and sand, other equipment like powerheads and wavemakers will be cheaper. You will also save on salt and RODI water. 

#2. They take up less space.

Because nano tanks are much smaller, they won’t take up as much space as a larger tank. Nano tanks are easier to fit into your living space and move around if needed. You can even put a nano tank on top of a desk or end table. 

#3. Cheaper to operate.

Nano tanks will usually have less equipment that will be more energy-efficient versus a larger tank. 

#4. Easy to set up.

Many nano tanks are designed as an all in one and are ready to use right out of the box. You won’t need to deal with external plumbing, filters, return pumps, skimmers, and other equipment. 

#5. Easy to maintain.

Water changes on a nano reef tank is faster and easier to perform as there is a much smaller amount of water to deal with. Making RODI water is also faster and easier to do. Cleaning and other routine maintenance items are also easier and less time-consuming.

How much time is required for maintenance on a nano reef tank?

Comparing nano tanks to larger tanks, the amount of time to perform regular maintenance tasks can be a lot less. This will depend on a few variables, not every tank is the same. Plan to spend around 10-15 minutes each day for routine tasks like fish feeding and temperature checking.  Also plan to spend 1 hour each week performing other tasks like glass cleaning, equipment checking, reactor, and/or skimmer cleaning if you have one. 

Small salt water aquarium kits

Nano tanks are commonly bought as a complete aquarium kit. Many manufacturers like Coralife and Innovative marine sell all in one complete kits in a variety of tank sizes. Most kits will include everything you need to set up a nano reef tank including lights, pumps, and built-in filtration. 

Marine Depot Aquarium Supplies

Best all in one nano tanks 

Here are some great choices for an all in one nano tank.

Coralife Biocube

I am a huge fan of the Biocube all in one tank. You can read all about my Biocube 32-gallon here including some awesome upgrades for them. Or click here to check today’s price of these kits on Amazon. They are available in different sizes and make an impressive nano reef tank.

Innovative Marine

Another great nano reef tank is the Innovative Marine all in one tank. These are very popular and have a quality modern design. These are also available in a variety of sizes and make a stunning nano reef with many available upgrades if needed. They are available at Marine Depot here.


Equipment for nano reef tanks

If you are looking to add some additional equipment to your nano reef tank, here are some great options. All of these items will work in smaller tanks. Clicking each item will show you the current price on Amazon. 


Best fish for a nano reef tanks



Smaller fish tanks will mean smaller fish and less of them. WIth a nano reef tank, you will be limited to the types of fish you can keep but there are some great options. Here are some of my favorite fish for small tanks.


Best corals for nano reef tanks

With smaller nano reef tanks, you will also be limited in which types of corals you can keep. Nano tanks can be true showpieces if you pick your corals carefully. Some corals can grow to be huge colonies so you will want to avoid these if you have a smaller tank. Here are some coral options for a nano reef tank.

  • Mushrooms
  • Zoanthids
  • Green star polyps
  • Acans
  • SPS corals as smaller frags (Pocillopora, Birdsnest) 



Don’t worry about the chatter you may hear around the saltwater community regarding nano reef tank difficulty. They are not as hard to keep as some may say. Sometimes water quality in larger tanks can be more stable but that doesn’t mean the difficulty level is different. Nano tanks can be easier to keep in many respects. Like most things in the saltwater hobby, planning ahead of time and being consistent is key to success. Slow and steady wins the race.