How to set up a TMC MicroHabitat 15 marine nano aquarium

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Jeremy Gay raves about the new nano tank from TMC and immediately gets down to a step-by-step guide. You can take a look at the finished set-up on video too!

We first spotted this little gem of a systemised marine tank at a trade show late in 2010.

Coming from the same stable as the already popular freshwater MicroHabitat 8 nano tank, which George Farmer aquascaped for us, this new larger 15 l/3.3 gal model boasts the same quality acrylic construction, polished edges and smooth corners — only this time it has been engineered with small reef creatures in mind.

It’s packed full of useful features too; including a 300 lph adjustable pump and large filter section built into the back, a specially made AquaRay light unit using LEDs specifically chosen from electronics manufacturer LG.  

It also has a nifty little preset heater, a great little air powered skimmer, thermometer, hydrometer and some really novel filter media options that will not only break down ammonia and nitrite in the normal way, but can also remove nitrate and phosphate and even supplement calcium and magnesium as and when the corals need them! All this and it’s sub £100!

Now this is the kind of new tank set- up that I could always find the room and finances for!

So what sets it apart from all other nano tanks that arrive at the PFK office? I like the attention to detail and the fact that this tank seems to have been thought out by fishkeepers — more specifically by marine experts.

All marine environments need some nutrient export and the air powered adjustable protein skimmer offers just that. When they could have gone down the generic compact T5 lamp route or bought any old wholesale LED unit, TMC made its own.

This tank has it all and I can’t get over the price. I love it, so here’s an account of how I set one up...

1. The MicroHabitat 15 is supplied complete with an integrated protein skimmer, AquaRay MicroLED light with LG TopLEDs (Ocean White 9000k), condensation lid, micro thermometer, hydrometer, H2Air 60 air pump, H2Therm 10 micro heater, 1m/39” of air tubing, non-return valve and a 2g sachet of Hikari Crab Cuisine.

2. At only 15 l/3.3 gal the MicroHabitat will fit into any room and sit comfortably on to a strong work surface, desk or coffee table. The functional but great looking design means that it will appeal to many differing tastes and the acrylic is both stronger and clearer than glass, so it’s safe too.

3. In goes the 10w H2Therm micro heater. Not only is this heater physically tiny and robust, it’s preset to the correct temperature and can be simply placed into the rear pump chamber. You can use this heater in any small aquarium for discrete heating. It’s got rubber suckers on the back too.

4. You may think that air powered protein skimmers are a thing of the past, but far from it. For this size of tank a skimmer powered by a limewood air stone and this really quiet H2Air 60 pump provides loads of bubbles, and this skimmer is adjustable too. The pump comes complete with air line and a non-return valve.

5. One look at these PowerPads filter media may make you think that someone in the sponge factory is getting bored, but each of these colour coded pads performs a different and very useful job. As optional extras I’ve added the phosphate, carbon, nitrite and nitrate, ammonia, calcium and magnesium pads.

6. The coral sand goes in next and the great thing about nano tanks is that they cost a fraction of what a larger tank would cost to decorate. I’ve used about 2kg/4.4lb of coral sand at most, which will set you back just a few pounds. You could also use live sand, fine aragonite sand or some sand from an existing reef tank.

7. The obvious difference between marine and freshwater is the use of salt, but don’t worry about mixing it because it’s easy. I’ve mixed in some Tropic Marin salt with RO water, checking the temperature and salinity with the supplied hydrometer and thermometer. For best results leave the salt to dissolve overnight. 

8. Once to temperature and at the correct salt level, pour in the water. With the filter section built into the back of the tank a neat trick is to pour the water into the filter, causing the minimum of disturbance to the sand. Running costs will be so low with this tank because you don’t even need to use much salt or RO water.

9. I’ve bought approximately two kilos of well cured TMC Fiji Rock from my local shop, the Waterzoo in Peterborough. I love Fiji live rock because of the good coraline algae coverage and the amount of microscopic life that it brings to a new tank.

10. Once water is testing OK you can add some corals. TMC produce a neat range of cultured micro corals that are just perfect for this tank. Balance them on the rock or stick them on with some putty, leaving room around each one for growth.

11. The light includes 16 LEDs and two settings. It clamps onto the back of the tank and can be height and angle adjusted by way of a flexible neck. Plug it into a timer for a fixed period of light per day. I’ve fitted the condensation lid at this point too.

12. A short time after setting up the tank is already looking superb and getting more attention from onlookers than bigger aquariums set up in the same room! Add some tiny shrimp or crabs, or even some microscopic marine gobies. A great result!

Cost at a glance

The MicroHabitat 15 is supplied complete with:

  • Integrated protein skimmer
  • AquaRay MicroLED light with LG TopLEDs (Ocean White 9000k)
  • Condensation lid
  • Micro thermometer
  • Hydrometer              
  • H2Air 60 air pump
  • H2Therm 10 micro heater
  • 1m/39” air tubing
  • Non-return valve
  • 2g Hikari Crab Cuisine  

Note livestock, salt, live rock, coral sand and some optional filter pads are not included.

Total: £99.99

Take a look at our video of the finished set-up:

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