What can I keep in this tiny tank?

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Dave Wolfenden offers some advice for a reader looking to stock a 15 l. nano aquarium with marine life.

Q. I am preparing for a new 15 l/3.34 gal Superfish Wave aquarium to arrive, so filling my mind with lots of ideas on what to do with it. I would like a marine set-up, but want advice on what I would need, in addition to what should come with the tank and what could be stocked in there.

Martin Holmes, email

A. This particular nano system isn’t as bristling with extras as TMC’s feature-packed 15-litre nano and the Superfish Wave 15 is primarily aimed at freshwater fishkeepers. However, it looks very attractive and with a little judicious ‘pimping’ you can create a nifty mini reef. with it.

I don’t believe it comes with either a heater or skimmer, so I’d suggest you invest in these.

You’ll need an extremely small heater to ensure the temperature does not drop below the ideal of around 24°C/75°F.

A skimmer is also extremely useful, as it can remove a large proportion of organic material from the water, reducing the loading on the biofilter and helping maintain optimal water quality. An air-driven model, such as the tiny Sander Piccolo, would be fine.

The aquarium does come with filtration, which you can maintain with purely mechanical media, as the heart of the aquarium’s biological filtration should be sand and — crucially — live rock. Buy the best quality 'cured' live rock you can afford and ensure that it’s home to a variety of algae, sponges and other beneficial organisms.

Avoid any that plays host to the glassy Aiptasia anemones, so ask your retailer to check the rock thoroughly before purchase.

Maintaining optimal water quality is crucial and smaller systems tend to give less room for error. So keeping up with water changes and testing regularly for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH are essential, as is maintaining constant salinity.

You’ll therefore need to invest in test kits and a hydrometer — a simple swing-needle model usually being accurate enough.

In view of the size of your aquarium your choices will be limited, restricting you to micro corals and tiny motile inverts. Fish are pretty much out, except for perhaps the most minute gobies, although I’d avoid them too.

I’d start with some fairly undemanding invertebrates, such as shrimp, a small hermit crab and a grazing snail. Add to these a few tiny brittle stars, and you’ll have a nice clean-up crew.

In terms of sessile invertebrates, good choices would be some 'mushroom corals' (Discosoma/Actinodiscus spp.) or 'hairy mushrooms' (Rhodactis spp.) which are not too demanding in terms of lighting and water quality. I’d also plump for zoanthids or pulsing Xenia soft corals.

All these invertebrates should be quite straightforward to care for. In fact, look after these well and they’ll divide, eventually filling the tank with life.

Dave Wolfenden

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