Which nano reef tank is best for a bedroom?

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Jeremy Gay helps a reader choose the right nano tank for her son's bedroom.

Q: My son wants a reef tank for his bedroom on his 18th birthday. He’s kept fish for five years and in fact we’re a fishkeeping family, but marines are a completely new direction for any of us. Please could you give us some advice on what to look for in a marine-spec set-up and what it should include as there seem to be loads of options out there with a huge price difference. We’d be looking at an upper limit in the region of £500-£600 for the tank system (not including stock). Due to the fact that it’s going in his bedroom it would need to be 100 l maximum. Would he be able to keep a fish or two in a tank this size and if so what would you recommend?


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A: Jeremy says: What I look for in a reef tank is the ability to run reef-spec blue and white lighting, the option of a skimmer, and somewhere to put phosphate remover and carbon. For nano tanks the Fluval Evo is well under your budget and has the option of doing all of the above. It is small, but you could keep either a pair of clownfish in there (I’d advise tank bred clowns over wild, which are disease-prone), a firefish and Royal gramma, or a few tiny coral gobies.

A Juwel Lido 120 or Rio 125 Marine are slightly over 100 l but bigger is better and they come with bright blue and white LED lamps. A skimmer can be fitted opposite the filter box and I would just add a wave-making pump too for extra water movement. These two tanks could allow two clowns, a gramma and a firefish, plus maybe one other small reef safe fish at a push.
 
You’ll also be able to add a decent amount of easy-to-keep soft and LPS corals and they will look more like a proper marine tank than a nano tank. 

Busting your budget slightly, the Red Sea Max nano plus cabinet is a nice package that includes a protein skimmer and a good, programmable LED light. It’s probably the most reef-spec of the three while being in the middle in terms of size and volume, at 75 l. 

If you want a tank with a sump underneath, consider the Aqua One Mini Reef 90. Most long-term reefers prefer a sump tank and although it comes with light, heater, skimmer and return pump, they could be swapped out for higher end equipment over time and the system could grow in complexity. 

All except the Red Sea Max will need an additional auto top-up device to manage evaporation. Protein skimmers are noisy so beware, and if you turn it off at night the pH will drop and CO2 will rise, which tends to lead to algae. But go for it — you’re sure to get a much larger, communal marine tank downstairs in no time!