You are currently viewing Nano Saltwater Reef Tank Setup | How to Build Beginners Guide

Nano Saltwater Reef Tank Setup | How to Build Beginners Guide

Many hobbyists and aquarium keepers have embarked on the journey of setting up a nano freshwater tank. A nano reef tank is a small tank set-up and there are entirely very few choices on the scheme of nano tank set-ups others may be standard proven right, and the others are otherwise.

If you love to set-up a nano freshwater tank, there are necessary and essential things to know and keep in mind, and you will need a high-quality standard glass tank with skimming, lighting, and an external filtration attached.

Don’t let your mind blow up because we got you covered here in this article. I will discuss all you need to know about setting up a nano saltwater reef tank and all you need to know about nano reef tanks.

The Play Gym by Lovevery

Nano-Reef Tank Set-up

Here is a step by step setup guide for that nano saltwater reef tank.

Choosing the Right Nano Tank

how to lower nitrate levels in saltwater aquarium

First, you have to find out which tank you want. Glass tanks are nice, but they are cumbersome.

However, the type of tank you want to use solely depends on you. If you’re going to go for a 16-gallon nano reef tank, you should only have 4-5 fish inside.

But if you want to go extensive, then you may want to consider a larger tank. Please do not go for a 16-gallon tank and overstock it with a lot of fish and plants. This is not healthy at all for any of the tank inhabitants.

Now you have your tank and other equipment you will need ready, and you may now consider placing all your tank equipment in the appropriate place. You must place your tank in an excellent spot to enable you to have access to sockets for plugging in other equipment.

Once your tank is filled with the required amount of water (depending on the tank size), you should place it at a place you would consider a spot for permanent placement. You will not want to move the tank more often and disturb the tank’s habitats and the ecosystem while they have settled.

Nanobébé Sterilizer - When pediatricians recommend sterilizing

Recommended Product | Nano Saltwater Reef Tank

Coralife LED Biocube Aquarium

Please go through this informative step by step explanation.


Place your reef tank in a suitable open space where it can be seen and observed but not disturbed by harsh temperature conditions.

Direct heat can be an issue for your nano tank—the need for an optimum temperature- an environment not too hot or cold. Keep your tank away from direct windows.


The next step after placing your tank is to check if it is leaking. Even if the leak is little, the hole is enough to let all the sealant escape. If you notice your tank has leakages, return it to the dealer.

Popular Domains for just 99 Cents at Namecheap!


Once your tank is in good shape and ready, you can now start adding other equipment. You must have put water into your tank.

An excellent choice is one pound of live rock per gallon, which contains live rock or sand substrate. Ensure you clean your substrate before introducing it into your tank.


Put in enough live sand and water to put the aquascaping together and cover the whole spot with a neat plastic bag. Your live rock should always be kept moist, once your live rock is always inside the tank, put it in water immediately so that the live rock won’t die off.

Adding your live rocks and sand

which is better saltwater or freshwater aquarium

You can decide to add a live rock with already living bacteria on it, or something artificial. Artificial rocks are preferred because unwanted microorganisms and aquarium pests can breed on the live rocks.

Adding life sand is, however, preferred to artificial sand. Life sand already has a lot of good bacteria, and it is always positive because it promotes the cycling of your tank. If you are using an artificial rock, you need live sand because it will serve as the main source of healthy bacteria.

Recommended Product | Life Rocks for Saltwater Reef Tank

Caribsea Life Rock

Sand Beds

You may ask how deep you should make your sand beds. I recommend setting up at least a few inches. It will make the bacteria a lot more stable. Some people may want to go with no sand at all, which is referred to as a bare bottom tank.

This is not recommended, especially if you are dealing with a nano tank because water planters can swing easily, and you don’t have anything to hold and absorb the bacteria.

Add up to 2-3 inches of sand around the rock you have already placed in the tank.

Recommended Product | Sand for Saltwater Reef Tank

CaribSea Sand

Check all Your Saltwater Reef Tank Equipments

In this stage, you are close to putting in water, so you have to check out all your equipment to see if they are ready to go. Some all in one tank come in 2 or 3 chambers.

One for sponging or filter media, one for a media reactor, and a final chamber where the pump connects to the outlet to send the water into the display.


Of course, you will want to have a source of light to be ready to go with your tank. - For all your creative needs!

Adding Water to Tank

Some new aquarium keepers start with new saltwater, which should have a level of salinity of 1.026. As a beginner, you can purchase a few water containers from your local fish store instead of making it yourself to get it perfect.

Tank Cycling

You may be too excited, and you want the cycling of your tank to be faster than usual here is what you should do;

  • Take half a gallon of your required tank water quantity from a healthy old tank.
  • Use it as half the water of your new tank.
  • Then, use fresh saltwater as the other half of water. When you start adding the water, try to do it slowly, let it moist your rock and salt, and combine completely.

After a few days, the water will eventually die down. Now your tank is ready! You just finished the physical process of setting up your nano reef tank.

Keeping a Nano Reef Tank

While you are sitting and admiring your reef tank set up, keep in mind that regular upkeeps and other stuff should be done frequently. Devote time to watch your tank and its inhabitants, making sure they are healthy and alive. Ensure you feed the animals regularly.

Water Testing

Test kits are essential, so you should have one. You need a test kit always to check the pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. You should also conduct phosphate and calcium tests always to measure temperature, gravity, and salinity.

Some of these tests can be done weekly. Still, as for the temperature and salinity, they should be done daily because if there are gravity fluctuations which are usually caused by water evaporation and salt creep, they can affect your nano so quickly.

The Play Gym by Lovevery

Recommended Product | Water Testing kit

Saltwater Master Test Kit


Maintaining your Nano Reef Tank

Maintaining your tank is very important and should be kept as a priority. Conduct a 2-3 gallon water change as often as possible what you do is a 2-3 gallon water change as frequently as needed.

If your nano reef aquarium is well set and has a low bioload, you may find out that keeping a nano reef tank is easier than a freshwater aquarium.

The Play Gym by Lovevery

Changing water is easy. In a reef tank, you don’t need to clean any gravel bed. You don’t have to interpret the biological process going on in the tank by interrupting the sand beds, etc. The only cleaning required in a nano tank is frequent water changes and tank glass cleaning.

Carbon Fiber 6 in 1 Aquarium Cleaning Tool Kit

How much maintenance is required?

The amount of maintenance required for your nano reef is set up. If you’re set up is small and you have fewer fish you are frequently feeding, then water changes will be needed more often.

The amount of maintenance needed for your reef tank depends on the following factors;

  • The size of your tank.
  • How balanced your system seems.
  • How often you feed your fish and plants.
  • How much food do you feed your fish?
  • The bioload and the population of your tank.
  • The type of animals you have in your tank- their sensitivity.

Note: you may consider at least 10% of water changing every two weeks.

How to Mix and Change the Water in Saltwater Reef Tank?

  • First, you should unplug your pump.
  • Drain out about 2 gallons of water using the measuring line on the bucket.
  • Discard the old water.
  • Make use of water RO to fill up the line on the bucket.
  • Introduce salt into the water and use a hydrometer to check for salinity.
  • Once you must have gotten the desired salinity level, you can introduce the water.

Tips on Mixing for Salinity Level

  • Start with ¼ cup of salt for each gallon.
  • Use the hydrometer to measure the salinity and continue adding in bits.
  • You will not have to add so much to reach the desired level.

General Guidelines on Keeping Reef Tanks

These are some guidelines you need to follow as it will help you to keep your tank safe.

Buy Strong Fish

Strong or hardy fish are frequent, cheap, and admiring to look at. If you continue with your nano tank, you may decide to get tough corals and sensitive animals to add. Nanos are small tanks, so they have their limitations in water volume and the amount of fish.

Fish list for Saltwater Reef Tank:

  • Angelfish
  • Clownfish
  • Orchid Dottyback
  • Royal Gramma
  • Firefish
  • McCosker’s Wrasse
  • Gobies
  • Green Chromis

Use LED lights

The LED lights are important because they reduce heat and allow the stability of water temperature in your nano tank, so you may not need to purchase a cooling fan.

However, LED lights to add beauty to your nano reef, and you will want to stare at it all day long.

Current USA Orbit Marine LED Light

Replace your Cooling Fan if it stops Functioning

The lights on your reef tank can quickly heat the water in the tank because you don’t have enough water to aid as a buffer for your tank. When this happens, it causes shrinkage of animals. The animals will starve due to inadequate oxygen and excess heat.

A cooling fan helps to prevent this from happening and keeps the water temperature stable and healthy.

Observe your Fish and Plants

Always ensure the animals and plants are active and thriving. Constant water change is the first step to take when you notice any plants are not functioning well.

Make sure your reef tank is placed where you can easily view it and access it. You can put it in the dining room, living room, or any spot you think you will have fun viewing.

Pros and Cons of keeping Nano Reef Tank

Each type of tank has its own pros and cons that make it look good or look bad. Here are some pros and cons of a nano reef tank.


  • Nano aquarium save you a lot of space
  • They require a little amount of money for the initial set up
  • They need less time to do the water changes

Nano tanks are cool and look fun to keep, but we shouldn’t overlook the cons.


  • Changes in nano tanks are very fast, so if your water quality is not right, you will see the negative effects quickly.
  • When things go wrong, they affect the whole tank immediately.


I hope you enjoyed it, grabbed a lot of information and guidelines, and shared it with you on setting up your nano tank.

It is essential to stream through a lot of other content or better still consult experienced aquarists to put you through your journey and help you whenever things go wrong. However, if you know everything I shared here, you just set the right path for yourself and your future nano reef tank.