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Dani_13563

Hello Everyone! This is my first post on nano-reef, but I have used it for research for a long time. I am an absolute beginner with zero hands-on experience in saltwater. I have been researching the saltwater hobby for a little over a year now and I just have a couple of questions. I would like to start a 5.5 gallon nano (pico?) tank (just the basic one from petsmart). I have done my research on the nitrogen cycle and on tank lighting. I know that nanos are not recommended for beginners, but I also know that it’s doable and I love a challenge. I have seen both sides on whether or not a five gallon tank is ethical, and I have made my decision. I would like to know if any of these fish that I like would work if I kept up with the parameters and handled the bioload. I am pretty sure most of these are a no-no, but I would like to hear the opinion of others. 

1. The Most Likely No-No’s (but I would love)

 A.) single clown (a pair would require at least    
      a 10g correct?)

 B.) single orchid dottyback 🩷

 C.) single royal gramma

 D.) pink-spotted goby & pistol shrimp pair 

      (with good, deep substrate) 🩷

 

2. Maybe?

 E.) single bullseye pistol shrimp (no fish)

 F.) wheeler’s goby & pistol shrimp pair 🩷

 G.) geometric pygmy hawkfish

 H.) griessingeri goby

 I.) Tanaka’s pygmy wrasse OR possum      
      wrasse

 

I know of the other options (hi-fin, yasha, yellow/green clown, barnacle blenny, sexy shrimp, etc.), but they seem kinda plain to me, although, they are not out of the question.

 

P.S.: Although I would LIKE to start this tank, the chances of it are low due to my and my parents’ limited budget. My mother, specifically, is wary due to the large upfront/initial costs of saltwater compared to freshwater (live rock, livestock, etc). But I figured there is no excuse to not be further educated by the experienced members of the saltwater community, so I made this post anyway.

 

Thank you in advance to everyone! 💕 

 

 

 

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Amnemonemomne

Unfortunately, this hobby is almost always gonna be very $$$, but imo I think having a pistol shrinp goby pair is doable. However, I would advise getting a bigger tank (if budget and parents allow) so that maintenance is not as big of a burden. Pico reefs (5gallons and under) require much more water changes, water testing, and cleaning. It is also important to note that pico reefs give less room for mistakes and are way more fragile for even the slightest of change in water temp or whatever. I hope this helps, wishing you the best. 👍👍

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Amnemonemomne

If Craigslist or FB marketplace is acessible in your area, it might be good to find a tank there for cheap as well. I also forgot to mention that picos, because of their maintenance requirements, need to be cared for daily so if you take vacation it will be hard to care for the tank.

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Dani_13563
56 minutes ago, Amnemonemomne said:

Unfortunately, this hobby is almost always gonna be very $$$, but imo I think having a pistol shrinp goby pair is doable. However, I would advise getting a bigger tank (if budget and parents allow) so that maintenance is not as big of a burden. Pico reefs (5gallons and under) require much more water changes, water testing, and cleaning. It is also important to note that pico reefs give less room for mistakes and are way more fragile for even the slightest of change in water temp or whatever. I hope this helps, wishing you the best. 👍👍

Thank you for the reply! Yes, I am aware that picos are MUCH more work, and I agree that a bigger tank would be ideal! I have an empty 20 gallon sitting around that used to be a freshwater guppy tank but has been out of commission for space reasons. Our new house is quite large but it is awkwardly shaped and has outlets randomly placed. Budget reasons, space reasons, and emotional reasons are my main drivers for wanting a small tank. My childhood betta desk tank was always relaxing for me and I would like another (but saltwater this time obvi). We do take trips quite often but I figured, once established, that an ATO, timed light, decent clean up crew, and automatic fish feeder would take care of it for at least a few days. But thank you for voicing your concerns! I would still like to hear people’s opinions on stocking options, but I know this set up is quite unlikely in my current situation. 😁

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anizato

tell your mom a small tank turns out to be much more expensive in the long run.

 

I would suggest a 20gallon long by Innovative Marine. they are only $170 for the tank only. 

 

This hobby is about LONG term goals. NOTHING happens quick except for death in this hobby. 

 

As suggested before, 5gallons is for very advanced reefers. It requires much more frequent testing, water changes and maintenance. Tests are not that cheap if you use them very frequently. 

 

Since you are barely getting started, you can use the 5gal to cure/cycle your rock while you find a larger tank. That way by the time the new tank arrives you can set it up almost immediately. Remember, nothing is quick. EVERYTHING is for the long run. Think 3 or 4 years from now, not 4 months.

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growsomething

I've had a 10g running for 4 ys.  Had a 3g pico years ago.  I love small tanks like you do.  At this point I would be happy w a 5g softy tank that needs no dosing, with just shrimp and rfa, or a shrimp goby pairing, or a pair of neon blue or masked goby.

With the things you've mentioned, an ato, timed light, and floss, this tank is just scraped and blown off once/wk, floss changed, ato filled, done.  So easy with 4g water changes once a month but really not necessary.  Only expensive thing I would say is the live rock.

20240609_150415.thumb.jpg.68f6ea8f55b95fa9d928bc167146b3fc.jpg

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Dani_13563
8 hours ago, growsomething said:

I've had a 10g running for 4 ys.  Had a 3g pico years ago.  I love small tanks like you do.  At this point I would be happy w a 5g softy tank that needs no dosing, with just shrimp and rfa, or a shrimp goby pairing, or a pair of neon blue or masked goby.

With the things you've mentioned, an ato, timed light, and floss, this tank is just scraped and blown off once/wk, floss changed, ato filled, done.  So easy with 4g water changes once a month but really not necessary.  Only expensive thing I would say is the live rock.

20240609_150415.thumb.jpg.68f6ea8f55b95fa9d928bc167146b3fc.jpg

Thank you for the reply! I agree! Small tanks are beautiful! And live rock is so pricey. I was hoping to use Tampa Bay live rock, and, obviously, there is a big jump between their pico package and their 20g package ($300 I think). Was thinking of maybe using the pico package to seed my 20g (is that the correct use of that word?) and filling the rest with dry rock and some basic live sand, but I’m not too sure. Anyways, thank you for the advice and your tank is beautiful!! 😍 What tank/set up is it?

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growsomething

IM Nuvo 10, sandless for now.  Back wall was dry rock, bottom was live rock.  You're idea of seeding works well. After an initial green stage it all gets nicely covered.  I would like to have a bottom covered in zoa or something other than sand, but everything grows up so fast bcs lighting is moderate on purpose.

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Dani_13563
On 6/11/2024 at 4:39 PM, growsomething said:

IM Nuvo 10, sandless for now.  Back wall was dry rock, bottom was live rock.  You're idea of seeding works well. After an initial green stage it all gets nicely covered.  I would like to have a bottom covered in zoa or something other than sand, but everything grows up so fast bcs lighting is moderate on purpose.

A zoa bottom would look awesome!

What do you mean by green stage?

Also, I’m glad you think it’s a good idea! Although, I’ll have to save for a little bit longer in order to be able to get the extra dry rock and live sand and such. I would love to have a 20g tho. The stocking options are a lot better, and I would be much more comfortable on trips.

Thanks for responding 🫶

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  • 2 weeks later...
sapling

out of the list, I would imagine the goby pistol pair to be the most appropriate for stocking, as they are the least active fish in your list. the less active swimming the better i think. I would look at the smaller shrimp gobies over the ones you mentioned, like a yasha, but those arent exactly cheap. 

 

A clown or neon goby could also work I think, they perch alot, goofy fish, small and cheaper fish too, maybe even 2. 

 

my royal gramma likes to be near their rocks, and dont actively swim a ton, just patrol a bit and look around for food. as far as I know, the orchid dottyback would be similar. a little pricey, im not sure they would do well long term in that size tank, but Ive seen it done. 

 

clown kinda just hover around whatever they like. a single clown could work i think, definitely avoid a designer one if price is issue.

 

 

are you wanting to try coral at all or just more of a fowlr? 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
Dani_13563
On 6/22/2024 at 1:07 PM, sapling said:

out of the list, I would imagine the goby pistol pair to be the most appropriate for stocking, as they are the least active fish in your list. the less active swimming the better i think. I would look at the smaller shrimp gobies over the ones you mentioned, like a yasha, but those arent exactly cheap. 

 

A clown or neon goby could also work I think, they perch alot, goofy fish, small and cheaper fish too, maybe even 2. 

 

my royal gramma likes to be near their rocks, and dont actively swim a ton, just patrol a bit and look around for food. as far as I know, the orchid dottyback would be similar. a little pricey, im not sure they would do well long term in that size tank, but Ive seen it done. 

 

clown kinda just hover around whatever they like. a single clown could work i think, definitely avoid a designer one if price is issue.

 

 

are you wanting to try coral at all or just more of a fowlr? 

 

Whatever would be better for the fish I guess? I would love a few corals. Maybe some zoas, candy canes, or RFAs. Or maybe some macroalgae? If I use Tampa bay live rock I probably wouldn’t have to add much of anything to see some cool corals and macro.

 

After a month of thinking I’m leaning towards doing my 20H instead, but the 5g is still my dream. After watching tons of videos, I wouldn’t mind a few sexy shrimp and maybe a single small goby instead of the bigger fish I mentioned. But I’ve fallen in love with black cap basslets and six line wrasses so I might do my 20 just to be a good fish owner XD. 

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Hi there! Welcome to Nano-reef.com!!

 

If you want to save up but still gain experience and learn about the hobby, I have good suggestion for you!

 

1. Get basic el-cheapo 5 gallon tank from your pet store.

2. Get biggest Aquaclear hang-on-back filter you can afford. I recommend model 500

3. Get a nice small heater that will fit inside of Aquaclear hob filter you decide to buy (Make sure its temp controllable)

4. Get nice small led fixture you can afford. since you are not going to keep SPS or other light demanding corals with this tank, you can get by with anything really as long as it has blue spectrum.

5. Get cheaper salt that is readily available around your area

6. since tank is so small, you can get distilled water or bottleed ro/di water.

7. Buy smallest and cheaperst powerhead you can find. (to mix salt)

8. Do not buy those cheap boxy thing that measures salinity.  BUY REFRACTOMETER!!!!

 

When you do initial setup, don't use anything in the Aquaclear filter.  Take everything out then just put heater.  No need light during cycle. (this might be arguable).

Fill it with sand and rock, then throw in some fish food and let the cycle begin.  If you have money to spare you can go with bottled bacteria method.

 

Simple, cheap and works fantastically! As long as you keep light bioload and stick to softies.

 

HTH

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anizato

In my experience, it is best to go as big as your budget allows as quick as possible. Meaning, don't get the 5 if you are later going to go for the 20. That is just spending double. If you intend on getting the 20 just start with that, or the 40 or 50 or whatever it is you want to have. You will spend roughly the same amount of money getting a decent AIO tank than if you get a 5 gallon with a HOB filter. You can find a 5 gallon Pico AIO for around $100-200, you can also get a $200 20 gallon AIO. In which case, instead of a HOB filter, you just need a return pump. 

 

In terms of the refractometer, the best one is the Milwaukee digital refractometer.

 

If you are willing, the BEST thing you can get for yourself in this hobby is the RODI unit. Otherwise, either like mentioned above, use distilled water from the supermarket or go to your LFS and stock up on buckets and buckets of RODI - while RODI unit may be expensive, this entire hobby is. Since we are water keepers, start by investing in the best possible water you can make.

 

Also if you go the Aquaclear route as mentioned above, you will need some ceramic media (little ceramic porous balls or cubes) and tie it inside a mesh bag with pull string and this will be your biological filtration. 

 

Get some Nitrifying Bacteria in a bottle and get some Ammonium Chloride to start your cycle properly. As stated above DO NOT turn on your light for the first 6 weeks. So you have time to save for one. I would recommend looking into the AI Prime HD. 

 

Don't forget about the Auto Top Off, 5 gallon tank is too small to depend on manual replenishment. You will also need a fan if your area is hot. If you are getting a fan, may as well get an INKBIRD TEMP controller, you connect your fan, your heater to it and it controlls the temperature you set it at turning on both fan and heater as needed, keeping it stable for you.

For a small tank you probably can't get away without this, otherwise you risk crashing your tank.

 

Also, have a backup heater. So you need 3. One that works as a backup in case the main one fails, the main one, and one that is only used when mixing your saltwater for water changes.

 

I can't think of anything else right now. 

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growsomething

I love the 5 g idea w shrimp and inverts.  Check out wvreefers threads.  You just need water movement and a heater if you're in a cold area (I've never had one).  Her rock is her bio filter, and the bioload is so low the feces/food becomes inert and can be removed with a 50% w/c every month after stirring the sand.  

Agree with the suggestion to spend for the ato, the tank is very low maintenance with that, although you could easily do a tiny daily top-off at breakfast or a set time every day.  Maybe you could eventually share a topoff reservoir w the 20 and have 2 tiny seperate pumps in there  for each tank.

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Dani_13563
On 7/12/2024 at 11:32 PM, oogie said:

Hi there! Welcome to Nano-reef.com!!

 

If you want to save up but still gain experience and learn about the hobby, I have good suggestion for you!

 

1. Get basic el-cheapo 5 gallon tank from your pet store.

2. Get biggest Aquaclear hang-on-back filter you can afford. I recommend model 500

3. Get a nice small heater that will fit inside of Aquaclear hob filter you decide to buy (Make sure its temp controllable)

4. Get nice small led fixture you can afford. since you are not going to keep SPS or other light demanding corals with this tank, you can get by with anything really as long as it has blue spectrum.

5. Get cheaper salt that is readily available around your area

6. since tank is so small, you can get distilled water or bottleed ro/di water.

7. Buy smallest and cheaperst powerhead you can find. (to mix salt)

8. Do not buy those cheap boxy thing that measures salinity.  BUY REFRACTOMETER!!!!

 

When you do initial setup, don't use anything in the Aquaclear filter.  Take everything out then just put heater.  No need light during cycle. (this might be arguable).

Fill it with sand and rock, then throw in some fish food and let the cycle begin.  If you have money to spare you can go with bottled bacteria method.

 

Simple, cheap and works fantastically! As long as you keep light bioload and stick to softies.

 

HTH

Thanks so much!! This sounds awesome and super close to what I was originally planning!

 

What do y’all think of buying premade saltwater? My “local” (45min drive) fish store sells premade saltwater with “additives for coral growth” at the same price as a distilled gallon of water from the grocery store down the street. Every time I have visited this store there has been at least one person picking up water or dropping off rented containers, so they seem to know what they’re doing. 

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16 minutes ago, Dani_13563 said:

Thanks so much!! This sounds awesome and super close to what I was originally planning!

 

What do y’all think of buying premade saltwater? My “local” (45min drive) fish store sells premade saltwater with “additives for coral growth” at the same price as a distilled gallon of water from the grocery store down the street. Every time I have visited this store there has been at least one person picking up water or dropping off rented containers, so they seem to know what they’re doing. 

What you can do is, buy premade saltwater and fill up the tank for the first time and let it start cycling.  Once cycle has completed, I assume you  will want to buy some livestock, then you can pickup another batch of premade saltwater to do about 50% water change.  After this, you will want to mix your own saltwater to do weekly water change.  Since you need such a small amount of water for WC, it is def. not worth 45 min drive each way to pick up like gallon of seawater.  Gas prices are very high these days you know??  And trust me when I say this, no matter how dedicated you are, once your tank is full of livestock, you will hate the fact that you will have to drive hour and half to pick up like gallon of seawater! 

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Dani_13563
30 minutes ago, oogie said:

What you can do is, buy premade saltwater and fill up the tank for the first time and let it start cycling.  Once cycle has completed, I assume you  will want to buy some livestock, then you can pickup another batch of premade saltwater to do about 50% water change.  After this, you will want to mix your own saltwater to do weekly water change.  Since you need such a small amount of water for WC, it is def. not worth 45 min drive each way to pick up like gallon of seawater.  Gas prices are very high these days you know??  And trust me when I say this, no matter how dedicated you are, once your tank is full of livestock, you will hate the fact that you will have to drive hour and half to pick up like gallon of seawater! 

Oh! I didn’t know saltwater water could go bad haha! I just assumed I could pick up like 10-20 gallons of water and store it for a couple of months? I guess I was wrong lol. I forgot to mention we go to the fish store’s area often enough (once a month usually), and we might be going more often since my brother likes the barber that’s one block away from said LFS.

 

Another question (sorry!!!), I would have to ask the fish store what brand of salt they use, correct? I’ve read on this forum that changing salt can be bad for the fish/cuc. Would changing from RO/DI saltwater to distilled saltwater be bad for them as well? I REALLY don’t want to harm any fish or worse. I still carry the guilt of accidentally killing my two goldfish as a kid XD (accidentally scared one and accidentally smooshed one).

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1 hour ago, Dani_13563 said:

I would have to ask the fish store what brand of salt they use, correct? I’ve read on this forum that changing salt can be bad for the fish/cuc. Would changing from RO/DI saltwater to distilled saltwater be bad for them as well? I REALLY don’t want to harm any fish or worse.

I think having bad things happen to aquarium when switching salt is not because of salt itself but big swing in water parameter.  Honestly, I have switched salt many times and personally I have not seen negative results.  I think more important thing is to ask what salinity of the premixed salt water.  When cycling your tank, water parameter goes whack anyways so as long as you stick to 20% water change weekly, it should not matter which salt brand you decide.  One thing though, for a small pico tank, I would recommend salt mix that dissolves quickly and one that is ready to use immediately after 30 min or so.   

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Airedale.Reef
4 hours ago, Dani_13563 said:

What do y’all think of buying premade saltwater? My “local” (45min drive) fish store sells premade saltwater with “additives for coral growth” at the same price as a distilled gallon of water from the grocery store down the street.

I used pre made saltwater in small nano reef for many years. I am all for supporting local, however I have a Petco just a few minutes from my house, and used their pre made 5 gallon boxes. It was a bit more expensive, but with a small tank it would last me a month, and I could justify the higher cost. Just another idea for you. 

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Dani_13563
44 minutes ago, Airedale.Reef said:

I used pre made saltwater in small nano reef for many years. I am all for supporting local, however I have a Petco just a few minutes from my house, and used their pre made 5 gallon boxes. It was a bit more expensive, but with a small tank it would last me a month, and I could justify the higher cost. Just another idea for you. 

I wish I could! I live in a small country town so other than a Brookshire's and some dollar stores, there is nothing close by pet related at all. (Unless you count like ten feed stores that only contain helpful fish supplies if you're planning on eating them XD.) My nearest Petco is maybe only ten minutes closer than the LFS max. Thank you so much for the idea though! 

Also, your profile pic is so cute!!

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Airedale.Reef

Ah got it, makes sense. Yeah, if its only an additional few minutes, I would support the LFS too! Good luck with the build - Excited to see this come together! 

 

And thank you! Profile picture is of my Airedale Terrier, Ulysses at the beach. We think he is pretty cute too! 

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sapling

 

On 7/12/2024 at 5:00 PM, Dani_13563 said:

Whatever would be better for the fish I guess? I would love a few corals. Maybe some zoas, candy canes, or RFAs. Or maybe some macroalgae? If I use Tampa bay live rock I probably wouldn’t have to add much of anything to see some cool corals and macro.

 

After a month of thinking I’m leaning towards doing my 20H instead, but the 5g is still my dream. After watching tons of videos, I wouldn’t mind a few sexy shrimp and maybe a single small goby instead of the bigger fish I mentioned. But I’ve fallen in love with black cap basslets and six line wrasses so I might do my 20 just to be a good fish owner XD. 

for what its worth, if you can go with the larger tanks whatever size you decide, you can see more natural behavior in a larger tank, fish in general show more personality that way. 

 

not too sure about actual corals making it on live rock, but I'm sure its happened, in my experience, I've seen more things like weird inverts, algae, sponges, amphipods, snails, crabs,  anemones. would definitely have a lot of interesting biodiversity to look at, 

 

gonna be a hot take since its not ideal, but remembering you are on a budget;

 

back when I started, because I was broke and my water out of my tap was relatively good, I just used tap water treated with some drops of seachem prime to dechlorinate it. used instant ocean reef crystal salt mix. it wasn't ideal as I'm sure it spurred some algae growth, but it worked fine for my fish, live rock and soft corals for about a year before I was able to afford an RODI. definitely would avoid any LPS or SPS until you sort out a RODI filter. that's about the cheapest thing you can do for water. you'd need tap water that isn't very high tds or polluted.

 

either way if you buy premade or made it yourself, you would need a hydrometer or refractometer for checking salinity. it's a risk to your livestock to guess salinity with no way to measure it. I didn't really like using hydrometers cause bubbles can throw off the readings. if you don't get it locally, refractometer are pretty cheap online from places like amazon, just get one for saltwater and not for beer. 

 

I would say once you decide you like the hobby and want stay in it, try to get the RODI for sure, you wont regret it and it will 100% make the tank's health better. should be able to switch from tap to rodi without any issue, if anything it would resolve issues aggravated by using tap, like algae.   

 

hopefully that helps, 

 

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growsomething

What would you think about starting with a vase?  Check out this famous reef vase:

 

 

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