Setting up a nano reef is easy. It is no different from normal sized or larger tanks. We recommend using natural filtration methods for nano reefs, like high quality live rock and live sand. This is true for both large and small tanks.
An efficient, appropriately sized protein skimmer is also helpful for filtering a nano reefs. There are many hang-on or in-tank style skimmer options available like the CPR Bak Pak, Eshopps Nano and Innovative MarineAuqaGadget Nuvo SkimMate. The AquaMaxx HOB-1 is a popular choice as well, considered by many as the best HOB-1 skimmer around. It is affordable and works well with small tanks. Although it is taller than a standard 10-gallon tank, placing your tank on a stand will eliminate this problem. The AquaMaxx HOB-1 can be used on tanks from 10 to 75 gallons, so the skimmer will still be useful should you decide to upgrade to a larger tank in the future. Another great product to have is the JBJ NanoZapp. It is a UV sterilizer that helps rid your tank of free-floating algae and/or bacteria and parasites that could affect your fish.
This brings us to the point of size selection. We carry tanks as small as a half-gallon, although the more popular options start around 4 gallons and go up to about 40. Most hobbyists nowadays are using LEDs to illuminate their nano tanks because they are small and have low heat consumption. Another benefit is they last for years versus fluorescent and metal halide bulbs which need to be replaced every 9 -12 months. With the right type of LEDs, you will easily be able to produce enough light to grow corals plus you will experience their excellent shimmer effects.
As with all reef aquariums, water movement is important to keep your tank inhabitants happy and healthy. Small powerheads like the Hydor Koralia line, Tunze NanoStream and EcoTech MP10 work really well. Depending on the type of corals selected and the size of the pump chosen for the job, you may need one or two powerheads in the tank.
Selection of the livestock you place in your nano reef is vital to its success. Selecting appropriately sized fish such as a pair of Percula Clownfish or Gobies enables you to have movement in the tank while keeping the bio-load low. Coral selection is also important. Since you have limited space to work with, you will want to avoid highly aggressive corals such as Galaxea coral or some Euphylia corals. These corals have long sweeper tentacles that can harm nearby corals. Some excellent choices would be Leather corals, plate corals or xenia. You can see a wide selection or corals that MarineDepotLive carries.
As you can see, Nano reefing is not too different from larger setups. All that is needed is more attention to tank parameters since fluctuations are more evident due to the volume of water or lack thereof.