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Are smaller nano tanks really worth the effort?


9 Nov 2022
My 150 litre tank has become super stable and is low maintenance low tech low stress which suits me, I would like to upgrade to something twice the size at some point. While I am attracted to doing a couple of low tech smaller tanks (30 cm cube and smaller, I already own) I'm wondering whether it's really worth my time and effort. Is there some ultimate limiting factor of eco stabiity for smaller water volumes in relatively tiny tanks, or have people here successfully maintained nano tanks over longer periods which only require water changes?
have people here successfully maintained nano tanks over longer periods which only require water changes?
I have a little 10 litre which has been running very happily for 2 years now - no CO2, 30% ish water change every week, and a thriving colony of shrimp. It’s not a beautifully manicured aquascape, but very low stress and you can move it round the house if you need to 🙂
have people here successfully maintained nano tanks over longer periods which only require water changes?
I'd fail at 'neatly scaped', if that's a criterion. I'm dreadful at routine so I might qualify on 'low maintenance'. I'm thinking of my 27L PAH plastic tank which has shrimp and a changing population of platys - small breeding groups / juveniles / grow out broods. It's been going close to two years and much tinkered with, but that's part of the fun. No crashes, no disasters. I even managed to completely eliminate duckweed when I got fed up of it clarting everything. Water changes c. 10 to 20% every couple of weeks. Filtration a single air-driven sponge for most of that time. Currently also has a mini Pat with a spraybar. Lighting is a very basic LED on a timer plug.
I doubt if it's exceptional.. I'd have guessed there'd be loads of people on here who've maintained nano tanks for much longer.
I have a 90L cube and a 100L livebearer stock tank .. also both pretty stable and low maintenance, but I'd guess I've had as much fun, maybe more, from the 27L.
What kind of ball park would your longer periods be?
It's just another aspect of the hobby and fun to do. Always good to experiment and improve your knowledge and husbandry skills. This was my first nano tank a few years back, 30cm cube.

Basic SuperFish, with heater and internal filter. Absolutely loved it. Took me about 30 mins a week to maintain, the payback in terms of enjoyment was priceless.

It housed a school of dwarf rasbora and some cherry shrimp. Both were very happy. I just treated it the same way as any other scape. The only thing that surprised me was the disproportionate amount of CO2 it required; almost as much as a tank twice its size.

I think it's the same as most tanks, be smart about managing the bioload, nutrient input, filtration and light, and it'll reach stability.

Changes will of course happen quicker in smaller tanks, but regular maintenance should pretty much eliminate any risk factors outside of freak accidents like power cuts.

Definitely worth it in my opinion, nano's are rewarding in a different way to bigger tanks, each with their own merits
I don't have long term experience but I have a 10L with only a pump running for a bit more than a month right now, I did not have a single issue at all for now and the tank is really enjoyable for me.
The tank seems more stable than my 60L is and ever was.
I'm only doing 2L water change with my other tank water each week and trim the plant.
Some procedure can help :
  • dark start
  • really low bioload
  • really thick substrate
  • adding already cycled/seasoned bacteria/mulm ( a lot )

So definitely worth for me too !
They are a good way to experiment with a dirt tank and learn to scape in different ways. Also perfect to have ready for fry. In mine, because of the stillness–sponge filter–it's the perfect place for floating plants to thrive, and I add them into my big tank once they've grown. Also, scale is always imaginative. And it's an opportunity for those addicted to CO2 to have a low tech tank.
I would say its easier to start off with low tech nano tanks to get a feel of things. Stick to plants like the Java Fern family, Anubias and mosses. A few simple stems can also be used. Crypts too but I tend to avoid crypts because of their massive root system.

You can use an Aquasoil but cycle it very well and try the dark start method to get rid of excess nutrients.
You could then keep some intersting cardina shrimps once the tank is fully settled