Our Saltwater Nano Reef Tank: Setting It Up & Bottom Dwellers

As the children are moving out, creatures are moving in.

Our oldest moved out to his own place a couple of years ago and left a space in his room, which we finally decided to use as a spot for a fish tank.

We checked out a few nearby fish stores and found one in particular that seemed pretty knowledgeable. We went into this whole thing thinking we were going to be doing a fresh water system, but got lured by the amazing colors of the saltwater fish, coral and reef on the saltwater side of the store. We did some research, budgeted for the system and this last June, took the plunge. Literally.

Saltwater takes a little time to set up, so the first thing we did was get some live reef rock and sand. Live basically means there are living organisms in the rock and sand. They went into our tank - it was fun deciding on the configuration of our reef pieces - and then we added saltwater. All fish stores that sell saltwater fish also sell saltwater too.

We did opt for a complete tank kit, that came with a pump, LCD light, and filter. We also added a heater as well. Our tank was considered a nano tank, at just 13 gallons.

Once you have all that in place you need to let your tank cycle. This basically means that both the ammonia and nitrates need to balance out. For our tank this took about a month. There really isn't anything you need to do during this time except give it a little bit of liquid bacteria and continue to top off the tank with RODI Water, or Reverse Osmosis Deionized Water. When saltwater evaporates it leaves behind the salt, so if you were to keep adding salt water to the tank the salinity would increase.



This is the only photo of this stage because it wasn't very interesting. The fish store we used conveniently tested our water each week and we waited about 4 weeks before our levels evened out. Which then meant we could add some bottom dwellers.

Just in time too, because we were noticing a build up of this brown stuff on the sand, called diatom.


Bottom dwellers are not too expensive and are your "canaries". If they do well then you know your tank is able to sustain marine life.

Meet Mr. Conch. Or as some people in the family call, Elephant.


Elephant, because he has a long mouth that comes out to eat.

He was going to help clean up all of that diatom, and make our sand nice and white again. He did get right to work, but a side effect of his cleaning the sand was that he dug up lots of shells and small rocks that had been buried in the sand.



Here is one of the two crabs we got. You can see those two shells on the sand above - we did get some extra shells for when the crabs get bigger. They mostly hang out on the rock and munch away at whatever is growing on it.


Yup, he's pretty camouflaged.

We also got two snails, to clean the glass walls. They go pretty much everywhere and try their best, but since we want it to be really nice and clean we do end up cleaning the glass once a week, conveniently when we do a water change.

And the most entertaining guy we got this day was Jacques, or depending on our mood Mr. Shrimp, or Shrimpy.



He is a cleaner shrimp and is hilarious. He basically is King of the Reef, and moves all over the place, looking for food. He is also super friendly and when we need to get our hands in the tank to clean or move something, he hops right on our hand and goes to work cleaning it.


We were well on our way to a healthy saltwater nano tank; I'll write more later about adding some fun corals and fish to our fun project.

Other saltwater posts:

Adding Coral
The First Fish

#saltwaternanotank #saltwater #conch #hermitcrabs #cleanershrimp



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