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Nano Aquariums Vs Larger Aquariums

by Brian Dunleavy
Nano Aquariums Vs Larger Aquariums

Some people love smaller nano aquariums, while others prefer bigger aquariums. Deciding which aquarium to buy is an essential first step in your reefing journey. 

In this article, we will cover the pros and cons of keeping nano aquariums vs larger aquariums to help you determine which size is best for you. 

What Are Nano Aquariums?

As the name implies, nano aquariums are much smaller, typically under 30 gallons. They are great if you only have a few corals, invertebrates, and fish you want to add, but for more epic displays, you should really consider going larger. 

Now, I know what you are thinking, “I will start small, so it won’t cost as much”. While this is true, there are some things you must consider before settling for a nano aquarium.

Nano aquarium


Nano Aquariums: The Pros 

Here are the benefits of owning a nano aquarium:

#1: They are more affordable: Nano aquariums require fewer livestock to create a mesmerizing display and less rocks for aquascaping, plus the equipment is cheaper. 

#2: They are small: Nano aquariums take up less space than larger aquariums, making them perfect for your office desk, small bookshelf, or another piece of small furniture. 

#3: They have lower maintenance costs: As they are smaller they require less water, salt, food, and so on. They also consume less energy, making your energy bill cheaper than running a larger aquarium. 

#4: Less water to change: Smaller aquariums contain less water, so less water is needed when performing your regular water changes. 

#5: Quick setup: Nano tanks usually have built-in filtration systems, so the initial cycling process requires less time. 

#6:Less aquascaping: Smaller space means less aquascaping. This is good news for less creative hobbyists.

Nano Aquariums: The Cons

As mentioned, nano aquariums may look easy, but in truth, they are usually harder to maintain than larger aquariums because they have less water, making them more prone to water parameter fluctuations. 

Here are the drawbacks of owning a nano aquarium:

#1: Higher risk of aquarium crashing: Because of the smaller volume, nano aquariums have a higher risk of crashing. This is particularly an issue during a power outage. If a nano aquarium crashes, you could lose everything inside.

#2: Less aquascaping: Although this is also a pro to keeping nano tanks if you are a creative hobbyist, less aquascaping means you cannot play around as much because of the limited space. 

#3: They are more difficult to care for: Smaller aquariums have limited water, so there is a greater chance for water issues and mistakes. For example, if you lose 4 fish, and they start decomposing in a 20-gallon aquarium, they will create huge problems with your water chemistry. Whereas, if you had a larger aquarium (let’s say 200 gallons) it would hardly influence the water. 

#4: Livestock limitations: Some fish and corals can grow very large, and therefore they are not suitable for nano aquariums. The total number of livestock you can add to a nano tank is also significantly limited compared to larger aquariums. 

#5: Frequent maintenance: Due to more susceptibility to changes in water parameters and overall being less forgiving, nano aquariums require consistent maintenance,  therefore scheduling frequent water changes is a must!

#6: Expensive to run: While nano aquariums are not expensive to run in terms of electricity usage, their ongoing maintenance costs are fairly expensive. As they are smaller, you will need to fork out more money on water tests and supplements. 

Larger Aquariums: The Pros 

They say, ‘go big or go home’, and we kind of agree with this statement because larger aquariums are awesome! Just to prove our point, here are the benefits of getting a larger aquarium. 

#1: More forgiving: A larger water volume means more space for a few slip-ups. This is because larger aquariums are typically more stable than nano aquariums. 

#2: More room for livestock: This is a big plus in our eyes! A larger aquarium means more space to add what you want. Larger aquariums also give your fish more room to swim and play freely. 

#3: More space for aquascaping: Larger tanks also give you more than enough space for aquascaping, so get your crafting hands ready!

#4: More room to hide equipment/components: Larger aquariums need more components like skimmers and water pumps, but the good news is you can hide them at the back of the aquarium behind ornaments and the aquascape out of sight. 

Larger Aquariums: The Cons

#1: They take up a lot of room: Starting with the obvious one, larger aquariums are bigger than nano aquariums, so you need to clear enough space in your home or office to put them on display. 

#2: Expensive start-up costs: A larger aquarium requires more of everything compared to nano aquariums. More substrate, more rocks for your aquascape, more equipment, more water, more livestock, and of course the initial cost of a larger tank.

#3: Expensive electricity bill: Larger aquariums consume more electricity because they have more components to run.

#4: Large water changes: Instead of small frequent water changes, larger aquariums require less frequent, but large water changes, which is bad news if you are on a water meter!

Large saltwater aquarium


Our Top Larger Aquariums

The following larger aquariums will make your home aquarium stand out from the crowd. Not only do they offer the best value for money, but they also have the best features. 

  • The Red Sea Reefer Aquariums
  • Waterbox Aquariums: INFINIA, REEF, and FRAG series 
  • The Reef Savvy Rimless Aquarium
  • Innovative Marine NUVO Pro 2

  • Our Top Nano Aquariums

    If your heart is still set on owning a nano aquarium, we have our favorite five to choose from. 

    • Coralife Fish Tank LED BioCube Aquarium Starter Kit
    • Tetra 20 Gallon Aquarium Kit
    •  Fluval Sea Evo Saltwater Aquarium Kit
    • SeaClear 29 Gallon Show Acrylic Aquarium
    • Perfecto 20 Gallon Long Aquarium


    So, now you know the ‘ins and outs’ of both nano aquariums and a more extensive aquarium set-up. In reality, the challenges of maintaining a nano aquarium typically make them best suited for more experienced hobbyists. 

    However, it is possible to have a nano aquarium as a beginner, but remember that they are far less forgiving than larger aquariums. 

    If you are still unsure which aquarium size is best for you, or you have any questions regarding aquarium maintenance or supplies, do not hesitate to contact the Reefco Aquarium team, or pop in-store on the weekends to our showroom. We are always happy to help!

    by Brian Dunleavy