Thinking of starting a 2.5 or 3 gallon tank... - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 12 Old 10-19-2009, 11:41 AM Thread Starter
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Thinking of starting a 2.5 or 3 gallon tank...

I currently have a 30 gallon tank at home, and have been thinking of putting together 3 gallon tank for work or my bedroom. For starters if I do go through with it, which will a better starting kit?
Desktop & Small Aquarium Starter Kits: Picotope 3 Gallon Aquarium Kit
Desktop & Starter Aquarium Kit: 3-gallon Deco Kit Aquarium
This will be a very basic tank with a DSB a few lbs of LR and some simple corals that I will take from my main tank, the only other inhabitants will be a couple small snails and a gold banded coral shrimp. Will this setup be ok to be alone for 2 days if I do choose to keep it at work? Office is closed on sat and sun.
I understand its much harder to keep the smaller tanks in check due to the very low water volume that's why I ask about if it is ok for it to go unchecked for the 2 days. (Also the main reason I will not have any fish). I like the first due to its stronger lighting if I choose to take frags from my SPS in my main tank, but would even an 18 watt CFL be enough for them? or would they even survive in such a small tank?

All this is forward thinking a few months down the road, so all advice is highly appreciated, even if it is simply saying don't do it or keep it at home where I can monitor it 7 days a week even if only starting it out at home for a few months to stabilise it.

Thanks in advace!
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post #2 of 12 Old 10-19-2009, 02:19 PM
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There are several build threads in the "Pictures and Videos" area that you may want to read. Here a nice one on a 2.5 mini-reef.

I have been considering my own mini project, so I may follow this thread closely.

{moderator comment: We would prefer to relocate this thread into the Pictures and Videos area as a "Build' thread. Is this ok with you?}
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post #3 of 12 Old 10-19-2009, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, I have looked at a few in there. Those mainly have been inspiring my build as well. I dunno that it belongs in pics and videos, as it is more of a general question as to what is required to start and maintain a 3 gallon. A what can and can't be done type of thing. But if the mods feel that it is more suited for the other that's fine by me :)

I am planning on doing this somewhat as a frag tank to spread some of my successful inhabitants in my display into other areas in it, and even have a place for them when they get too big(overgrowing areas i don't want them in) until i choose to get rid of them and/or sell them.

That and I would love to have a nice little tank at work! lol.

Also is a skimmer required in a setup this small? I was thinking two one cup water changes per week would eliminate the need for it
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post #4 of 12 Old 10-19-2009, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by racingtiger03 View Post

Also is a skimmer required in a setup this small? I was thinking two one cup water changes per week would eliminate the need for it
Water changes and skimming do not reach the same goals. They really have nothing to do with each other. Skimming prevents the break down of organic waste. Water changes remove the end product. More on this later if necessary. However, I do not see the need for a skimmer on your tank. Activated carbon would be sufficient.

I thought you were setting this tank up already. We will run the discussion as is until you are ready to start the project, at which point you can create a build thread with lots of pictures!
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post #5 of 12 Old 10-19-2009, 09:52 PM Thread Starter
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ahh, I understand now!

As for the water changes vs skimmer, I understnad they don't really do the same. But I have read a few cases where people will use one to replace the other. So just a bag of activated carbon will be ok for the mini? That's good to know, already keep that on hand for the main tank!

I guess that really just leaves what should a water change regime be on a tank of that size, and will it be able to support SPS with the lighting that comes stock with the deco kit aquarium I listed above?

Also if I use water from my main tank, but use base sand and add some live sand from my main tank, and using just base rock, how long should the tank "cycle" for? Or will there even be a cycle at that point? (I will also use a small peice of LR from the LFS for seeding the base in the mini)

Thanks for the help so far!
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post #6 of 12 Old 10-25-2009, 07:38 AM
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There will most likely not be much of a "cycle" at all. However, I would still allow time for the system to mature before adding much in the way of livestock.

Activated carbon removes organic compounds from the water. Skimmer are MUCH more effective, but on a very small system you can use carbon without the skimmer, so long as you have the discipline to change the carbon every week or so.
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post #7 of 12 Old 10-25-2009, 01:17 PM
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yea online or at a fish store u can get a baggie and a box of carbon and fill the bagy and put it in ur filter. i would personaly go with the second one because of the higher light. u would only need 4-6 lbs of rock in there, bet u know that though. some snails and a shrimp might be a bit much but with experience im shure u can do it. im a newb so i cant offer any more then that but i hope that helps.

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Larry LaPrise, the man that wrote "The Hokey Pokey" died peacefully at the age of 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.
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post #8 of 12 Old 10-27-2009, 07:25 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Pasfur View Post
There will most likely not be much of a "cycle" at all. However, I would still allow time for the system to mature before adding much in the way of livestock.

Activated carbon removes organic compounds from the water. Skimmer are MUCH more effective, but on a very small system you can use carbon without the skimmer, so long as you have the discipline to change the carbon every week or so.

So carbon every week in the small system? I run carbon on my 30 gallon and change it monthly combined with the coral life skimmer. Should I up the carbon changes on the 30? As for the cycle I won't need to watch for the full diatom bloom and all then? I plan on taking all of the initial water from my DT on a water change weekend. So the pod population should get a decent jump start. I also have caught a couple amphipods from the dt for this purpose as well.

This really only leaves what kinds of corals I will be able to put in the mini :)

Also tests are weekly on my DT, how often should I test the water in the mini?
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post #9 of 12 Old 10-28-2009, 08:51 PM
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Angry Quarantine tank

is this really needed? or can i do without one?
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post #10 of 12 Old 10-29-2009, 07:48 PM
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If I may add to this conversation...

I have kept tiny nano reefs for many years. I finally took them all down but I would like to explain why. The why is something that hasn't been mentioned here yet and its something anyone considering such a small tank should know about.

When working with such a small amount of water evaporation becomes an issue from day 1, especially in an open top tank such as those in the links at the beginning of this thread. Evaporation levels in a larger tank don't have such a drastic effect on the water chemistry, nor does it happen so fast. For a 2 - 3 gallon tank, regardless of time of year.. it required daily water changes and it was still near impossible to keep the chemistry stable. The constant up and down in fluctuations every day from evaporation to water change/top off was so harsh on the corals that nothing survived for long. It was also impossible to keep temp stable because of the evaporation rates.

Other issues with such a small tank include space between the corals to avoid them bothering each other. Most healthy corals suitable for such a small tank will grow rapidly if the conditions are right, and 2.5 to 3 gallons of water leaves them no space to grow. Things like mushrooms that are compatible will quickly grow over the top of each other and crowd each other out... same end result is dying corals.

Then, of course, there is salt creep. This is something often forgotten about when setting up a marine tank... but when you work with the nanos, and open top at that... salt creep gets to be a real issue real fast. Because water evaporates and salt does not, that leaves salt residue behind... which gets onto everything. My last 2.5 gallon nano reef was open top and by end of first week there was salt creep on the desk, the tank, all of the equipment... which fell to the carpeting. As you can imagine, it was a horrible mess and also had a huge affect on being able to keep salinity stable enough for any animals to survive outside of a snail or 2. Again, this was simply from evaporation. With daily care it took about 45 minutes every day to wipe everything down to prevent it from getting bad, and it still did damage to the desk. Open top tanks also have some level of splash happening at the water's surface from filtration units. The lower the water evaporates, the bigger the splash. Saltwater spray usually gets on anything within about a 1 ft radius of the tank, sometimes more.

Now, what I have to contribute is not all bad news, lol. I didn't mean to sound so depressing. I do have a suggestion for you to consider.

What about a biocube 8? This gives you an extra 5 gallons of water to work with and is a covered tank designed for a nano reef. Filtration, lighting, everything has been designed to support what you are describing, plus its big enough to support a shrimp and small snail species or 2 if you so choose. It would still require daily maintenance to keep it stable, but it would be a lot less work, a lot less messy, and much better success rate for a bedroom tank such as you mentioned.

Another advantage to the biocube 8 is that its possible to get a heater into the back sump if you remove the bioballs and add live rock instead. The fill rate would have to be above the max line shown on the tank, but it is doable. With a deco tank there is nowhere to put a heater. A hang on heater requires the water level to be at a certain point, which as explained, gets to be an issue with evaporation. In the biocube 8 you can work with a submersible and evaporation rates are not so drastic, which causes no heater issues. My last 2.5 gallon nano broke 3 hang on heaters in less than 2 months... again, its that darn evaporation rate.

However you go, I would not suggest a small nano reef tank for an office situation. Many buildings that are closed on weekends also tend to turn off heat and/or air conditioning on those days. That would greatly affect what happens in a nano reef, even with a heater installed. The other reason I would never suggest one for an office is because of the salt creep issues. Covered or open top, there will be salt creep to deal with, and that can cause alot of damage to things like desks, carpeting, walls, etc. 2 days on the weekend might not seem like a long time, but with that small amount of water and heavy evaporation rates because of it... 2 days could 1/2 empty your tank (or more), especially in dry weather.

Not sure if this has helped any, but didn't want to see you going into this and finding out too late that it won't work or causes more expense in damages. That gets to be alot of money flushed down the toilet. You have lots of nano options, but those little mini tanks like in your links are not the way to go... nor is 2.5 - 3 gallons in any shape or form.

Best of luck to you.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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