Instructions for a 10-Gallon Nano-Reef
Set the tank on a level surface (when filled with water, the tank will weigh a good 120lbs at least), away from direct sunlight, drafts, and heater/AC vents. Rinse your sand in water (do NOT rinse live sand in freshwater because it will kill the good critters in it) and place on the bottom of your tank to create a surface about 1-2 inches deep. Place your power filter in the tank according to the manufacturers instructions. Do not plug in yet. Place your power head in as well on the opposite side of the tank from the filter. Do not plug in yet. Place your heater in the tank according to the manufacturers instructions and don’t plug it in yet. Place your thermometer opposite of the heater. Fill your 5-gallon bucket with water. Use the de-chlorinator according to the directions on the container. Add salt according to the manufacturers instructions (usually ½ cup per gallon of water) and test your water with the hydrometer. The specific gravity should be between 1.023 and 1.025. Adjust as needed (by adding more salt or more water). Do this (mix water in this way) until your aquarium is full (close to the rim of the tank). Install your protein skimmer (if you are using one) now according to the manufacturers instructions but do not plug in yet. Add your live rock making sure that it is stable and can’t fall. Try to create ledges for corals and leave room on the sand. Place the light bulbs in the hood and place on top of the aquarium. Plug all equipment into a GFCI outlet or power strip. Turn on your lighting. Allow the system to stabilize for 24 hours and then test the ammonia, pH, nitrite, and nitrate. When the test results show 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, pH of 8.0-8.4 and nitrates are detectable (but low), you can add your first creatures (just a few). Once you add creatures, begin testing your tank once a week and whenever the nitrates get to about 30 ppm, change about half the water (Do this anytime you see 30 ppm). The first creatures you should add are some snails and hermit crabs to help with algae that the aquarium is about to get. Let these creatures be in the tank for 2-3 weeks so the system can stabilize again. Once the system is stable, you can start adding a few hardy corals. Add two or three colonies of polyps and/or mushrooms. Once the aquarium has stabilized again (2-3 weeks) you can add some more corals. At this time, you can add some soft tree corals and leather corals. Allow the system to stabilize again (2-3 more weeks) and you can add more soft corals, a few at a time waiting 2-3 weeks between every addition of creatures. Once the aquarium has been set up with creatures in it for 3 months, you can add a fish or two. Some of the best fish to add to a nano-reef are, clownfish, damselfish, and gobies. Let the tank stabilize for at least 2-3 weeks. At this point, you can add some LPS corals to the tank. Some LPS that will do well in this type of tank are open brain coral (Trachyphyllia), candy cane coral, and bubble coral. Only add one or two at a time and let the system stabilize for 2-3 weeks between the additions. Once you get to this point, you will have a thriving reef with some corals, fish, and a few invertebrates for cleaning up. Now, if you want to, you can add some more sensitive invertebrates such as feather dusters, and shrimp. Only add a few at a time and wait 2-3 weeks before adding more. Some shrimp that do well in a nano-reef (not at the same time) are peppermint shrimp, and cleaner shrimp (if you have seen Finding Nemo, you know about cleaner shrimp). Remember to go slow, and enjoy your nano-reef!