- Updated May 24, 2020
- Writen by Editorial Staff
- Table of Contents
The 5 Best Nano Reef Tanks of 2020
- Updated Nov 16, 2018
- Writen by Editorial Staff
- Table of Contents
All home reef aquariums are basically small reefs if compared to the expansiveness of natural corals. However, Nano reef tanks are more compact, typically having a capacity of fewer than 20 gallons.
The small size means that they are more affordable and easier to maintain, yet they still give your home a beautiful look from the impressive display of colored corals inside.
Therefore, if you can’t afford a large reef tank, this article gives an in-depth review of 5 of the best nano reef tanks that you should consider buying.
- 5 Best Nano Reef Tanks – Reviews
- How to Buy the Best Nano Reef Tank
- How to Set Up and Maintain Nano Reef Tank
5 Best Nano Reef Tanks – Reviews
1. Hagen HG Fluval AHG15006 (Best Freshwater Nano Reef Tank)
2. Coralife 100530106 (Largest Nano Reef Tank)
3. Fluval 10528A1 (Best Countertop Nano Reef Tank)
4. Fluval 10531A1 (Best Marine Nano Reef Tank)
5. Marineland ML90610 (Best Budget Nano Reef Tank)
1. Hagen HG Fluval AHG15006
(Best Freshwater Nano Reef Tank)
2. Coralife 100530106
(Largest Nano Reef Tank)
3. Fluval 10528A1
(Best Countertop Nano Reef Tank)
4. Fluval 10531A1
(Best Marine Nano Reef Tank)
5. Marineland ML90610
(Best Budget Nano Reef Tank)
1. Hagen HG Fluval AHG15006 – Best Freshwater Nano Reef Tank
- Capacity: 15 gallons
- Material: Glass
This glass reef tank is the best for freshwater corals because of a number of reasons. It is equipped with bright white 7500K LEDs that provide the ideal light to support coral and plant growth in freshwater.
These consist of red, green, blue and white LEDs and are controlled via a Flexpad remote control to produce special effects such as lightning and faded cloud cover.
Other than that, the tank has three viewing sides and an opaque top, back, and bottom side. The front side curves outwards in a convex-like shape, which gives extended views of the reefs as well as the fish inside from the front, left and right sides of the tank.
On filtration, the reef tank comes with a powerful 3-stage filtration system, consisting of an oversized mechanical, chemical and biological filter for superior water purification. This filter is conveniently hidden at the rear of the tank and is removable for easy cleaning.
2. Coralife 100530106 – Largest Nano Reef Tank
- Capacity: 16 gallons
- Material: Glass
Though expensive, Coralife’s biocube is the largest tank on this list, carrying a capacity of 16 gallons.
The tank also has a sleek modern design, with curved corners that give it a frameless look. Just like the Fluval unit above, this one has 3 transparent sides for viewing the fish and reefs while an opaque hinged lid acts as the access point for feeding and maintenance purposes.
This lid houses the built-in LEDs, which come in 3 channels consisting of bright white, sparkling blue and color enhancing LEDs. The range of colors and their brightness make this unit very versatile because it is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater use.
Although the tank’s lighting cannot be remote controlled, it comes using an integrated 24-hour timer that can be used to set automatic 30-minute sunrise/sunset and 60-minute moonrise/moonset effects.
On the backside, a two-compartment removable filter is built-in for mechanical and biological filtration, and is run by a very quiet submersible pump. The only problem is that there is no chemical filter.
3. Fluval 10528A1 – Best Countertop Nano Reef Tank
- Capacity: 5 gallons
- Material: Glass
Fluval’s 10528A1 Evo V is a relatively affordable Nano reef tank but this mostly due to its small 5-gallon capacity. However, this size means that it can comfortably fit on any desk or countertop easily and is light enough for one person to move it from one spot to another.
Other than this, the tank features bright 11000K LEDs, which contain an actinic blue light that is very beneficial for healthy marine coral growth. It is actually designed for saltwater use, making it ideal for marine reefs.
In terms of design, the unit has a cuboid shape with 3 transparent sides as well as a transparent top cover, and this enables you to have spectacular views of the coral and fish from multiple angles.
Apart from being an access point for feeding and maintenance purposes, this transparent top cover is designed that way so as to allow light from the hanging LED unit above to pass through.
On the backside, the tank has a stylish honeycomb design that conceals the filtration area and gives it a very cool, modern look.
The hidden filter comprises a 3-stage filtration system, which does the mechanical, chemical and biological filtration, and this is very important, especially considering that the tank is meant for marine use.
4. Fluval 10531A1 – Best Marine Nano Reef Tank
- Capacity: 13.5 gallons
- Material: Glass
If you want to grow the marine corals, Fluval’s 10531A1 is the best option to consider.
Although a bit expensive, this unit comes with high 14000K color temperature LEDs that produce more of the actinic blue light that is very beneficial to coral growth.
This recreates the blue lighting that appears under the seas, providing corals with the natural light that is available in their natural habitat.
Apart from this, a 3-stage filtration system is built into the tank, and it features oversized mechanical, chemical and biological media for a more thorough filtration process. Being specifically designed for marine use, such a filter is very beneficial to the system.
In terms of design, the unit stands out due to its multi-functional canopy that houses an easy-feed door, LEDs and the touch switch that is used to control the LEDs so as to create daytime or nighttime effects.
This cover is opaque but the front, left and right sides of the tank are transparent, giving you good views from the 3 angles.
5. Marineland ML90610 – Best Budget Nano Reef Tank
- Capacity: 3 gallons
- Material: Glass
Marineland's Contour glass unit is a top rated Nano reef tank primarily because it is very affordable, yet it has some very impressive features.
For starters, the unit has curved glass corners that give a continuous view of the fish and coral inside. On the bottom side, the tank is held above ground by a pedestal, and this adds onto its sophisticated but good look.
On the upper side, a transparent sliding cover makes it very easy to access the water inside for maintenance or feeding purposes while also giving you a good view of the reefs from the top.
Lighting is provided by a set of rail mounted LEDs that are suspended above the tank using a hinged arm. The transparent cover enables the light to pass through whether it's in daylight or moonlight settings.
A hidden 3-stage filtration system does the purification and is run by an adjustable flow filter pump to give you more control over the filtration process.
The only downside to it is that it is the smallest Nano reef tank in this review, holding only 3 gallons of water. However, a 5-gallon option is available with the same features, just in case you prefer a bigger size for your desktop or countertop.
How to Buy the Best Nano Reef Tank
1. Size and Shape
The size of a Nano reef tank is a big thing to consider because it directly affects things such as heating, the number of fish that can fit inside and space it occupies.
Corals grow best in heated waters at about 70 – 85°F and thus, this is important and necessary. The tank will also occupy more space but on the bright side, it can hold more fish and coral.
When it comes to the shape, most Nano reef tanks are cubes or cuboids. However, some like Hagen HG Fluval's AHG15006 are modified to have a belly-like curvature for extended views.
On the other hand, Coralife's 100530106 has curved glass edges that give you continuous views of the colorful corals inside. Such designs are definitely much better than a plain cube or cuboid tank.
Buying Advice: If you have a bigger space to keep a bigger tank and you don’t mind spending a lot on the electricity costs associated with heating and filtration, a large nano reef tank such as Coralife's 100530106 is best for you.
Otherwise, a small such as Marineland's ML90610 one will do. However, regardless of the size, the best tank should have a beautifully shaped design, such as the one with curves.
2. Kit Components
Most Nano reef tanks come as complete kits, with the other components being accessories to the tank. These components are important because they help you run the aquarium and reduce the costs that you would have incurred in buying them as extras.
When buying such a tank, ensure that it has a filtration system, LED lighting and possibly a remote control or timer for managing the lighting. Some may come with a heater, making the kit more attractive to buy.
3. Lighting System
Lighting is critical for coral growth. Ideally, marine corals require actinic blue light, which is present in high color temperature LEDs. Therefore, if you want a saltwater coral tank, buy Fluval's 10531A1 or 10528A1.
However, for freshwater reef tanks, lower temperatures such as in the range of 6500 – 7500K will work perfectly fine to grow the freshwater corals. For this, check out Hagen HG Fluval's AHG15006.
Another important aspect about lighting is that it displays the vibrant colors of the fish and corals, and with additional effects such as lighting, cloud cover, and day and night cycles, your tank will have the best possible views.
Therefore, it is important to ensure that you get a nano reef tank with at least more than one light channel (with features such as white, red, green and blue LEDs). Check out the AHG15006 or Coralife's 100530106.
4. Filtration System
Although most Nano reef tanks come with built-in filtration systems as part of the kit, it is important to consider the capabilities of the filter .
For instance, some units come with 2-stage filters (mechanical and biological filtration) while others feature 3-stage filters.
Of course, a tank with a 3-stage filtration system such as Fluval's AHG15006 does a better job at keeping its waters clean.
If you buy one with a 2-stage filtration system, you might be forced to buy an external filter to handle the full filtration process.
How to Set Up and Maintain Nano Reef Tank
Finding the best fish tank and setting it up are two very different things. After you have found the most suitable fish tank, the following steps will help get it up and running.
1. Look for a good location
Basically, a good location needs to be hard and leveled out so that it can hold the tank without sinking and without balancing too much weight on one side.
With this in mind, the most common good locations are desktops or countertops but you can get a stand that is entirely dedicated to holding the tank.
An important thing to consider though is that you should get a location that fits. If you have a big tank, ensure that its measurements align with those of the surface that you will place it on.
2. Fill with water
Make sure that you use non-chlorinated water to fill the tank. For the best results, you should get reverse osmosis water from a pet shop.
If you intend to grow saltwater coral, make sure you have high-quality synthetic salts and a hydrometer for monitoring the salt concentration continuously as you mix it with the water.
3. Insert a proper heater
Coral reefs grow very well in warm water at about 70 – 85°F. As such, a heater is required to optimize the water for the reefs. Once you have installed it and made sure that it works properly, you can proceed to fill in the substrate.
4. Fill the substrate
Coral reefs usually set their foundation on submerged rocks or other hard surfaces. Therefore, it is important to place rocks at the very bottom. After this layer, pour in the sand while evening out its thickness so that it forms a flat surface.
5. Test the filter
Wait for the sand to settle then start the filter to test its effectiveness. Add some ammonia and monitor its level continuously up to the point it gets to zero. If it takes a very long time, you might want to check the filter or upgrade to a bigger one.
Repeat this process using nitrates and nitrites. Nitrates can be tolerable if they are at a level of 20ppm at most. However, for ammonia and nitrites, the filter must reduce their levels to zero.
6. Add the fish and coral
If everything works well, add the fish and coral. However, before buying the fish, ensure that you check which types of fish are compatible with the coral that you have as well as the lighting.
For maintenance, first, ensure that you get the fish the best food for their kind and clean the tank as per the required frequency.
If you have ever postponed your need to get an aquarium due to limited space, Nano reef tanks are a good option to consider. Not only are they suitable for keeping fish, but they have the hardware to support coral growth.
With that in mind, we recommend Hagen HG Fluval's AHG15006 as the best nano reef tank for freshwater use due to its relatively large capacity, 3-stage filtration and 7500K lighting.
On the other hand, Fluval's 10531A1 takes the top spot with marine corals specifically due to its favorable 14000K lighting.