You may have been told that saltwater tanks are too difficult to manage, or that you need to have a very large tank for saltwater habitats. But, nano reefs are an option that beats both of those problems.
Anyone can keep a piece of the ocean in their home. While it would be hard to get crashing waves in your living room, a reef tank is the next best thing.
If you get the best nano reef tank and learn how to maintain it, you can keep a mesmerizing saltwater tank anywhere.
Here you’ll learn what makes a good nano reef tank versus a bad one. We’ll also spill the tea on a few of the top-rated nano reef tanks out there.
- Top 8 Best Nano Reef Tanks In 2021 Review
- 1 Coralife LED Biocube Aquarium
- 2 Red Sea Max Nano Aquarium
- 3 SCA 50 Gallon Starfire Glass Aquarium
- 4 Fluval 10531A1 SEA EVO XII Aquarium Kit
- 5 Marina LED Aquarium Kit
- 6 Innovative Marine Fusion Peninsula Glass NUVO Aquarium
- 7 Fluval 10528A1 EVO V Marine Aquarium Kit
- 8 MarineLand Contour Glass Aquarium Kit
- What Makes The Best Nano Reef Tank?
Top 8 Best Nano Reef Tanks In 2021 Review
1 Coralife LED Biocube Aquarium
You can get the Coralife LED Biocube aquarium in two different sizes: 16 gallons and 32 gallons. Both sizes come with the same features and similar styles, with the 32-gallon options being more rectangular.
This aquarium kit has LED lighting built into the hood. Since it’s meant for corals, the lights can be set to bright white, sparkling blue, or color enhancing. There’s also a 24-hour timer that creates a schedule with automatic sunrise, moonrise, and moonset lighting adjustments.
A filtration system is built into the back of the tank. It’s a submersible pump and intake without any visible tubes or hoses inside the tank itself. The included filter pump is rated for 240gph.
The built-in lighting and filtration make a great setup for beginner reef keeping. You aren’t likely to need any significant modifications to get your tank up and running. The 32-gallon version is preferable over the 16-gallon for a reef tank.
Does this tank have it all? Maybe not. Find out what’s missing…
2 Red Sea Max Nano Aquarium
As a small-medium option, the Red Sea max nano aquarium is something to consider. It’s a 20-gallon tank with built-in systems to help you run it easily.
For lighting, this rectangular tank features a tall AI Prime HD LED that sits about a foot above the top. It’s a rimless glass tank with no cover. The front corners of the tank are 90-degree angles with black sealant.
On the back of the tank, a black chamber runs along the whole length for filtration, heating, and other attachments. Filtration is included already, with a pump filter rated up to 240gph. You’ll also get a protein skimmer along with the filter.
The Red Sea max nano aquarium is a small, concentrated reef tank with a good built-in system. This means you can get a lot out of it without having to work hard to set it up. The LED light selection is great for most coral, saving you the trouble of figuring out how to DIY a lighting system.
Is this as good as it gets? It’s not all perfect…
3 SCA 50 Gallon Starfire Glass Aquarium
Though slightly larger than most nano reef tanks, this 50-gallon set makes a great addition to your home. The display tank itself is 50 gallons with an additional 18-gallon sump tank. All of this is built into a cabinet stand available in black or white.
The tank itself is a rectangular glass tank standing at 24x24x20 with the cabinet measuring 24x24x31 inches. Unlike the other tanks on this list so far, the sump tank sits underneath it. Inside the sump, there’s a filtration system, skimmer, and pump included.
SCA’s Starfire glass aquarium is rimless with sleek rounded top edges. Corners are pointed, with black sealant framing the tank sides. The back is fully black, with the sump tank sitting inside the tank at the back middle.
As a little bit of a larger nano reef tank, this is a nice choice for beginners. The cabinet stand also gives you a great storage space while eliminating the need to mount the tank. Having a larger sump tank also helps you make changes more easily without throwing off the tank.
All inclusive, yes, but is it really a nano reef tank? We’ll get to that later…
4 Fluval 10531A1 SEA EVO XII Aquarium Kit
Here’s a smaller nano reef tank for the more experienced reef keeper. This Fluval 10531A1 Sea Evo XII tank is a rectangular 13.5-gallon tank with built-in systems.
The filter has mechanical, biological, and chemical elements and operates at a low-medium flow rate. Because of this, it works well for soft corals. You can also upgrade the filtration system at any point and add other necessary elements to the built-in sump section.
This tank is designed as a plug-and-play kit that looks and acts well put-together. The top features a strong coral-specific LED light that fits in seamlessly. Around the sump section and the top of the tank, black honeycomb designs mask the maintenance accessories.
Anyone looking to start very small is likely to get what they want from this tank. It’s got the right features and design to work well with most soft corals, and it looks great on display.
While everything is well thought-out, is it right for beginners? We’ll get to that soon…
5 Marina LED Aquarium Kit
You can buy the Marina LED aquarium kit in 5, 10, or 20 gallons. The 10 and 20-gallon kits are most recommended for nano reef tanks, as 5 gallons is likely to be too small. Each size comes with the same style of tank and the same accessories.
This is a rectangular glass tank with black sealant on the corner walls. A clip-on cartridge filter comes with the kit. Also, you get an LED cover light, water conditioner for freshwater tanks, Fluval Max fish food, a fish net, and care instructions.
While it’s aimed more at freshwater usage, the tank is suitable for reefs with little adjustment. You shouldn’t use the standard accessories for a nano reef tank. Unlike some of the other tanks mentioned, this tank is clear all the way around with no sump.
You have more control over what you buy and use with this tank. Choose the filtration, LEDs, and other accessories separately while using the tank frame itself as a great base. It’s an attractive setup to start with, making it easier for you to make a great end product.
6 Innovative Marine Fusion Peninsula Glass NUVO Aquarium
From Innovative Marine, this is a 14-gallon tank that’s set up to accommodate a saltwater nano reef ecosystem. It’s a shorter, horizontal glass tank with black sealant on the edges.
This is a rimless tank, so there’s no cover on the top. However, there is a filter with the tank on a contained sump section. The sump is black and offers enough space for you to install extra accessories.
With this kit, you get the filter and all the pieces you need to set it up. For easier setup, the filter return valve is built into the tank already to help provide consistent water movement around your coral.
If you’re looking for a small tank to keep in your home, this is a great compact option. It may
7 Fluval 10528A1 EVO V Marine Aquarium Kit
This tank is actually an earlier version of another tank on our list (Fluval 10531A1 SEA EVO XII). The difference between the Fluval 10528A1 Evo V and the other version comes down to size and accessories. This one is a 5-gallon glass tank meant for saltwater fish.
Because it’s meant for saltwater, the tank kit comes with a small built-in sump filter system and a bright LED light setup. The sump filtration chamber is on the side of the horizontal tank, featuring a black honeycomb design that keeps it low-profile.
All 3 types of filtration are in this tank. The LEDs are not built into the lid but are instead attached to the side and hang out the top. A timer connects to the lights, helping you illuminate the tank at the right times during the day.
If you’re a more experienced reef keeper, or if you want to start very small, this could be a good nano reef tank. It’s tiny, so you can keep it almost anywhere. And, it’s already set up well to accommodate small saltwater reef habitats.
Is larger better? Small has its benefits too, but only for some. Read more on that below…
8 MarineLand Contour Glass Aquarium Kit
While this aquarium is mostly intended for freshwater fish, it’s also an option for saltwater nano reef tanks. This is either a 3 or 5-gallon tank that comes with an LED light bar, an attractive stand, and a built-in filter system.
The filter is discreetly located in the back of the tank in a black sump section. It’s a 3-stage filtration system with all the necessary pieces in the kit.
Above the tank, the LED light bar hangs overhead and shines down into the tank. As a small square tank, the 3-gallon option gets great light penetration. However, the 5-gallon tank is taller vertically and may not receive the same light penetration.
As a beginner, the small size of the tank and the complete plug-and-play kit is attractive. This is a great looking tank setup that’s so easy to start up for anyone at any skill level. Maintaining it may be easier for someone with experience, but even a novice can manage this tank with enough time.
Not all tanks are equal. Is this tank cut out for nano reef keeping? You decide…
What Makes The Best Nano Reef Tank?
There are so many saltwater reef tanks on the market. How can you pick the right one?
Pay attention to these 5 factors specifically:
- Tank Size
A nano reef tank must be 40 gallons or less. So, your decision is any tank between roughly 5 gallons to a maximum of 40. The one thing to keep in mind is that as you go for a smaller tank, changes in water conditions can affect the reef more drastically.
Nano reef tanks are difficult to work with, because corals are notoriously picky aquarium inhabitants. Slight changes to any water quality measures can have disproportionately large impacts on the tank environment. Also, the smaller the tank, the less water it contains, making your tank more susceptible to quick, dramatic changes.
If you’re just starting out as a beginner to reef tanks, look for a tank closer to 40 gallons. If you’re a bit more experienced, a smaller tank may work for you. Smaller tanks take more consistent management as well, so keep that in mind if you’re considering it.
- Tank Shape
For a reef tank, it’s recommended you look for one that’s more horizontal than vertical. You want a wider, shallower tank so you can more easily manage light, arrangement, marine life, and feeding.
Vertical tanks make coral arrangements trickier and may require stronger lighting that may add heat to the tank. Also, most fish swim horizontally more than they do vertically, which could limit your fish choices. Vertical tanks have the benefit of less water lost.
Shallow, horizontal tanks will be much easier to clean and arrange. They make good nano reef tanks because you can easily arrange the coral underneath your tank lights. Unfortunately, shallow tanks tend to lose water more quickly through evaporation.
- Glass or Acrylic
You can find glass or transparent acrylic nano tanks. While glass is usually irreparable if something breaks, acrylic can often be fixed. Acrylic has incredible clarity in the beginning, though it’s more prone to scratches than glass and should be handled delicately.
In terms of build quality, acrylic is usually lighter than glass. It’s also sturdier towards breaks. However, again, it is easier to scratch than glass. Thick glass tanks are heavy but very strong.
Keep in mind that the quality of the material used matters for both types. High-quality aquarium glass will do better than low-quality glass in every aspect. The same is true for acrylic.
This is a heavily debated topic among reef tank owners, as each option has their own drawbacks. The real question is: what’s best for your setup?
- Built-in Systems
A lot of top-rated nano reef tanks today are sold as kits. They include all or most of what you need to get your aquarium started. Some kits are better than others.
The best nano reef tank kits have full spectrum LED lighting, filtration, and a stand. You can add anything else you need separately. Filtration and lighting are the most common accessories included with reef tank kits.
Tanks come in a lot of different shapes and styles. They are box-shaped, rectangular, round, partially round, etc. This is mostly up to personal preference, as long as you find a tank that’s functional first. Focus on practicality first and narrow down your style options later.