Ask most any seasoned aquarists what size aquarium is good to start with for saltwater, and they will tell you that the larger the volume of water you are dealing with in an aquarium, the better. The primary reason? Because there are fewer concerns with environmental changes occurring rapidly.
Smaller is not always easier, or better, and before you buy a mini, micro, nano or pico aquarium kit, here are important things you should consider about these compact all-in-one systems, because they are not for everyone.
You Need to Be Patient and Move SlowlyAquariums such as these are typically tauted as being plug 'n play units, meaning they are advertised to be simply filled with water, fish added, and started up. This may be true, but when it comes to adding livestock and maintaining these types of systems, the easy part for many people ends there. Because these aquariums hold such small volumes of water, just adding one more fish or piece of coral can have a negative impact on the balance of the system quickly. It is important to be patient and move slowly when keeping any aquarium, no matter the size, but this is an even more critical point with smaller aquariums.
Maintenance Requires DiligenceYou may think that all you have to do after you get the aquarium set up and running is to sit back and enjoy it, with little effort in the care department. Not true. Small aquariums demand much more attention than larger ones. Maintaining the proper balance and controlling the quality of the water is typically accomplished through diligence. This means aquarium care tasks such as performing regular bi-monthly, monthly, and possibly weekly needed 25% to 50% water changes, testing of the water frequently, and cleaning or changing pre-filtering materials should to be done on a consistent basis for the best results.
Stocking Has LimitationsIf you want to start an aquarium with the intent to eventually have all kinds of marine life in it, then a mini-aquarium makes a poor choice to begin with. Overstocking is a common problem for people that keep small saltwater systems, because they just try to cram too much into them, and often way too fast, which quickly upsets the balance of things. Fish, corals, other invertebrates and tank occupants should be chosen carefully, and there are limitations on stocking, not only by numbers, but suitable species compatibility and size choices as well.
More About Small Aquariums
Whether you buy a mini/nano aquarium kit, or design your own small saltwater system set up, here are more important keys to success you should know about for setting up and maintaining an aquarium of less than 40 gallons in size.