Planning a Nano Reef Tank

Well, it’s happening. I’ve always said that I would be a freshie at heart and, while that’s true, I can’t help but wonder what else is out there. Specifically, what other types of aquariums are out there.

Now I’ve had it all: fish tanks, shrimp tanks, planted tanks, snail tanks, cichlid tanks, killifish tanks, betta tanks, every kind of tank. But I’ve never had a saltwater tank. While I take care of saltwater tanks at my current job and often complain about the sheer amount of work that it takes, I can’t help but secretly want one for myself. And since I’m a perfectionist and an overachiever I have chosen to do not only a reef tank but a nano one at that. FOwLR (Fish Only w Live Rock) tanks are cool but I’m after a different kind of animal: Corals.

Like so many others before me I find myself staring at beautiful corals swaying peacefully in blue actinic light and pining for my own. I’ve decided that a nano reef tank is the perfect money sink for me. I will NEVER stop doing freshwater but I do intend on this nano reef tank to be a centerpiece aquarium to my YouTube channel. It’s going to be a HUGE learning experience so I am literally foaming at the mouth to get started. In true overachiever style, I plan on documenting the planning stages of this build since I will be doing a metric ton of research.

DISCLAIMER: Now, before we get into the Excel spreadsheet that I will be including in this post, I want to state that I am NOT sponsored by anyone and will be paying for this build 100% out of pocket. This post, and any mention of the cost of this build, is NOT a humble brag. I am not rich. I am a poor student with debt who pays their bills and doesn’t have much spending cash. I am working over the summer to save for the upcoming and ongoing costs of running this tank. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into the build.

Photos from Amazon
I will be starting with a Fluval SEA EVO XII. It’s a 13.5 gallon aquarium with about 12G of swimming space and a 1.5 gallon hidden sump in the back. It’s essentially a glorified Fluval SPEC V with marine lighting. Lots of YouTubers have been unboxing this aquarium kit because it truly does seem to be a great, cost-effective saltwater aquarium. However, I do plan on doing some modifications and upgrading pieces of equipment over time. See the spreadsheet below.

Nano Reef Tank Cost Sheet

Now that you’ve seen the upgrades and overall cost of the build, could you imagine how much a saltwater tank must cost on a larger scale?! I’m just trying to get my feet wet! I don’t want to spend my entire life savings on Radion lighting quite yet. And of course this is all just my best guess. Like most projects, they inevitably cost more but I’m doing my best to account for most variables that people overlook. I hope to score some deals along the way and I am not afraid of utilizing discounts. Later on, I should be able to run the numbers on how much the ongoing costs of this tank will be. I want to prove people wrong that you can get into reefing on a budget without sacrificing quality of care and that you don’t need a 55G tank to do it.

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