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Are big tanks much easier than Nanos?


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I have a 20 gallon and it's very hard to keep things stable, particularly phosphate. As a result, I had a couple hammers bail. 


I've heard it before but, from your personal experience, is it actually easier to keep things stable, and overall obtain success, in a larger tank? 

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Depends on what you consider “easier”. That’s a fairly subjective term.

If difficulty comes in the form of water instability, then that’s really dependent on how you setup your system and less to do with water volume. 

My 5 year old IM Nuvo20 is the easiest tank ever. Rock, sand, 2 powerheads, 2 lights, 2 heaters, chemipure blue for media, return pump, 2 dosers for 2-part. 
(See picture below for reference). No skimmer, no reactors, and 5g water changes every 2 weeks.

PO4 locked in at 0.04. NO3 locked in between 3ppm-5ppm. Never fluctuates. Difference here is this 20g only has 2 fish: clown and Starcki damsel. 

The biggest issue I see with nano reefers is they pack too many animals (that poop too much) for the water volume. 

Keeping corals should be easy in a nano, and stability should be easy but you will sacrifice having fish in there. Skimmers suck for nanos so it doesn’t really work. I would never suggest more than 3 or 4 fish in a sub 20g system -or- be prepared for consistent weekly water changes. 

Then again if pack 35 fish in a 120g tank you’ll likely run into the same issue with instability 🤷🏽‍♂️

So although the statement “big tanks are more stable” can be accurate, it’s still quite circumstantial. Just depends on the amount of fish/coral to water volume. It’s just easier for reefers to put too many fish in a nano than too many in a 120g-220g system. Plus better/more effective equipment for those larger size tanks. 

But like everything in this hobby there are trade offs: try telling someone with a 250g system that battling dino’s, pests, algae, some chemical imbalance, etc. is “easier” to deal with in that size system vs a nano. Anything goes off in this Nuvo20 and it’s a 15 minute fix with back to back daily 75% water changes (15g - 1 brute bin) and some new carbon. That sounds a lot easier to me than back to back 75% water changes in a 250g system. 

So summing up the whole point: what is “easier” depends on circumstances and system setup.


Edited by DaveZ
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Bigger tanks are more stable because their parameters take more coral and time to change. However, more coral = Bigger risk to changing parameters and more work for water changes. You can automate a lot of it if you are willing to spend that much. 

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 I kept mostly nano tanks. I had 29gallon Fowlr, then a biocube with softies. Then another biocube with seahorses. Last nano tank was a diy aio 33g cube. I recently got a big tank (120g) and cannot be happier. Small tanks are not more difficult but they require the same automation as the bigger tanks to keep them stable. That makes the cost per area higher plus the fish you want may not be compatible with that size of the aquarium. For the phosphate, running a separate refugium or ATS is the way to go. Another solution is dosing nopox with a proper protein skimmer. 

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