The aquarium hobby seems to be diverging in terms of most-popular tank sizes. Some of the professional aquarium installation and maintenance guys I know say they are getting more requests for large tanks: 180 gallons and up. At the same time, they say there is terrific interest in the other extreme: the nano tanks. Most stores are also doing very well with the small tanks, especially the complete kits under 10 gallons. (Note: these are not the standard 10-gallon aquarium packages).
The new nano tanks have better lighting and better filtration than what was available just a few years ago. In addition, many of them are geared as “designer tanks,” where the look of the tank is very sleek, modern and functional. Many of the new nano tanks are used on desks in offices, as school classroom tanks, and as a nice touch in the kitchen or kids’ rooms.
The two most important nano tank advances are 1) LED lighting (a few are available with metal halide lighting), and 2) small protein skimmers built into the tanks. There are also a number of small stand-alone protein skimmers (we’re talking skimmers that are driven by a small pump, but that take up no more than 4 to 6 square inches of tank space) from major manufacturers. With good LED lighting systems, nano tanks can provide for even the most light-hungry hard corals—and even for clams. Protein skimming so greatly enhances the water quality that many fish and invertebrates formerly not even considered for nano tanks will thrive in what we have today.
The fish available today also provide a better selection than just a few years ago. Some breeders of aquacultured clown fish are offering “nano clowns,” where they have bred for small size, specifically for nano tanks. There are also some new dottyback hybrids that stay on the small size, as well as gobies. One of the nicest things available for nano tanks today is the pairing of a shrimp and “its” goby. Having a good substrate of sand and small pebbles will provide endless hours of fascinating watching as the goby darts in and out of the burrow, and the shrimp helps maintain the burrow, always keeping in tactile contact with the goby.
Some of the new nano tanks are a little pricey, but this also can work out well for the retail store. Hobbyists seem to have gotten used to the fact that the look and function of a nice nano tank costs more than the standard 10-gallon setup. There are lots of folks out there willing to pay for a spiffy and functional nano tank.