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Cost of Keeping A Nano Tank

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On a budget? Here's a way to add a few extra dollars to your reef keeping budget.
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Cost of Keeping a Nano Tank

 

     Before making the decision whether you want to keep a nano reef tank, cost will probably be something that you should consider (unless your independently wealthy.)  Basically, there will be two separate initial sets of expenses, the first of which being equipment & livestock being second.  Lets assume you plan to keep a 10 gallon tank.  Your initial equipment investment will run approximately $300.  Keep in mind, this is only an estimate.  The pricing is based on mid priced equipment of decent quality that can be purchased online or at your local fish store. 

 

Item

Cost per Item

Quantity Needed

Total

10 gallon all glass tank

$12

1

$12

Power Filter

$35

1

$35

Power Head

$20

1

$20

Heater

$18

1

$18

Lighting System

$100

1

$100

Hydrometer

$10

2

$20

Sea Salt

$15

Enough to mix 50 gallons

$15

Test Kit

$17

1

$17

Msc. Maintenance Supplies

$20

-

$20

Thermometer

$3

1

$3

Msc. Unforeseen costs

$50

1

$50

 

 

Grand Total

$300

 

     If $300 in initial expenses gives you “sticker stock,” you may want to rethink starting a nano tank, although some of these costs can be “tweaked” down.  Just remember, you get what you pay for.  Often, buying cheap equipment won’t be so cheap in the long run, especially when a major malfunction occurs.  Trust me, you don’t want to loose all of your livestock because the cheap heater you saved $2.00 on “cooked” your entire tank when the thermostat got stuck!  Now, if you’re ready to move forward, lets talk about your initial livestock investment.  This purchase should contain a mix of live sand, live rock, 1 hearty fish.  (Damsels & Clown Fish will work fine) & 4 – 5 dwarf hermit crabs.

 

Item

Price

Quantity

Total

Live Rock

$7.00/lb

10 Pounds

$70.00

Live Sand

$3.00/lb

10 Pounds

$30.00

Fish

$4.00

1

$4.00

Hermit Crabs

5

2

$10

 

 

Grand Total

$105

 

     Your total combined initial investment is now up to about $405.  If this is affordable for you & your willing to put in the time & energy, your probably ready to take the plunge.  Unfortunately, the costs do not stop here, their only beginning.  Once you tank has been up & running successfully for a couple of months, you’ll probably be eager to add more livestock.  This is where things can become VERY expensive.  If having a “Champaign taste on a beer budget” describes you, don’t worry, there are plenty of reasonably priced corals available that will create an awesome display.  My advice is to go online & visit online mail order sites, such as www.Liveaquaria.com.  This particular site actually offers several “Nano Packs,” which contain an assortment of easy to keep “nano safe” corals. 

     Rather than actually purchasing additional coral, there are a few other alternatives of obtaining new coral.  The easiest way is to find someone in your area who is willing to exchange “frags.”  You may be wondering what, exactly a frag is.  Simply put, a frag is a small cutting of newly grown coral removed from its parent colony (i.e. polyp corals) which is then capable of independently forming a new colony.  Branching large polyp stoney (LPS) such as Frog Spawn, Torch, Anchor, ect reproduce by “splitting in two.”  Once this occurs, you will have two separate polyps (sometimes referred to as “heads”) connected to each other by a hard skeleton base.  Under perfect conditions, this will happen quite frequently.  Once two polyps appear to be strong & healthy, the coral can then be removed from the tank & separated from each other apart at the base using anything from pruning shears to common pliers.  You should now have two independent polyps that will soon begin to split once again & it didn’t even cost you anything, other than a little time & effort!  The new polyp can be moved to a different part of your tank, traded with a friend or even sold back to your local fish store.  This example is just one of many ways to propagate your own coral & we’ll leave it at that.

     If you’re more comfortable simply purchasing livestock at your local fish store or online, there are plenty of opportunities to save money.  Keeping an eye out for sales at your local fish store(s) is a great way to save money.  When a store has a high amount of inventory with more livestock on its way,   the store owner will often be forced to have a “fire sale” to make room for the new arrivals.  This often results in some great deals.  One note of caution, the corals that are marked down will usually be the least healthy in stock.  One easy way to prevent purchasing a coral with one foot in the grave is to compare the “marked down” coral that you’re considering with one in another tank that hasn’t been marked down.  A coral marked down 50% isn’t much of a deal if it dies in a few days!  Right?  You will often find “branching corals” (as discussed above) with several healthy live polyps & a few dead ones.  This is the type of deal I look for, but once again, make sure the healthy polyps appear as healthy as those not marked down.  Usually, the sales person will even be willing to remove the dead polyps for you. 

     “Overstocking” issues also applies to online vendors.  Since you won’t have the luxury of actually choosing a particular specimen, it’s a good idea to monitor your new arrival a big closer than one not on sale.  The good news here is most online vendors offer a “stay alive guarantee” which usually lasts about two weeks.  Most local fish stores do not offer any guarantees on saltwater livestock (at least in my area.)  

     Although there are several ways to keep your reef budget to a minimum, lets face it, you have chosen an expensive hobby.  The best advice I can offer is to make sure you can afford to properly maintain your tank after the initial investment has been made.  Just remember, you tank will be much more visually appealing in a prominent area of your home than in a dusty corner of your garage.