With the increasing variety of AIO Nano-Reefs available today and their affordability, it’s not surprising how common these little reef units are. Not too long ago, stumbling onto a tiny 10-gallon mini-reef was somewhat rare and intriguing. It used to require DIY’ing some lights, and perhaps a raised base to accommodate the only hang-on skimmers available at the time (they were taller than the tanks themselves).
These days, you can walk into a store and pick up one of the All in One’s right off the shelf. Add some rocks, sand, water… And you got a reef. Not only are they great starter tanks for the neophyte hobbyists, they make great species tanks as well. Sadly, the common ocellaris/percula/designer clown varieties tend to be the most overused nanofish in the hobby. Considering that they are mostly captive bred, they are an admirable choice. But there are so many other interesting nano-fish that are overlooked. Here are some species that I consider interesting nano additions.
- Barnacle and Pike Blennies: These guys are pure entertainment. They aren’t collected all that frequently, but are pretty affordable when they are available. Both will take up residence in small tubes or pockets in the rockwork or sandbed. Pike blennies will defend their hole with a dramatic display of the dorsal fin and a gaping mouth. It’s pretty wild to witness. Barnacle blennies are a little more subdued, but will surprise you with their torpedo speed when food is floating by.
- Frogfish: While they aren’t necessarily nano-sized all the time, they don’t require a lot of room. A frogfish would gladly make snacks out of other nano-sized tankmates. Therefore they are best suited in a species system. But they are definite
ly interesting enough to deserve their own display.
- Eviota/Trimma Gobies: These tiny gobies come in a variety of colors. They are fun to spot among the corals and rockwork. Their diminutive size would make them disappear in a larger reef aquarium. Hence, they are best suited for a nano.
- Bluestripe Pipefish: A Pipefish that is attractive, stays small, and is easy to convert to frozen food. What more could you ask for? Mine has done well on a diet of cyclopeez and Nutramar Ova. If you look hard enough, you can usually find a mated pair.
- Liopropoma Basslets: We can’t all afford the stunning Candy Basslet(L. carmabi), but there are plenty of other affordable beauties in this genus. I have had a Swalesi Basslet in my 180 gallon reef for years, but only see him once a week for a split second. I wish I had placed him in my nano reef , where I would probably enjoy his looks more often. These fish are tough as nails, and easy to keep.
- Dottybacks: They are notorious for being aggressive towards their tankmates, and are best suited to a species tank. If you are ok with just one fish, you can’t beat the beauty and personality of a Dottyback.
- Bonus editor’s pick – Plectranthias basslets, although only the geometric pygmy hawk P. inermis is regularly available, Plectranthias pellicieri is still one of our top-of-the-top holy grail nano reef fishes.