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Fish, Shrimp & Corals


December 13, 2018 | By Tom Sarac

by Tom Sarac

When considering safe and harmonious choices for a nano marine reef, it is a good idea to be clear on just what size range of aquarium a ‘nano’ represents. To put this simply, a pico reef tank represents the 8 to 38 L range (2 to 10 gallons), and a nano reef tank represents the 38 to 114 L range (10 to 30 gallons).

In general, when stocking any small aquarium, always adopt the minimalist approach when it comes to fish. Try as hard as you can to resist what all aquarium lovers do, new and experienced alike, and that’s to add ‘just one more’. Small aquariums are all about detail, in the set-up and the maintenance. The upside being that neither of these two activities take long.

Remember, despite what a number of sources say about a particular fish and its predicted behavior, there is always a chance you’ll end up with a more or a less aggressive animal. We will not get into why this is the case as the reasons vary considerably, but the point is to act quickly if a fish gets overly aggressive because there are very limited hiding places in a nano aquarium.

Below are some safe suggestions, based on small fish and invertebrate nano reef communities.


  • 1 Tailspot Blenny
  • 1 Firefish
  • 3 Camelback Shrimp
  • 2 Mushroom Colonies
  • 2 Clove Polyp
  • 2 Zooanthid Colonies
  • 1 Pineapple Coral
  • 3 Astraea species of Snail
  • 2 Blue Leg Hermits


  • 1 pair of Percula or Skunk Clowns
  • 1 Bubble Tip Anemone
  • 2 Zooanthid Colonies
  • 1 Yellow Polyp Colony
  • 3 to 4 Astraea species of Snails
  • 2 Blue Leg Hermits
  • 2 Peppermint Shrimp

NOTE: This has to be my personal favorite type of nano reef. Seeing a beautiful pair of clownfish and an anemone is impossible to beat, in my opinion.


  • 1 Flame Hawk
  • 1 Dottyback Basslet
  • 2 Green Star Ployps
  • 2 Mushroom Corals
  • 1 Small Duncan Polyp Coral
  • 2 Green Neon Tree Coral
  • 2 Zooanthid Colonies
  • 1 Cleaner Shrimp
  • 2 Red Leg Hermits
  • 4 Astraea species of Snails


  • 3 Yellowstripe Cardinal fish
  • 1 Ink-tail Hogfish
  • 1 Cherub Angel
  • 3 Mushroom Corals
  • 2 Soft Tree Corals
  • 1 Medium Acans Coral
  • 1 Medium Candycane Coral
  • 1 Small Hammer Coral
  • 1 Zooanthid Colony
  • 3 Blue Leg Reef Hermits
  • 4 Astraea species of Snails

Along with a captivating live rock aquascape, any of these nano marine reef communities can make for a small wonderful display. The key here is to be patient, and avoid the ‘have some room for that coral’ syndrome because coral do grow and colonies do spread. In no time at all, you will have a dense thriving nano reef that will be the envy of all that see it.


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