Saltwater Aquariums: Is bigger really better?

Tiny tanks do look really cool, but should you go bigger?

 

In a word “yes” and here’s why…

If you’ve ever been told, or read somewhere “always buy the biggest saltwater aquarium you can afford” – that’s actually someone giving you a solid piece of advice, especially for newbies.

Free saltwater aquarium ebook

Why are bigger tanks better?

 

1. More aquascaping options: having an attractive, yet functional aquascape will actually improve your enjoyment of this hobby. Once the novelty wears off, if your tank actually looks stunning you won’t get so easily bored with it.

A bigger tank volume gives more space to play with so you’ve got a lot more design options and can make more impressive rock features and a greater variety of microcosm’s for your marine pets. In short you can take more artistic license with your aquascape which is a good thing!

If fish like Tangs can use rockwork to get out of each others line of sight for a bit it is proven to reduce stress and increase wellbeing.

With a bigger tank you could even get into creating environmental niches such as caves and grottoes and fill them with the sea creatures who would inhabit these micro-cosms in the wild like Royal Grammas, Banggai Cardinalfish, Cleaner Shrimp and Green Chromis.

what size saltwater aquarium to get

The Royal Gramma is one of my favorites, it needs a cave to be happiest (image credit: Geoffrey-Gilmour-Taylor)

 

2. More livestocking options: let’s face it, we all get into this hobby because of the weird, wonderful and stunning variety of sea creatures we can keep. A bigger tank volume gives you much more live stocking options because of more living space, so you can keep more species and more active species.

You can also keep bigger fish and more overall diversity of species. Aquarium favorites like Tangs and Angelfish need bigger tanks to thrive, these fish simply won’t be on the cards for you if you only have a small tank.

nano tank

Got a small tank? Say goodbye to ever stocking an Angel or a Tang (image credit: Jeff Smith)

When it comes to a reef tank; space is a premium as corals grow and branch, once you have a few varieties of coral it’s hard to stop getting more because their so damn addictive! A large amount of coral diversity helps your aquarium to look even more like a slice of the reef – an option much reduced with a smaller tank size.

If your tank space is limited by a small tank the only option you will have in future is to buy a new tank, isn’t it easier to ensure you have more space to begin with?

A bigger tank allows more natural behavior of marine life through the greater range of natural conditions and habitats you are able to provide, so the more natural behaviors you will be able to observe.

 

3. Increased buffering capacity: larger tanks have more water so have a greater dilution factor or buffering capacity should something go wrong physically or chemically.

You have more time to react and correct the problem before marine life starts dying, which can happen in a matter of hours for a tiny tank.

Increased size simply gives you much greater margin of error for complete system crash in case you overfeed, something dies or the power cuts out.  

Aquarium selection

The shear amount of diversity you can pack into a larger tank size I believe will keep you happier for longer (Image credit: Amy the nurse)

 

Still want a tiny tank?

 

Tiny tanks are best left to the pros, but if you are a beginner, who is prepared to be diligent, attentive, learn the theory and do your research first you can succeed.

Tiny tanks by their very nature are unstable, inflexible and are much more likely to crash. When you compare the cost per gallon people usually find they are not much cheaper than larger tanks; a little known fact!

which aquarium to buy

Bigger is better, but tiny tanks are still terrific.

 

Marine life comes from an environment that is very stable, so the smaller the tank, the harder to keep conditions consistent, the more likely problems will arise…period!

Small tanks need species with low metabolisms and low activity levels to keep waste levels to a minimum, therefore there are less choices especially when you factor in who can live happily with who in such close living quarters. The smaller the tank size, the easier it is to overstock it.

When in doubt bigger will always be better as far as I’m concerned!

Don’t forget, if you would like access to my free ebook “9 Saltwater Aquarium Success Tools” to minimize mistakes and get your tank thriving simply click the button below.

Saltwater aquarium advice

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About Andrej Brummer
Hi I'm Andrej, a biologist, geek and best-selling author of 11 aquarium books. I love helping people minimize mistakes and create sustainable, thriving tanks. I believe all captive marine life should have the best chance possible if we take them out of their natural habitats.
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