I spent weeks reading and lurking in so many forums. This is how I've chosen to do my setup. Nano Cubes are an art. I'm new to this, I may be wrong. Do your own research. I will mention brand names to help as a start. Pick your own brands. Read. I will post my fumbles, foibles, etc. Although I'm not Donald Trump, I decided not to cut corners in certain areas, eg, a water filter. There is a pretty consistent theory that SW tanks are not cheap and a little investment and time in the beginning may pay dividends in the long run with respect to not losing livestock. So...feel free to post and add/critique. Go easy, I'm only trying to help.
The Nano Cube (for those just starting out)
The Nano Cube is sold by JBJ. It comes in several sizes, 6G, 12G and 24G. I chose the 24G DX with Moonlight LEDs thinking that slightly more volume would 'buffer' any insults. The actual volume once filled will be much less (some posts say that the real volume is 19G's). Bottom line..nano-reefs need meticulous care. My version has the following specs:
1) 24 Gallons 18"x 19.6 x 19.7, glass, seamless corners
2) 72 ( 2 x 36 )watts of compact fluorescent light, 50/50 actinic, two cooling fans
3)Three stage filtration with three rear chambers; comes with 3 sponges, bioballs, ceramic rings, activated charcoal, 290 GPH stock pump (one sponge not shown..it's in my tank in the test run)
4)Flip top canopy
5) Moonlight LEDs
I found the cheapest place to purchase mine was on Ebay. The LFS was more than $120 higher.
This is a view of my cube during my dry run, testing for temp, leaks, filtration. Note the intake grill on the left and powerhead outlet on the right.
Here is a view of the chambers in the back. One regular size sponge is in the first chamber.Temp probe is in the middle and heater is in the third chamber
Advantages of the Cube
1) Appearance...just looks cool
2) Mostly self contained. For some of us, it's just easier to have a 'package deal'
3) Width and depth allow for interesting aquascaping of your live rock
1) Total lighting supplied is inadequate for certain types of corals, thus, may limit what you have in your tank (eg, certain hard corals and clams)
2)Retrofitting takes some skill and, with this model, may lead to overheating
3)Stock pump is weak
4) No skimmer,either surface or protein, although, probably unnecessary for a protein skimmer (to follow).
5) When put on a timer, the fans turn off with the lights and the moonlight LEDs can't turn on, ie, must turn the lights off manually to use the LEDS
6) Must be very creative to have a sump with the cube
So, in some hands, creating your nano-reef from regular tanks may leave more doors open to you for better lighting, plumbing and refugium placement( see Parker313's thread at TFF). This leads to the next discussion.
Modifications to the Nano Cube (or mods)
Many nano-reefers modify their tanks. The main mods are:
1) Swap out the stock pump for a better one, either the Maxijet 1200 or Rio 1400. Some move the stock pump into the first chamber for more water movement
2) Lighting....add more compact fluorescent lighting
3) Modify the middle chamber into a refugium
4) Remove the sponges, bioballs and ceramic rings (some feel they are nirate factories)
5) Add a skimmer, either surface or protein. Most people feel that regular weekly water changes will obviate the need for a protein skimmer. Skimming my remove valuable nutrients. Most protein skimmers won't fit into a NanoCube. There is one interesting post on nano-reef.com about using a cassette tape cover over the intake grate as a surface skimmer. If used, tho', you can't use the stock pump in the first chamber since the inward water flow holds the cassette cover in place.
Planning on what you are going to have in your tank first, ie, READING, will help you to figure out what you need to buy. This is a list of my equipment (hey..I may forget one or two things, so, keep on your toes):
1) Heater....Ebo Jager for me. They're in all my tanks. 100W. Solid as a rock.
2) Thermometer. I used a digital one from Drs. Foster and Smith
3) Hydrometer ( I opted to get a refractometer)
4) Marine test kit: pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate...extra is calcium and kH. I went with Aquarium Pharmaceuticals to start. Most rave about Salifert, but, check out the prices on it (it's in the hundreds)
5) Sea salt, popular ones are Oceanic, Instant Ocean and Reef Crystals ( I went with Oceanic)
6) Salt mixing equipment...5 gallon bucket (Home Depot), heater, powerhead, storage container
7) Source of pure water, I purchased an RO/DI unit on Ebay from Aquasafe Systems.
You can buy premixed seawater at most lfs'...either on the shelf or that they make...you can also buy distilled water at the store if you want and mix the salt yourself.
8 ) Miscellaneous...net, small gravel vac for siphoning, gloves, algae scraper
9) Last and not least..when ready...live rock, live sand and/or other substrate (crushed coral, aragonite, etc.)
10) Surge protector and don't forget to setup a GFI circuit near water
11) If you are going to acclimate livestock with the drip method, you'll need tubing and a gang valve.
12) Last but not least, A DIGITAL CAMERA (retro-addition (01/23/06); it's an invaluable tool for when you'll need help (eg, "what is this growing in my tank..is it good or bad?")
I won't go into all the 'find a good location for your tank' stuff. I decided to go with the Maxijet 1200.
So...I removed the stock pump from the last chamber. I had to cut the plastic ties on the tubing to get the tube off the pump. I had extra Eheim tubing and replaced the tubing that came with the Nano and also reapplied the ties. The stock pump I will either add to the first chamber or use it for mixing sea water for water changes.
Clean the tank. I used vinegar to help remove some stuck on tape. Rinse.
Set up your tank where you chose the good location and on your stand
My planned live run setup:
1) First chamber: One sponge and possibly the stock pump, facing out of the left side of the intake grate
2) Second chamber: In the future, I will probably add live rock rubble for additional filtration and later on macroalgae as a refugium if I can successfully get light into the middle chamber (this is an area where you have to do some reading and research). Temp probe is in here
3) Third chamber: Maxijet pump, heater
Do a test run. I can't overemphasize this. There are many horror stories of unseen cracks because of the seamless glass. I am presently running mine with FW since I plan to try a refugium modification to see how the temps go. This is where I am for now. SH