Thinking Outside of the Nano Box
By Gary Brown
It’s been a number of years now since JBJ first introduced the
very popular Nano-cube. Since then Oceanic, Red Sea, CPR and a few
others have made their own clones of the Nano tanks with all basically
looking the same with a few minor differences. There are thousands of
these very functional units out there housing all kinds of mini-reefs.
Many others have used smaller regular aquariums to create their
Nano-tanks but these lack the all-in-one functionality of the
What if you don’t want a regular aquarium or one of the common
Nano-cubes? You may want something completely different and unique but
still want the convenience of the all-in-one concept. You could have
something custom made but that would add substantially to the cost.
Well today there are a few more choices for something a little
Over the past couple of years a couple of companies have popped up that
specialize in these different Nano concepts. All three that we are
going to look at are open top tanks with two of them being more like
pieces of fine furniture than just aquariums. All three however, still
have the all-in-one style but they offer a lot more options than the
M-Tank by Finnex International Corporation
Finnex has been around since 2002 producing lights, heaters and
other devices for our mostly glass boxes. Recently they have begun
building the different kind of Nanos that we are looking for in their M-Tank
Finnex also makes the standard cubes that we are used to seeing but his
month we looking outside the box or should I say cube.
The M-Tanks only come in two sizes of glass tanks at the moment with a
huge difference in size, at least for a nano. The smaller tank is more
of a pico-tank at only four gallons and so is out of consideration for
our nano-tank. Their larger version comes in at thirty gallons and is
more in the shape of a standard aquarium but with all the equipment
built in as a self contained unit.
Finnex also constructs acrylic
M-Tanks in one size with the open top in a twenty-gallon version. These
tanks have the nice clean rounded corners and frameless design we are
used to seeing in the nano tanks. These tanks come with different
lighting, flow and filtration options from their larger version tank.
Our focus for this article will be on the 30-gallon glass version.
Although the 30-gallon M-Tank is very similar looking from the front to
a standard twenty gallon aquarium, and being made from glass with a
frame they are somewhat larger and have a lot more to them. M-Tanks
come with many lighting options from no lights to T5HO to combination lights with Metal Halides in 150W and 250W configurations mixed with T5HO for actinic supplementation and LEDs used for lunar simulation. They
even come standard with my favorite 14,000K Phoenix bulbs. The open top
tank promotes good air flow which would help with cooling from these high powered light units.
Besides coming standard with a venturi type skimmer, it also comes with a built in Refugium
that has an adjustable flow rate for different ‘fuge setups. The fuge
even comes with a 13W PC light unit to get that chaetomorpha growing.
Although it comes equipped with a wet/dry setup that you can use if you
wish to it doesn’t come supplied with any media and I am sure we could
find a better use for this area. Standard flow for the M-Tank comes in
at just over fifteen times turnover every hour with a 475 GPH pump.
The only thing that I don’t like about this well thought
out self contained system is the frame on the tank on the 30-gallon
glass tanks. I am however very impressed by the overall design.
Solana Aquarium Systems by Current USA
Although Current USA has been around for a long time supplying our
hobby with lighting, chilling and other options they have recently
delved into nano systems. One of their latest is the Solana
, a 34-gallon frameless complete all-in-one system in glass. The Solana is as much a piece of furniture as it is a nano tank.
Other than lighting the only option is with the very stylish stand. It
comes in three different color variations in black, dark and light
wood. Although there is no equipment in the stand there is lots of room
in a drawer and two-shelf cabinet for accessories or added gadgets and
The Solana system comes standard with a very smart looking brushed
aluminum pendant with a 150W Metal Halide lamp made especially for this
tank. There are several lighting options though with almost all of
Current USA’s light units offered as options. For me the standard
pendant really shows this nano off nicely and would be my choice.
This system also comes with a venturi-type protein skimmer and a
standard flow rate just over ten times turnover rate at 396-GPH.
Unfortunately they also come with bio-balls but I’m sure we could turn
that compartment into a functioning refugium.
One of the nicest standard items with this nano is the automatic water
top off systems making nano care even easier with less fluctuations of
the tank’s salinity.
The Solana Aquarium System doesn’t have much not to like, especially
from a visual perspective as this is one sharp looking system. I would
modify the flow as well as adding a refugium and dumping the bio-balls if I were to get his system.
Here is a sneak peak of the new Cardiff Aquarium System by Current USA which has not been released yet.
Compact Series by Zero Edge Aquariums
Zero Edge Aquariums
make some of the most unique high-end tanks in North America. We are
going to continue with our Nano theme with their Compact Series
systems. These systems are the most complete, functional and classy
looking nanos on the market, at least that I have seen, and they have a
price tag to go along with all these features. I would have to dig deep
for one of these guys and I don’t know of any way to convince my wife
that it was only twenty bucks.
These beautiful frameless tanks come in several configurations with a
hexagon, a rectangle and a square tanks offered. The square and the
hexagons come in at 30-gallons while the rectangle is at 22-gallons.
One of the unique features of the Compact Series is that all
configurations have viewing from all four sides. I am going to stick
with square tank for the purpose of this article.
This manufacturer does not provide
lighting as a standard option but as an add-on adding to the already
expensive unit. Quality does not come cheaply. They do offer mounting
devises and Aqua Medic, Ice Cap and Solaris light units mounted as
pendants. Nothing but the best here!
The reason Zero Edge is able to have four-sided viewing on their tanks is by offering a sump
in a beautiful acrylic stand. Imagine that a stand where you don’t have
to worry about wood or metal damage from the corrosive nature of
saltwater. The stand while not fancy looking is a 33-inch high pedestal
type that fulfils its purpose well, it shows off the main focus, the
tank while functioning as a sump. An Oak stand is available as an option. This thing just keeps getting better.
Although the systems come with all the plumbing, fittings and bulkheads
no return pump is supplied but they recommend a Mag-18 or equivalent.
The sump comes with a separate area for a fuge and chemical filtration. The water within the sump
is just the right height for a quality Euro-Reef protein skimmer with
lots of room and height for its placement. Wow, imagine 1800 GPH on a
30-gallon tank. Now that’s some serious flow!
It’s very hard to find any flaws with the tanks supplied by Zero Edge
other than the start-up costs and just to top it all off they have a
lifetime warranty on these pieces of art. If I could get away with
bringing one of these home and still stay married this would be my
choice without a doubt.
There are tons of choices
and options today in all price ranges enabling just about anyone to
maintain a saltwater reef nano-aquarium. There are a lot more choices
today in shape than the more commonly seen nano-cubes. The number of
manufacturers of nano-systems continues to increase along with the
popularity of our hobby and the nano-tank craze.
Many of the nanos systems can be seen in the AP Reviews
section right here at Aquarium Pros as well as many other items we use
to maintain our tanks that you may review yourself to help others with
their decisions. Maybe this is something like Tank of The Month in it’s
own right. Just maybe one of these days we will get to see one of these
tanks featured in AP’s TOTM feature.
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