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 Nano-cubes.

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 different.

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 standard nano-cube.

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 gear.

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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