There is a nasty rumor out there that small aquariums are more difficult to maintain than large aquariums. Well, I am here to put that myth to rest. All tanks require similar maintenance, regardless of size! Some of my most beautiful aquariums have been 20 liters or smaller. If you want an aquarium, but simply do not have the space, then read on!
The first thing you need to know about small aquariums is that all of the same parameters and laws of chemistry still apply. You will still want a filter. You will still have to stick within standard stocking levels. And you will still have to do water changes.
That said, the first thing you should do is purchase a small sponge filter and an air pump. I bury the sponge filter under the gravel to keep it hidden. I use a gang valve to split the output of the air pump, so that the filter does not create to much water movement.
You should decorate your miniature aquarium with small plastic plants, or some hardy live plants if you are going to have a light source. I like to decorate my small aquariums heavily, so that the fish can easily have a little personal time if they are not feeling like socializing.
For fish you have a few choices. One of these choices is NOT GOLDFISH! They are the worst possible choice for a small tank or for a beginner! Common species you can keep are White Clouds, Neons and other small Tetras, a Betta, Cory Cats, Kuhli Loaches, Fancy Guppies, Platies, and Killifish. Most other species are either too large or too territorial to keep in a small tank. Do NOT fool yourself into believing that if you buy it small, a fish will remain small because its in a small tank! This will only prove frustrating to you and fatal to your fish. Even with the appropriate species, I would avoid trying to mix them in such a small aquarium, as it is difficult to predict how they will react. The Cory Cats are an exception.
You will need to do a weekly water change. This is so easy on a small tank that you can do your partial in less than 1 minute. I keep a 2 liter full of water waiting to go into my miniature aquarium. I then use a very small syphon hose to drain out 1/2 of the water. Then I just pour some water into the tank and I'm ready to go until next week. You will probably never have to scrape algae, as you will most likely not have strong lighting. Window light is all you need on a miniature aquarium.
I should also mention that a miniature aquarium does not have to be freshwater. You can use this same setup but simply add about 2 Kg of live rock and some sand. I had an 8 liter setup with a Tomato Clown for about 2 years before moving the Clown to a bigger tank.
That 8 liter tank was then turned into my best miniature aquarium ever. This tank housed 6 beautiful White Clouds which thrived for 3 years before I took them back to the pet shop when I moved. Good luck with your miniature aquarium. I think you will enjoy it!
I'm a college student, so I can't have a big tank for lack of space. There are a lot of mini-tanks on the market and most of them work. First, what I have is two different mini-bow 5 tank kits (20 L). I do some modifying though. First I add a small 10G heater that can be set to a specific temp with a dial. Second I use a 10G in-tank power filter and third, I use a small florescent light bulb (7 W). In one tank I have three Leopard Cory Catfish and in the other a single Malabar Puffer. Both tanks have fake plants and a lot of them. I use Cabomba plants in both tanks. I have smooth fake stacked rock cave in the Catfish tank and a small piece of wood in the puffer tank. I feed every other day and change the water twice a week and I have no problems at all. I will say if you're thinking of having Cory Catfish then have at least three and stick to the species that get no bigger than 5 cm. If you get a smaller schooling fish, get at least 4. With Malabar Puffers you can only keep a single one in a small tank OR two females, but make sure you know they are female or you will have some dead fish. Also make sure you cycled your tank.
Small aquariums are wonderful for people that may not have enough room for a larger one. I have one 20 L and one 40 L, and they have been doing just fine since I got them a few years ago. If you are REALLY tight on space and can only afford a 4-8 L aquarium, then bettas are the best fish to start out with. The myth about bettas is false, they love large aquariums! Quite a few years ago, I, the beginner that I was, bought two bettas, one male and one female from Wal-Mart. I started these in a 2 L, but when they began growing, I knew they needed something bigger, so I put them in a larger tank. They did not stay together, but they loved the extra space. Small aquariums do require more water changes, and stress coat is best choice to use to calm your fish. A 40 L would be a great place to start if you have had no prior experience with fish before. Good Luck!
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