Getting started in reefing - What's the best sized aquarium for a beginner?

What's the best size tank for a first time reefer?

  • Stay nano less than 30 gallons

    Votes: 52 6.6%
  • 30-55 gallons

    Votes: 378 48.2%
  • 75-120 gallons

    Votes: 294 37.5%
  • 120-180 gallons

    Votes: 28 3.6%
  • 180+ gallons (as big as possible)

    Votes: 29 3.7%
  • I've got a better idea (post in thread)

    Votes: 4 0.5%

  • Total voters
    785

MnFish1

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My opinion will ruffle some feathers but here goes:

For those who want to go sumpless and just do HOB: 40 Breeder. Length followed by width are arguably the most important dimensions when it comes to fish stocking options and the 40 breeder is a good balance for those who want to get a tank big enough to handle some stocking options for fish without the hassle of a bunch of extra equipment.

For those who don't mind the additional equipment and plumbing, time required to clean glass, etc. required for a 75 gallon then I recommend a 75 gallon or 120 gallon with a sump. These tanks are generally easy to find used at your LFS and IMHO that is where they make the most sense.

Now here is the part that will ruffle feathers but I NEVER RECOMMEND CUBES UNLESS the person only has a limited amount of space. Why? Cubes are poorly suited to maximize swimming space for fish (ie horizontal swimming room). In any recommendation I make I encourage people to go with dimensions that maximize length.

I also disagree with the "Bigger the Better" because tanks in the 125 gallon plus range really start piling on the maintenance and equipment requirements. I think the mid size range tanks are the best balance for beginners in terms of cost, learning curve on equipment and plumbing a setup, particularly when someone doesn't know for sure if they can have a long term commitment to the hobby.
So - honestly - you didnt really answer the question. You recommended a 40 g breeder - then if its ok you recommend a 75 or 120 gallon tank. Lastly - tanks greater than 125 gallons dont really have much maintenance requirements above a 75 gallon for example. imho - you're not completely correct - an in any case straddling every possibility of 'correctness'
 

vetteguy53081

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75-90 is the most cost effective for size while being forgiving due to volume size as it will take some time for ammonia and nitrate to build up opposed to a smaller system. This size offers reasonable stocking plan while keeping lighting within 48" and not taking up an entire wall in a given room in the home.
 

Fiesty

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Cubes limit stocking options though. There are fish I would recommend for a standard 90 gallon that I wouldn't recommend for a 93 gallon cube.
Well just get smaller fish then! Lol. I actually respectfully disagree and I personally went from a 90 gal (4 ft. Long) tank to the 93 cube. It was easier to create more flow with mp40 in the cube shape and much better live rock placement (less wasted space and biggest advantage) and therefore better for fish that like to swim. Espically in and out of the rocks. Plus i dont believe fish just need to swim back n forth in a strait line. They can curve. Haha. But thats just my experience and opinion for what its worth, if anything? I mean with this agument letz just put a beginner in a 300 deep deminsion and forgot about it. Or maybe they want to start with their first fish being a sohol tang so maybe 1000 gallons?

Im really just joking round and my opinion was based upon a beginer setting up a reef with normal type beginner stock which a 93 still would be better than a standard 40 or 55 with a "dory" or yellow tang in, etc. in it. And the cube can fit in a similar space of smaller tank yet much more room to add better equipment and larger sump underneath as a person progesses in the hobby.

Your point is a great one though to consider what fish need what dimension tank and hopefully, if anything, the point of fitting the fish to the proper tank gets accross to someone thinking about a new setup.
 

Skynyrd Fish

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I have been around a long time. Buy as big a tank as you want or can afford. If you can afford and are willing to maintain. Bigger tanks are a little more forgiving in my opinion. So is a 300 gal out of the question? No, but you need to balance time, maintenance and budget. A 90 is a great size for a first tank as most equipment will fit on larger or future setups. I like the buy quality once concept. Also a clean used setup is a great way to get your feet wet. Keep us posted.
 

Tamberav

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I voted nano. I would say around 20 gallons...even an AIO

Keep it simple. Water changes and good flow and lighting ... A tank small enough that manual removal of bubble algae or pest nems is a breeze.

Generally more affordable for beginners to get good flow and light for more success.
 

madweazl

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If space and/or budget is a major factor, the standard 75g gets my vote. Decent dimensions for a nice aquascape, big enough for a wide variety of fish but still small enough to be easily manageable, and fairly inexpensive. If that's too big, a 40g would be my second choice.
 

Peter Clark

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I started with a 29g and felt it was a perfect start. Sure I added a 20g sump a year later and soon added a 120g FOWLR not too long later, but I think the 29g was a perfect start. I started with easy softies which worked well with the size, and it is minimum cost to see if you want to get more involved.
 

Reef-junky

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40 breeder or 75
 

TriggerFinger

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First time reefer here, purchased a 90g reef ready. I’m not a big fan of the height and depth dimensions, aquascaping is hard. Would like a 5ft by 24” deep by 18” high. Next time...
 

siggy

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Nburg

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I started with a 75g. I think is a compromise on easier to keep stable while less "stuff" in the tank to worry about. Plenty of beginner fish options and the tank can grow with the aquarists. Nanos require tinkering and some quick thinking at times including good knowledge of reef chemistry. Huge tanks van be overwhelming on the amount of stuff to juggle and plan out.
 

jtl

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As others have said, it is a matter of personal preference based on budget and space issues. I have only once had a tank smaller than 100g and it was a 55 which I would not have again. A 100g with 24" of depth, 48" of length and no more than 20" high is perfect. Plenty of room to grow into, will accommodate a wide variety of fish, coupled with a 40 g sump/refugium it will have plenty of water volume. Equipment costs are reasonable and doing 10 g per week water changes is easy. To me 5o g or less is just to too small unless it is a species specific tank.
 

Aardvark1134

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A 120G in the 4ftx2ftx2ft format is a beautiful ratio of dimensions for something that needs rockwork in it. If you were going small I would go with a 29G all in one kit type. The best part of the 29G is if you upgrade to the 120G a few years down the road you already have a nice QT tank. Some people when they upgrade also may turn their 29G into a super nice house for a pair of clowns.
 

ReefWithCare

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I think a 40B is best to start. Stability and budget wise it’s a good blend.

The 28G JBJ Nano WiFi’s are a good tank starting at 399.99. The stock light grows a variety of softies and LPS corals.
 

Jesterrace

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So - honestly - you didnt really answer the question. You recommended a 40 g breeder - then if its ok you recommend a 75 or 120 gallon tank. Lastly - tanks greater than 125 gallons dont really have much maintenance requirements above a 75 gallon for example. imho - you're not completely correct - an in any case straddling every possibility of 'correctness'
Actually I did. I gave a recommendation for different scenarios. If someone wants a decent sized footprint but doesn't have the money, space, etc. to go larger and wants to go sumpless to keep it simple then the 40 breeder fits the bill. If the person has the money, space, etc. then a 75 gallon to 120 gallon is a good compromise between cost, maintenance and stocking options. The 125 or larger is nice but the budget, time spent cleaning glass, big water changes, etc. is more of a pain.
 

ADAM

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Id have to lean towards a 75gal, 48" wide. The amount of water is stable enough that when something that appears a little off it gives you enough time to read and ask questions before acting. The amount of used equipment fitting this size seems to be the average rating in the FS forum, so when starting out you can pick up some good deals on nice equipment. Also I would have to recommend Reef Ready, one for the appearance because most of us are driven to the hobby by the visual aspect initially and then the addiction begins, secondly having a sump in the beginning isn't a must however I feel it would make it easier. The 48" wide would leave enough room in the cabinet for a 24-30" sump plus a decent amount of storage for the other "junk" we all accumulate at some point.

Also I have never owned a 75 but after a 55, 90, 20L, 10, and 150 the 75 size wise would seem like the best fit, admittedly I pondered a 40b as my pick also since the LED entry into the hobby. A couple of years ago I would not have pondered near as long because the lighting fixtures of yesteryear would certainly push my decision to the 48" length due to the availability of quality used fixtures for cheap.
 

MnFish1

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Actually I did. I gave a recommendation for different scenarios. If someone wants a decent sized footprint but doesn't have the money, space, etc. to go larger and wants to go sumpless to keep it simple then the 40 breeder fits the bill. If the person has the money, space, etc. then a 75 gallon to 120 gallon is a good compromise between cost, maintenance and stocking options. The 125 or larger is nice but the budget, time spent cleaning glass, big water changes, etc. is more of a pain.
SO - with all due respect - you answered with every size:)..... besides I was just kidding:)
 

Tastee

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My first SW tank is an RSR 250, 65g total volume. Now nearly 2YO. I think that’s a good size to start with, large enough to be stable, small enough not to cost a fortune. I have a good array of small fish and a good mix of corals and inverts.

My next (additional) tank will be ~3x larger, currently planning on a RSR 525 XL. This will let me get some fish I can’t keep in the 250 (esp Tangs) and also give me some more scape for corals. I don’t expect it to be any more or less difficult to manage, will just take a lot more capital to buy and set it up. Plus some more to maintain, but not that much more, mainly salt and 3 part dosing.
 

Emerson

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40 breeder. I've never had one, but seems better than the 30 gal I started on and small enough to manage. Also gets you out of the hobby cheaper if a reef tank is not for you, or when you upgrade... if you stay in the hobby you probably will.
 

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