How Difficult is a 20 Gallon VS a 55 Gallon To Maintain (Heard Smaller Tanks May Be Harder)?

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JSkeleton

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So long story short, I feel like I got a bit too "trigger happy" with the idea of a saltwater aquarium, and have yet to buy any fish and feeling a bit of regret due to the costs of maintaining one (especially in this economy). I have a 55 Gallon cycling, but I also have a 20 Gallon I could swap to, which a smaller tank would mean less salt & burning through RODI Filters slower, which I would assume should cut costs by at least half, right?

But that leaves me with the question: Are 20 gallons much more difficult to maintain than a 55? I heard that smaller saltwater aquariums are harder to keep stable, is that true and between a 55 and 20, is there that much difference?
 
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davidcalgary29

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I have a 55 Gallon cycling, but I also have a 20 Gallon I could swap to, which a smaller tank would mean less salt & burning through RODI Filters slower, which I would assume should cut costs by at least half, right?
No. There are many variables involved in running a marine tank, and the cost of RO/DI systems and watermaking isn't the biggest economic factor. Saltwater aquariums are expensive, and there's lots of expensive equipment available for them, so it's very easy to go overboard and spend a mint on your tank, irrespective of size.

That being said, most people who are not nano advocates recommend larger tank sizes as it gives you more flexibility in your stocking options. 55g is big enough that you can stock some of the most striking fish species, such as a lot of the dwarf angels.

Many reefers will actually keep more than one tank anyway: one for the display, and one for a hospital or quarantine tank. I think that your 20g tank would be better for this than your 55g, for obvious reasons.
 
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davidcalgary29

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The smaller tank wasn’t more finicky to keep stable?
It's not, especially if you go for the Evo 13.5, which is an AIO tank (and an excellent deal). It has a canopy, which reduces evaporation, and it has relatively well-designed returns, so detritus can be directed to a corner for easy cleanup. It's also just easier, psychologically, to clean up a smaller tank: no task seems insurmountable (unlike a larger tank), and you can easily visualize what you need to do.
 
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It's not, especially if you go for the Evo 13.5, which is an AIO tank (and an excellent deal). It has a canopy, which reduces evaporation, and it has relatively well-designed returns, so detritus can be directed to a corner for easy cleanup. It's also just easier, psychologically, to clean up a smaller tank: no task seems insurmountable (unlike a larger tank), and you can easily visualize what you need to do.
Agreed on all of this!
 
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It's not, especially if you go for the Evo 13.5, which is an AIO tank (and an excellent deal). It has a canopy, which reduces evaporation, and it has relatively well-designed returns, so detritus can be directed to a corner for easy cleanup. It's also just easier, psychologically, to clean up a smaller tank: no task seems insurmountable (unlike a larger tank), and you can easily visualize what you need to do.
Ah, so with any normal like 20 gallon, would that still apply or not in that case then?
 

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Here’s my 2 cents…I’ve always heard “ get the biggest tank your budget and room can handle” . I believe there’s some logic to that. I’ve kept smaller tanks and tanks up to 100. I’ve had success in both and didn’t really notice that 1 size or another was harder. More work? Depends on how you define more work. A 100 gallon means more water to mix and move, than a 20 gallon, that’s important if your carrying water from the basement or your car etc. They also say that a larger tank will be more stable than a smaller tank. I can see the logic behind that. Makes sense to me that things would go bad a little slower in a larger tank. The only advantage I can see in a smaller tank is that the potential for saving a little money is there. Smaller light, less rock, dosing smaller amounts ,etc. As for the difference between a 55and a 20, I’d stick with the 55. Again…just my opinion.
 
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Ah, so with any normal like 20 gallon, would that still apply or not in that case then?
Only if you get an AIO tank like the Evo. It's essentially otherwise a wash, as costs will be pretty much the same with either a 55g or a 20g. Yes, live rock is expensive, but I picked up over a hundred pounds this weekend for $1/lb. If I can find that in northern Alberta, I'm sure most people in other parts of Canada can do the same.

I agree with @Thunder_reef, but will add the following: tanks only become "difficult" to keep at the pico/jarquarium stage (or above 90g if you're not prepared for the extreme sticker shock). You really have to keep on top of parameters and maintenance or things can collapse catastrophically. Anything between 5 and, say, 90g is fine for most beginners.
 

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I am a nano advocate, started with 60g a decade ago and keep downsizing since then, now I will have two 11g tanks.

Takes smaller space in the house.

Cheaper equipment, pumps, lights, less filter media etc

Single figure extra on electricity bill.

Less livestock as well to make it look full.

Easier to reach the bottom with a long tweezer, remove bad stuff, change aquascape, less mess at water changes.

Overall I feel it takes less resources (money, time, space, hassle) to maintain a smaller tank.

I think 20 gallon is an ideal size.
 

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The small vs big thing has been an ongoing debate for a long time. IMO, there is really no common 'better' involved here; just what do you the aquarist want to keep and what kind of effort are you willing to expend?

As for stability, you can have an unstable 55g and a stable 20g, or visa versa, since so much depends on the setup and especially the aquarist. All things being equal however, the 55g has more volume and in theory should maintain stable parameters for a longer period of time before intervention is needed.

There is little doubt that a typical 20g is going to be cheaper to maintain than a similarly set up 55g. Drifting even more towards the small end, the yearly amount that I spend on my 12g is really quite minimal (not counting the occasional fish, invert or coral buying splurge).

As with any reef aquarium, a lot depends on how it's setup (what you think you need vs. what you really need), how you maintain it and finding out where to get the best deals on supplies.
 
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LPS no problems,Acropora problems to keep tank stable. water can change very quickly and kill everything in small tank .a bigger tank has more water in it to keep stable if a problem comes about for Acropora
 

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If you are wanting to go smaller because of cost, then I don’t think you will save much money at all, the biggest cost is electric, the light will be the same size, skimmer etc etc

Salt saving would be minimal, you could argue with a smaller tank you do more water changes, so the cost could be the same, and rodi filter are cheap, heating the tank would be higher depending on room temp.

I really don’t think there would be that much of a difference in cost between running 55 vs a 20 not in salt or rodi. For the small extra cost the 55 would be well worth paying that little extra for,
 

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You're going to get all kinds of answers on this one. I've only ever had nano tanks. Largest tank was a 30 gallon and smallest was a 5 gallon and I loved them all. I learned very quickly that shape is very important, meaning a long tank is always better than a tall tank... fish mostly swim sideways and long is easier for Coral placement and variable flow placement.

I'm currently working on a 10 gallon after a break from the hobby, to get my feet wet, so to speak. I think large vs small, they each have their own pros and cons. Larger, you obviously have more space and more forgiveness when it comes to what you can put in the tank, how much, and water swings. The frequency of work might also be less (water changes once every couple of weeks or fewer). Smaller tanks though, you have to do water changes more frequently to avoid any crazy water swings (ideally weekly water changes) but you're only doing 2-5 gallon water changes vs 10-20 gallon water changes. So maintenance may be more frequent, but my water changes in my 10 gallon take me 10 minutes, no sweat. It's more challenging figuring out the 2-3 fish/inhabitants you can put in a smaller tank together, but I also find it more rewarding because you can see everything and know where everything is at any given moment. It also takes less Frags and less money to fill the tank up with Coral to get you started vs putting in Coral after Coral in a larger tank and it still looking very empty.

Me personally, I like to grow out a small tank to then upgrade to a bigger size, grow out that tank and upgrade again, if and when I'm ready.

It's really a matter of taste and opinion and ultimately you should do what you think works best for you. A word of caution though, I've never met a reefer who has just one tank. Once you get started and get hooked, you may find yourself with a 20 gallon AND a 55 gallon reef setup!! One in the living room, one in the bedroom, one in the office, one in the bathroom, you get the drift! ;)

Best to you with whatever you decide!! They are both great sizes!!
 

Aluco

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I agree it all depends on what you want to keep. For me personally I started my tank because I enjoy the fish. Started with a system I can keep quite a few small fish in including a dwarf angel and would very much like to upgrade down the line to at least a 4' tank so I can Start keeping bigger fish. But if you want a reef that you can quickly fill with corals with a couple small fish a 20g would be prefect. But as far as the running cost I don't see it being that much different. Doing a bigger tank, usually the higher price is upfront paying for the actual tank then after that the cost differences running the tanks arent too far apart imo.
 

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I currently have a 20g and have decided to upgrade after only 2 months. There just doesnt seem to be enough room in the 20 to put things. As for cost my elec went up $30 per month with the 20g and I dont see the larger tank adding to that greatly. Biggest increase I am guessing will be salt but imo worth it for the extra real estate to place things
 

Hairyteeth

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Also agree with the above statement about keeping a nano a little more simple with easier corals…mainly talking acros
My evo is packed full of coral, lps and sps…adding so many stony corals has made this tank much more finicky and there are no longer any cost savings on this tank, haha, it’s waaay overboard
I think that’s the key there, it’s not the size it’s how you use it, your tank that is :p
 
Reef Chasers Aquaculture

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After 30+ years of reefing my 20g aio nano cube is the simplest system I have ever run.
No skimmer.
I dose trace.
10g wc once a month.
Tunze ato.
Tanks 7 months old and mostly acros.
It really boils down to experience level of the reefer.
Have a full plan before you start for success.
20220827_091612.jpg

Check out my ongoing build thread.í
Thread '18" AIO Nano Cube Stag System' https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/18-aio-nano-cube-stag-system.883090/
 
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