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Filter for a small aquarium

maintenance, care, compatibility

Small consider aquariums less than 30-40 liters, usually from 5 to 20 liters. Often they are called nano aquariums (from the Greek nano – “small, tiny, dwarf”), emphasizing with this term not only size, but also their modernity and adaptability. There are also microaquariums, their capacity is 1-2 liters, and animals do not lodge in them, with the exception of some species of snails. The world’s smallest aquarium with fish was created by Omsk miniaturist Anatoly Konenko and his son Stanislav.

They placed in 10 ml of water a primer, a specially designed mini-compressor, small cladofor bushes and a few danio fry.

We will immediately agree that we will not call a round ten-liter jar with a goldfish a nano-aquarium because it is not an aquarium, but a mockery of fish and all the principles of aquarism.

An aquarium, no matter how large, is an equilibrium biological system whose inhabitants feel comfortable. To achieve this in a small amount is a whole science. But, if this is possible, the results can be simply amazing.

Such aquariums, where a living biotope is reproduced in a tiny volume, resemble Japanese bonsai art or large-scale models of luxury cars: small ones, but everything is real.

Of course, not all small aquariums are worthy of aquascaping competitions or books of records, but each of them should please the eye of its owner and create a comfortable environment for its inhabitants.

Nano aquariums are rectangular, cubic or close to it. Cover usually with a transparent coverslip. glass that allows you to admire them from above.

Keep them away from drafts and direct sunlight and closer to the outlet that you need to connect equipment.

Equipment for nano aquariums is generally the same as for large ones, that is, a filter (in some cases it is enough to have a pump with an aerator), lighting devices, a heater if necessary, better complete with a thermostat, and a carbon dioxide supply system.

For those who do not have the experience and time to select aquarium technology, fully equipped nano aquariums are on sale. The best in terms of price and quality are the complexes of the Aqua El Shrim Set and Dennerle Nano Cube series.

And if you want to save money or it is interesting to choose all the stuffing for your nanocube yourself, there is plenty to choose from.

For a small aquarium, filter is vital. Since the balance in this system is very fragile, and a small deviation of the parameters of the aquarium water can be fatal for its inhabitants, it is necessary to minimize the risk of these fluctuations.

Therefore, pumps without a sponge or with a small sponge the size of a matchbox do not fit. Rather, they can be used, but only in aquariums with a very large number of live plants and without fish, with some invertebrates.

However, with such a population, you can do without a filter or restrict the compressor.

If there are fish in the aquarium, the requirements for the filter are very serious. It should have a large filler surface to create a biofiltration, skip 8-15 volumes of the aquarium per hour, but not create strong streams of water that will damage plants, fish and crustaceans.

In addition, small inhabitants of an aquarium should not fall into its water intakes. And, of course, it should occupy a minimum of space in the aquarium or be well decorated and fit into the landscape.

Another optional, but very desirable condition is that the filtering material must be taken out of the water for rinsing without dismantling the filter itself, this greatly facilitates the maintenance of the aquarium.

The following types of filters satisfy these conditions partially or completely:

  1. Internal filters with open lips. They do not have a body, therefore, no one will suck in them. A large sponge (it is better to replace it with a finely porous at once) serves as a good material for mechanical cleaning and a substrate for the reproduction of bacteria of the biofilter. Some models of such filters can be placed with a sponge up, respectively, it is easily removed.
  2. External mounted filters, waterfalls. Take up little space, since the main part is outside. They have a large enough volume, which can be filled with various filter materials. Do not create a strong flow. The disadvantage is that when using these filters the aquarium can not be closed with a lid. It is required to put on a sponge or a fine mesh on the water intake tube of such a filter to avoid the inhabitants of the aquarium being sucked into the filter.
  3. External canister filters. Currently, there are models designed for small volumes. Provide very good mechanical and biological filtration, without taking up space in the aquarium. As with mounted filters, the water intake tube should be closed with a sponge or mesh. The only downside is the high cost.

In addition to these models, in aquariums of small size, you can use a variety of home-made designs – airlifts, Hamburg filters, plastic bottles with a fibrous or porous substance, connected to the pump. The requirement here is one: water under pressure must pass through a sufficient amount of material that provides mechanical filtration and can serve as a substrate for bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle.

An additional filter in a small aquarium is live plants, sometimes they are even placed in a mounted waterfall, making a fit filter out of it.

Choose plants in the nano aquarium should be depending on the power of lighting and whether the supply of carbon dioxide is organized. If the light is bright, the soil is specialized, containing organic matter and CO2, then you can plant any medium-sized plants, here only the preferences of the owner play a role.

In a more modestly equipped aquarium, plants are limited to unpretentious and slow-growing plants.

Lileopsis is a Brazilian cube, hemianthus of cube, and marcilia are used as ground cover. Japanese Blix, which is considered a groundcover in large aquariums, looks like a bush in small volumes.

In addition, different types of Anubias, cryptocoryne, Pogostemons, Rotal, ferns are grown. For decorating snags, stones and items of equipment use mosses. Often you can meet the cladofor balls.

In short, there is room for creativity almost like in a large aquarium.

When choosing inhabitants for a small aquarium, first of all, of course, one should pay attention to their size. Fish should not be more than 3-4 cm long, and if the aquarium is completely “nano”, up to 15 liters – more than 2-3 cm.

In addition, the fish need a peaceful, not too voracious, not territorial, and quite unpretentious, at least if this is your first experience in nano aquariums. Well and, of course, they must be brightly and diversely colored and active, so that it would be interesting to watch them.

Under these conditions is quite a large number of fish. The most honorable place in nano aquariums is occupied by carp representatives – zebrafish, micro-assemblies, boraras.

The micro-collection of the galaxy with its amazing color is truly the queen of small volumes.

It is possible to lodge neon and tetra amanda from charicine fishes in such an aquarium, from guppies and petillia from viviparous. In addition, you can make small catfish, for example, the corridor-pygmy or otozinclus.

Feel good in a small volume of the cockerel.

Fish is better to take flocks of 3-4 pieces (of course, except for pugnacious cockerels), so they will feel more comfortable. The density of planting small fish should be about 1 individual per 2 liters of water.

In addition to fish, different types of shrimp live in a nano aquarium, dwarf crayfish (they are incompatible with shrimps), frogs hymeno-viruses.

You can decorate a nano aquarium in a different style. Iwagumi styles are popular among aqua-designers – different types of stone decoration forms, ryubekuka – decoration with snags, wabikusa – in the form of a hummock with plants.

But here the taste and preferences of the owner are crucial. For example, if an aquarium is in a child’s room, it is appropriate to place a mermaid’s castle or a sunken ship and toy scuba divers into it. The main thing is that the scenery should not take up too much space (as a general rule, not more than a quarter of the bottom surface and half the height), hide the aquarium equipment and leave room for plants and fish.

In addition, if there are shrimps in the aquarium, it must be borne in mind that any objects protruding from the water may contribute to their escape from the aquarium.

Soil in small aquariums usually use a two-layer one: the bottom layer is a nutrient substrate, the top one is gravel, the total thickness of the layer should be 3-4 cm.

Caring for a small aquarium is not too time consuming, as long as it is permanent. If you can forget about a successful two-hundred-liter jar for a month (do not carry out cleaning and water changes in it, but only feed the fish), and nothing bad will happen, well, except that there will be a little less beauty, then this number will not work with the nano aquarium.

It is impossible to linger for one day with cleaning or slightly overfeeding the fish, this can lead to irreversible consequences. Depending on the size and population of the aquarium, a schedule should be drawn up for switching on and off lighting, feeding animals, changing water (usually they are held weekly at 1 / 3-1 / 2), cleaning the bottom. This schedule must be strictly followed.

Most importantly, a small aquarium requires close monitoring, and immediate action is taken with the slightest sign of imbalance. It is highly recommended to use water quality tests at first after launch to track at least ammonia and nitrite.

Of course, a small aquarium in an apartment or office is not just a piece of furniture, it requires care and attention, but with the proper selection of equipment and inhabitants and following simple rules, it is quite affordable even for an unskilled person in aquariums.

Clean water in an aquarium for fish is the same as clean air for humans. In pure water, fish are full of activity and energy.

That’s just the filter for the aquarium and plays this crucial role – cleans the water from various harmful impurities.

The simplest filter consists of a foam sponge in a plastic case connected to the compressor through a tube. The air passes through the compressor, dragging water with particles of dirt, is passed through the filter, where the dirt and settles. The disadvantage of this filter: when removing it from the aquarium for cleaning, most of the dirt goes back into the water.

Noisy operation of this filter is also unpleasant.

Popular now and more perfect is a glass water filter. It consists of the same sponge, but already placed in a glass, equipped with an electric motor.

Filters for the most common now small aquariums produce China, Poland, Italy. The cheapest Chinese filter company SunSun.

Depending on the configuration, there are just filters, aeration filters and filters with a drizzle valve, which is especially valuable for small aquariums without a rapid flow. If such a flute is placed above the water, then there is enough air in the aquarium for the fish and you can do without a compressor at all.

The glass filter produced in Poland is more qualitative in terms of its design, but also more expensive, although there is no flute sprinkler in the configuration. This mounted filter for aquarium allows you to install it in the most convenient place of the tank with the help of removable fasteners. There is also a minus in such filters – their noisy work.

To avoid this, adjust the air supply well.

A small aquarium is a tank with parameters of 20×40 cm and less (a nano aquarium) in which small ornamental fish can be placed. The volume of such containers can be from 10 to 20 cubic liters, so they are suitable for the installation of decorations and equipment. In a small aquarium you need to put lighting, plant plants, decor, do not forget about the filter and compressor.

That is, a small aquarium should not differ in functionality from a spacious one.


Care of a small aquarium, on the one hand, easy, and on the other, takes the hassle. Choose a mini tank rectangular, with straight and smooth walls.

It is convenient to clean them with a scraper, to maintain. If the tank is round, then it will be inconvenient to reach its corners, it is difficult to wash.

A 10-liter aquarium pollutes faster than a 50-100-liter aquarium. Water changes will have to be done more often, as well as comprehensive cleaning, which is not useful for the biobalance of the aquatic environment and the health of the fish.

The main disadvantage of mini tanks is a small amount of water. It does not fit a lot of fish.

There you can settle 1-2 fish, and no more. In a large aquarium, water changes are not strongly felt, in a small one this is a great stress.

Any changes in the biological balance: fish death, overfeeding, pollution immediately affect the aquatic environment. The only thing that can be done is to adjust the water parameters in time, feed the fish gently, clean the bottom.

See how the ground siphon in the nano aquarium.

To care for a small aquarium should be the same as for a large one. Once a week you need to change 10-15% of water, if necessary. So that the fish do not have stress, do not replace the water completely, try to add it in small portions.

The ideal aquarium filter for such a tank is a pump with an internal sponge. The sponge cannot be washed out under running water, otherwise all beneficial bacteria participating in the nitrogen cycle will die.

If you choose the smallest reservoir, then it will be almost impossible to install plants and decorations. Some skillfully planted even in 3-liter jars of dwarf plants, but it is inconvenient to take care of them.

In the 10-liter tank there is the possibility to hold a dwarf anubias, a dwarf arrowhead, an echinodorus “dwarf amazon”, a dwarf cryptocoryne. Plants for a small aquarium are able to control the level of nitrite, nitrate and ammonia, create shelters for fish. Make sure that the aquarium was the ground.

Choose a substrate treated, clean, without paint. Remember that using a regular scraper to clean aquariums of minimal size is very difficult from the layer of plaque.


Now about feeding. As you know, overfeeding harms not only the health of the fish, but also adversely affects the quality of water. All uneaten decays, turning into harmful impurities and bacteria.

Decay products are deposited on the bottom and reservoir machines, disturbing the stability of the biological environment. Fish should be fed, hunger is also not an option.

Once a week, arrange fasting days for fish. Add food to 4-6 grains, which pet is swallowed by force.

What is not eaten, you need to remove the gauze net.

Let’s for fish that live in a small 10-20-liter nursery as much feed as they eat in 2-6 minutes. Flakes, live food, sinking granules fit. They sink slowly and do not pollute the environment.

If you live on bottom catfish, they will eat everything on their own. Fish can be fed to their usual high-grade food, without disturbing the diet.

It is important to clean everything in time.

See how to make a small aquarium.

The big problem of small aquariums is the instability of water quality indicators. To create suitable conditions in a reservoir of 20 liters is not an easy task, but it has a solution. Different, even the most insignificant factors can affect the quality of water, for example, the excess of the number of inhabitants per tail or the excess of the feeding rate.

Another major concern is providing oxygen to the aquarium. With a large number and small volume, oxygen in the water quickly ends, and the fish suffer from oxygen starvation.

We have to solve the problem of optimizing the environment. The filter for a large aquarium is not appropriate here, so you have to solve the problem in other ways.

Normal filter is not suitable because:

  • Takes a lot of space;
  • It has a large capacity;
  • Creates a current;
  • It spoils the plants and carries away the fish.

The only way out is to create an airlift filter with your own hands. It will help solve all the problems of water, but will create additional inconveniences:

  • The main of which are splashes from the aquarium. This option is extremely inconvenient for placement on the desktop. The only way to eliminate discomfort is to cover the aquarium.
  • Increased noise from the device. This option is acceptable for the office, but it will be quite problematic to sleep in a room with a running compressor.

You can solve the second problem if you make a silent filter – a spring, instructions and detailed photos of which can be found on the Internet.

Before you run there fish take your time, create a microclimate for the inhabitants according to all the rules of the launch of the aquarium. Start by planting plants, determine how many and which ones you can do on your own, even on a photo from networks and clubs.

Let’s see what and how many fish, and what plants can be kept in small aquariums.

Successful plants that are optimally planted in a 20-liter aquarium:

  • Marsilia;
  • Shchitovnik;
  • Ekhinodorusy;
  • Lileopsis;
  • Other plants with small leaves.

Vertebrates, invertebrates and mollusks are excellent for settling such an aquarium. With the right approach, all three classes can be combined in one aquarium.

However, the traditional option is still the establishment of small-sized fish or one medium-sized fish.

If you decide to populate the aquarium with fish, then pay attention to the following options:

  • Petushki. Rather common fish, thanks to a unique coloring and lush tails. In 20 liters can contain 1 male and from 3 to 5 females. The cockerel is not very picky about oxygen saturation, because it can breathe atmospheric air. Watch carefully how many degrees outside the aquarium, because the fish is able to swallow atmospheric air.
  • Neons A small flock of 5 or more fish will decorate a small aquarium. The photo clearly shows the variety of colors. They are mischievous and picky, which makes them favorites for beginning aquarists. Maximum length – 4 cm.
  • Danio rerio. These fish you can get up to 20 pieces in a 20-liter aquarium. Schooling fish calmly tolerate cold water of 15 degrees and very warm at 30. Most often, the fish do not exceed 4 cm in length.
  • Guppy The most common inhabitants of the aquarium in beginners. You need to be prepared that every week in your aquarium 2-3 females will produce dozens of new fry. Initially, the process is fascinating, but soon begins to annoy. The size of the male is about 4 cm, females up to 6.
  • Koridoras. If there are no sharp stones in your tank, you can release a few catfish into the tank. In the photo you can see small antennae, which serve as organs of touch, therefore the ground should be soft and without sharp corners. They love the company, so from 3 to 5 individuals get along well in a small area.
  • Cardinal Easy to care fish. Everyone eats, loves plants and cool water from 18 to 21 degrees. Quietly survive with a population of 3-4 fish per 10 liters.
  • Micro disassembly. Looking at her photo, it seems that she was created specifically to keep her in a mini-aquarium. The length of her body rarely exceeds 2 centimeters, and is not picky about water temperature. However, not very popular in aqua stores because of the low price.
  • Norman blue-eyed Neon fish have always attracted seekers of the exotic. Small fish up to 4 cm are notable for their quick behavior and mischievous character. How many do not look, and they continue to catch the eye.

These options are ideal for combinations, with the exception of males. If the traditional options do not seduce you, pay attention to the exotic, for example, freshwater shrimp:

  • Cherry shrimp. The ideal inhabitant of the aquarium, has a small size (up to 3 cm) and is superbly reproduced in captivity.
  • Japanese pond. Individuals reach 6 centimeters, have a gray tint and help fight algae. But, the big minus is that it is impossible to achieve reproduction in aquariums.
  • Crystal. Exotic color and small size allow you to contain almost as much as you want, and allow the parameters of water, as it is not too dependent on the microclimate. Minus – a very high cost.
  • Cardinal Shrimp for professionals, rare and expensive, but very beautiful.
  • Yellow The little yellow shrimp is not too whimsical, but it requires constant feeding. If you allow fasting, it will raise the plants.

As for the question, how many shrimps can be kept in a 20 liter aquarium, it is important to note their size here. For example, up to 50 cherries will live together in 20 liters. With fishes it is necessary to limit quantity a little.

Shrimp can not be kept with medium and large fish, otherwise they will fall as feed. The optimal combination of 10 cherries and 5-7 small fish.

To decorate the aquarium, you can add a few small snails there that will help keep it clean:

  • Helena. It looks pretty snail that feeds on other snails such as pond snails and reels. If there are none, then he eats fish food and breeds well.
  • Neretina. Spectacular snail, which cleans plants and walls, but does not occur in fresh water.
  • Ampullar. Possible, but undesirable option. Cheap, common, but leaves a lot of waste and spoils the plants.

In order for everyone to feel comfortable, try to change 1/5 of the volume of the aquarium at least once a week.

Before installing the bottom filter should be familiar with its features. Of course, the first minus will appear immediately.

To install the system, it is necessary to completely drain the water from the aquarium, remove the soil and all the decorative elements, which takes a lot of time.

The indisputable advantage of such a filter is:

  • continuous circulation of water from the entire aquarium;
  • when passing through the soil, it stagnates at the bottom;
  • Such a water cycle allows you to avoid rapid contamination of the aquarium and the emergence of various kinds of infections.

Aeration of the soil helps the algae to strengthen and develop their root system, but when the soil is oversaturated with oxygen, leaf growth slows down. In addition, in the soil there are no nutrients for algae, they go along with the water.

Therefore, this design solution is not recommended for use in an aquarium where a lot of greenery grows.

Even when using a bottom filter, dirt particles still remain on the ground surface. They do not pass through it due to its large size. Therefore, as mentioned above, you have to wash the pebbles.

But you can avoid unnecessary mess with changing water and washing the soil.

For this you need to put an additional filter element that will have time to drive through all the water. Or you can buy a device – a siphon, which removes large particles of dirt from the surface of the soil (this procedure is preferably carried out weekly).

Another drawback of the system is that the holes in the tubes quickly become clogged with debris. To clean them, you need to completely pour water from the aquarium and disassemble the entire structure.

For a small container (up to 50 liters) this will not cause a particular problem, but for a large aquarium it is very difficult and hard work.

Many aquarists claim that bottom filters can already be left in the past. Of course, they quite effectively clean the aquarium from contamination, but to maintain cleanliness, additional methods of care are required.

There are alternative devices: external and internal filters.

Each model is designed for a specific volume of the aquarium. Also filters can include the device for aeration of air – the compressor.

Such devices are able to pass through themselves the entire volume of the aquarium in just 10-15 minutes.

The advantage of such filters is quick installation and easy maintenance. To make cleaning, it is enough to disassemble it and wash all the structural elements under the faucet.

The bottom filter is an effective way to filter water, which allows it to be cleaned naturally (passing through the soil). This type of construction has both advantages and disadvantages, which is why many aquarists do not dare to acquire it.

But why spend money if you can build yourself a bottom filter from inexpensive materials?

This type of filtration was known at the end of the last century, but it is still used today. Difficulties in installation and maintenance make fans switch to more modern methods of water purification using external and internal filters (the latter are attached to the inner wall of the aquarium).

Video to create a bottom filter for an aquarium:

There are two types of filters: external and internal. How to choose the one that fits exactly in your case?

First of all, pay attention to the size of your aquarium. If it is large enough, then there is not much difference. But usually we have only limited areas on which you can place either a small or medium aquarium.

In this case, it will be appropriate to use an external filter.

Unlike the internal one, the external filter is not installed directly in the tank, but outside it. This helps to save space.

The external filter does not take place in the aquarium and does not spoil its overall appearance.

The work of such a device is as follows: water from the aquarium enters the device, passes through the filter elements, and then returns to the fish.

The external filter has the following advantages:

  • it does not occupy a useful place inside the aquarium;
  • the contents of the aquarium looks more aesthetic without such devices;
  • filtering fillers better purify water.

Of course, among the huge range of such devices, you can choose the right one in all respects for you. But their prices are too high.

So why not take the opportunity to make an external filter with your own hands? This project is easy to implement.

It turns out that everything you need can be easily purchased in stores and on the market, and the assembly and installation work itself is simple enough for even a novice to cope with it.

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