#TinyTankChallenge – Brian

I thought I’d give a little more detail on my #tinytankchallenge project. Like Ethan, I will be using a “standard” 2.5-gallon tank. Unlike Ethan, I will be creating a freshwater biotope aquarium using plants and fish from the White Cloud Mountain area of China. White Cloud Mountain is the type location (the place where a species is first found) for the White Cloud Mountain minnow (Tanichthys albonubes), my feature species.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow, Tanichthys albonubes. Photo by sannse. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

A biotope aquarium, as I mentioned in my previous post, is an aquarium that uses livestock and design elements from a specific geographic region. This can be as precise as only choosing plants and fish from a particular spot in a particular stream, or as general as using plants and fish from the same watershed, or even just the same country-of-origin.
As far as equipment goes, I’ll be using a 2.5-gallon tank I had on hand for another project that never came to fruition. I’m happy to put it to good use here! I will not be using a lid so I can maximize the light reaching the plants.


I’m using a fine gravel substrate that I purchased when it went on clearance ages ago. At the time, I think I may have paid a dollar for the bag, but a five-pound bag of this kind of gravel typically runs around $5 or so. Plants prefer a finer grain, and I’ve done really well growing all sorts of rooted plants in this type of gravel. I do realize that this isn’t “plant substrate”, but I’ve had good success using this less expensive gravel and occasionally supplementing with root tab-type fertilizer pellets.


Filtration will be provided by a small hang-on-back filter that I’ll actually hang on the side of the tank to create a nice current. This will mimic the flow found in sluggish streams, similar to the ones in which White Cloud minnows live. The filter cost $22.50 at an LFS (local fish store).


I will use this small LED light bar to light the tank. The LED light cost $19.99. This tank light has a number of benefits: it’s very bright, it has a small size, and therefore it doesn’t use much power. One negative feature is that it IS so small, so I may end up getting something else. Updates to come! The tank won’t need a heater, since the plants and fish all come from cool-water habitats.


Current Project Costs:

  • Filter – $22.50
  • Light – $19.99
  • Gravel – $1.00
  • Tank – $9.99
  • Total – $53.48

So that’s where I’m at coming up to the beginning of the year. Next steps include rinsing the gravel of dust, research into the species of plants found in the type location, locating those plants for purchase, and starting the cycling process in the tank itself.

Stay tuned!



Hey guys! My #tinytankchallenge project is going to be a 2.5 gallon “pico reef” tank. I haven’t completely decided on what I’m stocking it with yet (probably some zoas and frags from my big tank which won’t cost me anything), but I just ordered most of my equipment, so I thought I’d get things rolling with that.


I had a $50 Amazon gift card from my birthday, so I’ve technically only spent ~$40, however, for fairness sake, total so far is $68.48 US dollars. I didn’t need to buy a lid, since the tank came with one, nor substrate, since I already had a bag of crushed coral lying around. (I’m not counting that anyway, because lots of people like bare-bottomed reef tanks, so this was optional). CXehKVeUAAA0usSI also have a small powerhead handy I may use, depending on how powerful that little filter is. For live rock (which will be doing most of my filtering, I have a bunch of small chunks I can scavenge from the big tank, but I may buy one nice piece from the local shop, which will probably put me right at the $100 mark.

I went with the 25 watt heater, even though it’s about 3X what I actually need because I’ve had good luck with that brand and didn’t want to chance an off-brand, pre-set betta heater, which is basically what all 10 watt aquarium heaters are. Funny, probably a better chance of cooking your tank with one of those than a decent thermostat controlled heater at a higher wattage.

I chose the filter I did because of the thin build. A lot of people use Aquaclear filters because they add the most water volume, but they’re significantly more expensive, around $40 or $50 and I’m really just using it for some chaeto algae. The reviews on this filter were generally good (quiet) and since it’s going on a desk in an office, I liked that the pump was internal and the external case is one solid piece so there’s no chance of a leak. I may have to mod the pump to slow it down by removing one or two of the impeller blades.

There really isn’t room for a fish in this tank, besides maybe a small goby, but I’ll probably have some micro-brittle stars, snails and such. Maybe an emerald crab.

The Desktop Challenge!

Starting this January 1st, some fish-head friends and I are starting what we’re calling the 2016 Desktop Challenge. We each are designing and building a small aquarium that could be kept on a desk or a strong shelf. The idea behind the Challenge is not to compete against each other, but to challenge ourselves as we practice our aquarist skills and promote the hobby. IMG_7374

The parameters for the challenge are as follows: the tank size must be less than five gallons, and the project must cost less than $100. Other than that, the rest is up to the individual aquarist. Freshwater or saltwater, aquarium or paludarium, with fish or without fish, biotope aquarium or community tank, the possibilities are endless!

From en.wikipedia: White Cloud Mountain Minnow, Tanichthys albonubes. Photo by sannse. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

My own entry will be housed in a 2.5-gallon glass aquarium. I am researching plants and hardscape for a Southeast Asia biotope aquarium. A biotope aquarium is one where all the plants, fish, other livestock, and design elements come from the same geographic location. White cloud minnows have always been one of my favorite aquarium fish species, and few of them will do really well in a small, planted, unheated tank.

We want to invite anyone who wants to set up a desktop aquarium of his or her own to join us this new year. We’re here to offer advice on equipment, setup, livestock choices, and any other question a beginner may have. Follow us on Twitter, using the hashtag #tinytankchallenge, to find the participants, get updates on our progress, ask questions, and show us YOUR progress!

Happy New Year!