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!


5 thoughts on “The Desktop Challenge!

  1. I’m interested in how your white clouds do in such a small space. They do make sense for an unheated tank and could probably handle most of the fluctuations in other water parameters that can sometimes be hard to avoid in a nano/pico setup. With that said, when I kept them in small numbers (3-4 for a short time), they ended up getting quite aggressive with one another, though it is tough to say to what extent that was a product of gender dynamics…3 males to 1 female.

    I felt my larger group of 9 enjoyed their 10 gallon for a while, but they ended up looking very cramped, but especially once a single platy was added to the tank, so could be more of a matter of interspecific issues. I do quite enjoy my group of 20 in a 29g now, though! I’m sure if the white clouds don’t work out in this tank, it won’t be difficult to find another accommodating setup.

    They are really enjoyable fish, especially for a fish that is considered so disposable to the average aquarist. I wonder if they will breed for you in there? Either way, lots of fin flaring and other hijinks are a given and would be a lot of fun on a desk.

    My own nano project over the past year was a 5g heavily planted setup, featuring a dwarf puffer. He’s obviously easy on the plants, is super interesting, but does do best with live foods which is a bit of a pain in terms of my daily feeding routines. He has happily ignored the amano shrimp I hesitantly added as well, which makes the tank almost too interesting to get away from at times.


    • Hey Jacob, thanks for reading! I’m interested to see how the white clouds do, too. I’ve never tried a tank this small, other than a betta setup ages ago. That one didn’t have any live plants in it, either. I’ve never had white clouds get aggressive as you’ve described when I’ve kept them in any sized group, so I’m thinking, like you, it was probably sexual dynamics. I agree, white clouds are pretty amazing little fish, and extremely attractive in perhaps an unconventional way. Cheers!

      – Brian


  2. I personally wouldn’t do WCMMs in such a small tank, they seem to prefer more swimming space than a 2.5g allows.

    I love nano tanks, currently have five of them running! Most folks only recommend bettas for small setups but there definitely are other options. I have a group of B. maculatus in a 4g, very peaceful fish with great color. Dwarf amber barbs are another tiny schooling option. There are a number of killies that can be kept in pairs or trios in small tanks.

    Good luck with the challenge, hope you’ll be posting updates and photos!


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