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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Pros & Cons Large Tank vs. Small Tank

    I've been telling my husband that in 4yrs, when we finally upgrade that I am getting a big tank! He doesn't understand that with a larger tank things might be better (ie. outbreaks of algae, slime, diatoms...). Am I wrong or will things be better with a large tank, sump, skimmer. Please tell me the pros & cons of a big tank (ie 180g vs 35g).

  2. #2
    Senior Member pwall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Ok, I start: the more water volume, the more stable it is. For example, a day's evaporation in a 35g tank is going to change the SG of the water faster than a day's evaporation in a 180g tank.

    Of course, there are the obvious things like more room for fish and coral.
    Ottawa (Orleans), Ontario
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Zookeeper's Avatar
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    May 2003
    You are pretty much right and your husband is wrong. To a degree, larger tanks are better than small tanks for the simple reason of water volume. If I take an eye dropper of bleach, and empty it in the ocean, it will have no effect because the ratio of the poison to all of the water in the ocean is multi billions to one. That same eye dropper of bleach will wipe out your 35 gallon in minutes.

    This is obviously an extreme example, but the principle applies. A minor phosphate spike in a 35 gallon, and you have a bad algae outbreak. The same level of increased phospate in say a 120, and you probably wont notice a thing.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Marty's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Well stated above. There's not really much more work involved with a large tank, just more of the same. A larger tank will give you more options as far as fish selection (a tang in a 35 gal is a bad idea but in a 180, it will have plenty of room to swim around). The only downside I can think of is the cost.. plan ahead and get good quality equipment. After the tank itself, you will need a new stand, skimmer, lights, sump, water circulation etc.. It is more expensive to set up and run (extra salt, extra hydro etc..) but well worth it IMO.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Look at it this way... both with ATO's to avoid the "evap" problem.

    With a big tank (Display), comes a big sump. Larger sized equipment (larger skimmer, more lights) at a higher cost. More rocks needed (estimate 40% capacity of tank size). Big tank = big bioload, but all of the equipment you are buying will keep it down.
    Bigger coral prices to keep things into proportion.

    Small tanks cost less. EAsier to setup and tear down. Coral frags are cheap. but you are limited to what you can stick inside as for fish and some corals.

    Personally in the end, all you want is a nice display tank.

    Go for a decent sized aquarium as a display. Nothing crazy big. Create a sump that is 2x-3x your total display volume and fill it with goodies to help filter and keep the water clean. This way 'no matter what!' you stick inside, it will be healthy. Water will be stable. It will cost cheaper to stock and in the end, it will be completed within the safety range. IE you can overstock it b/c the tank is actually 4x volume than what you see (display).
    10.G Nano Reef
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  6. #6
    Moderator Krugar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    The larger the tank, the more forgiving it can be to an error. But there are downsides to large tanks that aren't being pointed out:

    In addition to the equipment costs, the exhaustable supplies cost more. The eye-dropper of bleach in the ocean works both ways. It takes more buffer to raise your alk, it takes more Ca to change the system. A teaspoon of carbon isn't going to do anything either. It gets worse if you have to run an expensive filter media to fix a problem.

    At 180G humidity may start to become an issue, where at 35G it's not likely. Ventilation may need to be examined.

    A 180G of salt water will weigh about 1400lbs. That's without rock, the tank itself, any sand etc. Where are you going to put that weight? What will that do to your floor?

    Large systems need to be planned in more detail. A 35G tank can be moved if you need to change something behind it. Don't plan on moving a 180, at least not trivially.

    You you pay for water? It's a consideration as a 20% partial is 36Gallons, with an RO/DI filter you're going to use up (best case) 150G, and possibly up to 360 gallons making that water. How often do you plan to do partials & how will you mix almost 40G of saltwater? How will you drain it from the system?

    6 feet of lighting costs a lot more to run than 3 feet. Deeper tanks require more intensive lighting, which will cost more to buy, lamps are more expensive, and they're going to through more heat.

    Heat can easily become an issue, how will you cool that much water? Cooling is way more expensive than heating.

    Regardless of the size of the tank, you will have outbreaks of diatoms, algae, & cyano (slime) imagine cleaning it out of the 180 vs the 35.

    Reaching the bottom of a 180' is a completely different exercise than the same in a 35G.

    You can still crash a 180G tank, this is a significantly higher financial issue than crashing a 35G tank. Will you want add an insurance rider for the tank?

    I'm not saying don't do it, I'd get a larger tank in a heart-beat. I just wanted to point out some of the potental issues.

    There is nothing so permanent as a temporary measure.

  7. #7
    Moderator mike536's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Hey Sophic,
    Another route you could go. Tell him that he could build a emergency power supply for it!!!LOL It might work LOL. The bigger the tank the bigger the power supply!!!!!
    Mike Philpott

  8. #8
    Senior Member Bram's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    I like to think of it this way:

    1 drop of poison in a cup of water
    or one drop of poison in a lake,
    which will be more deadly?

    big tanks forgive
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  9. #9
    Moderator cres's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Bram: I think Krugar agrees with you, but, there are two sides to that equation.

    In a 2 gallon nano 1 tablespoon too much or too little of salt, makes a noticeable difference in salinity. In a 180, none.

    But, in a 2 gallon nano, you have maybe 1 cup total salt. In a 180 you have 50 lbs of salt. While the mistakes have to be much bigger to have an effect, so do all of your corrections.

    Given a choice, bigger is better. More room, more safety, more options, etc.

    But, it comes with more expense and more livestock on the line if something goes wrong.
    Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

  10. #10
    Moderator Krugar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Yeah I'm agreeing with you, Bram. I was only pointing out the flipside, trying to budge the chemistry of Lake Ontario with an AquaClear & some carbon isn't going to get you any where either.

    Big is more forgiving, but when big needs correcting, a little correction in a big tank is a lot of additives, or filter media, or what have you.

    In a small tank I can do an emergency 50% water partial quickly and reasonably correctly for the tank. Imagine mixing up 90G of saltwater from RO, heating it, airating it, and getting it all ready to correct an emergency because say an anemone got sucked into a power head & is melting your tank.

    Minutes count... Big is now working against you.

    But yeah I still like big & I still recommend going as big as you can afford. I'm just playing devil's advocate so both sides are represented.

    There is nothing so permanent as a temporary measure.

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