I have been an avid reefer or marine aquarist for a few years now. I started in 2006 when I stumbled upon a marine reef aquarium forum. I loved the colors and all the cool corals and fish.
When I got started I was not making a lot of money so I tried to find ways to keep my cost down. This is very necessary since the average marine aquarist spends over $1,000/year on their aquariums.
When I mentioned the cost to some of the other reefers on the forum some of them mentioned starting a nano reef. I did a lot of research and found that while the cost may be less, the difficulty is significantly higher.
The reason that a nano reef is more difficult is that the water volume you are working with is much less. The parameters you need to keep in check are a lot more demanding in a reef aquarium than in a traditional fresh water aquarium. The biggest one is the salinity. As water evaporates from your nano reef tank the salinity with raise which can cause issues for your fish and other inhabitants.
If you want to start your own reef aquarium I suggest checking out the nano-reef forum. The people there are incredibly knowledgeable on the topic of nano reefs.
In order to start a successful nano reef you will need a lot of equipment. You will need a tank (if its nano its under 30 gallons), a circulation pump, heater, light, live rock, aragonite sand, test equipment.
After many years of successful reefing I have found that the most important aspect of a nano reef is the lighting. The technology has come a long ways in the last few years and you can now use LED lights. There are special bulbs you can use that last up to 10 years, use very little electricity, and provide the correct light spectrum for your corals and other livestock.
One thing you want to keep in mind when beginning a nano reef is that the types of fish and corals you can keep will be limited because of the size of your tank. Since the movie “Finding Nemo” the blue tang has become one of the most popular saltwater fish however that species needs a 90 gallon tank or larger!
While it may be more difficult to keep having a nano reef is a great and rewarding hobby to get into. If you are serious about it be sure to do your research and don't be afraid to ask questions!