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  • Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to Yardboy for being selected for our September Reef Profile! His 10 gallon nano reef is a stunning example of a regional biotope. Below he has written a profile of his aquarium's growth over the past year, and shares his experiences with diving in the St. Andrews Jetties of Florida. Check it out and share your comments and questions in Yardboy's featured reef profile thread.


    Tank Specs

    Tank: Standard 10 gallon tempered glass tank, 20" x 10" x 12".
    Lighting: 2 x 32W PC with individual reflectors in a custom canopy. One 10,000K and one 50/50 bulb.
    Filtration: 2 x 150gpm Regent hang-on-back filters with carbon cartridge.
    Circulation: Hydor 150gpm powerhead.
    System Age: Started July 2007


    In the beginning was the biotope. A desire to observe easily what is close at hand in the ocean led to the first marine aquariums. After years of travel to Florida for diving, I moved here and had the opportunity to frequently visit a popular local dive site, the St. Andrew jetties. Observing the constant procession of marine life, the flourishing and fading of populations through the year, stimulated my primal desire to want to watch and wonder at the life there for longer than a single breath or tank of air.


    The Jetties Nano was developed in "The Reef Lab," a sunroom added onto my house and an attempt to contain my addiction to reef keeping. When offering advice, I prefer to give my personal experience rather than opinions, so with the Jetties Nano I wanted to see just how simple a tank setup could be.


    Since the jetties consist of large limestone boulders forming a barrier to block the movement of sand into the channel, I discretely placed pieces of base rock among the boulders, obtained in South Florida, to develop as liverock for the tank. It's probably borderline illegal but I asked the ranger and they gave me a "whatever" look. Three years later, (yes, I lost it for awhile) it had developed some nice corraline color and a few polyps of cup coral.

    Aquascaping has always been a challenge for me. Many tanks have inspired me, but the idea I used for this tank came from the landscaping of small spaces. Curving a path around a visual barrier causes the eye to follow it until the view disappears, giving the illusion of greater space, and adds to the mystery of what lies beyond.


    For the livestock, I'd have preferred to use what is commonly seen at the jetties, and did collect brittle stars, corkscrew and flower anemones, and hermit crabs, but the prolific Beau Gregory damsels, Molly Miller blennies and Doctorfish tangs proved too aggressive for this small tank. The gorgonians and hard corals present are either azooxanthellate or illegal to collect. I used "Fishes of the Northern Gulf of Mexico," "A Field Guide to Gorgonians of the Gulf of Mexico," and Veron's "Corals of the World" to identify species that might be found here, at least in the summer. In the end, though I did collect specimens from the jetties, the tank more likely represents an artificial reef found offshore about 50 miles!


    Instant Ocean salt with RO/DI water for weekly 15% water changes and daily topoff. Then a 15% monthly water change from the jetties. Daily flake food feeding. Every other day dosing of homemade phyto (chloronannopsis) and rotifer (Marine L Strain). While everything in the tank eats flake food, I do a water change with jetties water on the high tide monthly, hoping for something interesting to take hold and praying nothing nasty is introduced!

    Clean Up Crew

    Black long spined urchin
    Lettuce nudibranch
    Sea cucumber - yellow
    Hermit crabs – blue legged and local red legged
    Nassarious snails – 2 of a local species
    Nerite snails – for the glass


    Rusty gobies - mating pair
    Masked gobies – no indications of mating


    Spotted Anemone Shrimp – pair.
    Peppermint shrimp – pair.
    Flower Anemone
    Corkscrew anemone
    Rock anemone
    Large brown anemone - probably aiptasia species, food for peppermints!
    Oculina sp. – hard coral
    Phyllangia – cup coral


    Purple Knobby Sea Rod
    Orange Spiny Sea Rod
    Purple Sea Plume
    Yellow Sea Whip
    Purple Sea Blade


    When the tank was initially set up, I had major algae problems, likely due to the nutrients from the Bay saturating the rocks. Water changes and a good cleanup crew finally got it under control after a several months. Note to new reefers: With greater export than import of nutrients and a cleanup crew tailored to your problem, algae blooms can be beat! I've never heard anyone say "I wish I hadn't done a water change!"

    I casually mention using DIY phyto and rotifers. Be aware that if you decide to try and "grow your own," a lot of research is in order. They can be much more complicated to do successfully than a reef tank! If it weren't so expensive, I'd buy all my food!


    At first I wanted to see how simple and cheap a setup I could make to simulate the local environment. When it proved to be successful, I began wishing I'd done a few things differently:


    1. Bigger Tank - While a 10 gallon is cheap, a 20L isn't much more. The glass of the 10 scratches too easily and space is limited.
    2. A Sump – Doesn't add much to the mechanical complexity but gives more opportunities for nutrient control.
    3. Lighting – A 10 gallon is really limited in lighting options. Small metal halides, T5's, and maybe LED's will be the lights of the future.


    I'd like to thank everyone at Nano-Reef.com who share and help others to be successful in this wonderful hobby, and my wonderful wife, who if she didn't give her support, I'd not be able to pursue this hobby (besides, she has sharper eyes to find specimens during our dives!). If I were to give anyone advice, it would be to read and study before you start a tank. Starting with no knowledge and pretending to be innovative is a recipe for failure. Why throw away a bunch of money and kill living animals in the process? Ask questions to further your understanding. Don't get caught up in the fad of exclusive corals. There are many beautiful, inexpensive, easy to grow corals available.



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    Thanks so much guys! I am totally surprised that what began as an experiment turned into something that you all might like.

    It's funny though. In the last few days with Gustav roaring into the Gulf I had to wonder if it would see another week. I'd already decided that it would be the easiest to throw in the back of the Honda and head for the hills with! What a releif that it seems to be going out with a fizzle instead of a bang.

    Any questions that anyone has I'll be glad to try and answer. And thanks to the several people who have referred newbies to me with questions about gorgonians. I don't frequent the general discussions to assist as much as I should but am more than happy to help with questions about those wonderful octocorals when I can!

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    sweet gorgons!


    i really like the valley look too! that's so difficult to pull off in a small tank but you did it perfectly! background, rockscape, positioning, etc. B)


    i've been missing out on your tank! *thumbsup!*

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