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  • GobyInPeace

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to GobyInPeace for being selected for our January Reef Profile! His 40 gallon nano reef is a stunning example of a mature biologically filtered ecosystem. Below he has written a profile of his aquarium's progress over the past three years, and shares his experiences in the hobby. Check it out and share your comments and questions in GobyInPeace's featured reef profile thread.


    Tank Specs

    Display: 40 Gallon Breeder 36" x 18" x 16"
    Lighting: 4 x 39w HOT5's over-driven to 64 watts each, housed in a custom made fan cooled aluminum hood with remote ballasts.
    Circulation: 4 x Hagen Elite Mini Power-filters @ 58GPH each. 1 x Aquaclear 200 HOB with modified surface skimmer.
    Filtration: Carbon, macro algae & 35lbs of live rock from Fiji, Marshall Islands, and Tonga.


    Established Dec 7th, 2005 as a transfer from my 18 month old 30 gallon.


    • Orangetail Blue Damsel
    • Green Chromi
    • Yellow Watchman Goby
    • Dragonface Pipefish


    • Acans
    • Candycanes
    • Chalice
    • Clove
    • Cyphastrea
    • Hammers
    • Lobophyllia
    • Mushrooms

    • Nepthia
    • Pipe Organs
    • Porites
    • Pocillopora
    • Star Polyps
    • Symphyllia
    • Toadstool
    • Zoanthids

    Other inverts

    • Crocea Clam
    • Giant Feather Duster
    • Zebra Hermit Crab
    • Blue Leg Hermit Crab
    • Astrea Snail
    • Nasarrius Snails


    I became an avid saltwater hobbyist years ago by collecting my own livestock from the ocean. My early tanks were stocked with various marine life forms that I found along the mangrove lagoons and shores of South Florida. I did not have a boat and collected everything by wading in the water with a dip net. Some specimens where collected at night with the aid of a flashlight. All of my tanks at the time relied on macro algae and live rock as vital components for each system's ability to process waste. This method carried over into my reef tanks.

    I entered the reef keeping hobby on a very tight budget. I could only afford to create a very basic system. This did not include a protein skimmer. My current 40 gallon breeder was set-up as a tank transfer from an 18 month old 30 gallon aquarium. I was moving into a new apartment and thought this would be the perfect time to upgrade.


    The 30 gallon housed many SPS corals until my air conditioner flipped a breaker while I was at work. I came home to find the temperature had reached 94 degrees. All of my SPS bleached within a week, but most of my LPS and soft corals survived. These corals where all transferred to the new tank. After the disheartening experience with the SPS I decided to stock more adaptive species of corals.


    My tanks rely heavily on live rock and macro algae for filtration. The 40 gallon breeder was a great choice for this type of set-up. The distance from front to back was deep enough for me to place the rock-work in the middle of the tank, and allowed me to hide large amounts of chaetomorphia behind it. This tank is as close to an "all in one" balanced ecosystem as you can get. My stocking levels are lower than most, and I adhere somewhat to the 1" of fish per 5 gallon rule. Many of the corals selected for the tank are well suited for this type of system. Most of the existing colonies were placed in the tank as small frags, and the oldest corals are approaching 5 years in captivity. These corals include; a blastomussa merletti, a branching hammer, a candy cane, and various polyps and mushrooms. The rapid growth rates from these corals allowed me to frag them and acquire new corals often enough to keep stocking the tank.

    Frequent cutting back and fragging are needed to keep warfare among the corals down to acceptable levels. Some larger colonies like the bubble coral had to be removed. These where traded for new colonies or frags. Today you can see an example of a mature captive reef with the live rock structure being hardly visible.


    25% water changes are typically performed every 2 months, though water changes where more frequent earlier in the tank's life. The longest the tank went without a water change was a 5 month period of rapid growth and stability.


    Carbon is utilized for water polishing and removing chemicals including those released by the corals. New carbon is exchanged at least once a month.

    Calcium and alkalinity levels are maintained almost daily with a 2 part additive. Magnesium is added when needed.


    Other tasks include; stirring up the shallow sand bed with an acrylic rod, basting the live rock, cutting back macro algae, cleaning the glass with a razor, cleaning and inspecting powerheads and filters, and manually topping off daily with distilled water.

    Biology Over Technology

    This tank relies heavily on biology in regard to filtration. The lack of a protein skimmer allows the corals and inhabitants to feed more from the water column, contributing to large polyp extension and positive growth rates. In a system such as this, it is important to keep waste and food particles in suspension to be filtered out or consumed by organisms including corals. To process nitrates the live rock must be very porous with numerous deep holes and depressions. All the rock was carefully hand selected with this in mind. The number and size of the fish must not exceed the tanks capacity to process waste and nutrients.

    Once in balance and stable, a tank like this has several advantages. There is less equipment to pay for and the odds of mechanical failure are diminished. The tank is extremely quiet and there is very little in the way of visible equipment. The potential for more biodiversity can occur when not running a protein skimmer.

    Tips and Tricks

    Every 2 months or so the tank will undergo a 3 day black out. During this period only ambient sunlight hits the tank. The fish remain active and feeding. Some corals will open up slightly but most stay closed. After each black-out the tank looks amazingly clear and the corals respond very favorably the next day. I began doing the black-outs to mainly combat diatom and micro algae blooms that occurred during the early stages of the tank. After observing the positive results and overall impact on my tank I still choose to do them on a regular basis even though outbreaks are long gone.

    For the hobbyist that does not run a refugium, adding macro algae (particularly chaetomorphia) to the display has several benefits. In the display the algae will get strong lighting and will have a better chance to out-compete undesirable algae. Strong lighting allows the algae to have considerable uptake capacity with regard to phosphates and nitrates. The algae also makes a great environment for various pods and beneficial organisms.

    Waste water from your tank and a toothbrush can be useful for cleaning powerheads and other items. It can also be wise to save some incase of an emergency. I typically save a few gallons until the next water change.

    Future Plans

    Time may be running out for this tank as the corals will eventually crowd each other. Hopefully I will be able to afford an upgrade when the time comes to acquire more room. My plans are for a rimless 5 foot shallow tank that holds just under 60 gallons. I intend to set this tank up in the same manner with the exception that I may run LED lights along with the T5s.


    I hope all of you found this featured profile to be interesting and informative. I would like to thank Chris and all the people here for allowing me to share with you my little slice of the ocean. Its an honor and a privilege to be showcased and recognized for my dedication to the hobby.



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