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  • squirrelieygrrrl

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to squirrelieygrrrl for being selected for our November Reef Profile! Her 16 gallon nano reef has grown into a beautifully diverse coral garden. Below she has written a profile of her aquarium's progress over the past year, and shares her experiences in the hobby. Check it out and share your comments and questions in squirrelieygrrrl's featured reef profile thread.


    Tank Specs

    Display: Aqueon 16 Gallon Bowfront, 20" x 13" x 18"
    Lighting: 150w Sunpod (20k Ushio)
    Heating: 100w Visitherm Stealth
    Filtration: Tom Rapids Mini Canister Filter (80gph). Run with filter floss, Chemi-Pure Elite, and Lifeguard Pelletized Carbon
    Circulation: Zoo Med PowerSweep 212 Power Head. (125gph)
    Skimmer: Red Sea Prizm Protein Skimmer with Media Basket (Filter floss on top of Lifeguard Carbon)
    Cooling: Mini Desktop Fan


    Established October 2009 been evolving ever since.

    Maintenance Routine

    • 5 gallon water changes twice a week.
    • Empty and clean skimmer cup every 3-4 days.
    • Clean the canister, and replace the filter floss and carbon weekly. Change the carbon and filter floss in the skimmers media basket weekly.
    • Daily Manual top offs.
    • Complete Breakdown of all equipment and cleaning 1-2 times monthly.
    • Clean the glass twice a week.
    • Clean the glass shield on the light once a month.
    • Blast the rocks twice a month to suspend detritus and then polish the water with filter floss placed in the powerhead's intake.
    • Monthly pruning of corals and Macro Algae.
    • Every Third day the tank is fed, alternating with Emerald Entree, Rotifers, and Hikari Enriched Brine soaked in Selcon.
    • Dosing: Once a week; 1ml of Brightwell's Coral Amino, .05 ml Kent Lugol's, 1ml Brightwells Reef Code A, .5 ml of Code B. Every third day .2ml of Brightwell's KoralColor.


    Duncanopsammia axifuga
    Blastomussa wellsi
    Acanthastrea lordhowensis
    Acanthastrea Maxima
    Acanthastrea rotundoflora
    Lobophyllia hemprichii
    Leptastrea pruinosa
    Leptastrea aequalis
    Acanthophyllia deshayesiana
    Trachyphyllia geoffroyi
    Echinophyllia echinata
    Favia Rotundata
    • Mystery coral (Pectinia sp.?)
    Zoanthus sp.
    Palaythoa sp.
    Actiniodiscus sp.
    Rhodactis sp.
    Ricordea florida
    Ricordea yuma
    Xenia sp.
    Seriatopora hystrix
    Seriatopora guttatus
    Porties sp.
    Hydnophora rigida
    Montipora digitata
    Montipora danae
    Acropora yongei
    Acropora valida
    Acropora hyacinthus
    Acropora formosa
    Acropora millepora
    Acropora lokani
    Acropora sp. (Unidentified table)


    Tridacna maxima
    Spirobranchus giganteus (Christmas Tree Worms)
    Sabellastarte magnifica (Coco Worm)
    Alpheus bidens (Non-Commensal Pistol Shrimp)
    • Various clean up crew; including snails, stars, crabs, and common hitchikers


    Premnas biaculeatus (Maroon Clown)


    I discovered this fantastic hobby turned obsession back in 2007 with a 10 gallon All Glass Aquarium and a lot of inspiration. After enough pitfalls to make an Atari game, and enough successes to balance it all out I was hooked. The 10 gallon lasted for about a year and a half and was nothing to write home about, but it was a necessary precursor to my existing tank. Learning so much about reef ecosystems, and implementing that on a minute scale. I moved in late 2009 which is what lead me to building the 16 gallon.


    Since I had to move it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start fresh. Most of the livestock was transferred to the new tank as well as all of the preexisting equipment, along with new rocks and sand. This time I took into account most of the things I didn't think of the first time during the build stages. About two months after this system was set up I added more rock which led to about 3 months of endless aquascaping, and subsequent collapse after collapse. After a fair amount blood sweat and tears I was finally able to dial it in, getting a nice mix of caves, walls and shelves. The aquascape was a struggle to achieve, as its all just stacked rocks. During the aquascape period of the tank it also suffered a relatively severe water quality issue, in part due to the cycles I was creating with the aquascaping madness, and a faulty RO membrane. I lost several colonies. A prime example of why you shouldn't try to force or rush, and why you should be keenly observant.


    Finally the tank was stable enough to really start stocking, and then the fun really began for me. Now that I had my methodology all worked out, and gleaning from what I had learned the first time, I got into the groove. I really wanted to achieve a nice balance of corals to get that mixed reef look, though now it is slowly transitioning into an SPS dominated reef. In terms of stocking I really didn't have much of a plan other than trying to add only Indo-Pacific species and achieving a nice mix of colors and texture. For the most part I have achieved that goal aside from one Ricordea florida, and a few other mismatches that didn't last. I am at the point now where there is very little room to spare. The few spots I have left are slated for very specific things.


    In terms of critters I have found that the tank is really meant for just the clownfish. Any time I have tried to add a second fish to the system it has always been unsuccessful. In part I contribute that to the pistol shrimp. She is extremely aggressive and kills any fish that dares to venture in to the rocks. She is also a constant excavator, constantly redesigning her cave system. Which makes placing corals on the sand bed near impossible because I never know if it is going to end up under the rocks in one of her caves. However I think my success in keeping higher demand filter feeders has been possible only due to there being constantly suspended material in the water column. Though I only have 3 of the original 10 Christmas Tree Worms left, I have managed to keep them alive for almost 3 years now.


    I rarely test the tank unless something looks really off. Mostly I just observe to adjust the care of the tank accordingly. I think these keen observation sessions and concurrent obsessive maintenance routine are the only reasons I have had any success. I guess being crazy has its advantages after all.

    Inspiration & Goals

    So many things have inspired me in this hobby, every thing from the wonders of what reefs in nature possess to what can be achieved in a box 'o water. One thing has always been constant and that is reef keeping in simplicity. I have a thing for a spectacular tank built on a budget using relatively simple reef keeping methodology. I tend to shy away from the automated reef, I'm a hands on kind of gal for sure. Peoples tanks that have inspired me and have led me to where I am now: c est ma, junkitu, bluebastion, and Wawawang to name a few.


    Now I intend on attempting to replicate those Japanese SPS dominated reefs with spot lighting. That is my plan for the next incantation of this tank. Additionally I am interested in attempting more complicated methods and using more specialized equipment. Also using more complex tactics in terms of achieving a desired balance in the water chemistry department. So in short my ideas on a K.I.S.S. reef may also be evolving into something more. I am tempted to implement some of these ideas for my reef keeping methodology on this tank before I upgrade to a larger tank, so I can work out the kinks in a system I'm more comfortable with. Like doing vodka dosing to create a ULNS, and use of various supplements to influence specific coral coloration's. Simple is great and all, but now I wanna play!


    I've had my fair share of near catastrophes since I first got into the hobby. Everything from near electrocutions, to a faulty RO membrane, to several near fatal overdosing incidents. Interestingly enough all of the mistakes I've made over the years have not resulted in any complete tank failure. Only minor losses of one or two species per foible. The two truly serious disasters I've had have been related to other people. One incident with an over zealous tank sitter with access to fish food. Who thought the clowns looked starved. Which nearly eradicated every bit of live stock in my 10 gallon. "...but they looked so hungry" she said. Famous last words there. The other incident was when I erroneously trusted a LFS employee that I had thought was the ideal person to watch my tank while I was going through my lengthy move. He claimed he didn't know where 1/3 of my livestock went. What he did actually confess to selling was limited in comparison to what I believe actually was sold. You don't just loose that many corals over the course of 3 weeks with out being able to account for where they went. Oh well, lesson learned there albeit an expensive one. Make sure you really know and trust the person who is watching your tank for you while you're gone. Though these hiccups during my years spent reef keeping were disheartening, I have definitely not been deterred. Only inspired to get it right the next time!


    • Adding that stinking pistol shrimp, and keeping her after the tank move.
    • Not nipping that neat tuft of blue green metallic macro algae (Byropsis) in the bud when I had the chance.
    • Not adding a sumpfugium to my existing setup before stocking it.
    • Not researching as much as I should have on certain additions or situations.
    • Not finding this site sooner.

    Words Of Wisdom

    First and foremost an old stand by mantra for all seasoned reef keepers is research, research, research. In my opinion I feel this is the key when making any sort of change, addition, or upgrade. It can prevent any serious consequences. Taking things slow and creating a plan and a subsequent plan B are key. In addition, sleeping on those plans and reevaluating them later to make sure your decisions and ideas are sound. Don't be afraid to ask questions, find people to bounce your ideas off of first. Take things slow, really slow, and never attempt to make drastic changes. Furthermore don't attempt to correct your hastily implemented change by further drastic means. Contingency plans are often overlooked in this hobby but in my opinion definitely not overrated. A solid one can dramatically limit losses. That lesson is one learned from personal experience.


    I feel the importance of water changes, regular maintenance and obsessive equipment cleaning is paramount. I believe this is the real key to a successful nano-reef, point blank. I don't think that fact can be stressed enough, if you notice things don't look as good as they should, do water changes till things get back on track. Most often this is the solution to an issue.


    Finally, though thankfully this one goes hand in hand with our lovely hobby, is observation. Combined with research so that you fully understand what it is that you're observing. Having a trained eye can be an invaluable asset.


    I would like to thank the Nano-Reef.com community for everything, your support, contributions, ideas, criticism, laughs and banter. If it weren't for you all we would never have been able to get where we are today. Thank you to those who considered me for TOTM, I am truly honored. A big thank you to Christopher Marks for creating and maintaining this site, it is in my opinion a cornerstone for our hobby. I am truly grateful.


    Keep it salty friends.


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    aw thanks so much guys!


    I am so honored. truly.




    that shrimp is so neat, but such a pain in the butt too. some times i wonder if she is more trouble than shes worth.


    congrats you have a very nice reef B)

    :rant: that guy who sold your corals what happened afterward... you shoot him?




    I think he got fired. not long after that happened he was no longer working at my lfs. retribution of sorts. though they did compensate me with store credit, sort of. though it didnt total to what was lost it definitely made it sting less.

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    Where I'm from he would have been :ninja: really :mellow:


    Any future plans or new additions omgomgomg


    lulz! oh trust me, when i got home and started to unpack every thing i was livid. <_<


    At the moment not a whole lot, other than dialing down what ever is causing my sps coloration issues. im tempted to start vodka dosing also to see if that helps things. eventually i intend on moving everything to a much larger system. maybe a 40 breeder. i love the look of these long tanks.


    id really like to replicate those japanese sps spot lit tanks on a smaller scale. omgomgomg



    neeto tank and nice clown


    wish I could get my corals too look like that...



    thank you so much Squared. funny thing is to me i think my colors leave something to be desired at the moment. lol. eye of the beholder and all that jazz. :lol:



    That pistol would be cool for like a 5-10 gallon pistol shrimp only tank.


    i agree completely after having her for all these years. non-commensal pistols should definitely be in a species tank. though she is neat for sure. id say you could have her, but i dont think theres any easy way to get her out of there. lol! beyond breaking the whole darn tank down.

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