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  • Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to Sushi for being selected for our August Reef Profile! His 20 gallon nano reef is a magnificently sculpted diverse ecosystem. Below he has written a profile of his aquarium's progress over the past two years, and shares his experiences in the hobby. Check it out and share your comments and questions in Sushi's featured reef profile thread.


    Tank Specs

    Display: 17" L x 17" W x 16" H ELOS System Mini (20 gallons)
    Sump: ELOS 100 Sump with modified baffles (~8 gallons)
    Lighting: Maxspect LED-G2-400-160w
    Filtration: Tunze 9002, Filter Sock, LR rubble
    Top Off: Tunze Osmolator 3155 + Tunze Osmolator Calcium Dispenser 5074
    Circulation: ELOS Mini Return pump, Vortech MP10 on Battery Back Up (Lagoonal Mode @ 80%)
    Controller: Digital Aquatics Reef Keeper 2 with Temperature and pH probe

    Established November 2008, rescaped and reworked in September 2009.

    Maintenance Routine

    • Weekly water change with 1-2 gallons of Scripps Institute of Oceanography's Filtered Sea Water (approx. 5% water volume)
    • Top off performed by the Tunze Osmolator 3155 which runs through a Kalkwasser slurry in the 5074 Dispenser.
    • Manual dosing of Tropic Marin Pro Coral Elements A/K, Tropic Marin Bio-Calcium, Kent Tech M, Source Naturals - Vitamin C (weekly)
    • Clean Tunze 9002 Skimmer Cup and rinse/clean/replace filter sock (bi-monthly)
    • Chemipure Elite (replaced every 2-3 months)
    • Daily feedings, usually a small pre-mixed assortment of foods (rotifers/cyclopeeze/baby brine/mini mysis/plankton, etc.)
    • Temperature maintained between 76-78 degrees Fahrenheit, summer temps at 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Specific gravity maintained between 1.025-1.026, stable pH at 8.2


    My photoperiod is considered "short" when compared to other lighting cycles. My Maxspect G2-400-160w is on for 7 hours total. Within the seven hours, there is only one hour where all channels of light are activated. I have adjusted my photoperiod numerous times since upgrading to the G2, and have found this setup to be the most effective for my tank inhabitants. During the off hours during daylight, the receives indirect sunlight.

    (A) Actinics: 3w Blue/Violet LEDs - ON for 7 hours
    (M) Mixed: 3w White/Blue/Violet LEDs - ON for 5 hours
    (W) Whites: 30w Whites LEDs - ON for 1 hours

    (A) on at 2PM, (M) on at 3PM, (W) on at 5PM
    (W) off at 6PM, (M) off at 8PM, (A) off at 9PM


    • Various LPS (acan/blasto/dendro/duncan)
    • Various Rics/Yumas
    • Various Zoas/Palys
    • Various SPS (birdsnest/montipora)


    • Various Inverts (mini nems, feather dusters, rusty gorgonian)
    • Nassarius snails (8)
    • Bumblebee snails (4)
    • Turban snails (2)
    • Cerith snails (4)
    • Scarlet hermits (4)
    • Emerald crab (1)
    • Peppermint shrimp (2)


    • 2 Elacatinus multifasciatum - Greenbanded Gobies
    • 3 Eviota pellucida - Gold Neon Eviota Goby
    • 1 Apogon cyanosoma - Orange-Lined Cardnialfish
    • 1 Assessor flavissimus - ORA Gold Assessor Basslet


    My long journey through this hobby has brought my ELOS System Mini through its fair share of ups and downs. In September 2008, this system was set up with a goal of maintaining a breeding pair of clownfish with a few red bubble tip anemones. Unfortunately, this concept never achieved fruition as the tank eventually succumbed to a terrible infestation of Caulerpa racemosa. The battle against the terribly invasive Caulerpa was quickly lost due to inactivity and laziness on my part; soon after, the display area was a overrun Caulerpa forest. After nearly 9 months of having the tank in a condition of disarray, I decided I couldn't let this disaster carry on any longer.


    With inspiration from other Nano-Reef members, TOTM winners, and my previous setups, I decided that it was time to get my act together and bring out the potential of this beautiful ELOS setup. In September 2009, I completely "gutted" the tank by removing all infested pieces of live rock/sand and with a lot of cleaning/scraping/wiping, I managed to return the tank to a presentable condition. My re-scaping was performed with a new batch of freshly cured live rock.

    Aquascaping is a very important and personal task to me. A cube-like aquarium has always been a challenging aquascaping endeavor for me because of the constrained proportions and height. The extra "top space" of a cube can be difficult to utilize effectively when compared to the more easily scaped and now very popular "shallow/wide" aquariums. Vision is critical when aquascaping, and with a cube, space must be accurately used or purposefully left out to achieve a good sense of depth and scale. This was my first cube aquascape and ultimately, I decided on creating one large cave with a minimal amount of rock to create a "skeleton" base for corals to grow on. Many people aquascape their reefs with more rock than necessary, and oftentimes forget that corals will occupy much needed space within the rockwork. I made a conscious effort to leave open spaces and gaps so that I could eventually populate those areas with properly placed corals. With the aquascaping complete and a new overall look to the tank, the revitalization process was moving along smoothly. Once my water parameters reached stable levels, I began to slowly stock my nano-reef with an assortment of captive grown or maricultured frags (mostly zoanthids and LPS corals). Eventually, captive grown SPS frags were slowly introduced into the tank. As time progressed, slowly yet surely, corals started to fill in.


    The equipment on the tank has also undergone upgrades throughout the years. The most notable would be the replacement of the ELOS e-Lite with a Maxspect G2 (both are LED light fixtures). The Maxspect G2 is a 160w version with a couple 3w white LEDs replaced with blue and violet LEDs for a ~14K-20K appearance depending on which channels are on. In addition to changing out the lighting, the sump has also been reworked with a flow path that has been redirected to maximize sump space. During the flow path switch, the stock ELOS NS100 skimmer was replaced with a Tunze 9002. I felt more comfortable with 9002 because of my previous success and experience with this skimmer. Extra space within the sump was filled with live rock rubble for a little extra filtration.

    Since the revival of my ELOS System Mini in September 2009, the corals and inhabitants of the system have been healthily and steadily growing. It has been nearly one year now and I am extremely happy to know that my efforts in maintaining a nano-reef has paid off. Amongst all the corals on my nano-reef, my favorite would be the ORA Green Birdsnest. In retrospect, I regret not devoting the time this system deserved from Day 1. Even to this day I battle small outbreaks of algae, but I have learned that every setup has the potential of achieving success as long as proper effort, time, and care is devoted into the upkeep.

    Future Plans

    There are always improvements to be made, but currently, I don't have any immediate plans for the future besides maintaining my current routine. As for the corals, I will have to start fragging soon, since many corals have already grown to the point where they are competing for space. I plan on fragging a few select areas of the tank to maintain distance and overall perspective of the layout. If I can make the space on the sand bed, I would love to add a clam. I am excited to see how the tank will fully mature within another year or two when the SPS frags grow out into fully formed mini-colonies.

    Additional Thoughts

    After the initial cycle, the only parameters that I routinely monitor are salinity, temperature, and pH. Great water quality with stability at the proper levels and good reef-keeping practices will help guide you towards keeping a successful nano-reef. Plan your aquascape very carefully with the thought of corals placement in mind. Changes and additions to your nano-reef should be done incrementally with proper research prior to action. If I learned one thing throughout these years as a nano-reefer, it's patience. No matter how fervently we feel about the hobby and our aquariums, we must remember that it is our responsibility to provide our reefs with the best possible environment to thrive in.


    I am grateful for discovering and joining the www.Nano-Reef.com community back in 2004. The forum members and friends that I have made here have encouraged and guided me throughout these years. This community is an invaluable source of information for both beginners and pros alike and I attribute that to the awesome members of this community who make this place so special. Lastly, I want to respectfully thank Christopher Marks for taking the time to consider and feature my setup. Thank you Nano-Reef.com, happy reefing!



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    Beautiful as alway sushi, some how i just knew you gonna be TOTM soon just couldn't believe it's actually today! Congrats to you and best of luck!

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    Congrats Sushi!!


    Incredible tank! I was hoping for this tank to be TOTM one day.



    What are your thoughts on keeping gorgonions?

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