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  • Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to Uhuru for being selected for our May Reef Profile! His 20 gallon nano reef features a rare collection of non-photosynthetic coral and invertebrates. Below he has written a profile of his aquarium's progress over the past year, and shares his experiences in the hobby. Check it out and share your comments and questions in Uhuru's featured reef profile thread.


    Tank Specs

    Display: 17" L x 17" W x 16" H Elos Mini with Elos sump and stand
    Lighting: Nanotuners Par38 20K LED lamp with 80 degree optics
    Filtration: Euro-Reef RC80 skimmer, Ozotech Poseidon Ozonizer, NextReef MR1 Shorty Media Reactor with activated carbon
    Circulation: Vortech MP10 – long pulse mode @ 90% intensity, Eheim Compact return pump
    Controller: Neptune Systems Aquacontroller Jr., Milwaukee ORP controller


    Established June 2009 using previously cycled rock and sand.

    Maintenance Routine

    • 25% water change with Instant Ocean twice a week.
    • ATO – Tunze Osmolator.
    • Salinity maintained at 1.025.
    • Temperature maintained between 72-74 F.
    • 2.5 mL Kent Tech-I iodine supplement once a week.
    • Activated carbon changed once every 2-3 weeks.
    • Pumps and equipment cleaned once a month.


    • Continuous 0.40 mL/hr Reed Mariculture Shellfish Diet.
    • Continuous 1.10 mL/hr Reef Nutrition Roti-Feast.
    • Mix of frozen rotifers, Cyclop-eeze, Ocean Nutrition Instant Baby Brine Shrimp, Fauna Marin Ultra Sea Fan, Ultra Min F, Ultra Min D and Elos SVC Zooplankton target fed about 10 times a day.
    • Mix of Fauna Marin Ultra Clam, Ultra Min F, Ultra Sea Fan, Ultra Life, Ultra Pac, Elos SVC Zooplankton and Prodibio Reefbooster dosed manually about 5 times a day.
    • Frozen mysis shrimp, New Life Spectrum small pellets and Fauna Marin Ultra LPS Grow + Color soaked in vitamins and/or Selcon target fed to LPS corals once a day.
    • Live feeder fish or shrimp fed to Antennarius pictus one to two times a week.

    Fish & Invertebrates

    Antennarius pictus (Painted Frogfish)
    • Crinoid feather star
    Pseudocolochirus axilogus (Australian Sea Apple)
    Trikentrion flabelliforme (Aussie Red Spider Sponge)


    Archohelia rediviva
    Balanophyllia sp.
    Dendrophyllia sp.
    Dendronephthya sp.
    Diodogorgia nodulifera
    Distichopora sp.
    Guaiagorgia sp.
    Menella sp.
    Rhizotrochus typus
    Scleronephthya sp.
    Swiftia exserta
    Tubastrea sp.
    • Unidentified gorgonians


    This is my first attempt at keeping a non-photosynthetic tank, and I am constantly adjusting or modifying my methods. The inspiration behind this tank came largely from the work of Chuck Stottlemire and his 180 gallon non-photosynthetic tank which is no longer running. I also found inspiration from The Aquarium of The Pacific’s non-photosynthetic tank in Long Beach, and a handful of private aquariums. Some of the most challenging upgrades to this tank have come from the implementation of different automated feeding systems. The use of syringe pumps to continuously dose Shellfish Diet and Roti-Feast has proven to be the most consistent way to deliver food to the corals and inhabitants, however not all of the livestock responds to these foods in the steady amounts they are dosed. After trying various automated feeding methods, I get the best response from all of my inhabitants by manual feeding throughout the day, as it provides a “surge” of a wider variety of plankton. Since I am unable to manually dose when I am asleep or away from home, the syringe pumps continue to play a vital role in feeding this system. The greatest upgrades to this system in terms of filtration have come from installing an oversized skimmer and an ozone generator. The ozone (and perhaps even the skimmer) may seem counterintuitive, but aside from making the water clear it seems to result in faster response to food by the corals as well as increased polyp extension.

    Disasters & Regrets

    This tank has had its share of disasters, and it would take too long for me to share them all. Creating a successful and thriving non-photosynthetic reef is especially challenging because there is so much trial and error involved with very little information on how to succeed. Early on this tank suffered a crash which was minimized by several large water changes. Although I hate it when anything in my care dies, what I regret the most from this was losing a beautiful red on red Dendronephthya and a Rhizotrochus typus. My ultimate goal is to find long term success in keeping Dendronephthya and Scleronephthya species of corals. I believe I am on the right track, but there is still a lot of room for progress. My future plan is to incorporate an automatic "food reactor" that will allow me to provide surges of particulate foods throughout the day and night.

    Words Of Wisdom

    I want to encourage nano reefers to continue being innovative and advancing the hobby. I think there are special advantages with our smaller tanks that allow us to push the envelope in ways that people with larger tanks would have a much harder time pulling off. For those that want to attempt a non-photosynthetic tank, high water quality is just as important as frequent, appropriate feeding. I would go so far as to say it is actually higher on the list of priorities. In the vast majority of cases, water quality is the primary problem behind fish diseases, sick corals and failing systems.


    There are increasing numbers of maricultured Dendronephthya spp., Scleronephthya spp., and other azooxanthellae species becoming available in the hobby. Although they are still rare, please purchase maricultured NPS corals whenever you have the choice. Hopefully in the future we will see true captive bred/aquacultured NPS gorgonians, soft corals, and other species available for the hobby.


    I took a long hiatus from this hobby but it was the emergence of nano reefs that brought me back. Because of this I would like to thank Nano-Reef.com and all of the forum members that have helped, supported and encouraged me from the time I set up my first nano reef until now. I would also like to thank my LFS Phishy Business (a Nano-Reef.com sponsor) for introducing me to non-photosynthetic corals and continuing to feed my addiction. I have to thank PNWMAS my local reef club when I lived in Oregon, and CORA my local reef club now. Support your local reef clubs! Finally I have to thank those that helped pioneer the successful keeping of non-photosynthetic corals in private aquaria, and I hope that I am able to inspire my fellow nano-reefers to take it to the next level and give non-photosynthetic species a try.



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    Absolutely stunning. I too, am very interested in NPS corals, but have been hesitant to take the full on plunge with a dedicated tank. Its success stories like this that really encourage the rest of us to step up. Congratulations on your recognition for a truly inspiring tank.

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    What a great tank.

    I do not know much about NPS. It must be way more difficult than PS. Do they actually grow for example Diodogorgia? I am just curious.

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