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Innovative Marine Aquariums
  • Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to uwwmatt for being selected for our June Reef Profile! His 25 gallon nano reef has matured into a beautiful collection of coral, invertebrates, and fish. Below he has written a profile of his aquarium's progress over the past year and a half, and shares his experiences in the hobby. Check it out and share your comments and questions in uwwmatt's featured reef profile thread.


    Tank Specs

    Display: 24 1/4" L x 12 1/2" W x 20 3/4" H, 25 gallons
    Sump: Standard 10 gallon glass aquarium
    Lighting: 150W Sunpod w/14k Aquamaxx bulb
    Filtration: AquaC Urchin Skimmer, ViaAqua Poly-Reactor running activated carbon
    Circulation: Vortech MP20 set @ 100% reef crest mode, Mag 5 return pump
    Equipment: Tsunami Auto Top-Off system, 3 fan cooling unit, Air Water & Ice Mighty Mite RO/DI
    Controller: Digital Aquatics Reefkeeper Lite with SL2 + Salinity and temperature probes


    Established with the livestock from my 14G BioCube on January 11th, 2009.

    Maintenance Routine

    • Weekly 20% water changes
    • Constant monitoring salinity and temperature
    • Bi-Weekly feedings.
    • Frozen foods: San Francisco Bay Marine Cuisine, Emerald Entree, Omega Brine Shrimp, Squid, Cyclopeeze fish and invertebrate feed
    • Dry Food: Kent Platinum Reef Carnivore pellets, Aquarian Algae Eater chips
    • Parameters: Temp 77-79, SG 1.025
    • Dosing: Two Little Fishies C-Balance 2x week


    Euphyllia paranchora (Branching Hammer)
    Lobophytum sp (Devil's Hand)
    Caulastrea curvata (Trumpet Coral)
    Caulastrea furcata (Candy Cane)
    Euphyllia paradivisa (Frogspawn)
    Sinularia brassica (Cabbage Leather)
    Seriatopora hystrix (Pink Bird's Nest)
    Seriatopora guttatus (Green Bird's Nest)
    Capnella sp (Kenya Tree)
    Sarcophyton sp. (Toadstool Leather)
    Cynarina lacrymalis (Button Coral)
    Pachyclavularia (GSP)
    Ricordea florida
    Tubipora musica (Pipe Organ)
    Fungia repanda (Plate Coral)
    Actinodiscus sp. (Mushrooms)
    Anthelia sp
    Montipora Spongodes
    Duncanopsammia axifuga (Duncan)
    Parazoanthus spp (Yellow Colony Polyps)
    Protopalythoa spp. (Button Polyps)
    Zoanthus spp (Zoanthids)
    Lobophyllia hemprichii (Brain Coral)
    Montipora sp.


    Epicystis crucifer (Rock Flower Anemone)
    Thor amboinensis (Sexy Shrimp)
    Neopetrolisthes ohshimai (Porcelain Anemone Crab)
    Lybia sp (Pom Pom Crab)
    Lysmata amboinensis (Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp)
    Calcinus elegans (Electric Blue Hermit)
    Clibanarius tricolor (Dwarf Blue Leg Hermit)
    Paguristes cadenati (Scarlet Hermit)
    Ophiactis spp. (Micro Brittle Stars)
    • Asterina Starfish


    Amblyeleotris guttata (Orange Spotted Goby)
    Apogon chrysopomus (Spotted-gill cardinalfish) x2
    Amphiprion percula (Clownfish)
    Chromis viridis (Blue/Green Chromis)


    My original goal when I set out to upgrade my 14g Biocube was to piece together a mixed reef tank on a limited budget. I did not have anything specific in mind other than I knew it needed to have powerful enough lighting to grow SPS and I wanted a sump. I made use of my local reef club's classified forums and Craigslist to see if anything caught my eye. Within a week I had all the parts I would need to get started, and less then a month later I was ready to transfer my livestock.


    Now that my tank has been around for almost a year and a half my goal is still to try and keep things cheap (equipment and livestock). I have made a few expensive purchases (ie MP20) but like almost everything else I have purchased for my tank, it was used. My coral purchases are largely from fellow reefers purchased through classified ads or at local frag swaps. I try never spending more than $15 on a single frag, and for the most part my purchases are between $5-$10. This means I don't have any huge "show stoppers," but part of the joy I get out of this hobby is watching how small frags mature.


    My tank has suffered two major disasters since its inception. They happened in close succession in May and July of 2009, and after the second mishap I almost left the hobby. The first disaster was due to a spontaneous leak that developed in my sump one night. When I finally found my tank in the morning the sump was bone dry with pumps still running, and the main display had drained down several inches. To further complicate the problem, my ATO had kicked on and added 5 gallons of fresh water into my system. The specific gravity and temperature plummeted, and I had close to 15 gallons of water on my floor. Because of the way my tank and stand were set up, I needed to move the display from the stand so I could pull out the busted sump. I had thought that my 10g sump was just the standard size (I had purchased it from Craigslist), but unfortunately it was not. Every other 10g in my city was just a fraction of an inch wider and would not fit in my tank stand. This meant I had to totally redesign my stand, the new sump, and the plumbing. I took this opportunity to make some other improvements as well. This included adding sound proofing foam to the interior of the stand, and purchasing some new equipment to help monitor the tank. While I had expected the worst, things actually remained pretty stable in my tank and I had made it out with almost no losses. Even my SPS and clam had survived! Unfortunately they would not be so lucky a few months later.


    By the time July rolled around my tank had made a full recovery. I would say that at this time my tank was the best it would ever look. Then one day I invited some friends to stay the weekend at my apartment. On the morning they were leaving one of them needed an open power outlet. Rather than taking one of the many available around my house she reached behind my tank and grabbed a power strip and pulled it around to the front of my tank stand. This somehow dislodged my backup battery powered air pump and knocked it into my tank. My friends eventually left and I was tidying up when I noticed that all my corals were looking horrible. I quickly realized what had happened and unplugged the air pump and removed it from the tank. I don't know if it was stray voltage, grease from the pump motor, or something that leaked from the batteries, but my tank was not happy. I set about doing a large water change. Over the next several days I ran carbon and kept doing water changes, but things continued to look bad. When all was said and done almost all of my SPS were gone, my clam had died, 90% of my zoanthids were dead, and my cardinal fish trio had become a duo. The die off caused a mini cycle in my tank which further bothered livestock and created multiple algae outbreaks. Still to this day I am fighting GHA, an issue I had never had before.

    Future Plans

    I would always love to have a bigger tank with better equipment, but for the moment I think I am just going to let my tank continue to grow. I am getting married in August so my reefing budget has taken a hit! Eventually, maybe next year, I would like to upgrade to a larger tank with a much bigger sump. The 10g sump I am working with now is just too restrictive. The new tank will most likely be in the sub 50g range.

    Advice To New Reefers

    • When you see a problem fix it right away, with a permanent fix and not just a temporary one.
    • Secure your corals and rockwork. There is nothing more frustrating than having your corals die because they were knocked into another coral, or have your rockwork tumble over while you are trying to do a water change.
    • If you are getting your RO/DI water from the grocery store just suck it up and pay the $120 for a home unit. It will save you both time and money.
    • Buy used equipment or DIY when you can.
    • Buy your frags from other hobbyists. It is cheaper and helps protect our oceans.


    I would like to thank all the contributing members of Nano-Reef. When I was first starting out in this hobby I loved reading about all of your tanks, and appreciated the advice and encouragement I received. I would also like to thank all the people that make up MARS (Madison Area Reef Society), my local reef club.



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