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Innovative Marine Aquariums
  • andrewkw

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to Andrewkw for being selected for our April Reef Profile! His 2 gallon pico reef has quickly grown into beautifully diverse and carefully crafted ecosystem. 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 Andrewkw's featured reef profile thread.


    I am very honored to have my pico reef featured on Nano-Reef.com! I originally found this website in 2005 and started a 15 gallon nano reef. I now have a large scale 112 gallon reef aquarium, a 90 gallon cephalopod tank currently housing an octopus, as well as this 2 gallon pico reef. I have always been interested in the special needs of pico tanks but never built one until last year. This pico is still young, but my only real goal was to have a tank that looked great and was tank of the month quality. It seems I have reached by goal!

    Tank Specs

    • Display: 8.66" x 6.69" x 8.66". The back 2" is separated by a false wall and overflow. Total water volume is approximately 2 gallons.
    • Lighting: PAR 30 3 Royal Blue and 2 Cool White CREE LEDs with 60 degree optics. Bulb is housed in a discount store light fixture.
    • Circulation: Stock return pump replaced with Mini Jet 404, second Zoo Med Micro powerhead added behind false wall.
    • Heater: No heater, I don't trust the small ones.
    • Biological Filtration: 2x Red Mangroves
    • Filter Media: GFO and carbon in the back chamber.
    • Top-off: JBJ ATO, powered with Aqua Lifter.


    Established June, 2010.

    Maintenance Routine

    • Weekly .75 gallon water changes – done to replace trace elements and lower phosphates.
    • 1.4 mL of Bulk Reef Supply alkalinity added 2-3 times per week.
    • Magnesium added when needed, approximately monthly.
    • Mangroves occasionally misted, but rarely.
    • Acrylic cleaned with Two Little Fishies NanoMag every few days.
    • Frozen food fed 1-2 times per week, pellets 1-2 times per week.
    • ½ tablespoon of GFO and carbon in back chamber.


    When necessary I run a Red Sea Deco hang-on-back filter, which allows more water to pass through the GFO and carbon, and I add a polypad to the filter. This is only run when phosphates are very high and is taken off at next water change. Phosphates are tested every few days via a Milwaukee digital photometer.

    SPS Coral

    Acropora unknown
    • Sexy shrimp eat all the Montipora

    LPS Coral

    Acanthastrea lordhowensis
    Acanthastrea echinata x3
    Favia unknown
    • Duncans
    Euphyllia fimbriata

    Soft Coral

    • Green star polyps
    • Purple star polyps
    • Florida ricordia
    • Red mushrooms
    • Zoanthids
    • Palythoas
    • Palythoa grandi's
    • Cespitularia
    • White xenia


    • Sexy Shrimp x3
    • Pom Pom Crab
    • Porcelain Crab
    • Mini Carpet Anemone
    • Miscellaneous Sponges
    • Stometellas
    • Many Bristleworms
    • A dozen or more asterina stars
    • Lots of other various micro fauna – if the acrylic is not cleaned for a few days 1000s of copepods appear on the walls.


    • Green Clown Goby (Gobiodon atrangulatus)


    I started this tank in June 2010. While this makes it pretty new, I did use existing live rock and sand and was stocking the aquarium within a couple of days. In this time a few corals have died, but many have grown well, and I like to think of the system as both very stable and mature now.

    I originally bought this tank on impulse, but it didn't take long to get going. I quickly learned that out of the box this aquarium cannot be used for reef keeping. One mistake I made was trying to make do with the stock lighting, they claimed 50,000 hour life, but well within 2,000 hours they were already dimming! Adding more fixtures helped for a short time, but their lifespan is so short that it just wasn't practical or affordable to keep switching them out. It was not until I switched to a PAR 30 that I could keep SPS and see noticeable growth. I also added the second powerhead while the tank was already running, I just drained it enough to drill a hole in the false wall. If I had planned this out better it could have been more functional, but the added flow helps enough! I didn't have the auto top off for awhile, but since adding it things have become much easier to maintain.

    Thoughts On Pico Reefs

    Pico reefs are a lot different than running a regular reef aquarium, and even a nano reef. A 20 gallon nano reef has 10x the water volume of my tank, which is as great of a difference as a 200 gallon aquarium to that 20. A nano reef can basically be run like a big tank only with smaller scale equipment, but such options do not exist for pico's at this time, at least not for one as small as mine. There are no available skimmers that can fit in the back chamber. There are no media reactors I can use to house GFO and carbon. Even powerhead options are extremely limited.

    For people starting a pico reef just remember how hard it is going to be to place corals. I did not do this, but I would consider stocking it from the bottom up. There have been times when I knocked over three corals just trying to place one. There were also times when coral frags were too big to go in, so I had to frag the frags. Thinking things through before acting on them is all the more important in a pico!


    If they did make teeny tiny skimmers I certainly would consider one. The PAR style LED light bulbs available now will allow you to basically keep any type of coral in any sized tank, which is great. Just a few years ago I would have been stuck with either PC lighting or a 70w MH and a chiller.

    Words Of Wisdom

    Monitor all parameters weekly until you figure out what is swinging, and then you can mostly test for those. Don't underestimate how quickly alkalinity or even magnesium can be used up. Don't overfeed, it's very easy to do in a small tank. In a larger tank it will have little to no impact, but in pico's every little thing really does have an effect. If possible place your tank somewhere that it can get some natural sunlight. Natural light really adds to my tank, being able to view it with nothing but sunlight and with the tank lights on.


    Remember that the stock tank you buy will almost certainly not suit your needs out of the box. You will need to modify it, add additional equipment and make other changes. IMO even though a lot of these pico sized tanks are advertised as capable of sustaining a mini reef, none are built with long term success in mind. As of now I'm not aware of a pico sized tank that works out of the box, although with their continued popularity hopefully it won't be much longer until there is one that has everything you need in a single box.



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    i saw the picture and was like omfg! that maxi mini is like a foot across!!! lololololol not realizing it was only a 2 gallon tank!

    great tank man!

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