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Pod Your Reef
  • Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to pj86 for being selected for our September Reef Profile! His 3 gallon pico reef has quickly grown into a diverse coral garden. Below is the profile he's written for us sharing his experience in the hobby and his aquarium's progress over the past year. Check it out and share your comments and questions in pj86's featured reef profile thread.


    Since I was a 11 years old, I have been fascinated with saltwater aquariums. It was not until thirteen years later that I was going to be able to set up my first saltwater aquarium, a 3 gallon JBJ picotope. Nine months ago, I had been browsing the internet and stumbled upon a picture of a small reef aquarium, el fabuloso's pico on Nano-Reef.com. This inspired me to start my own pico reef. At first I wanted to setup a simple pico, with soft corals and LPS, but it soon became a mixed reef. What had fascinated me the most were non-photosynthetic corals and filter feeders, and my system and maintenance became geared toward maintaining these types of livestock in such a small space. This aquarium has been running for 11 months now.

    Tank Specs

    Display: JBJ 3 Gallon Picotope (11.8" X 8.9" X 8.1")
    Lighting: 12" 2x18 Watt Current USA Powercompact Dual Satellite
    Refugium: Aqua Clear 70 (moded)
    Circulation: Aqua Clear 70 provides all the circulation
    Heater: Hydor Theo 25W (used only in winter)
    Fan: RE 4" Personal Fan
    Filtration: Aqua Clear 70, Chemi Pure Elite, Filter Floss
    Equipment: 4 x Aqualifters, DIY Cooled feeding
    Controller: Neptune Apex
    Age: 11 months

    Maintenance Routine

    At the beginning when the aquarium was setup, all maintenance was done manually. Due to school and time constraints, I gradually began making the system automatic through a Neptune Apex Controller. The following list will be divided in daily maintenance and weekly maintenance. Also, the list specifies if the controller does the task.

    Daily Maintenance

    • ~1.5-2.0 quarts of water change (controller)
    • 2 ml of Microscopic food
    • Feed microscopic food every 2 hours (controller)
    • Feed crushed Hikari Marine A pellets in the morning
    • Feed a pinch of Fauna Marin Ultra Min F in the morning
    • Feed occasional Fauna Marin Ultra LPS for larger polyps
    • Feed occasional Mysis and Cycloopeze


    • Change filter floss
    • Prepare 2.5 gallons of saltwater
    • Remove some chaeto if overgrown


    • Neon goby


    Montipora sp
    • Birdsnest


    • Sun polyp coral
    • Kryptonite candy cane
    • Acan

    Soft Corals

    • GSP (3 types)
    • Blue clove polyps
    • Green clove polyps
    • Florida Ricordea (orange)
    • Ricordea Yuma (purple with green tips)
    • Several Zoa's
    • Several Mushrooms
    • Kenya tree
    • Yellow polyps
    • Green polyps
    • Organ pipe coral
    • Pulsing xenia
    • Toadstool leather coral


    • Gorgonian (yellow polyp most likely Menella)
    • Orange Scleronephthya
    • Orange Sponge
    • Blue Sponge


    • 2 hermit crabs
    • 2 pom pom crabs
    • Coco worm
    • Hawaiian feather duster
    • White feather duster
    • Bright red worm rock
    • Yellow sea cucumber (Have 5, two of them split)
    • Flame Scallop


    • Nemastoma (hitchhicker)
    C. peltata
    Halymenia sp. (2 types)

    Clean up crew

    • 1 Nassarius
    • 6 Astrea snails
    • Dozens of stomatellas
    • Colinista snails

    Interesting Hitchhikers

    • Brittle starfish
    • Pineapple sponge (several large)
    • Red Sea Squirt


    My 3 gallon aquarium began with the essentials: a heater, Aqua Clear 70, DIY ATO and a 2x18 Watt Current USA Powercompact Dual Satellite. This setup was maintained for 3 – 4 months until I began having a limited amount of time to do daily maintenance. First several aqua lifter were purchased to have a semi automatic water change. Then, I built a DIY feeding system. At about the same time I decided to purchase a Neptune Controller to fully automate the system. Beginning in April my aquarium was fully automatic and maintenance was reduced to only 15-20 minutes weekly. I avoided any major changes done directly to the aquarium such as aquarium size upgrade or any drastic changes in seascape. I believe this helped the aquarium to gain an aged-look in a short time period.

    Inspiration & Goals

    My inspiration and goals in this hobby is to better understand difficult species of corals and invertebrates to help in the conservation of these delicate animals. I have recently been fascinated with non-photosynthetic corals. Constantly I see these corals being offered for sale but little information is provided in the care and difficulty of these corals. My goal for my 3 gallon aquarium is to explore the longevity of the system I have put in place to accommodate a larger variety of corals. I believe pico aquariums if cared for correctly can last many years. The hobby for such small aquariums is still in its infancy and much is to be learned from the aquarium community.

    Disasters & Regrets

    So far there haven't been any major disasters but there have been a few minor nuisances that I have been dealing with lately. First off, I had an infestation of flatworms. I have been constantly siphoning them out and most likely will treat with flatworm exit in the near future. Also, the sun coral is very demanding in that it needs to be feed quite often, and lately I have been really busy with school and haven't been consistent with the individualized feeding.

    Future Plans

    I really want to keep this aquarium running as long as I can. I'm planning to purchase a larger aquarium and begin experimenting with other corals but that will be another story.

    Words Of Wisdom

    • Read, read, and read some more. There is a lot of information out in the web. Always check if it is accurate.
    • Patience is key in this hobby. Sometimes there are urges to do drastic changes but sometimes small things like cleaning the tank can make a huge difference in the appearance of the aquarium.
    • Keep a member's aquarium thread, it makes the experience more rewarding and is a good history of what one has accomplished with the aquarium.
    • Always remember to occasionally sit back and enjoy your aquarium.

    Thoughts On Breeding

    I have had success in making the sun coral spawn regularly. Also, when my aquarium housed sexy shrimp I was able to successfully spawn and raise the larvae in a separate system. Here is a link to that thread. I really believe that even in small aquariums there is a great possibility of helping in conserving the environment by breeding specimens in our aquariums. These events were the most gratifying part of this aquarium to be able to see a life cycle completed.

    Thoughts On Feeding

    My feeding schedule has been talked about quite often. I do like to feed several types of food which are globally released in the aquarium. I counter the high amount of nutrients being put in the aquarium by doing daily water changes and occasionally stopping my feeding regimen for 2 days every other week. I'm a strong believer that corals that thrive have to be fed while given the appropriate lighting.


    Feeding consist of a mixture of:

    • ~1ml of phyto-feast
    • ~.75ml roti-feast
    • ~.25ml oyster-feast
    • 1ml of Min F


    Spread out at 2 hour intervals over 12 hours. Also, cyclopeeze is occasionally given. I use a DIY chilled feeding system and a Neptune controller to do the feeding. Here is a link to the write-up on the DIY feeding system. I also try to feed the sun coral and LPS mysis every other day.


    I first want to thank my family and friends for being supportive and encouraging in my hobbies. I also want to thank Nano-Reef.com and its members for giving me the inspiration and vision to create a tiny saltwater aquarium.



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