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  • Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to Gena for being selected for our May Reef Profile! Her 12 gallon nano reef is teeming with life and brilliantly maintained. Below is the profile she's written for us sharing her experience in the hobby and her aquarium's progress over the past year. Check it out and share your comments and questions in Gena's featured reef profile thread.


    Tank Specs

    • Dimensions: 12 Gallon JBJ Nano Cube Deluxe (15.8" x 13.8" x 14.8")
    • Lighting: Ecoxotic 2x Panorama Pro LED Module 24V 12K White/445nm Blue and 1 Panorama Pro LED Module 24V 445nm/Magenta
    • Heater: Eheim Jager 50w
    • Circulation: Maxi-Jet 600 return pump with Hydor FLO Rotating Water Deflector
    • Filtration: InTank Media Basket holding filter floss at the top and chaeto at bottom with JBJ Nano-Glo 4-LED Magnetic Refugium Light. Chemipure Elite in the 3rd chamber of the NC12.
    • Biological Filtration: 14 pounds marco dry rock, CaribSea Dry Aragonite Fiji Pink Reef Sand
    • Controller: Digital Aquatics ReefKeeper Lite Controller Level 1
    • Skimmer: None
    • Salt: Brightwell NeoMarine Salt with distilled water.


    Established February 8, 2011

    Water Parameters

    Salinity: 1.026 monitored with a refractometer
    Temperature: 81-83° F
    pH: 7.9-8.2
    Calcium: 450
    Alkalinity: 7.8-8.3dKh
    Magnesium: 1500
    Ammonia: 0
    Nitrite: 0
    Nitrate: 0-5.0 ppm

    Maintenance Routine

    I perform twice weekly water changes, each consisting of 25% of the tank volume. I'm a firm believer in weekly water changes for a small system that runs without a skimmer. I have been currently experimenting with twice weekly water changes in an attempt to eradicate the bryopsis algae that I have in the system. My plan is to eventually get back to a once a week water change schedule, relying on my macroalgae to consume excess nutrients. Daily top-offs with distilled water are done by hand. Because my system is comprised of mainly soft coral, I do dose 2 drops of Iodine and 1 drop of Strontium daily using Brightwell products. I recently discovered that my weekly water changes were not enough to keep up with the Alkalinty demands of my tank. I'm still testing my ALK levels daily to determine what schedule I will need to be on for dosing. I currently dose Brightwell's Reef Code B, by hand, as needed. Calcium and Magnesium levels are maintained by water changes. Glass scraping is typically done every other day.


    I feed my fish and inverts daily. Rather than just dropping food in and possibly polluting the tank, I hand feed each creature. It sounds like a lot of work, but it's become an enjoyable part of my day. I've pretty much trained everyone to come to me for food. Not everybody wants to eat everyday. At times the crabs or starfish don't come out for a meal, or a fish only eats a small portion. But typically, by the next day, they are ready to make up for the lean meal they had the day before. I believe in feeding the tank daily to keep everyone robust and healthy. I feed raw shrimp soaked in Selcon. They also supplement their diets with skunk cleaner larvae, pom pom crab larvae, pods, and the algae that grows on the rocks, which is grazed on daily by all 3 of my fish. Coral feeding is done twice a week and involves target feeding a hearty cocktail of Oyster Feast, Phyto Feast, and Reef chili.

    Soft Corals

    • An assortment of colorful Ricordeas
    • Assorted Zoanthids and Palythoas
    • Pink cabbage leather
    • Kenya tree
    • Pumping Xenia
    • Clove polyps
    • Blue star polyps
    • Yellow star polyps
    • Assorted mushrooms: blue, red, watermelon, superman, spotted, rhodactis
    • Neon green toadstool
    • Standard toadstool
    • Green star polyps

    SPS & LPS

    • Magenta birdsnest with purple polyps
    • Meteor Shower Cyphestrea
    • Purple rim Green Monticap
    • ATL pink polyp monticap
    • Red monticap
    • Neon green birdsnest
    • Pink and Green open brain


    • 2 Pom Pom crabs
    • 3 Blue leg hermits
    • 2 nano Harlequin Serpent Starfish
    • 2 Skunk Cleaner Shrimp
    • Assortment of snails


    • 1 Black & White Ocellaris Clownfish
    • 2 Green-Banded Gobies

    Macro Algae

    • Unknown Green macro that is an excellent nutrient exporter
    • Chaetomorpha
    • Orange frilly sponge


    This tank is now 15 months old, time sure flies when you're having fun! I chose the all-in-one aquarium because I wanted something small to sit on my desk, that was contained (to minimize salt creep), with minimal wires going here, there, and everywhere. I still have wires (it's inevitable), but it has a sleek look and the wires can easily be hidden. I also loved the fact that the Nano Cube required no structural modifications to fit equipment into the back chambers, as other AIO often units require. The biggest reason for going with this aquarium was that the dimensions were a perfect fit for the space it needed to go in. With some reinforcing of the desk, the tank was ready to go.

    This is the fourth reef tank I have created in my reefing career, which has spanned over two decades. I think the longest amount of time I've been without a tank is 6 months. I had plenty of existing equipment on hand to use for this tank leading to a relatively low initial investment.


    This tank was set up with the thought of keeping things simple. My original plan was to stick with my true love, softies. I love the cheap corals not just for the cost, but for the looks. A tank full of mushrooms is my equivalent to heaven on earth. While this started out with that goal in mind, as always, things happen and plans change. The tank has now become a wonderful mix of soft and hard corals.

    Upgrades & Downgrades

    My decision to upgrade the lights to LED came about from having difficulty finding PC-R bulbs (an upgrade from the stock PC lighting) for the twice yearly replacement that is required with this type of lighting. I wasn't willing to go back to stock bulbs so I figured why not upgrade to a simple retrofit with Ecoxotic panorama pro LED lighting? It's the best lighting decision I've ever made. I couldn't be happier with the color and growth results I am seeing.


    In addition to upgrading the lights, I did invest in a reef controller. Before I took my 6 month break, I owned two controllers, both of which I sold here in the classified section. I thought I was getting out of the hobby for an extended period of time. I remembered how nice the controller was for controlling the lighting, fans, and heater. There are no worries of a heater getting "stuck" and overheating the tank with the controller in command of it's operation. It's also nice having an accurate digital reading telling me the temperature of the tank at all times.


    In contrast to my controller faux pas, I was smart enough to hang onto my mp10 powerhead, which I did use on this tank for a period of time. I've since removed it after noticing my corals just weren't happy with the high flow, even on the lowest setting. Removing the MP10 has been one of the best decisions I've made for this tank. For flow I rely solely on the Maxi-Jet 600 return pump with Hydor FLO rotating water deflector. This has been quite adequate for the coral flow requirements in my tank. I'm hanging onto the MP10 for possible future use. I don't want to regret selling it and then finding myself wanting another.

    Disasters & Regrets

    I've been fortunate to not have experienced any disasters with this tank (knock on wood). I had to sit here and think awhile about what, if any regrets, I have. Again, I'm quite lucky to only have a couple, although one is a doozy and is probably the equivalent of 10 regrets; not quarantining a coral frag before placing it into this tank. It's how I introduced bryopsis. And second, and not as serious, the regret that I didn't get two clownfish at one time. I initially wanted a pair of clownfish for this tank. Unfortunately I waited too long and my B&W Ocellaris wanted absolutely nothing to do with a mate. She tried to kill the little O&W Ocellaris that I introduced to her. He was rescued and taken back to the LFS. So while I have only had a couple of regrets, they have both been learning experiences and I am "smarter" for having had those experiences.

    Future Plans

    At this point my tank is fully stocked. Somehow I still find ways to add one more mushroom, or one more frag of palythoas. It wasn't planned this way, but my tank has a pink and green theme going on in it. I just pick and choose things that I really like and they happen to be pink and green. I intend to stick with this color theme. I've been looking a lot more into macroalgae for nutrient export. This may be something I'll be incorporating more heavily into my display in the future. I love the natural look it gives to a reef tank.


    Overall I'm very happy with how my reef has evolved. I still consider it to be in the baby stages of development. It has so much more growing to do. I have no plans to upgrade this tank. For awhile I thought I was going to eventually need to upgrade to something larger when things grow out of control; however, I nipped that in the bud by setting up a frag tank to house all future clippings that I will inevitably need to make. My tank has evolved into exactly what I was going for. A beautiful "fluffy" environment of softies (and more) that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Is it possible to be in love with an aquarium? My answer is yes!

    Advice To New Hobbyists

    It's been said over and over again and can never be said enough. Do lots of research! Before you choose your aquarium, make equipment purchases, and buy livestock, do your research. With research, you'll have the knowledge to better choose the items that will work best for you, ultimately saving you time and money, and possibly the lives of your critters. Secondly, there's something to be said for learning by hands-on experience. Always share your experiences with others when you can. I lost two fish to a large St. Thomas mushroom. I never knew they could possibly eat a healthy fish. I also lost a clownfish to a mini-mini anemone. My clownfish was hungry for what the anemone was eating and got too close. He stuck like glue to it and although I was able to free him, he died the next day from the burns. I always try to share this information with others when I can. And finally, don't be afraid to join in on this forum. Ask questions. There are people here who are more than happy to help you problem solve. This is a great place for answers as well as camaraderie. Everyone of us here has something in common: the love of reefing.


    I dedicate this tank to my Dad. He is my inspiration for getting into this hobby. The very first memory I have of an aquarium is the one shown in the picture above. It was housed in a green cabinet that my wood-working father handmade. With my mind's eye I can still see the playful zebra danios darting in and out of the forest of plants and the majestic angel fish that appear to just hover in space, with the occasional burst of energy. He instilled the love and desire of being an aquarist in all 3 of his kids. That first picture happens to be my older brother; however, we all sat on that lap, at a tender age, marveling at the wonders in the aquarium. For my father, it started with guppies, but ultimately ended with the makings for a full-blown reef tank. He passed away in May of 1994 at the young age of 49. I still smile when I think about how different it was when we reefed together. He was in the middle of building the biggest home-made skimmer I had ever seen, out of PVC pipes. I wish I could have seen how it would have worked, but it wasn't to be. I know he would be so proud to see what I have accomplished in this hobby. I'm sure he would be utterly amazed by my reef tank. In addition, over the years I've been inspired by a few reef tanks here on Nano-Reef.com. Two of my very favorites have also been featured tanks; c est ma's 5.5g tank and Tashayar's 10g tank. It's no wonder I love them considering they are mushroom dominated tanks.


    First and foremost, I want to thank Christopher Marks for asking me to be May's featured reef profile. The day I found out, I had a permanent smile attached to my face all day and into the night...and it just keeps going! It is a huge honor for me. All the years I admired the reef profiles, never did I think I would be given such an honor. Thank you so much! I also want to thank all the wonderful friends I have made here. You guys are a joy to talk with everyday. And thanks to those who have helped me troubleshoot any problems with my tank. This is such a warm and caring community. Logging onto N-R.com is a part of my day that I absolutely look forward to!



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    Congrats on TOTM!


    Really enjoyed reading about your Dad. Although my father didn't inspire me in the hobby, he did enjoy looking at the tank I set up when I lived at home.


    Now, I'm a grandpa and I hope someday my grandson will have a tank of his own. I started him out early, here is a pic of him at just a few months old. He liked looking at the fishies!



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    Thanks you guys :happy:


    Basser...love the picture of you and your grandson....I hope he catches the bug!!!!!!


    I love that Chris put my dad's picture on the front page too!!!!!! It makes it even more special :)

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    Congrats gena! You and your tank definitely deserve it. Awesome tank!

    Thanks, jg :happy:


    I still can't believe it :lol:

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