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  • nor_cal_nano

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to nor_cal_nano for being selected for our June Reef Profile! His beautiful 29 gallon nano reef is home to a diverse array of coral and fish. Below is the profile he's written for us sharing his experience in the hobby and his aquarium's progress over the past year and a half. Check it out and share your comments and questions in nor_cal_nano's featured reef profile thread.


    Tank Specs

    Dimensions: Standard 29 gallon glass aquarium - 30"x12"x18"
    Lighting: 24" Tek Fixture 4x24W
    Water Movement: Eco-Tech Vortech MP10, AquaClear Power Filter 50
    Heater: Marineland Visi-Therm Stealth Heater 100W
    Filter Media: Bulk Reef Supply GFO, Bulk Reef Supply Special Grade Bituminous Carbon
    ATO: Float Switches, TOM Aquarium Aqua Lifter Pump


    Established February 11, 2011

    Water Parameters

    Consistent with my central theme of simplicity and minimal hardware, all of the parameters below are maintained through the use of large water changes and an auto top-off system alone. The necessary artificial seawater is prepared with strict use of RO/DI from my Spectrapure MaxPure unit, along with Seachem Reef Salt.


    • Salinity: 35 ppt (measured with refractometer)
    • Temperature: 77.5-78.5
    • pH: 7.9
    • Nitrate: 0 mg/l
    • Calcium: 460 ppm
    • Alkalinity: 8 dKh

    Maintenance Routine

    With minimal hardware, necessary maintenance is quite low compared to other systems I've seen. I hold myself to a relatively flexible water change regimen. I aim to change out 10 gallons (approximately 50% of total water volume) every 2 weeks. If I happen to go three weeks without a change, I'll bump it up to a full 15 gallons. Considering the size of some of my SPS colonies, I have no doubt slightly smaller and more frequent changes would be preferred to keep parameters more stable. Ideally, I would recommend others NOT follow in my footsteps with infrequent water changes. Nevertheless, I find it to be a good balance between tank health and my busy life outside of the hobby.


    BRS Carbon (6 tbsp) is changed bimonthly and the BRS GFO (4 tbsp) is changed every 4-6 weeks.


    I am a firm believer in heavier feedings. In my personal experience in the hobby, I have noticed much healthier and disease-resistant livestock when they receive small feedings, multiple times daily. I do not advocate limiting feeding to every other day unless one is trying to get a handle on an algae outbreak temporarily.


    My fish receive a varied diet consisting of: New Life Spectrum Optimum Flakes, New Life Spectrum Pellets, Ocean Nutrition Prime Reef Flakes, and various frozen, meaty blends. With the system lacking a protein skimmer and refugium, flakes and pellets make up the bulk of their diet in order to keep nutrient levels low. Corals are spot-fed BRS Reef Chili shortly before a scheduled water change.

    Soft Corals

    • Assorted Palythoa
    • Assorted Zoanthids


    • Open Brain Coral
    • Torch Coral


    • Pink Acropora Millepora
    • Tri-Color Acropora Valida
    • Green Montipora Capricornis
    • Green Encrusting Montipora
    • Superman Montipora


    • Crocea Clam
    • Scarlet Reef Hermits
    • Dwarf Red Tip Hermits
    • Blue Legged Hermits
    • Nerite Snails
    • Astraea Snails
    • Cerith Snails
    • Dwarf Cerith Snails
    • Nassarius Vibex Snails


    • 2 Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
    • 1 Flame Hawkfish (Neocirrhitus armatus)
    • Blue/Green Chromis (Chromis viridis)


    My reef keeping addiction began just over three years ago in April of 2009. Like many other hobbyists, my first saltwater aquarium was an "all-in-one," an Oceanic Biocube 29 to be exact. I quickly tired of the tank, growing to resent the cubed dimensions and rounded corners that I once found so appealing. I began my search for another aquarium, preferably one long enough to accommodate a two-island type aquascape. In February of 2011, I came across a post on Craigslist advertising a 29g with all hardware (including an MP10 and Tek light fixture) and livestock, for an unbeatable price. I jumped at the opportunity and completed the tank transfer that very night.

    Since the initial setup and transfer, the tank has been running more or less on autopilot. Standard low maintenance work like water changes are completed, but very little change in terms of livestock additions. With the exception of the Superman Montipora, all of the colonies seen in the pictures have been in the tank since the beginning and have grown out from mere frags. The growth on the pink millepora in particular, has been spectacular.

    Disasters & Regrets

    Fortunately, I've had relatively good luck and have avoided any serious or noteworthy disasters. Recently however, I've encountered aiptasia popping up all over the tank. Many of them are planted well within my live rock or some other hard to reach place, making Joe's Juice or similar products impossible to apply. I'm currently looking into housing a Berghia Nudibranch temporarily to exterminate them.


    My biggest regret is starting out with an all-in-one tank. I assume it's the perceived ease of use and setup that attracts most of those who new to the hobby. After gaining more experience, myself, like many others I'm sure, found the popular all-in-ones to be the least cost-effective, and to be quite honest, somewhat of a waste of money.

    Future Plans

    My plans for the future are to transfer the tank contents into a 40 breeder, or a rimless tank of similar dimensions, doing my best to maintain the aquascape. The current tank has an abundance of scratches from the previous owner. On top of that, tall tanks like the 29 leave very little room around the live rock for cleaning or coral grow-out. I figure the 40 breeder will give me some much needed open space.

    Words of Wisdom

    I am humbled daily by the sheer amount of knowledge found in other members of this site and I still have very much to learn. I find it more appropriate that my 'words of wisdom' be geared to those who are newer to the hobby.


    • I can't say this one enough: Don't cheap out! Don't make the same mistake many of us did. The two most central parts to a successful reef are good water and lighting. Buy a quality light fixture and water purification system the first time. Your wallet and reef will thank you.
    • If you are looking to save money, BUY USED! In general, quality equipment in this hobby is built to last. Scout out Craigslist and local reef club forums for good buys. There are plenty of people backing away from the hobby. Take advantage!
    • When planning an aquascape, be sure to consider the future placement of corals you wish to stock, taking into account the species' growth patterns/tendencies and how they will compliment your the scape.
    • I recommend keeping a tank journal or log. I use a free program called "Aqualog" which helps me to remember due dates for maintenance items such as water changes and replacing t5 lamps. Aquaticlog.com, a new sponsor here at Nano-Reef, serves the same purpose and appears to be very simple and user friendly. Take a look.
    • If you're just starting out, try not to overcomplicate things with methods like dosing. Far too often I see it do more harm than good. Keep up with your weekly maintenance and water changes and your coral will grow just fine.
    • Lastly, beautiful aquariums take time. Plant those corals down and give them room to grow! Don't clutter up your aquascape with a mishmash of ½" frags. There's really nothing quite like a matured tank with more-established colonies.


    Thank you to Christopher Marks for allowing us free access to some of the most quality information regarding nano-tanks and reef keeping in general. Also, a special thank you to Jeremai is in order; may he rest in peace. His contributions to the community were vast and his "Photographing Your Reef" thread played an essential part in allowing me to capture my reef on camera for this profile today. Thank you!


    - Brad @nor_cal_nano

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    Nice one, congrats! I love love love the growth you have got from that SPS within just 12 months, no skimmer and no dosing. Amazing.

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    Grats for making TOTM!






    Nice one, congrats! I love love love the growth you have got from that SPS within just 12 months, no skimmer and no dosing. Amazing.



    Amazing tank, congrats!



    Just beautiful! Well deserved.



    Nice job! Congrats!


    Thanks for the kind words guys!



    Nice job dude, it was tight seeing this beast in person.


    Thanks bro! It was good meeting you.


    Congrats Brad.


    Thanks Kat ;)


    Congratulations nor_cal! Beautiful tank!


    Thanks medred. I love your 60g. Your progression shots are awesome.

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