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  • Mr. Microscope

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to Mr. Microscope for being selected for our March Reef Profile! His 25 gallon nano reef aquarium is masterfully sculpted, housing a diverse array of beautiful coral, fish, and other invertebrates. Below is the profile he has written for us sharing his experiences in the hobby and his aquarium's progress over the past year. See what he's been up to and share your comments and questions in Mr. Microscope's featured reef profile thread. Be sure to also check out his aquarium journal in the members aquariums forum.


    Tank Specs

    Display: 18" Mr. Aqua 25 Gallon Cube
    Sump: 12" Mr. Aqua 7.5 Gallon Cube soon to be upgraded to a DIY 15 x 15 x 14 inch cube
    Lighting: DIY LED's
    Filtration: Filter floss, Purigen, TLF Phosban Reactor 150 running GFO and Carbon, refugium with macro algae
    Skimmer: Bubble Magus NAC3
    Circulation: Ecotech Vortech MP10


    Established February 28, 2012


    Maintenance Routine

    • 15-20% water change weekly.
    • Feed fish every other day with pellets and frozen.
    • Spot feed acans once a week.
    • Manually remove algae growth and clean glass once or twice a week.
    • Replace GFO every three weeks.
    • Replace filter floss once or twice a week after dusting rocks with turkey baster.
    • Observe every nook and cranny of the tank daily, keeping any eye out for new critters, new growth, and out of place behavior of fish or corals.


    • 2 Percula Clowns
    • Bangaii Cardinal


    • Sea Urchin (Echinometra Viridis)
    • Dwarf Cerith Snails
    • Nassarius Vibex
    • Hermit Crabs
    • Collonista Snails

    SPS Coral

    • Palmer's Blue Millepora
    • Vivid Rainbow Delight Acro
    • ORA Blue Iris Acro
    • ORA Red Planet Acro
    • Rainbow Birdsnest
    • Cali Tort
    • Rose Millepora
    • ORA Hawkins Echinata
    • Tyree Montipora Satosa
    • Rainbow Stylophora
    • Various other acropora

    LPS Coral

    • Gold Torch
    • Assorted Rainbow Acans
    • Favites
    • Blasto Merletti
    • Fungia

    Soft Coral

    • Various Zoanthids
    • Superman Yumas
    • Papaya Cloves


    For my birthday in 2009, my sister gave me an amazon gift card with which I swiftly purchased a 3 gallon picotope for my office. I'd always been fascinated by the reefing hobby, but was intimidated by everyone telling me they had heard it was too much work. Then I stumbled onto Nano-Reef.com and El Fab's Pico Guide, and got immensely excited and inspired when I realized, I too, could have a reef of my own. Starting with a pico really allowed me to cut my teeth in the reefing hobby without breaking the bank. It also guided me though the beginner stages and stumbles without sacrificing too much livestock. During the year and a half life of my pico reef, I started thinking about my next tank. This is when the dream of the cube came to being. Although the tank officially got wet just a year ago, the planning and DIY projects were in play long before. In all, I'd say I spent at least a year doing research on every feature of the build before the whole thing came together.

    Design & Inspiration

    Design is extremely important to me. This is especially true in my reef as it is one of the few aspects in life over which I have complete control. As such I took extra care in planning out the rock work and where corals should go before I started. One thing I learned with my pico is that unstable rock can be a disaster. Building the rock pillar was a lot of fun and akin to other projects of the build such as LED's or plumbing. I don't think I'd ever go back to using plain live rock on a reef after experiencing the joy of being able to slowly sculpt a reef out of dry rock. For this build I took inspiration from John Ciotti's Upside Down Reef. Also, being a minimalist, I really like lots of open sand bed. Hence, topsy-turvy rock work really appealed to me.

    Thoughts On Coral Fads

    I tend to follow my own interests. That being said, I started out the hobby fascinated by rare zoanthids. When I started the cube, my interests turned to SPS. Now I'm in a bit of an acanthastrea phase, and I sense an anemone fascination coming with the next tank. I rarely go out and buy a trendy coral. Rather, I like to wait until the trend dies down and everyone has a piece of whatever used to be popular to pass along at a cheaper rate. I don't often go to LFS's as I've found local reefers are the best source for good corals. Finally, from a conservation standpoint, I try to only purchase corals that are frags of frags etc. and fish that were captive bred. The less we pull out of the oceans the better.

    Thoughts On The Hobby

    Reefing is the ultimate hobby! There are so many avenues of it to delve into that are in themselves hobbies. Since I started reefing, I've learned about marine biology, water chemistry, aqua-scaping, building LED's, plumbing, photography, and the list goes on. I'm now planning to build a sump from scratch, which will lead me down another path to eventually building my next tank from scratch.


    I've never met a shady character in the hobby and have been truly amazed at the kindness and generosity of fellow reefers. For example, my skimmer was GIVEN to me by a fellow member here on Nano-Reef! I try to repay in kind by giving away freebies whenever a fellow reefer comes by to make a purchase or trade, and by spending a little extra time helping out members with well thought out and composed advice on the forum.

    Disasters & Regrets

    I've been lucky to not have any major disasters so far. My biggest problem has probably been a fight with green hair algae, though I believe that is getting very close to being beaten for good. I learned a lot from this tank about the importance of dipping new corals. At the very least, I'd recommend an H2O2 dip and really make sure to tackle algae before it becomes a bigger problem. A big goal for my next tank is to never have to put my hand in it for hours at a time removing algae with a fine pair of tweezers.


    My number one regret with this tank is the size of the sump. I went with a Mr. Aqua 12" cube because it was really the only tank that would fit under my stand. It holds 7.5 gallons total and as a sump probably only has about 4 gallons in it. I also designed the sump poorly and used acrylic baffles. Acrylic does not adhere to glass with silicone very well and they are slowly falling out of place. As stated above, I'm currently in the works of building a new sump that should about double the space and water volume.

    Advice To New Hobbyists

    • Research, research, research! Research everything before spending a penny. This applies to livestock and equipment. Almost every question and mistake out there has already been asked and made; the Nano-Reef forum thread documenting it and its solution is just a click away.
    • Give hermit crabs a shot! These little creatures are a blast to observe and have personality that can rival any clownfish or blenny. If one happens to get a taste for corals, hermits unlike emerald crabs or shrimp, are easy to catch. I've found a couple weeks time-out in a refugium gets them back in the habit of eating algae again.
    • Don't be afraid to take on a DIY project. I've never considered myself to be a craftsman, but with enough research and planning I've found pretty much anything can be DIY'd. There are videos and protocols out there to do just about anything. I knew nothing about building LED's or drilling an aquarium when I started, but now that I've done it I know I'll never have to buy commercially built LED's or a plug and play aquarium. When you do it yourself, you get exactly what you want.

    Closing Remarks

    My corals still have a lot of growing to do. I've stopped adding livestock and am now in the process of trimming back or getting rid of corals as they get too big for the tank. I sadly had to get rid of my ORA Tiger Stripe Derasa Clam that had outgrown this nano. Though I've been reefing for about four years, I try to stay humble, I still consider myself somewhat of a noob. This hobby is expansive and I keep finding areas of it that I have little or no knowledge about; for me this is one of the most exciting parts.


    Being chosen for TOTM has been a goal of mine ever since I first found Nano-Reef.com and I'm sincerely thankful to Christopher Marks for choosing to feature my reef. The tank turned 1 year old on the 28th of February and I can't think of a better birthday present for it! I'd also like to thank all my friends here on Nano-Reef for your support, advice, and free stuff over the years. I've learned pretty much everything I know about the hobby from this site and I truly believe Nano-Reef is the best reefing forum. Finally, special thanks goes out to my wife for putting up with my obsession, my father-in-law for building the awesome stand that my tank sits on, and to my 15 month old son who seems to enjoy the tank as much as I do; the proof is in the little fingerprints I find on the glass when I get home from work.

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    Recommended Comments

    Holy cow! This is great!


    More than well deserved bro.


    Also, love the new siggy. :)

    Thanks spiro and thanks for noticing my new sig! 'Been eager to post that one.


    Here's a few more shots:

    SPS this time




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