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  • NanoTopia

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to NanoTopia for being selected for our April Reef Profile! Her 20 gallon nano reef aquarium, home to gorgeous SPS and LPS coral, has seen tremendous growth with thoughtful and dedicated maintenance. Below is the profile she has written for us sharing her experiences in the hobby and her aquarium's progress over the past nineteen months. See what she's been up to and share your comments and questions in NanoTopia's featured reef profile thread. Be sure to also check out her aquarium journal in the members aquariums forum.


    After scuba diving for the first time on a Hawaiian coral reef back in 1979, I fell in love with the beauty of the ocean below. I set up my first fish only marine aquarium a couple of months after that. I have had the privilege of diving on many reefs since then, but no longer dive today. Due to this, I need to keep the ocean close to me. My reef brings back so many awe-inspiring memories of my past dives and life at sea. My reef tank is a vital and integral part of me now.

    Tank Specs

    Display: 23 ½" x 13 ½" x 16" (60 cm x 34 cm x 41 cm)
    Sump: 20" x 10" x 12" (51 cm x 25 cm x 30 cm)
    Biological Filtration: Full Zeovit system with 2 inch aragonite sand bed, 20 pounds of live rock, and 1 synthetic rock.
    Lighting: 3 x Vertex Illumilux LED fixtures, totaling 108 watts and 1 x Ecoxotic TV 403nm Stunner Strip.
    Protein Skimmer: Skimz SM121
    Controller: Full Apex (with ALD module, 2 x EB8 module, lab grade pH and ORP probes)
    Heater: Aqueon Pro 100w
    Cooling: Tunze Aquawind 7028.900
    Water Motion: Eco-Tech Vortech MP10, Tunze Nanostream 6015, Tunze Silence 1073.020 Return Pump
    Filter Media: 200mL ZEOlite media in a Cleartides modified KZ Reactor, Vertex 300 micron sock, 80mL of ZEOvit Carbon (passive flow).
    Overflow: CPR CS90 (300GPH)
    ATO: Tunze Osmolator 3155
    Dosing: Dosing is performed by a Profilux 4 pump stand alone doser and by hand.


    Established August, 2011, currently 19 months old.


    • SG: 1.025 [Milwaukee Digital Refractometer]
    • Temp: 78.5 F [Apex Probe]
    • ORP: 360-400 [Apex Lab Probe]
    • pH: 7.95 - 8.11 [Apex Lab Probe]
    • KH: 6.8 -7.2 dKH [Elos]
    • Ca: 410-420 ppm [Elos]
    • Mg: 1300 ppm [Elos]
    • K: ~400 ppm [Elos][Red Sea Pro]
    • NO3: ~0.25 ppm [Elos]
    • PO4: 0.00 - 0.01 ppm [Hanna Checker]

    Maintenance Routine

    10-15% water change weekly using D-D H2Ocean Pro salt and RO water (1 TDS). I test Calcium and Alkalinity 2-3 times a week, Specific Gravity once a week, Magnesium and Potassium twice a month, Phosphate/Nitrate once a month. I feed fish twice a day and corals once a day. I clean my skimmer neck daily since I skim dry, and change filter sock every two days on average. I blow off the sand bed (surface only) every two days, this feeds the corals and prevents an accumulation of detritus over time.

    My doser handles ALK, Ca, Mg, additions six times per day and my carbon source (Zeovit Start3) twice a day. All other dosing is done by hand in the early morning a couple hours before the lights come on. I try to follow the schedule below but there are times when I will cut back on certain additives based on what I am seeing in the tank:


    Once a week: K-Balance, Amino Acid LPS, B-Balance
    Twice a week: ZEObak, BIOmate, Coral Snow, Pohl's Xtra, Coral Booster, Flatworm Stop, AAHC
    Three times a week: Coral Vitalizer, Potassium Iodide Fluoride, Sponge Power, Reef Nutrition's Phytoplankyon


    For someone not familiar with the Zeovit system, this might look like a lot of additives, however most are added sparingly following the "less is more" philosophy.


    I recently lost my 2 year old Chromis viridis, I will be adding a new fish soon, likely a Blenny.


    Cirrhilabrus lubbocki (Lubbock's Fairy Wrasse)


    A while back I started to move away from LPS corals wanting to focus on SPS corals, but I am now re-incorporating some ultra LPS corals, as I think they add greater diversity and intrigue to the look to the aquarium.

    SPS Coral

    Acropora anthocercis "ORA Red Planet"
    Acropora echinata
    Acropora formosa
    Acropora gomezi
    Acropora millepora
    Acropora striata
    Acropora tortuosa "Cali Tort"
    Montipora confusa
    Montipora capricornis
    Montipora digitata
    Montipora digitata "ORA German Blue Polyp"
    Seriatopora hystrix

    LPS Coral

    Hydnophora rigida
    • Aussie Favia sp.
    Trachyphyllia radiata (Aussie Wellsophyllia)
    • Acan Lord
    • Purple Gorgonian

    Soft Coral

    • Palyotha
    • Zoanthids


    I have come to love inverts recently and would like to add more in the future.

    Lysmata amboinensis (Cleaner Shrimp)
    Lysmata debelius (Red Fire Shrimp)
    Fromia milleporella (Red Sea Star)
    Clibanarius tricolor (Blue leg Hermits)
    Astraea phoebia (Spiny Astrea Snails)
    Trapezia sp. (Acro Crabs).


    I will confess that not a lot of planning was done at the start up of this tank in August 2011. This was only supposed to be a temporary tank to put some LPS from a five gallon tank until I could do a proper build. I became busy with school again and never got around to building that new tank, so the aquarium just kept evolving as I added more and more corals. It sits in its original position high on a dresser, and the sump, controller, and doser are next to it on a metal rack. Not my ideal system layout by any means, but it works pretty well.


    I became discouraged in August 2012 when I discovered Acropora Eating Flatworms on most of my corals. In addition, some of my corals were starting to STN and RTN from lack of nutrients in the system. I attributed this to the overuse of bio-pellets and not enough feeding. At the time it seemed much easier to just tear it down and start over. Of course I never did, and I'm now glad I decided to fight the flatworms and tissue necrosis, and keep the tank running. I lost a few corals but managed to recover and re-establish the reef over the last several months.


    Unhappy and unable to manage the results I was getting from bio-pellets, I decided to take them off-line in December 2012 and begin running full Zeovit on the system. The Zeovit system has really helped to turn this tank around by improving the overall biology and stability of the system.

    Since moving to Zeovit, this "temporary" tank has grown on me quite a bit, and served as a good lesson to never give up on your tank. What I learned from its recovery is invaluable and will serve me well in the future.

    Future Plans

    I hope to run this reef for another year, then tear it down. I would like to go on a long vacation and not have to worry about my reef while I am away. When I return, I want to start my dream build, a 60 gallon cube reef with custom stand, and will run full Zeovit again.

    Inspiration & Goals

    Most of my inspiration comes from mother nature itself, I have the utmost respect for the sea and all that it holds. I also find myself inspired by all the truly dedicated reefers here on Nano-Reef, regardless of their methodologies, methods, or means. There are many ways to successfully operate a reef tank and I find it of great interest to follow what others are doing. We all have something to share, teach, and learn.


    I really regret not diligently inspecting the SPS corals in my tank on a regular basis. Had I done so, I likely would not have been hit so hard with Acropora Eating Flat Worms (AEFW). Catching them in the early stages before they get out of control is key to saving your reef. Other than that I have no regrets, all the mistakes I have made in the past have resulted in an opportunity to learn and try new things.

    Words Of Wisdom

    • The minor expense in setting up a quarantine tank pays for itself with all the fish and inverts you will save in the first year of using it.
    • Stress is the number one cause of disease in corals, fish, and invertebrates, always consider this when implementing your husbandry practices.
    • Never stop learning in this hobby, and never be afraid to ask questions. I have always found people in this industry are willing to answer your questions. Research everything - twice, and only from reputable sources.
    • Train your eyes to notice subtle changes in your tank or livestock, this will allow you time to react before things get out of control.
    • Consider all advice from other experienced reefers but always settle on what your heart tells you to do - you know your reef better than anyone.

    Advice To New Hobbyists

    • Buy the best equipment you can afford now, it will save you money in the future.
    • Prepare yourself for the mistakes you will undoubtedly make in the future by being ready to learn from it and move forward.

    Thoughts On...

    Lighting Technology: Lighting technology is continuously evolving, but not necessarily in the best interest of coral health. Don't be fooled by fancy marketing and trendy design, do your research and buy the lights that will do the job and are best for coral health. The health of your livestock should always come before aesthetics.


    Skimmers: I personally would never consider running a coral reef without using a good skimmer. They are the single most effective way to remove unwanted nutrients from the system.


    Dosing & Feeding: Following the Zeovit methodology, I find myself dosing multiple times daily. This tends to be a little more work than most other methodologies, but I have found the extra effort very much worth it. Now that I have been dosing the Zeovit products for a while and I am familiar with the products, I find it almost effortless.


    I feed corals daily in the early morning, alternating foods. I currently dose Zeovit Coral Vitalizer, Sponge Power, Amino Acids (Hard Coral and LPS), and Reef Nutrition Phytoplankton, Oyster Eggs. I turn off the skimmer for 2 hours following feeding.


    I generally feed fish twice a day. I feel this greatly improves their immunity. I am currently feeding Piscene Energetics frozen Mysis and Cyclop-eeze. I rinse all frozen foods before introducing them to the tank.


    Aquaculture: I try to buy sustainable corals aquacultured or maricultured corals for my reef knowing the reefs are not being depleted simply for the sake of my hobby. I have however, found that recently many maricultured SPS corals are generally unhealthy and prone to disease. I think quarantining corals is a good idea due to the increase in AEFW infections, and other pests that hitchhike with corals.


    Filtration: A filtration system should not only remove unwanted nutrients and toxic substances from your water column, it should also aid in maintaining the tank's biological state. This is critical for long term success and should never be overlooked when implementing a filtration system. My goal now is to replicate natural sea water conditions to the best of my ability. Mother nature has grown some amazing coral reefs throughout the world, I have no interest in trying to do better than that with tricks or shortcuts.


    First, I would like to thank Christopher Marks for recognizing my tank and considering it worthy of TOTM, thank you. Secondly, I would like to thank all my fellow reefers here on Nano-Reef, you have inspired me beyond belief, what an amazingly dedicated and talented group people you are. Lastly, I would like to thank someone who would would never expect to be mentioned here, my sister Cindy, for all the support she has offered me over the years with this hobby.



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    Let me be the first to say congratulation!!



    Congrats Nano Topia! Well worthy.

    Congrats Christine, well deserved. :)

    Yes!!! I've nominated this tank so many times haha


    Well deserved.

    Congrats! Well deserved!


    Thanks everyone, and thanks for following my reef :)


    It really means a lot to me :grouphug:



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    Very well deserved indeed!! This is an amazing tank and you can see all her hard work and dedication in it. Congrats!

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