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  • Polarcollision

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to Polarcollision for being selected for our November Reef Profile! Her 8 gallon nano reef aquarium is packed with life, from a vivid display of coral all patiently grown from frags, to interesting macro algae. Below is the aquarium profile Polarcollision has written for us sharing her experiences in the hobby and her aquarium's progress over the past year. See what she's been up to and share your comments and questions in Polarcollision's featured reef profile thread, or in the comments section below. Be sure to also check out her aquarium journal in the members aquariums forum for more information about her aquarium.


    I've always felt tied to the rhythms and life of the ocean. As often as possible, you'll find me exploring tide pools or photographing the coast – I even lived on a sailboat for a while. Water simply soothes my soul. Now that I'm back on land, I keep the ocean close with both a tropical reef aquarium and a temperate tide pool aquarium.

    Tank Specs

    Display: Innovative Marine Nuvo 8 gallon (12" All-In-One Cube)
    Biological Filtration: 1.5" CaribSea Ocean Direct Live Sand
    Lighting: Aqua Illumination Nano Sol (Recently switched to a Maxspect Razor 1600K, but will be returning back to AI with their full spectrum Hydra)
    Controller: Digital Aquatics Reef Keeper Lite
    Heater: Eheim Jager 50W
    Water Motion: Cobalt MJ900
    Filter Media: InTank media basket with filter floss, activated carbon, and Purigen
    ATO: Tunze Osmolator 5017
    Dosing: BRS 2-part dosing pumps with B-Ionic Ca and Alk
    Water: Reef Crystals or Red Sea Pro mixed in grocery store distilled water


    Established October 28, 2012, currently one year old!

    Parameters & Maintenance Routine

    I keep the parameters below with bimonthly 30% water changes, ATO, 2-part dosing, changing filter floss twice a week, and filter media once a month. Fish are fed every day and the coral are heavily fed 1-2 times a week.


    Salinity Level: 1.025
    Temperature: 78.5° F
    pH: 8.3
    Calcium: 450
    Magnesium: 1400
    Alkalinity: 9-10 dKh
    Nitrate Levels: ~0.5
    Phosphate: ~0.03


    The biggest improvements in water chemistry stability came with the addition of dosing pumps for two-part and an ATO for salinity. Other additives are used on an as-needed basis: RedSea Coral Colors (Iron, Iodine, Potassium and other trace elements), Brightwell MicroBacter7, CoralAmino, and KoralColor.


    • Ocellaris Clownfish
    • Tailspot Blenny
    • Green Clown Goby


    • Photosynthetic Gorgonian
    • Pom Pom Crab
    • Coco Worm
    • Lettuce Nudibranch
    • Purple Sponge

    SPS Coral

    • Montipora
    • Acropora
    • Birdsnest
    • Poccilopora
    • Stylophora

    LPS Coral

    • Chalice
    • Duncan
    • Acans

    Soft Coral

    • Zoanthids & Palythoas
    • Clove Polyps
    • Mushrooms
    • Green Star Polyps

    Macro Algae

    • Dragon's Breath
    • Red Branching (unknown species)
    • Blue Ochtodes
    • Red Grape/String of Pearls (?)


    I chose the Nuvo 8 because it is an elegant all-in-one system that hides extraneous equipment nicely. The tank is minimalistic and does not detract from viewing the life within. I started this aquarium with a relatively tight budget but a goal to create a very colorful box of water. With such a small footprint to work with, I went with lots of tiny frags. It almost became an art project – thinking ahead to what the coral would look like grown out and working to place the frags in just the right spot for health and visual appeal.

    While waiting for my coral to grow out, I passed the time here on Nano-Reef.com pouring over every little detail of successful reef keeping. So many of you have been very generous with your knowledge. I've learned:


    • Details about keeping each coral and fish.
    • Water circulation is how many coral breathe, eat, and excrete. It's important to have enough flow!
    • That while stable water chemistry is vital, 30% water changes and the 5 degree temp drop doesn't seem to phase coral.
    • That a tank can be successful without a skimmer, BUT nutrient wastes still need to be exported: with filter floss, water changes, macro algae, chemical media, and/or replacing small portions of the sand bed quarterly.
    • Bacteria and other micro-creatures are just as important to care for as the coral and fish.
    • That activated carbon works wonders to clarify the water.
    • That automation means stable salinity, Ca and Alk and the ability to take long vacations!
    • FEED the coral and fish. Don't be afraid of algae.
    • Peroxide is amazing for algae control.
    • Lighting... it's complicated, but I need you, so I guess we won't break up.

    Learning Experiences

    Being a new reefer, I've not always learned the easy way. My biggest learning experiences center around the control of phosphates and lighting. I was too eager to prevent algae growth and reduced feedings in an attempt to keep phosphates low. While this worked, it also weakened the coral. At the same time, I upgraded stock lights to the AI Nano Sol only to discover that even 40% intensity is too high. It was too much for the weakened coral and many frags lost their color and some didn't survive. I soon learned to feed heavily, primarily with a mixture of blended mysis, spirulina, scallop, clam, and oysters. The coral growth finally took off.

    My most recent learning experience is also a double-whammy: the rock scape collapsed when I was fragging just days after switching lights over to the MaxSpect Razor. I did not have enough glue to reassemble the scape and all stores were closed. So a few corals spent the night in GSP and a few were crushed. Needless to say, some of the coral already stressed from the lighting spectrum change did not survive the collapse. Now, I keep extra supplies on hand at all times.

    Future Plans

    This little tank has been bursting at the seams for a while now. I'm currently cycling a Nuvo 24 and plan to move the contents of this reef over at the end of November. If I can get the chillers to fit, the Nuvo 8 will become a new home for my temperate tide pool.

    Advice For New Hobbyists

    One thing I wish I had learned the easy way is that my reef is healthier when nitrates and phosphates are close to zero, but not literally undetectable on ELOS test kits.

    Acknowledgments & Inspirations

    MedRed's 60 gallon Solana is the first aquarium to take my breath away. I love everything about that reef, from the elegant rock scape to the choice of coral and fish. Herptile has a beautiful tiny aquarium thriving with minimal equipment. I'm in awe of his creative and hands-on approach to reef keeping. MetroKat taught me everything I know about feeding coral and also the use of macroalgae to control waste nutrients. NanoTopia's style is so buttoned down and precise. I've learned so much about additives and techniques for intensifying coral color from her.


    As mentioned above, the collective knowledge of the Nano-Reef forum is immense. Almost everything I have learned about reef keeping is due to each of you sharing your experiences and knowledge. For that: a huge thank you! To Christopher Marks, you've created a wonderful forum for not only learning, but for connecting to others who share this addiction. Thank you for featuring my aquarium! I'm truly honored. :-)



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    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Deborah, we inspire each other :)


    You have a sharp eye, style, and creativeness in everything you do.


    Congratulations again,



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