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Cultivated Reef
  • Justind823

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to Justind823 and his 9 gallon nano reef aquarium for being selected for our September Reef Profile! Below is the aquarium profile Justind823 has written for us sharing his experiences in the hobby and his aquarium's progress over the past year and a half. See what he's been up to and share your comments and questions in Justind823's featured reef profile thread, or in the comments section below. Be sure to also check out his aquarium journal in the members aquariums forum for more information about this nano reef tank.


    Tank Specs

    Display: Eheim Aquastyle 9 Gallon 12" x 12" x 14" 
    Lighting: Nanocustoms Unibody with Nanobox 13up Board
    Controller: Digital Aquatics Reef Keeper Lite
    Heater: Eheim Jager 200W
    Sump: Mr. Aqua 7.5 Gallon 12" x 12" x 12" sectioned off with front display
    Circulation: Eco-Tech Vortech MP10 and Quiet One 1200 Return Pump

    Established February 2013

    Maintenance Routine

    I prefer to keep my setup as simple as possible. I very rarely test water parameters and stick to hardy, low-demand corals. A regular maintenance routine allows me to maintain a healthy environment for the animals. I only recently started using Kalkwasser in my auto top off to keep up with the increased coral growth. 


    • Visual inspection of animals and hardware (daily)
    • Glass cleaning (every two days)
    • Two gallon water change with Reef Crystals salt (weekly)
    • Refill of ATO reservoir with Kalkwasser mixed RODI (bi-weekly)
    • Thorough cleaning of overflow and pumps (bi-monthly)


    I fed this tank sparingly in the early stages. I just recently increased my feedings because of the additions of fish and shrimp.


    • 1 pellet given to each Sexy Shrimp (daily)
    • 1 pinch of Formula One flake food (every two days)
    • Tank broadcast of a 1/4 cube of Hikari Frozen Mysis (weekly, usually the day before the 2 gallon water change)


    • Juvenile Yellowtail Damselfish

    Soft Corals

    • Yellow Fiji Leather
    • Green Polyp Toadstool Leather
    • Assorted Ricordias
    • Assorted Zoanthids
    • Assorted Mushrooms
    • Blue Star Polyps

    LPS Corals

    • Acanthastrea
    • Orange Frogspawn
    • Green Frogspawn
    • Ducans


    • Red Titan


    • 2 Maxi Mini Anemones
    • 2 Sexy Shrimp
    • 1 Emerald Crab
    • 1 Pom Pom Crab
    • 2 Blue Leg Hermits
    • Nano conchs
    • Dwarf Ceriths
    • Mini Brittle Starfish


    For me, building equipment for my aquariums is just as enjoyable as the aquarium itself. With every setup I frequently tinker with hardware and add custom pieces here and there. Since setting it up I have made adjustments to just about everything. The second I am satisfied with what I have, I find something else to upgrade.


    When we moved into our apartment I wanted to have a setup that was both aesthetically pleasing and complimentary to the surrounding industrial decor. I found a turquoise metal locker at IKEA that was the perfect size for the space. I removed the finish down to the bare metal, and used an orbital sander to give the metal a brushed steel look. I re-purposed a cutting board for the wood top, and added a matching wood veneer to the lighting fixture to tie everything together.


    With this build, I wanted to have something that I could enjoy that didn't require a lot of effort to maintain. I carefully selected what I put in and didn't add anything too quickly. I'm pleased to have ended up with a well-balanced system that I can leave for a week without too much worry.

    Disasters & Regrets

    My tank has been through a natural disaster! I was fortunate enough to not experience an earthquake for the first two years of living in California. I made it through my first in February of this year... but my previous 5G aquarium was not so lucky. The back pane of glass cracked from one corner to the other, causing the water to gradually leak out. From this I learned it's not such a great idea to have a drilled tank in an area with such seismic activity. I replaced the 5G with my current 9G, and went from a canister filter with lily pipes to a Mame overflow with a 7.5G sump. This was a disaster, but I wouldn't change a thing about my current setup. The Mame overflow and well-hidden MP10 give the aquarium a very clean look.


    The only other real catastrophe occurred when I added a new sump and left for vacation for two weeks. I can't be certain what happened but I suspect there was an alkalinity swing. Something about the added seven gallons of water threw off the balance, and caused a decline and loss in the number of coral. I was very worried the tank would crash, but it bounced back and is stable once again.

    Inspiration & Goals

    There was always an aquarium in my home growing up. My sister and I kept goldfish we won from the local fair and my father had a simple tropical freshwater setup with angels and tetras. As I got older I started upgrading to larger freshwater setups and then to a 120 gallon planted setup. I've learned something new from each one of my aquariums.


    My coral obsession began when I saw my good friend's 12 gallon Aquapod. I was struck by the beautiful simplicity of the tank and the massive maxima clam right in the center. I had no idea you could keep creatures like that in such a small environment. My first saltwater nano tank was a 24 gallon Aquapod, and I've owned a number of saltwater tanks since then. The knowledge and experience I have today comes from the help of my friend and everyone on Nano-Reef.

    Words Of Wisdom

    • If you have the skills, build as much of your own equipment as you can. Some of the things we spend money on are surprisingly simple to make and can be fun to create.
    • Plan what you want from your aquarium. Put it all down on paper, use a program and make a rendering. The more you figure out before you start buying or building anything, the more money you save, and the happier you'll be overall.
    • Use this site to its fullest! Everything you need to know is here and if you can't find it someone will be kind enough to direct you there. I've learned pretty much everything I know about reef keeping from this site.

    Thoughts On...

    Lighting Technology
    I've owned halides, T5HOs, Compact Fluorescents, and LEDs. Each one has its merits but LEDs work best for my current setup. I prefer not to run a chiller so the limited heat exchange from the fixture is a huge plus. Also, there always seems be something new with LEDs (e.g., color spectrum, efficiency, size) and this fuels my need to tinker with my setup. When I inevitably upgrade one day, I'd love to make a hybrid fixture incorporating LEDs, T5HOs and maybe even Halides.


    Of course, thank you all for your nominations! I'd also like to thank my friend Brian (UFO) for introducing me to this hobby and my girlfriend Caroline for her patience with all the time I spend staring at my tank. Also, thank you Christopher Marks for featuring my tank this month.



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