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  • ninjamyst

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member ninjamyst and his 12.5 gallon nano reef aquarium for being selected for our February Reef Profile! Below is the aquarium profile ninjamyst 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 ninjamyst'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: PicO S III (18" x 18" x 9", 12.5 gallons)
    Lighting: NanoBox Duo w/ Storm Controller
    Circulation: EcoTech MP10
    Skimmer: PicO Skimmer 2.0
    Heater: Neo-Therm 50w

    Established August 2013

    Maintenance Routine

    It has been a challenge keeping a heavily stocked mixed reef. I have been feeding more to promote color and growth, but have to increase my water change to lower phosphate and keep algae in check. I keep a very shallow sand bed and stir it often to keep detritus from building up.


    • Parameters
      • Salinity – 1.025
      • Temperature – 78F
      • Alkalinity – 8.0dkH
      • Calcium – 450ppm
      • Magnesium – 1300ppm
    • Nutrient Export
      • Daily – Blow detritus off rock and stir small portions of sand
      • Weekly – 30% water change + vacuum sandbed
      • Monthly – Vacuum AIO chambers
      • 2-3 months – Replace Seachem Matrix Carbon, Seachem Phosguard, and Seachem Purigen
    • Dosing
      • Seachem Fusion Part II daily (My alk level drops like crazy, but calcium stays constant.)
      • Kent Coral-Vite, Kent Coral-Accel, Kent Tech I
    • Feeding
      • LRS Reef Frenzy Nano every other day
      • BRS Reef Chili + PhytoPlan every other day


    • Snowflake Clownfish
    • Red Firefish (2)

    SPS & LPS Corals

    • Sunset Montipora
    • Mystic Montipora
    • Green Montipora Cap
    • Montipora Setosa
    • Green Birdsnest

    • Acans (2)
    • Hammers (2)
    • Frogspawns (5)
    • Fungia Plates (3)
    • Red Blastomussas (3)
    • Teal Trumpet
    • Orange Leptastrea
    • Encrusting Gonipora

    Soft Corals

    • Zoanthids and Palythoa (30)
    • Ricordeas (15)
    • Rhodactis Mushroom (2)
    • Red Mushroom
    • Green Star Polyps
    • Xenia


    • Blue Maxima Clam
    • Maxi Mini Anemones (5)
    • Red Rock Flower Anemone
    • Pedersen Anemone Shrimp
    • White Spotted Anemone Shrimp (2)
    • Scarlet Hermit Crab
    • Various Snails


    My fascination with marine life started when I was around 10 years old, with my dad starting a 75 gallon reef tank. My family spent many weekends at the LFS and many nights in front of the tank, searching for starfish and crabs with a flashlight. Sadly the family tank was taken down when my parents got divorced a few years later. Still, I continue to find myself drawn to the ocean and love snorkeling / snuba in the Caribbeans.


    When my dad moved back to town, it rekindled my interest in this hobby. But living in a small city condo, I just don't have the space for a big tank. I was so excited when I stumbled upon Nano-Reef.com and discovered a whole community of nano tanks. After weeks of research, I decided on a shallow PicO Aquarium tank based on everyone's recommendation. When I look down from the top of a shallow tank, I feel so close to the water. I chose an AIO because there's no place for a stand and sump. The tank is currently sitting on top of my fireplace mantle. Cold Chicago winters without the comfort of a fireplace is a small price to pay.

    I started with dry rock because as much as I enjoyed finding new critters that came on the live rock in my dad's tank, I also remember his agonizing battle with aiptasia and killer ninja crabs. I picked Vidarocks after seeing it in several PicO tanks. It sure made aquascaping a breeze with the different unique shapes. I did buy one size too big for the bonsai tree rock, making it difficult to grow anything on the top that's only 1 inch from the water surface.


    When it comes to stocking, I initially got hooked on ricordeas and zoanthids. I think at one point I had over 40 varieties of zoas in the tank. A polyp here, a polyp there, and it got a little out of control. Then I took a short ride with SPS before settling down on wavy LPS. After seeing 1stimereefer's GSP back wall on her 8 gallon Nuvo tank, I glued a frag to the back wall of mine, and in the last few months it took off growing. It has even taken over the return nozzle. Most recently, I got a blue maxima clam, which is something I wanted from the beginning, and the tank feels ready for it now.


    My inspirations come from all the beautiful tanks here, especially previous TOTMs. One that stood out the most during my initial research was Gena's 12 gallon from 2012. It looked so healthy, colorful, and natural. Even today, I frequent her 45 gallon build thread for inspirations; she's quite the reefing trend-setter. Another TOTM that had a big influence on me was Nanosapien's 12 gallon. It was featured the same month I ordered my tank, and it made me fall in love with ricordeas. I also learned a lot from his detailed posts in his build thread.

    Disasters & Regrets

    This tank, being my first, had its share of setbacks. Bryopsis, GHA, bubble algae, ich, flatworms, zoa nudibranch, monti nudibranch, I experienced them all and learned much from it. The most devastating setback was at around the 7 months mark when I lost most of my SPS and some of my prized LPS while I was on vacation. I was pretty upset and would have taken down the tank if it wasn't for encouragements from this community to tough it out. Looking back, I made the classic mistake of stocking too fast and adding too much SPS before the tank is stable.


    Another big mistake I made was underestimating the power of NanoBox LEDs on a shallow tank. I had my NanoBox Duo dialed way too high and stressed out my first collection of ricordeas and zoas. I have it now set to almost half what I initially had.

    Future Plans

    The tank has stabilized a lot in the last few months so I am itching to go back to SPS. Other than that, I will let this tank grow out. In 1-2 years, I plan to move to some place warmer and closer to the ocean. When that time comes, I will upgrade to a 30-40 gallon shallow tank with a sump and turn this into low maintenance Caribbean theme tank with a sandbed of ricordeas, zoas, and rock flower anemones, and minimal rocks with lots of gorgonians to fill up the vertical space (inspired by Simone's Mandarin Manor).

    Advice For New Hobbyists

    First and foremost, get involved! Start a build thread, keep it updated. Leave comments on other builds you like. It can be as simple as saying "hi, nice tank". It's so important to build relationships and share your journey with the community. We are here to celebrate your success and (virtual) hug it out when things go wrong.


    Second, quality equipment goes a looong way in this hobby. I didn't go cheap with the PicO Aquarium tank and NanoBox light, because IMO, those are the two pieces of equipment you want to last and not have any issues with. I am a big fan of purchasing from the sponsors here, especially the smaller vendors that focus on quality and customer service.


    Finally, I know you hear this all the time, but do your research! There is so much knowledge on this forum. Whenever I see a new type of coral I like, I always search here first to learn more about compatibility with my current livestock and how to care for it.


    I am into photography, and the two hobbies go very well together. I especially enjoy taking macros pictures of corals. Having a shallow tank helps a lot for top down shots. I had a bit of trouble in the beginning with blurry photos and inaccurate colors, so here are some tips I have learned from experience and from other photographers here:


    • White balance is very important. I have a custom white balance set on my camera that takes away the blues. If your camera doesn't allow for a custom white balance, try the preset for Shady or Cloudy. You can also use post processing software like Adobe Lightroom to correct white balance.
    • Turn off your pumps to reduce blurriness from water movement and coral movement.
    • Don't shoot at an angle because water refraction will distort the image. Shoot perpendicular to your subject.
    • You need a fast shutter speed to reduce blurriness. To compensate, you can bump up ISO or widen your aperture. If those are not possible, invest in tripod or be creative with how to steady your hands.
    • You don't need an expensive DSLR for nice pictures. I have seen stunning pictures from iPhones and regular point and shoot cameras.


    Thank you to everyone that nominated my tank, and huge thank you to Christopher Marks for featuring it. It's such a huge honor to be featured alongside the very tanks that inspired me to get into this hobby. Thank you to those that continues to visit my thread and be part of my journey. I have learned so much from this community, and I hope my tank will inspire future reefers. Finally, I would like to thank my wife for putting up with my obsession and supporting me even when I almost flooded our condo or when I got into a car accident on my way to pick up some scrambled eggs zoas.



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    I have followed this thread for so long. my all time fav tank on this site! Keep up the good work Ninjamyst!

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    Called it! Congrats ninja.

    Glad to say I met you at the NR meet up at reefwise!

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