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  • Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member brad908 and his 40 gallon reef aquarium for being selected for our November Reef Profile! This all natural nano reef aquarium recreates a shallow coastal mangrove and macro algae biotope, complete with schooling reef fish. Below is the aquarium profile brad908 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 brad908's featured reef profile announcement, 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 reef tank.


    Tank Specs

    Display: SCA Aquariums custom made 48" x 18" x 14" Starfire glass with clear silicone.
    Lighting: 24" Nanobox Hybrid (2 6500k T5 & 4 Nanobox LED pucks), Nanobox Flare Duo (currently Mini Flare due to my mistake)
    Heater: Cobalt Neo-Therm
    Circulation: 1 MP10 – Side right wall near front glass, 1 MP10 – Side left wall near black glass, 1 Koralia Nano – Inside the cave.
    Skimmer: Bubble Magus Curve 5 (currently not in use)
    Filtration: None
    Filter Media: None
    Top Off: Manual
    Dosing: None
    Controller: Apex Jr. (currently not in use)



    Established October 2015

    Maintenance Routine

    This tank is the definition of keep it simple. I have not done a water change in over 4 months or performed any type of water testing. I feed the tank pellet food once a day, and Rod's once a week. Evapotation water topoffs are done manually, about every other day. Mangrove and macro algae pruning is done on a monthly basis, or as needed.


    • 10 Chromis
    • 3 Pajama Cardinals
    • 1 Black Ocellaris Clownfish
    • 1 Regular Ocellaris Clownfish

    LPS Coral

    • 3 Hammer Coral
    • 1 Duncan Coral


    • Mix of snails and hermit crabs.

    Macro Algae

    • Red Mangroves
    Caulerpa prolifera
    Halimeda opuntia
    Rhipocephalus phoenix
    Hetereosiphona gibessii
    • Red Grape
    Bryothamnion triquetrum
    Hypnea pannosa
    Galaxaura sp.
    • Purple Ribbon
    • Golden Plume
    • Purple Plume
    • Tan Spiny


    In March of 2011 I got the itch to start my first reef aquarium. I am not sure what started the itch, but it quickly consumed me. My first tank was a standard 20 gallon long with a cheap LED fixture. I kept the tank as a FOWLR while I continued to learn about the hobby. As I continued to read up, I slowly started to upgrade my equipment. About 5 months into the hobby is when I bought my first T5 light fixture, and at about the 9 month mark is when I traded in the 20 gallon long for an ADA 60P. With the new tank and lighting equipment I decided it was time to start buying corals. I went crazy, I couldn't stop buying corals and ended up creating overstocked tanks that I was not happy with. This trend continued for about two years, trying out SPS only ZEOvit tanks, trying out different lighting (T5, Metal Halide, LEDs), and overall just a lot of experimenting and learning different sides of the hobby. I even tried keeping mangroves in early in 2013.


    As the fall of 2013 approached, I decided to build my ultimate dream tank. A 36" x 18" x 18" was going to be the tank where I used everything I had learned over the last two years and make the tank I truly wanted. Just a few days after drilling the tank and having it all set up, I received a job offer that would move us across the country to San Francisco. So much for my ultimate tank plans!


    Fast forward through selling our DC condo, getting married, honeymooning in Fiji, moving to SF, and starting a new job all over the course of a month. November 2013 is here any I was ready to start a new tank just a few weeks after moving to California. Since we weren't sure if we were going to live for more than a year in the apartment we were renting, I wanted something simple. I bought an 18" Mr. Aqua cube, used an old 70W metal halide light, bought an AquaClear 50, and used a couple of old MP10 pumps and started my new LPS tank. This tank was very low maintenance and really brought the joy back to my hobby.

    October 2014 came around and it was time to move again. The move was just within the same town, so it wasn't too stressful, but it still caused a breakdown of the tank. Shortly after we moved and reset up the tank, my wife and I went to tour the California Academy of Sciences. I was blown away by their mangroves on display. Combine that trip with what Giga was doing with his tank here on Nano-Reef, and I became hooked on mangroves. I transferred the 18" cube's contents to a new tank, and redid the 18" cube as a mangrove and macro only tank. This tank immediately became my favorite and required virtually no maintenance.


    After watching the 18" mangrove cube grow over the next 6 or 7 months, I decided I wanted something bigger and more realistic. I was also running two tanks, a mixed reef and the mangrove & macro tank, but I really wanted just one tank. So it was time to start planning for a new dream tank again, one that was vastly different from my dream tank of 2013. I went from a ZEOvit SPS dream to a mangrove and macro algae natural reef. Funny how the hobby and real life experiences can pull you in different directions. I measured out our living room and decided to have SCA Aquariums build me custom 48" x 18" x 14" starfire tank with clear silicone.



    My goal for this tank was to create a realistic and natural looking coastal aquarium. The mangrove ecosystem diagram really helped me layout the tank. The new custom aquarium arrived in October 2015, SCA really did an amazing job with the construction. Lighting the new tank was easy because Dave had already sent me prototype Nanobox lights for my previous tanks, so I was able to reuse both the Hybrid and Duo on this build. All my other equipment was also reused from previous tanks, the only new piece of equipment bought for this build was the custom display tank itself. Technically the display tank can hold 52 gallons, but with the aquascape structure and 8" ADA cube that acts as a planter for the mangroves, actual volume is around 35 or 40 gallons.

    The only major change I've made to this tank was taking the sump offline. Between all the mangroves and macro algae, there was really no point in having a sump. I am still able to keep the display clean, and don't have to worry about a potential flooded sump in a power outage. I also added a powerhead inside the cave which helps create a low current across the bottom of the tank, while keeping the cave clean from detritus.


    For the landscape I needed to create something around the mangroves. Previously in the 18" cube I had the mangroves planted in an 8" Do Aqua cube with a mixture of live mud and sand. I also knew from the 18" cube that trying to make a nice gradual slope up 8" is difficult. I decided I would use egg crate to create the base structure of my aquascape, and then glue rocks onto the egg crate. I made a large slope down the back side, where I knew I would plant fans and a form of sea grass or some lookalike. The slope is about 4" wide and runs along almost the entire back wall. On the other side of the slope, I created a valley with a tunnel to a cave. The valley contains a mix of macro algae, and measures about 2" at the cave entrance and expands to 12" on the other end. Lastly, on the front side of the 8" cube I made a large overhang and this created the cave. The cave has two entrances and a total space of about 4" wide by 10" long. I also recently placed a power head inside the cave to keep water circulating. My long term goal for the aquascape structure was to cover it in macro algae, and that is well under way. At current growth rates, I expect the entire rock structure to be covered by summer 2017.

    Inspiration & Goals

    My main inspiration is Giga. He did amazing things with mangroves, and was a big help when I first started out with mangroves. Nanobox Dave is the man; we are always texting back and forth on a wide array of topics and good to bounce tank ideas off him and get feedback. His lights are amazing and he has been a huge help for the last 3 years. Hey, 4x5, Urbaneks, Nanotopia, Jr, and Rehype are/have always done inspiring displays.


    My goal is to simply continue pruning the mangroves to create a canopy over the tank. Beyond this tank, I am working on a new outdoor mangrove build, as well as a brackish mangrove indoor build (ADA 60F).

    Words of Wisdom

    Keep it simple!

    Advice For New Hobbyists

    Buy quality equipment from the start to avoid long-term headaches and be patient.

    Thoughts On...

    • Lighting
      I have used t5, metal halide, and LED over my mangroves. I can say all 3 easily grow mangroves.
    • Skimmers
      Haven't needed to use mine.
    • Sandbeds
      The mangroves are planted in an 8" cube that is filled with live mud and sand. The mangroves have shown amazing growth over the last 2 years, and I believe the nutrient rich sand/mud bed is a big reason for the growth.
    • Feeding
      I am able to overfeed due to the macro algae and mangroves taking up the nutrients. I do not dose anything.
    • Coral Fads
      Be different, there are so many unique aquascapes and region specific biotope tanks that people have yet to create.


    Brad @brad908

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