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  • GHill762

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member GHill762 and his 40 gallon reef aquarium for being selected for our July Reef Profile! This 40 gallon nano tank began as a DIY project that has grown into beautiful low maintenance reef. Below is the aquarium profile GHill762 has written for us sharing his experiences in the hobby and his aquarium's progress over the past two and a half years. See what he's been up to and share your comments and questions in GHill762'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 reef tank.


    First of all I want to say thank you to Christopher Marks for choosing my tank for the Featured Reef Profile for July, and although I feel unworthy, I am truly honored to have my tank up next to some of the best looking tanks on Nano-Reef.com!

    Tank Specs

    • Display: 40 Gallon Breeder (36" x 18" x 17") glass aquarium, Glass Holes 700 overflow box, Glass Holes return kit.
    • Stand: DIY 2x4's and plywood.
    • Lighting: Reef Breeders Photon 24" light with 2x 24" T5HO added on running ATI Coral Plus bulbs.
    • Sump: DIY 20gal. standard tank, acrylic baffles, Eshopps filter sock holder (no sock currently), PVC drain chamber to contain salt spray and bubbles.
    • Heater: Fluval 200 watt heater 
    • Circulation: 2x EcoTech Marine MP-10, Mag5 return pump.
    • Skimmer: Bubble Magus Curve 5 on a DIY skimmer stand.
    • Filter Media: Carbon and Phosguard run passively in sump.
    • Top Off: Autotopoff.com float switch run on a timer for 15 minutes 2x per day running a TOM Aqua Lifter pump.
    • Dosing: Manual dosing a couple times a week using Brightwell Aquatics Reef Code A & B
    • Rock: 30lbs ReefCleaners dry rock
    • Substrate: Tropic Eden Reef Flakes (started with 60lbs, pitched most of it in the move), 10-15lbs of live rock from previous tank.

    Established November 2013


    • Orange Percula Clownfish
    • Black Percula Clownfish
    • Sixline Wrasse
    • Yellow Tang

    Soft Coral

    • Xenia
    • Various Mushroom Coral
    • Various Zoanthids and Palythoas
    • Star Polyps

    LPS Coral

    • Acanthastrea
    • Branching Frogspawn
    • Aussie Gold Torch Coral
    • Chalice Coral

    SPS Coral

    • Various birdsnest sp.
    • Various acropora sp.
    • Various montipora sp.


    • Crocea Clam
    • Hermit Crabs
    • Snails

    Maintenance Routine

    Not much to say here, I really try to keep my maintenance to a minimum so my hobby doesn't become a chore. Weekly water changes help keep parameters in check; my water changes are typically eight gallons of RO/DI mixed with Instant Ocean Reef Crystals, I empty and clean my skimmer cup at the same time. I try to clean the glass with a magnetic cleaner every 2-3 days, this is much easier than scraping with a razor when you slack off for too long.


    I feed at least once per day, a mix of flake, pellet, freeze dried, nori sheets, and the occasional frozen food (Rod's is my brand of choice). I don't have a strict dosing schedule, although I do dose Brightwell A and B a couple times a week. I haven't tested any parameters in quite some time, I don't usually test things unless something seems out of the ordinary. I also check my top-off container every few days to make sure it is sufficiently full, it usually lasts me 1.5-2 weeks.


    My approach has become somewhat laid back, although I do acknowledge that my tank looks better and more colorful when I give it more attention, for me a high level of attention is not sustainable long term. In my opinion you have to find a balance that works for you and keeps you from getting burnt out.


    Our family's first fish tank was a 29 gallon tank from Wal-Mart when I was just a kid, that tank was stocked with random little fish and an Oscar fish. That Oscar had so much personality! When I got a little older I started to take over the tank and made it a planted African cichlid tank that I really loved. Bored with just one tank, I started a 5 gallon tank in my bedroom with black sand, a brightly colored frilly little Betta, and a handful of tiger barbs.


    In the fall of 2011 I read a book about keeping marine aquariums and I started a 15 gallon saltwater tank of my own. My intention of keeping a couple of clownfish and some snails quickly turned into a reef obsession fueled by the gorgeous tanks here on Nano-Reef.com. That tank went through multiple upgrades from a hang-on refugium to a sump, a standard 2-bulb T8 hood fixture to a T5HO reef light, then up to a Micro-Reefs LED light, I changed equipment constantly on that tank to figure out what worked for me and what didn't.

    In 2013 I was itching for something bigger, so I started to plan an upgrade. After completing this new 40gal. tank build and transferring everything from my 15gal., I had a big blank canvas for new possibilities. One goal I had for the tank was start a clam garden, but that goal was sidelined after losing a beautiful (and expensive) maxima clam that I only had for a few short months.


    In early 2014 I was very involved in my tank, constantly testing parameters and tweaking my maintenance routine. A busy summer lead to a lack of maintenance and a sad looking tank, but by fall I had things back on track. In December I added 2 T5HO's to my Reef Breeders Photon light, a decision I am still very pleased with.

    In 2015 my soon to be wife and I bought a house together, which for a reefer can present some challenges, so we waited until warmer months to move in. The move went well overall, but there were some unfortunate losses such as my yellow tang, royal gramma, and a few corals that didn't handle the move well. Summer of '15 wasn't much better for the tank either, a long battle with a gross bacterial growth took a toll on the tank, and being in the basement of our new house didn't help anything. Since defeating the bacterial slime I have begun to enjoy my tank and the hobby again.


    Admittedly this tank has been a roller coaster of interest for me; there are times I hardly pay my tank any attention and other times when it's all I think about, part of that being due to seasonal activities changing. I think my next tank will be back to something smaller, maybe 20 gallons or less.

    Building A Reef Tank

    Building a reef tank setup doesn't have to be hard or intimidating, if you can run a circular saw and a drill you can build a stand. The scariest part of the process is drilling the glass, but if you take your time and watch a couple tutorial videos you'll do just fine. If it's your first time building a tank, gather ideas for equipment and design from some of your favorite tanks and see what's working well for them.

    Tip: Try to plan every detail of the build and double check the fit of everything. I originally intended to use a 20gal. long tank for my sump but realized after building the stand that I was less than a half inch short on space inside the stand and had to settle for a 20gal. standard. 

    Disasters & Challenges

    The biggest disaster I can think of is the infestation of an unknown brown slimy growth that I can only guess was some sort of bacterial growth. It seemed to be fueled by dosing vitamin C and would slime up my filter socks (along with every other surface in the tank), I stopped dosing the vitamin C after deciding it was the culprit, however it wasn't until months later when I stopped using filter socks completely that this nuisance subsided. I battled that brown slime for over a year, which resulted in loss of coral color and the loss of almost all of my macro algae, of which I had a decent collection going with probably eight or nine different species, all that remains now is green grape caulerpa.


    My biggest challenge with this tank was moving it to our new home in 2015, I lost 2 fish to this move and probably 45-50 pounds of sand that I ultimately decided to dump rather than reuse. The only advice I can offer for this is to be ready for a lot of work, have a solid plan in place, and make sure you have plenty of buckets.

    Inspirations & Goals

    There are so many inspirational tanks here on Nano-Reef, but I would say the ones that have inspired me the most have been the tanks that take a "hands off" approach, such as Kgoldy's All-Natural 90, I also find PaulB's infamous 40+ year old tank incredibly inspiring.


    I don't have any specific new goals for this tank, but I would like to color up my SPS a bit, and just continue to watch it mature.

    Words Of Wisdom

    No one way of reef keeping is best for everyone, you have to figure out what works for you and your setup. There are many ways to successfully maintain a reef now, you just have to find what works best for you, your budget, and your skill level. Also keep in mind that what works for one tank may not work for another, and that's okay. Sometimes we face challenges in this hobby, but those challenges can give us opportunities to learn and grow.



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    Congrats! Great that you hung in there even with all the ups and downs and now you can enjoy a very nice looking tank.

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    eff the tang police! Beauty is madness!!

    that is a really nice tank. i was just joking around. but it is a little small for a YT
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    Congrats on featured tank profile. I am happy that your tank has been featured as that brought it to my attention.

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