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  • Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member Lawn and his 34 gallon reef aquarium for being selected for our December Reef Profile! This nano reef showcases the incredible beauty, movement, and diversity of soft coral, sponges, and gorgonians. Below is the aquarium profile Lawn 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 Lawn'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.


    Tank Specs

    Display: Red Sea Reefer 170, 34 gallon 24.5" x 20" x 20" display. 
    Sump: Stock 9 gallon sump, no upgrades.
    Lighting: 1 AquaIllumination Prime 
    Heater: Finnex HMA Series 150 watt 
    Circulation: Sicce Syncra 2.5 return and two MP10's, one on the right side middle glass and one on the left side near front glass.
    Skimmer: None
    Filtration: Thin mesh filter sock and macro algae in the sump lit by a PAR bulb.
    Reactor: One Innovative Marine Desktop Mini Reactor with GFO.
    Dosing: Brightwell Coral Amino every other day. Kent Coral Accel every 3 days or when I remember. 
    Controller: None
    ATO: Integrated stock Red Sea Reefer top-off.

    Established October 2015

    Maintenance Routine

    When starting this tank, I set out to create an environment that was beautiful, yet low maintenance. I have always loved the flow and sway soft coral and gorgonians add to a display, that is what this tank is focuses on. Maintenance is fairly easy by design, every Sunday I clean the glass and change out five gallons of water with Red Sea Coral Pro salt. I love how easy RSCP mixes up, and the levels of elements in this salt mix help me keep maintenance with dosing down. I don't test anything but salinity when doing my water change. I also change out the 4 teaspoons of GFO in the reactor when doing my water change. I then clean the filter sock and stir up the sump, allowing detritus to get filtered out. I simply feed the tank twice a day with a mixture of Omega One marine and veggie flakes.


    • 1 Mollie Miller Blenny
    • 1 Ocellaris Clownfish
    • 1 Green Clown Goby 
    • 1 Golden Sailfin Blenny 
    • 5 Masked Gobies


    • Green Star Polyps
    • Multiple Toadstool Leathers
    • Devils Hand Leather 
    • Kenya Tree
    • Pulsing Xenia
    • Fiji Yellow 
    • Zoanthids & Palythoa
    • Gorgonians
    • Ricordeas


    • Red Tree Sponge
    • Yellow Tree Sponge
    • Blue Vase Sponge
    • Yellow and Red Ball Sponges
    • Purple encrusting Sponge
    • Blue Plating Sponge


    • Snails
    • Hermit Crabs
    • Feather Dusters
    • Micro Basket Starfish 
    • Brittle Starfish 
    • 1 Maxi Mini Anemone 


    My first tank was a 29 gallon BioCube that I built back in 2009, and that got me hooked on the hobby. The BioCube served its purpose at the time and I really think the AIO tanks have greatly improved since then. I have had plenty of tanks since that first in 2009 – way too many to list. I just couldn't seem to find one that I absolutely loved, and I found myself always going back to nano-sized tanks! I find I really like the smaller scale of nano tanks and nano fish. When Red Sea came out with the plug and play Reefer series last year, I knew I would love it and I wasn't disappointed. Red Sea has really hit the ball out of the park with this line of tanks!


    When I first set up the Red Sea 170, I moved over everything from my previous tank, including all of my LPS coral. My initial plan for this tank was focus on LPS with soft coral and gorgonians. New tank syndrome set in and that, along with lack of testing and dosing, caused my LPS corals to go downhill. I got frustrated, but then realized I really loved the textures, movement and look of soft coral and gorgonians, so I switched the direction of the tank to focus solely on those types of coral.


    I run my own business and 2016 was very busy for me. I was also tired of tossing money away on stony coral, watching it die when I couldn't dose or test since my schedule was crazy. When I set the tank up I also transferred over three clownfish, two platinum and one percula. The two platinum clowns lived in the top back corner of my tank and continually splashed water out of the tank, making a mess of the tank itself as well as the hardwood floors beneath my tank. At that point, I decided to give them a better home and turned them in to my fish store, where they happily live in a 180 gallon system today.

    I let the tank age and grow for a few months while I decided what direction I wanted to go with fish. I then purchased a Mollie Miller Blenny and could not be happier – what a cool fish with tons of personality! This fish actually smiles at me on a daily basis! I then added some additional blennies and gobies, realizing I really enjoy those types of fish more than any others.


    I've had a few hiccups in addition to losing the LPS, but nothing that wasn't easily overcome. I cut back feeding when I felt nutrients got high, and once I found the balance, I actually got rid of my skimmer and just run macro algae in the sump for some additional filtration. I've also had to get rid of a few gorgonians and cut back some coral due to space limitations as the tank grew. I didn't want to lose some of the shaded coral, so this was a good solution for me. I also now continually trim back as I notice certain corals squeezing out others. Now that things are stable and running, other than my weekly water changes and some fragging here and there, the Softie Reef thrives with minimal maintenance and upkeep. I enjoy my reef now more than I ever have and find that it doesn't seem like a chore to keep it up, even when my schedule gets crazy.

    Future Plans

    At this time, I have no plans other than watching this tank continue to grow and establish. I'm still finding new life and critters in my tank, such as some strawberry anemones I recently discovered, and I'm really enjoying watching how the environment fills as the tank ages. This is really the first tank I have enjoyed from the beginning and continue to enjoy every day. I have no urge to upgrade in the future.


    I read so many stories of frustration with this hobby and I would like to encourage other reefers to start or switch to a soft coral reef before getting out of the hobby due to frustration. There are so many reefers that break down their tanks after disappointment from watching their beautiful stony corals recede and wither away. I have been there, experienced that exact frustration and have a closet full of t-shirts as a reminder! I found that by focusing on the easier corals, it gives me more time to enjoy my tank and I don't feel I'm sacrificing color or beauty by going with "easier" or "beginner" corals.

    Advice For New Hobbyists

    I believe research is THE most important part of this hobby. Do plenty of research before purchasing anything for your tank – whether it be a fish, coral, invert or equipment. Do research before you even buy a tank. Think about what direction you want your tank to go in and why. Is it because you like a certain type of coral? A kind of fish? Figure out what you like and design your tank around that. Then, when you think you're ready to buy your first tank, buy an RODI unit first before ANYTHING else. I have read so many stories where hobbyists buy hundred dollar corals or spend thousands of dollars in livestock but won't purchase a RODI unit for pure water. They then get frustrated wondering why their tank isn't doing well and it all comes back to the water. Knowing what is going into your tank is important. Lastly, don't buy into the coral fads and hype like I have done in the past – buy what you like and not a name. Named corals come and go, as do their price tags. Make sure you like what you're buying, that is the most important.

    Thoughts On...

    • Lighting
      Lighting is one of most talked about subjects in this hobby. There are many options out there in the lighting department and I have tried all the major types. I love them all for their own reasons, and I believe that there are different lighting applications that are better suited for certain types of coral. It is very important  to research what lighting will work for you and your tank. I love my AI Prime light, but metal halide is still one of my favorites.
    • Coral Fads
      Coral fads will always come and go in this hobby and can leave you frustrated. It all goes back to purchasing what you like, not what you think you should like based on the current fad. It's your money and your tank make sure you are spending your money on what you want your future reef to look like, as well as what your current tank will support. 


    There are plenty of Nano-Reef members and tanks that have given me inspiration over the years, too many to list! Zia's softy reef has always been a source of inspiration for me and for this tank especially. I still have some of Zia's corals living in my reef today.


    I'd like to say thank you to everyone here on Nano-Reef.com who nominated my Softie Reef, I really appreciate the support. I also want to send a shout-out to Lawn's Lounge group for the continued support and friendship – you all know who you are! There are so many different tanks and personalities to go along with them on Nano-Reef, it really is an amazing community and I place I always enjoy spending my winter months off at. A big thanks to Christopher Marks for featuring my tank and for giving all of us Nano-Reef.com.



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    Congrats Lawn! You definitely deserve this, your tank is amazing.

    Keep posting the progression pics in your thread, it's has been fun to follow....

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    I knew it was just a matter of time, nice job! I really enjoy tanks that demonstrate that there's more than one way to keep a reef, and that it doesn't have to be super hard or expensive or even take a lot of time. It's an approach that has a lot of value to beginners and experienced reefers alike :)

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    Congrats Lawn!


    Congrats, and great write-up!


    Congrats Lawn this tank is one of my favorites!
    Thanks guys much appreciated :)
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    Congratulations Lawn!

    Thank you...

    Congrats Lawn! You definitely deserve this, your tank is amazing.

    Keep posting the progression pics in your thread, it's has been fun to follow....

    Thank you Shane. I will definitely keep up on the pics.

    Congrats Lawn Awesome Tank

    Thank you :)

    Gorgeous tank - congratulations!

    Thank you

    I knew it was just a matter of time, nice job! I really enjoy tanks that demonstrate that there's more than one way to keep a reef, and that it doesn't have to be super hard or expensive or even take a lot of time. It's an approach that has a lot of value to beginners and experienced reefers alike :)

    Thanks John

    how is the single AI on the 170? You think enough to pull off some LPS?

    The back corners are dim and won't support much of anything on the sandbed back there. It will support lower light LPS on the sandbed and higher light LPS in the middle. My leathers are really getting big and shading corals so a light upgrade is already in the works.

    how is the single AI on the 170? You think enough to pull off some LPS?

    All this led stuff is new to you??? Remember the good old metal halide days :lol: ?
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    actually i think im getting a 170 and tossing an old 150 MH swingarm fixture on it, had been leaning Nuvo 40 but your tank pushed me over the edge to the 170

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