Congratulations to community member Polarcollision and her 24 gallon reef aquarium for being selected for our May Reef Profile! This nano reef aquarium is absolutely jam packed with beautiful mature specimens, all coexisting harmoniously. Below is the aquarium profile Polarcollision has written for us sharing her experiences in the hobby and her aquarium's progress over the past two and a half years. See what she's been up to and share your comments and questions in Polarcollision's featured reef profile thread, or in the comments section below. Be sure to also check out her aquarium journal in the members aquariums forum for more information about this reef tank.
I've always felt bound to the rhythms and life of the ocean. As often as possible, you'll find me exploring tide pools or photographing the coast – I even lived on a sailboat for a while. The ocean simply runs through my veins.
Display: 36" x 12" x 12" Innovative Marine Nuvo 24 bent glass 24 gallon all-in-one aquarium.
Lighting: Two Aqua Illumination Hydras with 7 independent color channels.
Controller: Digital Aquatics Reef Keeper Lite
Heater: 150W Cobalt Aquatics Neo-therm
Water Motion: Jebao WP-25 wave-maker with voltage reduced to 12V, stock dual nozzle return pump.
Biological Filtration: 1-3" CaribSea Ocean Direct Caribbean sand, approx 1/4-1/3 of total display volume is live rock, mechanical filter sponge.
Protein Skimmer: Tunze 9002 with modified collection cup.
Filter Media: Dual mechanical filtration sponges changed 1-3 months. Carbon, Chemipure, or GFO on rare occasion.
ATO: Tunze 5017
Dosing: Three BRS 1.1 mL dosers for Alk, Ca, Mg.
Chiller: AquaEuro 1/13 hp
Established November, 2013.
- Salinity Level: 1.025
- Temperature: 78.5
- pH: 8.2-8.4
- Calcium: 420-440
- Alkalinity: 7.8-8.2 dKh
- Magnesium: 1270-1310
- Potassium: 380-400 (salt levels/not tested)
- Ammonia: 0
- Nitrite: 0
- Nitrate: .5
- Phosphate: .03-.06
As a newish reefer, I found it confusing to decipher into literal, practical terms what others meant by generalities such as "keep the water balanced", "minimize swings" or "your coral will tell you what they need", etc. So I'd like to share some of the practical details I've gathered over the last few years of researching, keeping in mind that this is one of several techniques for successful reefing.
Because my main goal with this tank is water chemistry stability, a dosing schedule is programmed to minimize parameter swings. In my experience, the most critical parameter to maintain for sensitive acropora is alkalinity, which I do not allow to swing more than .25 dKH at any time. The Reefkeeper Lite controls three BRS dosers by dividing the daily Alkalinity, Calcium, and Magnesium bolus into 12 doses. This reduces alkalinity swings to approximately 0.1 dKH every 2 hours.
One of the more fascinating discoveries I made in my quest for colorful acros is the correlation between nutrients and the 'big 3' (Ca, Mg, alk). It appears that tanks running higher nutrient levels tend to do better with higher alk and ca levels while tanks that have low nitrates and phosphates tend to do better with 'big 3' levels closer to those of natural sea water. Since the skimmer now keeps this tank's nutrient levels on the lower side, I maintain parameters as close to natural sea water as possible.
Another aspect affecting stability is the parameter swing that can happen at water changes. For my tank, I change 5 gallons every 2-6 months. If the salt parameters were far different from the tank parameters, the coral would be shocked with each water change. So to maintain stability at water changes, I chose a salt with levels close to NSW and then target tank parameters to that salt. In my case RedSea blue bucket works well.
Did you catch that water change schedule? Since I tend to be hands off with my maintenance routines, it becomes important to maintain trace elements and general ionic balance with dosing. I eventually found a great combination at a very good price with BRS Soda Ash, Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, and Magnesium Chloride. To each dosing solution I add the appropriate Fauna Marin Ultra Balling Light trace elements. More in depth info can be found here in my aquarium journal.
The only hand-dosing I do is an occasional drop or two of Lugols Solution. I feel the extra iodine and potassium helps brighten zoanthids and the blue/purple/pink colors of my acros.
• Chocolate Ocellaris Clownfish
• Black Snowflake Clownfish
• McCosker Flasher Wrasse
• Leopard Wrasse
• Blue Star Leopard Wrasse
• Labout's Fairy Wrasse
• Pajama Cardinal
• Yellow Watchman Goby with Randalli Pistol Shrimp
• Tailspot Blenny (with me for 3+ years, RIP)
• Green Star Polyps
• Pipe Organ
• Tuxedo Urchin
• Fighting Conch
• Green Mithrax
• Assorted Snails
• Sea Squirt
• Red Titan
After this tank was cycled, I took the rocks and coral from my previously featured Nuvo 8 in one piece and placed them in the right side of this tank. Many of these corals have been with me for almost 3.5 years now, some growing from tiny thumbnail sized frags. It's been interesting to watch each coral mature and take up arms in the battle for precious space on this reef.
This tank has kept me on my toes and engaged. Many things have gone well with this tank, but I feel there's more value to the community in sharing the challenges overcome along the way.
Right off the bat I had a giant diatom outbreak, which turned into a giant dinoflagellate and cyano blanket outbreak. My very first disaster came with a ChemiClean treatment for the cyano. I dosed the aquarium, adjusted the wave-maker to water level where it would aerate the tank nicely, and went to bed. Unfortunately during the night the wave-maker slid lower into the water, causing oxygen levels to plummet, which then lead to many new acropora frags dying. It was heartbreaking to loose so much livestock. Eventually the nutrient issues resolved as the tank matured. Today, entire back chamber is covered with micro tube worms, sponges, amphipods, brittlestars, etc. They do a lot of work keeping the water clean.
A short while later, my cat missed her landing and fell onto the skimmer, completely snapping off the return lines to the tank. We awoke at 4 in the morning to 1/4" water covering the entire living room. Fortunately I always have 5-10 gallons of salt water premixed and plenty of towels. If that wasn't enough, we were scheduled to leave 3 hours later for a week-long cruise during the hottest week that summer--now without a chiller. As you might imagine, almost no acropora survived the week, though surprisingly the rest of the coral did well.
The next challenge was an outbreak of a red gelidium algae and hydroids. The hydroids went away over the course of a year with reduced small particle feedings. After trying multiple algae control methods, I settled on a tiny tuxedo urchin which kept the gelidium under control until corals finally grew enough to out-compete it for light. This was a very looooong journey. Lesson learned: be patient. Sometimes it can take a year for favorable conditions to develop. In the mean time, enjoy what is going right with your tank.
The final challenge was to figure out why my acropora were not as colorful as they could be. This led to intensive research and study of everything from lighting and wavelengths to nutrition to water chemistry and stability to quality test kits. I've left notes and details in my thread along the way as a reference for myself and also in case it's helpful for others overcoming similar challenges.
My third and current disaster is an epic outbreak of aptasia. I've tried everything from Aptasia-X to vinegar and salt to kalk to boiling water to nudibranchs... nothing seems to work on these buggers long term, and every treatment seems to seed even more baby aptasia. To be frank, I'm not entirely sure how to win this battle. If they simply cannot be killed off, the plan is to remove all of the rock, re-scape, and frag the current corals. Stay tuned!
I'm a big fan of sugar-fine sandbeds made of aragonite sand. Avoiding silica-based sands can help reduce chronic diatom blooms. The finer grain sands provide more surface area for bacteria which means more biological filtration. It also helps keep debris and detritus on the surface where currents can easily sweep it into mechanical filters. Fine sand that is roughly 3" deep has a better chance of establishing a very slow trickle of water movement which encourages anaerobic bacteria for denitrification and completion of the nitrogen cycle. One down side to fine sand is that it can bind together. To combat this I've added a fighting conch and nassarius snails as excellent sand-stirrers. Portions of the sand bed are also replaced every 6-12 months.
If you find chiton or limpet hitchhikers, they make excellent additions to the clean-up crew. These are slowly replacing snails as my primary algae control.
I'd like to thank my husband for his support in my reefing addiction. He's been both enthusiastic about investing in the reef as well as an ethical compass in regard to livestock. I'm also grateful for the friends and kind souls I've had the pleasure to 'meet' here at Nano-Reef.com, for your shared enthusiasm, technical expertise, and love of all things ocean. Like others, I believe Nano-Reef is our best forum and resource on the net and I'm honored to be a part of it. Thank you Christopher Marks for continuing to provide such a wonderful forum!