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  • buddythelion

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member buddythelion and his 25 gallon nano reef for being selected for our October Reef Profile. Below is the aquarium profile buddythelion has written for us sharing his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's progress over the past year and a half. See what he's been up to and share your comments and questions in buddythelion's featured reef profile announcement or in the comments section below. Be sure to also check out his aquarium journal for more photos and information about this gorgeous reef tank.



    Tank Specs

    Display: Innovative Marine 25 Lagoon

    Lighting: ATI 24” Dimmable Sunpower 4 Bulb (3 Blue Plus, 1 Coral Plus), 2 ReefBrite 24” XHO Blue LED Strips

    Heater: Cobalt Neotherm 100w

    Circulation: Sicce 1.5 (Return Pump), 2 EcoTech MP10, Innovative Marine Auqa Gadget Spin Stream 

    Skimmer: Eshopps PSK-100H

    Filter Media: Boyd ChemiPure Blue 5oz, Filter Floss

    Back Chamber Filtration: Two inTank IM25 Filter Floss Holders, MarinePure Ceramic Biomedia Plate

    Back Chamber Refugium: inTank Innovative Marie 25 Fuge Basket, JBJ Nano-Glo 4-LED Refugium Light, Chaeto

    Top Off: Tunze Osmolator Universal 3155

    Dosing: Bubble Magus BM-T11, B-Ionic Components (Alk, Ca, Mag)

    Rock: Jester6 Custom Scape, Real Reef Rock

    Substrate: TropicEden Reef Flakes 30 lbs

    Established February 2016

    Maintenance Routine

    Ideally I strive for weekly 5 gallon water changes using Fritz Reef Pro Mix salt. Water parameters are tested before a water change and the day after to monitor how much Alk and CA is consumed for the week, and how much is replenished with the water change. If parameters look slightly different than what they were the week before, I wait until the next week’s water change to see if the parameters continue to change. Sometimes corals consume at a different rate for different reasons, so I like to give the tank some time to let me know if I do indeed need to up my dosage. If the next water change shows different parameters again, only then will I tinker with my doser.


    Prior to a water change the tank is scraped of all algae, and I have a feeding session for all the corals with a mix of pretty much every coral food in the market. This lets me siphon out all of the unwanted algae, detritus, and extra food my coral didn’t consume.


    Fish are fed pretty much every time I pass by the tank. I believe in small frequent feedings rather than one large session. It keeps their bellies full throughout the day and it means less food wasted, since the amount of food I add into the tank is always in small amounts. I primarily feed New Life Spectrum flakes, but a mix of pellets and frozen are used occasionally. I prefer flakes since they stay in the water column longer.


    My 5 gallon ATO container is refilled roughly every 3 weeks. If I’m ever gone for more than a day, I fill my ATO up just in case it evaporates faster than usual. Skimmer cup is emptied as needed.


    • Joculator Angelfish - Centropyge joculator
    • Candy Basslet - Liopropoma carmabi
    • Midas Blenny - Ecsenius midas
    • Royal Gramma - Gramma loreto
    • Blue Spot Jawfish - Opistognathus rosenblatti
    • Naoko’s Fairy Wrasse - Cirrhilabrus naokoae

    Soft Corals

    • Various Rhodactus sp.
    • Various Discosoma sp.
    • Various Zoanthids sp.
    • Ricordea Florida

    Hard Corals

    • Branching Blastomussa - Blastomussa merletti
    • Various Chalices - Echinopora sp.
    • Scoly - Scolymia sp.
    • Frogspawn - Euphyllia divisa 
    • Hammer - Euphyllia ancora
    • Torches - Euphylia glabrescens
    • Rhizo - Rhizotrochus
    • Dendros - Dendrophyllia
    • Walking Dendro - Heteropsammia cochlea


    • Flower Anemones - Epicystis crucifer
    • Derasa Clam - Tridacna derasa
    • Coco Worm - Protula bispiralis
    • Nassarius Snails - Nassarius sp.
    • Fighting Conches - Strombus spp.
    • Astrea Snails - Astraea tecta
    • Cerith Snails - Cerithium sp.
    • Banded Trochus Snails - Trochus sp.
    • Halloween Hermits - Ciliopagurus strigatus
    • Blue Knuckle Hermits - Calcinus elegans
    • Scarlet Hermits - Paguristes cadenati
    • Blue Leg Hermits - Clibanarius tricolor


    Oh boy, this is a long one. I started this hobby with a freshwater tank. My father was already in the hobby when he was younger, and once my siblings and I got older he introduced the hobby to us. I ended up being the most geeky about it and started getting my hands on every book possible about fish keeping (this was back when the internet wasn’t what it is today). We kept various things from goldfish, cichlids, and community tropical fish. My dad had one saltwater tank, but I was always more interested in freshwater since saltwater was much more challenging back then (and also much more expensive compared to freshwater). It wasn’t until around 2008 that I started my first nano reef tank, a NanoCube 12 DX. It had a 50/50 color combo Power Compacts and allowed me to grow a few easy zoanthids and kenya trees, but corals were not my main interest at the time. I was more fascinated with keeping fish and inverts at the time, in fact my favorite fish were a pair of black clownfish that my dad bought me for my birthday, which are still alive to this day in a 400 gallon system.


    NanoCube 12


    Once better equipment, filtration, and local fish stores came out, keeping corals no longer seemed like an impossible task. My interest in corals began to rise. I lurked on Nano-Reef.com for many years, working on finding out what all of the common methods of keeping a reef tank were, but also in a simple and cost effective manner. After being successful with a few frags, I decided to invest some money into “designer” zoanthids. I remember them being Rastas, Darth Mauls, Red Hornets, and Sunny Ds (the reefer I got them from is still a good friend of mine). If I was going to grow corals, I might as well grow some popular pieces that will let me sell and trade with other hobbyists! These four zoas ended up fueling my addiction. From then, everything just kind of blew up.


    Solana 25


    Soon, my NanoCube 12 was just too small for me. I upgraded to a BioCube 24, only to be replaced with a Solana 25 three days later. A few years with the Solana, and I realized that having a cube shaped tank made aquascaping options very limited. I wanted to go with a two island look, but an 18” cube was just too narrow and too tall to make anything visually pleasing for me. Once the Innovative Marine Lagoons came out, I fell in love with how the dimensions of the tank looked. It gave me the space I needed to create the two island look I’ve always wanted. I ended up focusing mostly on easy to care for corals such as euphyllias, mushrooms, and zoas to keep maintenance to a minimum.

    Disasters & Challenges

    Back when I had my Solana 25, I made the mistake of purchasing wild acropora pieces and introducing them to my tank without quarantining. This led to the introduction of acropora eating flatworms (AEFW). I had to fight with AEFW for many months and after many harsh dips, I lost all of my SPS. I learned quickly to be extremely careful of the frags that you buy, and that it’s best to buy SPS frags from reputable hobbyist that have already grown out their frags. Not only are you getting an aquacultured piece that’s hardier than a wild coral, but the chances of running into pests is much lower.


    My original intention with the Innovative Marine Nuvo 25 Lagoon was to make it SPS dominant since I lost my chance with the Solana 25 from the AEFW incident. Seeing all of those reef tanks full of sticks made it look like living art, and I wanted to achieve that look. Once everything settled in, I made the mistake of going on a shopping spree with SPS. My tank was pretty much full in the span of a month and the tank crashed the month after due to all of the new additions and the constant swings from the SPS consuming elements. It was a very expensive lesson, but it made me realize that nothing good comes fast. Nano reefs are very small and SPS corals consume so much, causing drastic swings all the time. I decided to focus on easier to care corals such as zoanthids and mushrooms since I could be more lax about parameters and they were more forgiving with swings than SPS are. This allowed me to enjoy the hobby a bit more rather than having to worry about the smallest details all the time.


    I also ran into a few months where my tank was covered with a brown film algae and hair algae. My parameters would be spot on and my bioload was very low at the time, so it was always a mystery to me. I increased my clean up crew and started dosing Continuum Bacter Clean M to help get rid of the debri in my system. I battled with the algae for months only for it to disappear one day. It was a mystery to me as to what the difference was but looking back on it, I believe it’s because my tank was going through another cycle. The rock I used for this tank was all artificial/ dead rock, so it made sense why an algae bloom occurred. I believe the cycling for using dead rock is much longer than i had expected. I talked with a close friend who also had the same experience with his tank (he too used only dead rock and sand). This was a good learning experience since I always assumed rock would cure within the first two months of a tank.


    I would say the most challenging aspect of my tank is the fact that it’s a nano tank. Nano tanks get swings very easily. Not just with parameters such as Alk, Ca, and Mag, but with temperature. My room is not ventilated very well and during the summer it gets extremely hot. Just this summer, I lost a couple of pieces due to a very long heat wave (over 100°F) and some corals are still recovering from it. Things happen in an instant with these small systems, and I do believe that having a larger system in much more forgiving in terms of swings than a nano ever will.

    Inspirations & Goals

    My main goal was to always create a tank that would help me enjoy the hobby. Having been in the business side of the hobby, where every coral is named and associated with a price tag, it was hard for me to view this hobby sometimes as just a hobby and not an industry. I would just purchase corals based on their value and not on their color or structures. I got tired of seeing my tank full of random corals everywhere. Seeing all of those beautiful reefs (especially the ones in Germany) made me strive for something better.


    Those tanks led me to my current goal with this tank, which is to get it filled to the brim with fully grown in with corals. I’d like to see my tank as a thriving reef with coral pieces that I found interesting, not just a nicely scaped frag tank. Once this tank is done, I’ll most likely move onto another project. I like to see my reefs as a personal project rather than an aquarium. So once this project is finished, I’ll move onto another one. I already have an idea for my next tank since this one is filling up soon. Being able to see my tanks as a project helps to keep me motivated to maintain them since I have a long term goal in mind for them.


    There are plenty of Nano-Reef tanks which I love, but two hobbyist that always stuck out to me are @Rehype and @Nano sapiens. Oddly enough, they are almost on the opposite spectrums of each other when it comes to reefing. I enjoy how Rehype brings an artistic viewpoint to the hobby. He brought photography into his threads and tried to create pieces of art with his multiple builds. He purchased livestock and coral not for their value, but for what they would add to the tank. Keeping this hobby artistic is a very important standpoint for me and seeing someone else implementing those ideas helped to keep me motivated.


    Nano Sapiens on the other hand was very opposite of Rehype’s tank. Nano Sapiens has the same 12 gallon Cadlights tank for nearly 9 years and keeps things extremely minimal (I mean, he uses a pet water bottle for an “ATO”). I learned from him that reefing didn’t need to be complicated to have amazing looking corals and sometimes it’s best to just keep things simple. He has the biggest sized corals by far (zoa the size of quarters?!) which just proves how healthy his tank is. I’ve met with him a couple of times in person and his stories of how the reefing hobby started takes me back to the roots of the hobby, away from the fast paced tech and coral fads that we are exposed to constantly today. I feel that sometimes we need to remember that at the end of the day, this hobby is meant for us to enjoy taking care of the livestock that we keep and not to chase trends.

    Words Of Wisdom

    Through my years of reefing, I’ve noticed that people come and go through this hobby.


    Unlike other hobbies, this one needs your constant care and attention. You can ski when the winter season comes around and put your gear away once the snow melts, but you can’t do that with reefing. Reefing involves keeping livestock, which means constant attention all year round. Make sure that you plan your first tank as simple as possible to compensate for the busier times you’ll have later in life. It’s good to have a few tanks and photos to inspire you, but it’s also better in the long run to be realistic of what you can accomplish at the moment. Don’t go spending thousands on your first tank copying someone else tank. As you become successful tackling a few small steps, it will give you the confidence to move onto other things. Create a tank based around your schedule and not a schedule around your tank. It allows you to enjoy your reef as a hobby and not a chore.


    Unlike other hobbies, it’s hard to make friends that you can geek about fish to. Make sure that you join a reefing community and start an aquarium journal thread. Creating a thread is the first step to being social in an online community and really helps you keep track of your progress. Join a local club and visit one of the reefing events near your area. If there isn’t a local show, think about visiting one of the larger ones (MACNA or RAP). Being in a huge convention that’s dedicated to your hobby is mind blowing, your local fish store can only show you so much. Being social is such a huge part of any hobby and making friends with the same reefing interest as you will help keep you motivated.


    And mostly, have patience. Nothing comes fast in this hobby. Our hobby is unlike any other, with much more challenges, but I’d say it’s by far the most rewarding.



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    Congrats, Darwin!  Awesome tank with a fantastic selection of really colorful corals!


    Great 'Words of Wisdom' for those starting out on their own reefing adventure.



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    1 hour ago, OldManSea said:

    Wow!  An inspirational tank and great write up for newbies like me.

    Glad you enjoyed the write up, if you need any help feel free to PM me! And I'm incredibly honored to be featured as TOTM. :blush:

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    beautiful, balanced, tasteful and clearly the work of someone with an artistic eye.  congrats....well deserved.  


    also, IF those are "bounce mushrooms" this tank is the first time I have ever seen their appeal.  very effective when placed artfully.

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