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  • jedimasterben

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member jedimasterben and his 36 gallon nano reef for being selected for our August Reef Profile. Below is the aquarium profile jedimasterben has written for us sharing his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's progress over the past year. See what he's been up to and share your comments and questions in jedimasterben'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 awesome reef tank.




    Hi everyone! Wasn’t expecting a message from our lord and savior Christopher Marks, but lo and behold, he has deemed my tank worthy of being featured for August! I don’t particularly think that it is quite to that point, but I trust his judgement more than mine!

    The system is a CoralVue AcquaSole 60, set up late July 2016, tank with white cabinet. I’m using an IceCap 15 sump, bringing total water volume to around 40 US gallons. Lighting is a Maxspect Ethereal running at full power for about 12 hours, and filtration is handled by a Coral Box D500 protein skimmer, a baggie of Seachem Purigen, and some ROX 0.8 activated carbon. Flow in the display is provided by a pair of Tunze 6055 that switch back and forth between 30 and 60% power, and the return pump is a Jecod DCS-5000. I have a 150w Cobalt Neotherm heater (not sure why, the thing never turns on), ATO is provided by an AutoAqua SmartATO, and system control and monitoring is done by a Neptune Apex.




    chromis.jpgChromis viridis


    This system is my fourth reef aquarium, and by far has been the most hands off. After spending years and thousands of dollars buying/building the latest and greatest, chasing numbers, and discarding scores of dead fish, clams, and corals, I decided I needed a change - a leaky 40 gallon breeder sped up that decision. I had already been looking to get a different tank, but whenever it sprung a leak my plans were shelved and I had to find something much sooner. Luckily, my friends at Coralvue really came through for me and I was able to pick up this tank and stand immediately from Ricardo since it turns out he lives only a couple hours away and had one of the exact systems in his garage! They also had a couple of preproduction Maxspect Ethereals for me, which was fantastic timing, as well. For having to be a rush job from the start, the tank actually came together pretty smoothly, especially knowing how I usually do things - meticulously plan everything, only to scrap most of it because I’m impatient and lazy.





    I ordered live rock from KP Aquatics (hands down the best live rock that can be purchased) and mortared it together with some of the rock I broke up from my 40. I have never had a cube aquarium before, so this rock scape took several hours to take shape, with constant spraying with saltwater to keep the rock as live as possible, and an overnight cure for the mortar. I added a bag of oolite sand, then topped it with a bag of Nature’s Ocean ‘gravel’ 2.5mm grain sand, put the rockwork in, moved some corals from the leaky 40, and boom.



    Maintenance is done as little as possible. I feed the tank daily (though sometimes I forget, and sometimes I accidentally dump several times the intended amount of food in), usually a square inch or so of Larry’s Reef Frenzy, but I also feed lots of golden pearls and plenty of New Life Spectrum pellets.



    Pseudanthias dispar



    Beyond that, I really don’t touch the tank. I empty the skimmer cup when I remember (but usually only after it overflows and I have to let it run for a week without the cup to calm down), fill the ATO container when the return starts blowing bubbles, and usually will scrape the glass every couple of weeks when I get tired of not being able to see through it. I don’t usually do water changes, but when I do, they’re 30 gallons (that’s the size of my Brute garbage can I use for water mixing), and the tank looks something like this:



    The less I touch the tank, the better it seems to do, which is evident by the corals filling in over time.










    I’ve had more than a few livestock troubles over the years, and this tank is no stranger to them. Most notably, I lost nearly all of my fish when my wife decided that our house being clean and not smelling like anything was a problem. Put some kind of foofoo air diffuser in the hallway next to the tank, the next day the tank had a thick film on the top and most of my fish were dead, the survivors dying off over the next few days. Starting restocking not too far after a 100% water change, and have had a few things disappear over time, but for the most part the fish have stayed the same since.


    Paracentropogon zonatus


    Macropharyngodon meleagris


    Siganus magnificus


    • Anthias dispar
    • Calloplesiops altivelis
    • Chromis viridis (5)
    • Macropharyngodon meleagris
    • Paracentropogon rubripinnis
    • Salarius ramosus
    • Siganus magnificus


    For invertebrates, I’ve always been partial to a wide array of creatures to make a diverse ecosystem. Snails, crabs (only a few of them, they have too much potential to misbehave to overstock), starfish, worms. My workhorses are astrea snails, trochus snails, and a large brittle star. Another half dozen types of snails fill in any gaps in their diets, the rocks are covered in fanworms (aka feather dusters), and copepods run the place when the leopard wrasse dives into the sand at night.



    Calcinus elegans


    Astraea tecta


    • Astraea tecta
    • Cerithium altratum
    • Cerithium lutosum
    • Littorina ziczac
    • Nassarius vibex
    • Ophiocoma echinata
    • Siphonaria pectinata
    • Trochus sp.

    Corals are exclusively soft corals, corallimorphs, and octocorals. Leathers, gorgonians, mushrooms, zoanthids. Relatively low maintenance, extreme tolerance for allelopathy, and can generally tolerate extremely high light. Just so happens that soft corals are my favorite, so really it’s a win-win in this tank.



    Sarcophyton sp.


    Ricordea florida


    Pinnogorgia flava


    Sarcophyton elegans


    Pterogorgia citrina



    • Capnella sp.
    • Isaurus tuberculatus
    • Lobophytum sp.
    • Nepthea sp.
    • Sarcophyton elegans
    • Sarcophyton sp.
    • Sinularia sp.
    • Palythoa grandiflora
    • Palythoa grandis
    • Palythoa mutuki
    • Palythoa sp. "singapura"
    • Zoanthus gigantus
    • Zoanthus sociatus
    • Zoanthus sansibaricus


    • Discosoma sp.
    • Rhodactis sp.
    • Ricordea florida


    • Antillogorgia bipinnata
    • Muricea elongata
    • Muriceopsis flavida
    • Pinnigorgia flava
    • Plexaura flexuosa
    • Pesudopterogorgia elisabethae
    • Pterogorgia citrina

    My trip down the rabbit hole of saltwater aquariums started with a free 55 gallon tank from an uncle and some rock I literally pulled out of my parents’ flower bed. It was awful, and being cheap cost me a bunch of money, but I learned a lot and was hooked.



    This tank setup was lightyears ahead of that one :lol:


    Salarias ramosus


    Palythoa mutuki


    Chromis viridis

    I love this hobby, though it is one that it is easy to get burned out on, especially as you start having issues with algae or livestock deaths that you can’t explain. I’ve been to that point a couple of times now, but luckily for me it doesn’t take too much to keep me going, usually just a new coral or fish/invert. It’s also a decent amount of work to take down a tank, so laziness definitely comes in there, too! If you’re ever in doubt, just hang in there - and ALWAYS be a skeptic! There are many people out in the world that like to deceive, and this hobby is no exception. From manufacturers making wild claims about their products to people pushing ideas that not only make no sense but that they cannot back up with evidence.



    Briareum asbestinum



    Pseudanthias dispar

    Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me through all my seemingly never ending problems! Kate Upton loves you, and so do I!




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    WTF Benny! You won TOTM? WTF. 



    ABOUT TIME YO!!!! Congratulations.

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    Congrats!  Everything looks so great. :)  

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    Benny, it really is well deserved. Softie tanks are too often times overlooked, but can be the best looking ones when done right.

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    Congrats, Benny! 

    ........still love this tank! 

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    Nano sapiens


    Ya know, I started reading this and for some unknown reason I was thinking of Kate...and holy-moly, there she is!!!.  Cube looks great, too, by the way ;).


    Isn't it funny that with all the fancy equipment and stuff out there, simply employing the basics often results in the most success and enjoyment.



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    Stunning!  Absolutely stunning!  Congratulations, Ben!

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