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  • Tamberav

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member Tamberav and her 7 gallon cold water nano reef biotope for being selected for our September Reef Profile! Below is the aquarium profile Tamberav has written for us sharing her experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's progress over the past three years. See what she's been up to and share your comments and questions in Tamberav's featured reef profile announcement or in the comments section below. Be sure to also check out her aquarium journal for more photos and information about this unique cold water biotope.




    Hello! I was a bit in shock to be chosen for September, there are so many beautiful tanks on Nano-Reef.com and every month I look forward to reading the biography and struggles of each one. Thank you to Christopher Marks and thank you to the Nano-Reef Community who has been supportive of all my endeavors. I would also like to thank Micro-Reefs for the donation of this tank and Stu from Cold Water Marine Aquatics for making this possible.

    Tank Specifications

    Display: Micro-Reefs 7.3 gallon (12” x 12” x 12”) acrylic all-in-one aquarium with media rack.

    Stand: Repurposed pine stand.

    Lighting: Coral Compulsion PAR38 14K Full Spectrum with DIY bent conduit light bracket.

    Chiller: JBJ Mini-Artica Chiller 1/15 HP (first year I used a Chill Solutions CSXC-1 Hydroponic Chiller)

    Flow: EcoTech Marine MP10 with Maxijet 1200 for return pump.

    Skimmer: PicO SkiM 2.0 with Whisper 20 air pump.

    Filter Media: BRS Rox Carbon, Purigen & PhosGuard run passively in media bags covered with inTank floss, and a bag of Seachem Matrix.

    Top Off: None, there is zero evaporation.

    Rock: A mix of rock from the Oregon coast and Lake Superior.

    Substrate: Sand from Lake Superior shoreline .

    Temperature: 55 - 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Established July 2014


    • Fluffy Sculpin – Oligocottus snyderi
    • Crevice Kelpfish – Gibbonsia montereyensis
    • Catalina Gobies – Lythrypnus dalli


    • Encrusting Hydrocoral – Stylantheca family
    • Strawberry Anemone – Actinia fragacea
    • Jewel Anenomes – Corynactis viridis
    • Moonglow Anenomes – Anthopleura artesimia
    • Beadlet Anenomes – Actinia equina
    • Aggregating Anenomes – Anthiokeura elegantissima
    • Green Surf Anenomes – Anthopleura xanthogrammica
    • Northern Star Coral – Astrangia poculata
    • Black Turban Snails – Tegula funebralis
    • Feather Duster – Serpula sp.
    • Various unidentified worms and small hitchikers


    My maintenance consists of a roughly 50% water change every two weeks (although I have gone over a month when slacking). I have a small bucket I mix salt in and then put it in my fridge until it is cold enough. I also change out the carbon and phosguard, and clean the skimmer and back chambers during my water changes. The filter floss gets changed weekly. I feed the anemones every few days and first add a pinch of Reef-Roids followed by a varied diet of mysis, roe, brine, LRS, Rod's, silversides, and basically anything meaty. They have gone weeks without food when on vacation without any permanent harm. When the tanks nutrients are under control, there is virtually nothing to clean off the acrylic and I can go months without having to use the Mr Clean magic eraser.


    I believe the reason for this is everything happens very slow in a temperate reef, even the macro algae seem to grow slower. The coralline algae and hydrocoral have been spreading over the years but not at the typical rate in tropical reefs where it can almost become a nuisance. We talk about how important it is to be patient with tropical reefs and I cannot emphasize that enough for the cold side!


    As a child, I had the typical gold fish, frog, and betta tanks. In my teens, I did simple live planted set ups and finally when I moved out for college I started my very first reef tank which was a 12 gallon Aquapod. I had all the typical beginner stuff, xenia, blue mushrooms, cheap zoa's, leathers, a goby, clownfish, and firefish. I have not been able to grow xenia since that first tank which is a bummer because I love the way it moves. Once I moved into a bigger apartment, the addiction really began. I had a macroalgae tank with 3 pairs of spawning dragonets, a mixed display tank, and a mantis shrimp tank with various NPS. Unfortunately however, I move around a lot. My husband is in school and we are unable to buy a house and settle as we will have to move again in three years when he starts residency. As a result my tanks are constantly changing, but the cold water reef has lasted the longest and has been with me three years now.

    I was lucky enough to win this cold water reef tank in a contest and Stu from Cold Water Marine Aquatics generously helped me stock it. I researched everything I could about keeping a temperate reef with Steve Weast's cold water system and Jacobnano's featured nano reef profile in 2013 being great inspirations.

    The Build

    I decided against using IceProbes for cooling as I had found many tanks that crashed from rising temperatures after they failed. Cost was still a concern, so I decided to give Chill Solutions CSXC-1 a chance. It fits in the palm of my hand, and it worked wonderfully for an apartment that has air conditioning. I suspect it wouldn’t have kept up in a hot apartment. I used this for the first year and then upgraded to a JBJ 1/15 HP chiller as the Chill Solutions had to run constantly to keep the temperature around 55-60 degrees, whereas the JBJ only has to kick on for a short period every few hours. I still have the CSXC-1 and will use it as my backup chiller in the future. I started with a LEDtric PAR38 LED bulb, and when it quit working one day I decided on a PAR38 bulb from Coral Compulsion. While there is a big cost factor on a chiller, lighting is simple!


    The tank is made of ½ inch acrylic which has been a great help and is a must-have to prevent condensation unless the tank is kept somewhere cool such as a basement. It also helps during a power outage as it keeps heat from escaping while I rotate ice packs. I wanted to make sure to keep heat out of the tank and originally had a low wattage return pump but upgraded to a Maxijet 1200 when I upgraded chillers. I use a Vortech MP10 to keep the heat from the motor out of the water and use a PicO SkiM skimmer which utilizes an air pump. I also bought pipe insulation to wrap around the vinyl tubing feeding the chiller for efficiency.


    July 2014


    I started off with a semi-deep sand bed collected off Lake Superior, since I have seen deep sand beds recommended for temperate tanks by a few people. I later went to a shallow sand bed as every time I moved apartments it would suffer some disturbance. Without a deep sand bed or aragonite rock, I added a bag of Seachem matrix to the back chamber for the bacteria to colonize instead. My rocks are from the pacific and a few from Lake Superior as well. I decided on this sand and rocks over aragonite to keep the tank looking as natural as possible. I researched the composition of the lake sand and rock vs the pacific and found it to be similar. This was an experiment as most people who keep cold water reef tanks live near an ocean and I was trying to work with what I had available while being land locked. Luckily it did not come back to bite me in the butt! After that I spent time researching what information I could find on available livestock and added critters slowly since biological filtration takes longer to establish at these temperatures. My first fish arrived about 3 months after the tank got wet, and one great thing about temperate fish is disease seems to be exceptionally rare so I don’t feel a quarantine is needed.


    November 2015


    I chose my fish based on what would stay small and have a ton of personality. If you like fish that are fearless in your face types, these guys fit the bill. They are adorned with tassels and have colorful camouflage. I found some information that suggests the Crevice Kelpfish colors match the area it is found. Googling this fish shows some jaw dropping varieties in dazzling pink, red, and greens. I was partial to the fluffly sculpins because they sort of remind me of an adorable scooter blenny.


    July 2016


    For anemones I just wanted anything fish safe that would not outgrow my tank and a variety of colors. My favorite anemone is the moonglow with its soft translucent tentacles and neon colors. I can’t get enough of them and am going to keep an eye out for more colors to collect. The jewel anemones also come in a wide array of colors and I have pink, orange, green with pink tips, and green with orange tips. They are tiny and a bit easy to overlook at first among the larger anemones but fascinating and beautiful all the same.

    Disasters and Challenges

    The biggest re-occurring disaster is power failure. It is easy to manage when I am at home as I keep frozen bottles of water in my freezer. However, I have suffered some losses over the years when a fuse blows or the power fails and I am away from home all day. The anemones fair well but fish and some other invertebrates simply do not. Right now I do not have any fish after my last power outage when I was out of town but plan to add some again after I get the backup chiller running. I also lost my chiton in the last power outage just a few months ago and that loss bummed me out the most. I had raised him from just an unidentifiable spec to about 1.5 to 2 inches big.




    I also went through a period of algae infestation when the tank was young. I had green hair algae and algae that looked just like green hair but red and various browns mixed in. I was able to eventually beat it using an urchin (which ate all my macro algae too), phosguard, manual removal and water changes.




    Another challenge is I need to make sure the inhabitants play "nice". The anemones sometimes pick fights and I manually rearrange them. I also had to imprison my hermit crabs and starfish in the back chamber. The hermits were stealing food and the starfish was eating my snails. I also learned the hard way that Crevice Kelpfish are voracious eaters and can eat gobies and shrimp that appear much larger than their mouths. My urchin also had to go into a back chamber because he grew large enough to pick up and move my rocks and was becoming a danger to the smaller anemones and I even found scratches on the acrylic once he got larger.

    Moving Forward

    Future plans involve setting up a backup chiller and I have upped my feeding recently to get the anemones breeding. I would love to set up a zero edge pico with temperate anemones as I feel it would be just perfect for a system like this and eliminate condensation. Someday I hope to have a larger temperate tank but keeping it small is perfect for apartment living for now.


    I have had my fair share of setbacks but will continue trying to find better ways to keep these challenging creatures. Every hobbyist can probably think of a time they were met with challenges and the ones that end up with beautiful tanks are the ones who don’t give up. Follow the basic rules and be patient, go slow, and stop to enjoy the small things growing in your tank.



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    Very cool to see such a unique 'out-of-the-norm' tank.  Thanks for taking the time to tell us about it, and congrats on being the September TOM.

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    Thank you all for the kind words!!


    On 9/14/2017 at 4:23 AM, Noinoi24 said:

    How did you make that live rock kinda look floating in the back of The tank?


    Bulk Reef Supply sells rubber coated magnets that are super strong and the rubber is thick so no worries about a scratch breaking the rubber seal. I just super glued one on and put another inside the AIO part.

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