Congratulations to community member xellos88 and his 12 gallon nano reef for being selected for our November Reef Profile. Below is the aquarium profile xellos88 has written for us sharing his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's incredible journey over the past seven years! See what he's been up to and share your comments and questions in the comments section below. Be sure to follow his aquarium journal for additional photos, history, and information about this wonderful reef tank.
Display: Marineland Eclipse 12
Lighting: AI Prime (non-HD)
Circulation: Hydor Koralia Nano
Skimmer: Dymax IQ Skimmer (Air driven)
Filtration: Eheim Liberty 2042
Filter Media: Seachem Denitrate, Seachem Matrix Carbon, TGR (The Glass Reef) HPP01
Top Off: DIY Water Bottle Top Off
Dosing: Kalkwasser for Ca and Alk through top off, Randy's Epsom Salt mixture for Magnesium
Fan: Dymax W8 Vortex Cooling Fan
Established August 2010
A two gallon water change is done every two weeks with natural, unfiltered ocean water. I live close to a relatively clean water source and do a saltwater run every 2 months with 2 x 5 Gallon water containers. I test my salinity every time I collect water and do the necessary corrections with purified drinking water. Lately, I’ve also been testing alkalinity and calcium and adjust my kalkwasser dosage based on consumption.
Tank wall cleaning is done weekly or more, when I have time and want to stare at the tank and take pictures. I have a “thing” I made using a bamboo stick with a piece of credit card electric-taped at the end. The credit card end is what I use to scrape coralline, and I fit a melamine foam (magic eraser) on it to clean film algae on the acrylic.
I currently feed using New Life Spectrum small fish formula once daily and occasionally feed fish roe to the Carpet Anemone through a gravel vac acrylic tube (around once a month) and I dose Aquavitro Fuel daily at 0.5ml. Lately I also utilize display Macro Algae (Ochtodes) to help control nutrients and trim at least once a month.
I try my best, but I don’t adhere to a very strict maintenance and feeding routine, and sometimes can skip a week or two on water changes.
Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion Ocellaris)
Yellowtail Damselfish (Chrysiptera Parasema)
Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla Gigantea)
Yellow Coral Banded Shrimp
Hermit Crabs(eaten by carpet anemone)
Once upon a time in the island of Mindanao where I grew up, we were vacationing in a rocky beach front and I escaped from my dad’s friend’s beach house at early dawn to frolic in the tidepools. That was when I saw what I now know was a tiny juvenile maroon clownfish hosting a small bubbletip anemone. I was so mesmerized by the fish’s finnage and movement and how bold it was, not swimming away when I scooped it up and promptly returning to its host once I put it back in the water. That was when my obsession with aquatic life started and I feel all my current efforts really are just subconsciously trying to recreate the experience of staring into that clear tide pool full of life. I kept marine fish in my younger years which was mostly bycatch from local fishmongers, and sometimes live fish from the local fish market (snowflake eels!). Those tanks did not last long because I had no one to guide me at the time, and I was taking a path that not a lot of people understood, but what kept me going was in those early years of the internet I found that I wasn’t alone in this crazy hobby.
Day 1 August 2010
Then life happened and reefkeeping took a backseat. I graduated college and got a job as a web developer, and the company I used to work for generously sent me to the USA for training and immersion. I visited a pet shop selling saltwater fish and that’s when my interest in the hobby was rekindled. I was close, but wasn’t able to setup a tank in the US due to visa issues and the 2008 financial crisis, but I did bring home the Eclipse 12 tank that I’m using now. I joined a local saltwater tank forum (ReefPhilippines) and found Nano-Reef.com when I returned to the Philippines around 2009 and was very inspired by the TOTMs (Featured Tanks) but it wasn’t until 2010 that I finally set one up after discovering Chuck's Addiction, who was a hobbyist who happened to be on the same island as me. Nano-Reef.com and Chuck's Addiction still continues to be instrumental in my reefkeeping journey.
In the early years of starting this tank, my livestock was limited to what I could collect in the tidepools in low tide because I’m not a very good swimmer/diver. I saw that as somewhat of an advantage because I knew the frags I got could handle high nutrients, being on a public beach. It was during this time that I learned about species compatibility, lighting requirements including intensity and spectrum according to your livestock's biotope, and paying attention to you corals' growth pattern and "pruneability" to keep them from overshadowing each other. Then Facebook happened and connected me to other local hobbyists and that was when I was able to acquire more exotic and colorful frags. My reef hobbyist friends also keep me updated on the latest coral fads which makes it hard to commit to a small aquascape and makes me want to upgrade to a bigger tank, but the simplicity and cost of keeping a nano tank always wins out for me in the end.
Inspiration & Goals
Before I started setting up this reeftank, I was into planted tanks and was inspired by Takashi Amano’s works. I wanted to apply planted tank scaping principles to reefkeeping to create an impressive display in a small box of water. I also wanted this tank to be easy and replicable to prove that nice tanks don’t have to be expensive with all the bells and whistles. It’s challenging to apply freshwater aquascaping principles to reef tanks, because the corals grow in every direction EXCEPT the direction you want them to grow. The perfect spot where you want to put a colony will often be a hated spot by that particular coral and the spot where it likes will be just a few cms left or right, up or down, and it can't be next to the coral you want it next to and they also change colors based on your spectrum and what you feed. The goal is to have the mini colonies stay where they’re supposed to stay and grow into a vibrant display and capture the progress. Some tanks I really admire are Natural Wonders' Mushroom Tank, Nano Sapiens' Old 12 gal Nano, Scorched's 12 gallon long, and Hey's 50 gallon nano reef, all previously featured on this site.
I’m planning to upgrade to a bigger tank, but still in the nano range, so probably not more than 40 gallons.
Tips & Tricks
Start a tank journal. It shouldn’t be too hard now that phone cameras take really good photos. lt helps you commit to a maintenance routine and opens you up to constructive criticism and helps you deal with issues you otherwise might have missed.
Join or start a local reef club. Your hobbyist friends will be your support when your tank crashes and you can share test kits and trade frags.
Utilize display macro algae to help reduce nutrients and make your tank look good at the same time.
Research about the biotope of your existing livestock so that you can adjust your tank's nutrient level and lighting needs and to help you choose compatible future livestock.
Have an exit strategy. Even if it seems like you have the most stable and bullet proof tank, mother nature always reminds you that she’s in control like in 2013, when we were hit with a magnitude 7 earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan.
My experience with the Prime has led me to believe that we don’t really need to have a very complicated lighting schedule with lots of data points and interesting graph patterns to run a successful reef tank. The key is patience, a good idea of your light's PAR values at the height it's mounted, and a long acclimation period starting from a low intensity. Sometimes, impatience and the ease of tweaking schedules can cause you to fiddle with your settings too much and crash your tank instead. Keeping it simple usually works.
Some people view reef keeping as keeping "coral tanks", and that is where the need for equipment to control nutrients and chemical resins to absorb toxins come in to help you meet the ideal conditions for your corals to thrive. For others, reef keeping is like transplanting a tide pool into an aquarium, and having a complete and natural ecosystem and emulating the natural environment often leads to a stable and successful reef tank. For me, both definitions are not mutually exclusive. We should take advantage of technological advancements and at the same time use natural biological processes to augment what we can already achieve with equipment. The important thing is to go about the hobby sustainably so we can enjoy reef tanks and have a minimal impact on the environment.
I would like to thank the members of my local reef group (Cebu Reef Club). Without you guys, I wouldn't have been able to stock my tank with colorful corals. Special thanks also to PMRAS, the best reef group in the Philippines, for advocating conscientious and sustainable practices in the hobby.
I would also like to thank @Nano sapiens for the guidance I received through his posts and tank journal and generally being a voice of reason on this site, and to @Christopher Marks for building an awesome community.