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  • dpoltsdsu

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member dpoltsdsu and his 42 gallon nano reef for being selected for our November 2018 Reef Profile! This incredibly diverse nano reef aquarium was inspired by his dives in the Pacific and Caribbean, featuring fish, soft coral, and invertebrates from both regions. In this article dpoltsdsu shares his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's journey over the last year! Share your comments and questions in the comments section below, and follow his aquarium journal for additional photos, history, and information about this wonderful reef tank.

    dpoltsdsu's 42 Gallon Nano Reef Aquarium

    First off, I want to sincerely thank Christopher for selecting my tank as TOTM among the very many worthy and beautiful tanks on this site. I have read all of the profiles while setting up tanks and they have given me and many others a wealth of knowledge and inspiration, and I am honored to have my aquarium now included among them.



    Tank Specs

    Display: CADLights 42 Gallon Versa (30’’ x 18’’ x 18’’)

    Sump: 16 Gallons with 3 chambers
    Lighting: SB Reef Lights sBox Pro 16’’ LED fixture
    Heater: Eheim Jager 50 watt heater
    Circulation: 2 Vortech MP10’s set to reef crest mode
    Skimmer: Bubble Magus Curve 5
    Filtration: Cheato refugium and carbon filter bag
    Filter Media: Bulk Reef Supply Large Particle Lignite Carbon
    Top Off: Tunze Osmolator 3155
    Dosing: B-Ionic Calcium and Alkalinity
    Controller: Reef Keeper Lite

    Established October 12, 2017







    For maintenance on this reef, I do a variety of tasks that help keep the reef thriving. I spend 5-10 minutes each day to visually inspect, dose, and feed the reef. This allows me to keep in tune with the aquarium and make sure everything looks happy and healthy. I feed very heavily, often 3 to 4 times a day, as I have a trio of Lyretail Anthias that need to be frequently fed. I also spot feed the corals with Reef Roids a couple times a week as I have a lot of Gorgonians that benefit from the additional food. I do one 40% water change once a month to ensure all other parameters stay in check. During this water change, I siphon the sand bed and blow detritus off the rocks with a turkey baster to avoid build up. I also hatch baby Brine Shrimp daily to feed my Pipefish and Mandarin. A lot of corals catch the brine in the water column as well.



    • Visually inspect coral and fish and look or anything that may be wrong.
    • Feed the fish.
    • Dose Calcium and Alkalinity for the Clams.


    • Spot feed all corals and inverts.
    • Wipe down any algae on the glass.
    • Harvest Cheato from the refugium.
    • Test Calcium/Alkalinity.
    • Empty Skimmer cup.


    • 40% water change, siphon sand bed.
    • Change out Carbon.

    Every 6 Months

    • Thoroughly clean all equipment.


    • Tomini Tang
    • Melanurus Wrasse
    • Royal Gramma
    • Pair of Blue Stripe Pipefish
    • False Percula Clownfish
    • True Percula Clownfish
    • Target Mandarin
    • Yellow Watchman Goby
    • Falco Hawkfish
    • Trio of Lyretail Anthias
    • Blue Green Chromis

    Soft Coral

    • Branching GSP
    • Toadstool Leather
    • Pom Pom Xenia
    • Florida Ricordea
    • Yuma Ricordea
    • Assorted Zoanthids
    • Green Sinularia
    • Kenya Tree Coral
    • Clove Polyps
    • Grube’s Gorgonian
    • Knobby Sea Rod
    • Rusty Gorgonian
    • Yellow Sea Whip
    • Purple Plume Gorgonian
    • Green Fuzzy Mushroom
    • Long Stock Capnella

    LPS Coral

    • Assorted Micromussa


    • Derasa Clam
    • Maxima Clam
    • Rock Flower Anemone
    • Red Ball Sponges
    • Assorted Hermit Crabs
    • Turbo Snails
    • Tiger Conches
    • Trochus Snails


    I have been in the aquarium hobby for about 8 years now. I am an avid diver and I wanted to replicate what I saw on wild reefs in my own home.  Something about seeing bright reef fish darting around and seeing beautiful corals swaying in the current really relaxed me, I knew I had to start a reef tank. I started my first aquarium in college, a 14 gallon BioCube reef tank. As soon as I got corals, I was hooked. Like many of us, I quickly upgraded my first system. I went to a 29 gallon tank to a 34 gallon Red Sea Max, to a 75 gallon tank, and then, finally, to my current 42 gallon reef.

    Tank Inspiration


    For this reef tank, I wanted to do something a bit different. After a diving trip to the South Pacific, I was inspired by the fields of soft coral and the thousands of beautiful fish hovering and darting amongst the coral. About a year later, I got the opportunity to dive in the Caribbean and I was amazed by all of the incredible Gorgonians that dominate the area. I wanted this reef to be a representation of both of these amazing dives. I originally wanted to have two islands in the tank with one structure representing the Pacific and the other the Caribbean. This proved to be too difficult as the corals were getting too large and I ran out of room. This is still something I want to explore in a future tank, but for now, I am happy with how the aquascape for this tank turned out.



    October 2017

    Livestock Selection

    I wanted this tank to be full of large, colorful and lush corals. To achieve this, I decided to go with a soft coral dominated reef tank. I have collected a good mixture of beautiful soft coral from the Pacific as well as some photosynthetic Gorgonians from the Caribbean. These corals are now quite large and I am really pleased with their progression. I made a concerted effort to place corals in a way that looks natural. I let the corals grow and fill the tank and it gives the reef a very natural feel. For example, the shells of the clams are absolutely filled with soft corals that provide a unique contrast of color. There are also a variety of Flower Anemones, bright sponges, crabs, and other inverts that add to the biodiversity of the aquariums, similar to what I would see on a wild reef.



    February 2018


    In an effort to replicate what I saw diving in this reef tank, I have a large variety of fish that represent a lot of different colors, niches, and behaviors. The Anthias, Royal Gramma, Clownfish, and Chromis provide a splash of color and are always out swimming which makes the reef come to life. The Melanurus Wrasse and Tomini Tang provide pest and algae control and are constantly grazing on the rocks, which makes the reef more dynamic. The Yellow Watchman Goby, Falco Halkfish, Mandarin, and the Pipefish are constantly darting in, on, and out of the aquascape and make the reef more interesting to observe. The fish also all provide a different color pattern that gives this reef tank a multitude of color that coral reefs are known for.



    July 2018


    I maintain very steady Calcium (400) and Alkalinity (8) numbers for the clams. The Derasa clam grows very rapidly and requires daily dosing to keep parameters steady. I have found that the soft corals seem to do better with slightly higher nitrates and I keep them in the 5-10 ppm range.


    The number of fish and the heavy feeding I do make the tank have a very high bioload. I have found it necessary to run both a Skimmer and Cheato Refugium.  Both of these tools, along with a 40% monthly water change, help keep the reef clean and healthy. I also run Carbon as there is a lot of Soft Corals in the tank that can sometimes produce toxins when competing against each other for space. The Carbon helps to absorb those toxins.




    The biggest disaster I have had in my time in the hobby has been Zoanthid and Montipora eating Nudibranchs.  These ate all of my Montipora and most of my Zoanthids before setting up this new tank. The Melanurus Wrasse has helped eliminate these pests and I don’t plan on adding any of these corals for awhile so I can starve any remaining Nudibranchs out. 

    Advice For New Hobbyists

    My biggest advice to new reefers is to stay patient and research anything you buy. These two things will save a lot of stress and money. I urge anyone to try and find a local reef club. It’s great having people that are local to trade corals with and exchange information.

    Thoughts On...

    • Sandbeds
      I love the look of sandbeds, however, if you have one, it is important to siphon the sand or have animals that will sift the sand to prevent build up detritus.
    • Dosing
      I think dosing is very important, especially, if you have Clams and/or LPS and SPS corals that build a skeleton. I have found that maintaining a stable Alkalinity level is vital in having success with more difficult corals like Acropora.
    • Aquaculture
      I believe Aquaculture is the future of this hobby. I do everything I can to source my coral and fish from sustainable aquculture facilities.
    • Foods
      I believe in feeding a heavy and varied diet to the inhabitants of our reef tanks. These creatures are constantly eating in the wild and I do my best to replicate their diet. I feed many different foods very frequently and my fish have been very resistant to disease and have great color.
    • Coral Fads
      It’s important to purchase corals that YOU like. My tank’s coral seem very “basic” to many, but I love the movement and colors that they provide.



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    Congrats! Yours is one of my favorite tanks!! Just took a quick sneak peek at the post and I’m looking forward to reading all the details when I have more time!! 

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    I really enjoyed reading through the full write up, watching the videos, and learning about your inspiration for the tank. You’ve done a great job, I love how natural and colorful it looks. 


    My tank is similarly stocked, and also heavily fed including fresh hatched baby brine shrimp. I’ve encountered pretty serious issues with hydroids in my tank... have you ever had any hydroid problems in your tank? I’m thinking maybe your wrasse helps prevent that problem? 

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