Congratulations to community member Draco and her 2.7 gallon pico reef for being selected for our March Reef Profile. Below is the aquarium profile Draco has written for us sharing her experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's progress over the past year! See what she's been up to and share your comments and questions in the comments section below. Be sure to follow her aquarium journal for additional photos, history, and information about this beautiful reef tank.
Lighting: Coral Compulsion Par38 bulb
Heater: Marina Heater 50 watt
Circulation: N/A (flow dependant on filter)
Filtration: Aquaclear 50 modded into mini-fuge
Filter Media: Chaeto and filter floss
Top Off: Sourced from a filtered water cooler
Dosing: Kent NanoReef Parts A and B
Established April 26, 2017
The first question I usually get asked is, “How do you do water changes while at work? Where do you hide the equipment?” Well, the joy of having a pico reef is that you really do not need much! I have two buckets, a hose, bag of Reef Crystal salt, refractometer, sponges for wiping off the glass and a turkey baster. Everything minus the bucket fits nicely in a plastic men’s size shoebox, which slides under my desk.
I come in earlier than my coworkers, so that I do not disturb them when I am doing my water changes and maintenance. Every 2-3 weeks I’ll change about 50% of the water, clean off the glass, and trim back the chaeto algae from the filter. I use the company’s water cooler for fresh water and top off (Surprisingly, it’s a good water source, no algae in the tank!). I add a few drops of Kent’s Nano-Reef parts A and B with each water change.
I do my best to keep the tank low-key, hands off and simple as possible. It takes me about 20 minutes to do all the tasks.
I feed twice a day using frozen Brine and Mysis shrimp.
- Yellow Clown Goby (Gobiodon okinawae)
- Brown Kenya Tree (Capnella sp.)
- Neon Green Kenya Tree (Capnella sp.)
- Green Star Polyp
- Teal and Red Mushrooms
- Clove (Daisy) Polyps (Clavularia sp.)
- Xenia (Xenia sp.)
- Button Polyps - Green Mouth (Palythoa spp.)
- Green Grande Palythoa (Palythoa grandis)
- (3) Sexy Shrimps
- Peppermint Shrimp
- (2) Trochus Snails
- (4) Nassarius Snails
Like most of us, I’ve had freshwater tanks growing up. Sharing the hobby with my dad has always been my fondest memories! I have always loved going to the pet store with him to look at the fish and picking one out, and of course, my dad did all the work with the tank. Still to this day, he and I go to the pet stores to admire the fish together (he is one with freshwater).
I soon had my own freshwater tank in my teens. Eventually, I wanted something more challenging, something more colorful. A friend introduced me to the saltwater world where I started my first 10 gal tank. Many mistakes were made, and many lessons learned with this tank. It became my obsession!
Unfortunately that tank was broken down a year later when I moved from my parent’s house. I had a 20 gal freshwater planted tank for a few years in my apartment, but I found I no longer had passion for freshwater, it was not holding my attention as the 10 gal saltwater did. It wasn’t too long before I started a 9 gal nano reef in 2014 with a pair of clowns. Moving into my condo, I upgraded to 28 gal JBJ cube in 2015. When the Biocube broke out in terrible cyano algae, I decided start over and go big. I invested in a 75 gal Marineland reef-ready tank in 2016 and it is still running to this day.
Day 1: April 26, 2017
When I came across this 2.7g cube for next to nothing early 2017, I knew it had to become a mini-reef. But, where am I to put it? I am out of space in my home lest it become an aquarium store. A light bulb went off. My cubicle at my job! Why not? There was plenty of space, and I wanted to share my hobby with my coworkers. With the green-light permission from my boss, my tank was set up the very next day.
I started with about a half pound of live rock and a sponge from my established tank to kick-start the cycle. I decided to go bare bottom to prevent nitrates and sand from blowing everywhere.
I pored over for days on what to put in this tank. I wanted something different, something easy to care for. Why not soft corals? Better yet, why not corals that most hobbyists consider pests or ugly? I do not find these “throw-away” corals a nuisance, but beautiful! These invasive corals will not touch my 75g tank, but this pico reef would be the perfect home for them.
June 5, 2017
The tank cycled, and came the first gift from a friend, a small chunk of Green Star Polyps and button polyps. It’s a reef, though it was missing something – a fish. Hours of researching what livestock I could put in such a small tank, I came across the tiny Clown Goby. I had to have it! I asked my LFS to order one, and the following week I had him in my tank along with a peppermint shrimp and snails. With the goby’s small structure and bright yellow color, he really brought in some huge personality! My coworkers and I dubbed him Minion. I found he refused to eat pellets, but thankfully my coworkers do not mind sharing the freezer with frozen fish food!
Some time later, a trio of Sexy Shrimps came to join the family. I could spend hours watching them dance away, but yes, I must often remind myself to focus on my work!
Few weeks later, I had mentioned to my reef club members about my plans for the pico tank, and came in more donations! Two gorgeous Kenya Trees, Teal and Red Mushrooms, Clove Coral, and Xenias, all on rocks! My dream was to have the Neon Green Kenya Tree as the centerpiece. After adding the corals and rocks to the tank, I now estimate about 5 to 7 lbs. of live rock.
At this point, I am leaning back in my office chair, and just watching life flourish and grow. The tank soon became basically hands-off with daily picking up a snail from the desk and putting it back into the tank (but not without sniffing to make sure it’s alive first!).
Mods and Upgrades
The Lid: The aquarium kit was very basic. It just was a cube glass with a small stock filter, small shrimp net and a solid plexi-glass lid. I did not like the cover that came with the tank. It had blocked too much light, and yet, I had to have something to prevent the livestock from hopping out. I cut a large square hole in the center of the lid and glued mesh netting to the underside of it, covering said hole. I then coated the edge of the lid black with acrylic paint to hide my messy gluing job. Now I have a nice lid!
Filter: The stock filter was no longer cutting it with all the extra rock taking up space. I needed more water volume, filtration and flow. I came across a topic on Nano-Reef about modifying an Aquaclear filter into a hang on back refugium. Such a great idea! I did just that with an Aquaclear 50! I used the media basket and divided up the compartment, along with a baffle to prevent chateos to fall into the tank. I allowed the silicone to dry for 5 days before replacing the stock filter. It allowed ample room to put floss or sponge, small carbon media and chaetos. I added a small submersible fountain light for the chaetos to allow growth. The flow it offered was perfect for my corals; not too strong and not too soft.
Light: It was tough to find a light that would work for such a small tank. I did not need a powerful output, yet, I needed something to support coral health and growth. I tried fluorescent daylight bulb, but it did not offer the colors desired, the animals browned out. Next, I tried Tuna Blue PAR38 from Amazon, and I felt it was just too blue, it had washed everything out within the tank. Finally I decided to give Coral Compulsion PAR38 a shot. It was perfect! Corals glowed and flourished, in addition to giving a relaxing ambient to my cubicle.
Disasters and Regrets
One day, disaster struck. The death of a large trochus snail had brought on a major ammonia spike. It wiped out all snails and my peppermint shrimp. It took me 2-3 weeks of constant daily water changes and Prime to get the water back to normal range. Miraculously, Minion survived the whole ordeal! It was many months before I added another peppermint shrimp and snails.
Once, I failed to properly put the hose in a bucket while siphoning water out of the tank during water change. The water poured into my neighboring cubicle! Thank goodness they were not in yet so I could do emergency clean up without being caught! Now I clip the hose to the bucket to ensure it stays in place.
Some things I regret are adding Trimma Gobys and Peppermint shrimps with my Yellow Clown Goby. Research told me that YCG is peaceful, except with its own kind. My YCG I found is aggressive and will kill off any Trimma and harass the peppermint shrimp to the death. I’ve learned the tank is just too small for more than one fish as they’ll fight for territory. Minion will forever be the only livestock other than snails and sexy shrimps.
Some of you may wonder what my coworkers think of my tank. Does it disturb them? Surprisingly, they all love it! I often find someone sitting in my seat, watching the tank. I love the questions they ask about the corals and fish. Coworkers I’ve never met come from the other side of the building come to check out this mini underwater world, word gets out fast!
- My boss especially loves it, and I quote him: “I love how it brings calm and serenity to the Art Department!”
- Another coworker states she enjoys looking at it to decompress from an otherwise hard and stressful day.
- A project manager tells me that it’s a peaceful haven. Minion is the happiest looking fish she’s ever seen!
I trust my coworkers to feed and top-off the tank for me when I am not in the office that day. Those who clean the building take extra care not to spray anything near my cubicle.
Should you set up a pico reef at your job? If space and time allows, I’d say ABSOLUTELY! Of course, check with your boss first! Another advice for having a reef at your job, set up an automatic notification on your computer to ping, reminding you to stop looking at the tank and get back to work. I find my overall work experience has improved, I feel much more relaxed and meeting people is always a plus!
First, I wanted to say it’s an honor that my modest pico-reef has been chosen as this month’s Tank of the Month. Many thanks to my supporters and followers, your advice and suggestions has been outstanding and helpful in my journey. A shout-out goes to my LIRA reef club friends for the amazing donations of the corals. And of course, thank you to Christopher Marks for this amazing website and support!