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  • markalot

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member markalot and his 40 gallon nano reef for being selected for our January Reef Profile. Below is the aquarium profile markalot has written for us sharing his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's progress over the past two and a half 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 beautiful reef tank.



    Tank Specs

    Tank: All-Glass Aquariums (now Aqueon) 40 gallon breeder, 36"L x 18"W x 16"H.
    Lighting: NanoBox Quad, Single SunBlaster 3’ T5HO fixture with a Coral+ bulb, BuildMyLED 3’ 16K strip light.
    Heater: Aqueon Pro 100W Heater, small fan over HOB sump for cooling.
    Circulation: Ecotech MP10, Maxspect Gyre XF230, Hydor Koralia 425 (in sump).
    Skimmer: AquaC Remora HOB (hang on back) Skimmer.
    Filtration: CPR AquaFuge HOB refugium (used as a sump) fed by a Cobalt MJ600 pump.
    Filter media: Occasional use of carbon and Poly-Filter.
    Top-Off: Timed BRS Topoff Doser using saturated kalk (2 tsp. kalkwasser per gallon RO/DI).
    Dosing: Manually dosing ESV B-Ionic 2 part.
    Controller: APEX Classic (shared with my larger tank).

    Age: Filled September 25th, 2015 as a transfer from my 29 gallon nano reef.

    Maintenance Routine

    Since this tank reached one year of age I have rarely changed the water. My best guess is 20% every 4 or 5 months. Daily maintenance is dosing 2 part, 1 drop of AquaForest MicroE (trace elements) and 1 drop of AquaForest Vitality (vitamins). I feed the fish twice a day, alternating various algae flakes and Hikari Marine S pellets. Once a week I feed the tank BRS Reef Chili (coral food). Glass needs cleaned (scraped) every few days.


    I measure Alk every month or so and this tank has gotten pretty low at times, 5.5 KH being the lowest. Coral growth slowed, but there have not been any coral losses related to Alk. I try and run at 7.0 KH and will be automating the dosing early next year.


    • Blacked Cap Basslet (Gramma melacara)
    • Clown Goby, Black (Gobiodon strangulatus)
    • Tail Spot Blenny (Ecsenius stigmatura)
    • Yellow Banded Possum Wrasse (Wetmorella nigropinnata)
    • Blue/Green Reef Chromis (Chromis viridis)
    • Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

    Soft Corals

    • Neon Green Nepthea or Sinularia
    • Kenya Tree (Capnella sp.)
    • Various Zoanthids and Palythoas
    • Blue Sympodium sp.
    • Pom Pom Xenia sp.
    • Various Mushroom sp.

    LPS Corals

    • ‘Toxic’ Hammer (Euphyllia sp.)
    • Grape Cristata (Euphyllia cristata)
    • Green Torch (Euphyllia glabrescens)
    • Red Goniopora
    • Duncans, Green and Purple morphs (Duncanopsammia axifuga)
    • Stylocoeniella
    • Yellow and Green center Blastos (Blastomussa merletti)
    • Red Acan (Micromussa lordhowensis)
    • Blue Trumpet (Caulastrea sp.)
    • Orange Leptoseris
    • Orange and Brown Leptastrea
    • Meteor Shower Cyphastrea

    SPS Corals

    • Blue Pavona
    • Red, Green, and Purple Montipora capricornis
    • Purple Stylo (Stylophora pistillata)
    • J and L’s Orchid Stylo (Stylophora sp)
    • Green, orange, Blue Montipora digitata
    • Montipora spongodes
    • Pink Birdsnest (Seriatopora hystrix)


    • Blue Tuxedo Urchin (Mespilia globulus)
    • One Halloween Hermit Crab (Ciliopagurus strigatus)
    • Five Scarlet Reef Hermit Crabs (Paguristes cadenati)
    • Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni and related)


    This 40 breeder was my very first reef tank way back in 2012. Over the years I ‘upgraded’ to a 46 gallon bowfront and then to a 150 gallon, with a 29 gallon holding the leftovers. Finally I settled for two tanks, my 150 gallon primarily SPS tank and this 40 gallon, which was put back into use in 2015 to hold contents of the 29 gallon and other corals that did not do well in my large tank.




    My goals for this tank were to keep everything as low maintenance as possible, and I think I’ve achieved that, though sometimes low maintenance turns into neglect. At first I wanted this to be an LPS and softie coral tank but over time I moved SPS in and ended up with this hodge podge of species. As the tank has aged and the SPS have grown larger, it has become necessary to dose; right now I’m dosing 20ml each part of ESV B-Ionic 2-part daily to maintain 7 KH.




    As the tank has aged it has needed fewer and fewer water changes. During the first year corals would begin to show stress if I didn’t do a 20% change every other week. Slowly water changes became less and less frequent and the corals showed no ill effects. This may be because I’m dosing trace elements and vitamins, or it may be the age of the tank and efficiency of the bio-filter, whatever that is. For newer tanks lack of water changes is usually a disaster waiting to happen, which is why I wanted to stress how things have changed as this tank aged.



    Speaking of bio-filters, that is one unique aspect to this tank. I let algae grow on the side and back tank walls, thick green ugly algae which will grow in large tufts that I remove from time to time. This is probably part of the nutrient export in this tank, much like a refugium but in the display, a place where normal people would try and keep it out! Xenia growing rampant in the back of the tank probably helps to control nitrates, and aptasia in places where my peppermint shrimp can’t reach, plus a large scary colony in the refugium overflow, probably help as well. I did clean the right side glass for this feature, and it looks darn good, but I’ll probably let the algae grow back!

    Thoughts on...


    • I really like my fish crew in here, with the exception of the tang, which is doing a fine job trimming algae but needs to be moved soon. The Purple Basslet is an awesome fish with lots of personality, mostly grumpy. He has a bad habit of hunting down and eating peppermint shrimp, but I was able to get one to survive by placing fake hollow branches around for the shrimp to crawl into.
    • The Possum Wrasse is a mystery fish. He has never eaten anything I feed yet has stayed fat and healthy for over a year now. What is he eating?  Whatever it is they reproduce fast enough for him to stay well fed. This is my second wrasse, the first one jumped and died even though I use glass lids. I had a large uncovered patch in the back which is now fully covered. Both of my tanks have full covers on them, which reduces evaporation dramatically and keeps the fish in the tank, not on the carpet.
    • The Tail Spot Blenny is another awesome fish, though they have a bad habit of getting into places they shouldn’t, like pumps that are turned off for maintenance. If you have one triple check and keep your eye on it when turning things back on. 


    • I really like the all LED look but I’ve found that adding just a little T5 light for 6 hours improves tank health and coral colors, making them look even better when the T5’s are off. The Coral+ bulb also makes the tank appear brighter to my eyes without adding too much PAR to the tank. It’s all personal preference of course, but all my future lighting plans involve hybrid LED and T5 fixtures. I have on order from NanoBox a T5 LED hybrid fixture to go over this tank. I’m patiently waiting for some new LED arrays to try, once they pass Dave’s rigorous QC process.


    • Find a coral that does well for you and stick to it. I tried growing Acropora in here but since I manually dose the Alkalinity was not stable enough and they either browned or died. The corals that remain are the ones that did well. They’re happy, and I’m happy, but I still regret not sticking to a theme. My original idea was a much easier Softie reef with some LPS mixed in but I could not resist adding SPS, making dosing a necessity and overly complicating an otherwise easy going tank.

    Advice For New Hobbyists

    My biggest lesson in this hobby is the importance of stable parameters, all parameters, versus ‘correct’ parameters. Corals can tolerate poor conditions much better than changing conditions. Corals can survive in ‘dirty’ water much better than in water stripped of all nutrients. I see many people new to the hobby making the same mistakes I did because the focus tends to be on ‘correct’ more than stable. For example, if you react to a high PO4 test by adding GFO (or any other phosphate remover) to a nano tank, you risk killing corals as PO4 rapidly plummets.


    In this tank the lesson of longevity is that neglect has given me better success than when I was constantly adjusting, trying to achieve that perfect set of tests. Obviously neglect is not good, we all want healthy AND attractive reefs, but keep stability in mind when making any changes. In a newer tank tolerating a period of the uglies can go a long way toward future success.


    Nano-Reef.com was the first reefing website I discovered when getting into the hobby. I was searching for experiences running smaller reef tanks when the common wisdom was 100 gallons or more. Obviously I was talking to the wrong people.


    The tanks I was most attracted to were covered in corals and I could not get over just how cool they looked. I studied every featured nano reef aquarium to try and learn all the secrets to success, but if I had to name one single tank mine is modeled after, it would have to be May 2011 @naturalwonders Mushroom Garden. There are so many beautiful profiles but I kept coming back to how awesome the Mushroom Garden looked with just basic equipment and maintenance. I didn’t stick to shrooms, obviously, but I think in the end the shrooms will be all that’s left, literally covering everything. I’ll also have algae growing on the circulation pump. Success!


    I’d like to thank Christopher Marks for continuing to bug me about featuring my tank, and of course running this forum. It’s an honor to be among all the other profiled reefs. I have more fun and more interactions here than anywhere else, even though I’m mostly focussed on a larger tank. I’ve learned more about running a reef tank here than on those other forums dedicated to much larger tanks.


    This community is full of too many fantastic people to possibly mention everyone, but I’d like to especially thank those that helped me ride out some bad tank times at the end of 2016 through early 2017. The community really helps and is what makes this place fun to visit.



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    The tank looks positively stunning!  omgomgomg Congrats on this well deserved TOTM!  Great advice as well, stability is something that I need to remember.

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    Never been so happy to see such a well deserved TOTM. Congrats!

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    Never been so happy to see such a well deserved TOTM. Congrats!

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    Congrats! been waiting to see this tank added to the TOTM list!

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    [tips hat}


    Well played sir


    and I luv the Black Cap

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