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Top Shelf Aquatics
  • Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member William and his 28 gallon nano reef for being selected for our December 2018 Reef Profile! This vibrant mixed reef aquarium is home to a unique collection of coral and fish, including a Golden Dwarf Moray Eel. In this article William shares his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's journey over the past two and a half years! 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.

    William's Red Sea Reefer Nano

    I want to sincerely thank Christopher for selecting my tank as TOTM. The site features so many beautiful tanks, and I am honored to now have my aquarium included among them.



    Tank Specs

    Aquarium: Red Sea Reefer Nano White (28 gal total water volume) ~ 18" x 18" x 18"
    Lighting: Nanobox Duo Plus M on SPS preset.

    Sump: Stock RSR sump with ATO area converted into refugium.

    Return: Waveline DC2500

    Skimmer: Aquamaxx WS-1

    Circulation: (2) MP10 wES running tidal swell @ 70%.

    Heater: 100w Cobalt Neotherm

    Controller: Apex Lite with WXM, Auto-feeder, pH probe, Temp probe.

    Dosing Pump: Jaebo DP-4 for 2 part, BRS dosing Acropower.

    Top Off: DIY auto top off with Aqualifter pump, IKEA vase as container.

    Sand: Special grade Arag-alive

    Rock: 15 lbs. KP Aquatics uncured Caribbean live rock.

    Salt Mix: Brightwell Aquatics NeoMarine

    UV Sterilizer: Green Machine 36W, run 8 hours a day.


    • DIY CO2 scrubber (skimmer air intake)
    • Artfully Acrylic screen top

    NO3/PO4 removal:

    • AquaMaxx BioPellets in Reactor
    • MarinePure Ceramic Biomedia Plate
    • Miracle Mud in stock ATO, running as a refugium.
    • Water change, ~ 5 gal monthly

    Established July 9, 2016




    Maintenance Routine

    • Daily: Feed fish
    • Weekly: Clean glass with magnet cleaner, change filter floss, refill top off container.
    • Two Weeks: Empty and clean skimmer cup, replace carbon.
    • Monthly: 25% water change, siphon sand, and turkey baste rocks, replace CO2 media.
    • Quarterly: Clean VorTech wet-side, refill dosing containers.
    • 6 Months: Clean skimmer pump, clean return pump.

    Testing Parameters

    I test the water approximately every 6 weeks, unless something seems off. For the first year I tested every 2 weeks.

    • Salinity: 35 ppm, SG 1.026
    • Alkalinity: 8-9
    • Calcium: 400-450
    • Nitrate: 2-5


    • RedSea Calcium/Alkalinity, daily via doser.
    • Acropower, daily via doser.
    • Lugol’s Solution, weekly via top off water.
    • Top off water, refill vase every week.
    • Microbacter 7, KZ sponge power, as needed.
    • Magnesium, never, the Miracle Mud seems to keep up with me Mg demand.


    • New Life Spectrum UltraRed, twice daily with feeder.
    • Marine cuisine, 1 cube every 1-3 days depending on my schedule.
    • Chopped Whole Foods squid and scallop, 1-2 times per week for the eel and anemones.


    In selecting fish for this aquarium I knew I wanted to create a nano-predator look, while also having fish that guests would find visually appealing. My Bandtail Waspfish, Longnose Hawkfish, and Golden Dwarf Moray Eel give the aquarium the “predator-tank” look I wanted, while the Flurry Clownfish and Flame Angel give the aquarium a bright splash of color. The Algae Blenny and Aptasia Eating Filefish provide valuable services that help keep the tank clean and free of pests.

    • Male Red Bandtail Waspfish (Paracentropogon zonatus)
    • Flurry Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
    • Algae Blenny (Salarias fasciatus)
    • Flame angel (Centropyge loricula)
    • Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus)
    • Aptasia Eating Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus)
    • Golden Dwarf Moray Eel (Gymnothorax melatremus)


    Using aquacultured live rock provided numerous beneficial hitch hikers and a few annoyances. The tunicates, sponges, tube worms, and microfauna that came with the rock have been an interesting and delightful addition to the aquarium. However, the Curlicue Anemone has grown so much that I routinely have to spray it with Aptasia-X to keep in in check. As far as clean up crew is concerned, I rely heavily on emerald crabs, turbo snails, and cerith snails. I am not a huge fan of hermit crabs.

    • Rock anemone(s) (Epicystis crucifer) (varied colors)
    • Mini-maxi Carpet anemone(s) (Stichodactyla tapetum)
    • Curlique sea anemone (Bartholomew annular) (came with rock, semi-pest)  
    • Various tunicates (came with rock)
    • Various encrusting sponges (came with rock)
    • Various tube worms (came with rock)
    • CUC (various hermit crabs and snails)
    • Emerald crab (6)
    • Red brittle starfish
    • Red Snapping Shrimp (Alpheus armatus) (semi-pest)
    • Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

    SPS Coral

    The aquarium started out almost entirely focused on Soft and LPS corals, but over the past two years I have slowly added SPS corals. My favorite SPS corals in the tank are my Orange setosa and my “Katropora.”

    • Green Slimmer (Acropora yongei)
    • Neon Orange Montiopora setosa
    • “Katropora” Acropora
    • Meteor Shower” Cyphestria. Sp
    • “Ponape” Bird’s Nest coral, (Seriatopora hystrix)
    • Red Montipora capricornis
    • Pink Pocillopora. sp
    • Sunset Montipora. sp
    • Orange Montipora digitata
    • Montipora confusa

    LPS Coral

    From the start I knew LPS corals would play a big role in this aquarium. My Duncan coral and orange Lobophyllia have been with me since the start and are still growing strong. I added an orange Leptastrea to the tank about a year ago and it has grown considerably. I have had difficulty keeping Euphyllia in this aquarium, likely due to the high flow.

    • Green Duncan coral (Duncanopsammia axifuga)
    • Orange Leptastrea. Sp
    • Blastomussa Merletti
    • Dragon Soul Favia
    • Orange Lobophyllia hemprichii
    • Acanthastrea lordhowensis

    Soft Coral

    Gorgonians, Leather corals, Zoanthids, and Ricordia corals are the backbone of this aquarium and provide it with most of its three-dimensional character. Watching the Leather corals and Gorgonians sway in the current is one of my favorite aspects of the aquarium. During the last year I started adding various Zoanthids to the scape, and I feel they have filled in the gaps in the rockwork nicely.

    • Purple Sea Whip (2) (Pterogorgia anceps)
    • Neon Green Clove Polyps (Clavularia sp)
    • Purple Plume Gorgonian (Pseudopterogorgia bipinnata)
    • Assorted Ricordia florida (blue, green, orange)
    • Assorted Zoanthus. sp
    • Nuclear Green Palythoa. sp
    • Corky Sea Finger (Briareum asbestinum)
    • Lime green warty corallimorph (Discosoma sanctithomae)
    • Green Sinularia Leather
    • Assorted Leather corals


    My first experience with saltwater aquariums was back in the year 2000. I was 11 years old and wanted a saltwater aquarium for my birthday. After my initial 30 gallon aquarium I went on to develop multiple tank syndrome and got my entire family involved. We had tanks as large as 180 gallons and as small as six. Over the years I kept seahorses, octopus, and even cuttlefish. When I turned 16 I was hired at my local fish store and worked there until I went off to college. During my college and medical school years I had aquariums of various shapes and sizes. I spent my first year in residency without an aquarium but started designing my current build from the moment I moved to New York City.


    August 2016


    When I initially set up this aquarium, I knew that I wanted a mixed reef, and knew that I wanted to feature gorgonians and other soft corals in it. If I had to choose one inspirational aquarium that I tried to model most, it would be Felicia's Predator Paradise build. I loved how she featured LPS and soft corals in her mixed-reef “predatory” tank.


    May 2017


    I cycled the aquarium using Dr. Tim’s ammonium chloride and Brightwell’s Microbacter 7. I knew I wanted to use aquacultured live rock due to all of the hitchhikers (coral, inverts, macroalgae) that are associated with it, so I needed to have the aquarium’s biological filter established prior to adding the live rock. This method worked wonderfully, resulting in zero detected ammonia or nitrite after the introduction of the rock. I believe that having a marinepure plate in the sump during chemical cycling aided in this. I will most likely use this method for cycling from now on.


    November 2017


    During the first 18 months I had frequent battles with hair algae, bropsis, and bubble algae. This was likely due to poor nutrient level stability and lack of flow. Once I automated my feeding schedule, increased my flow, and added a bunch of emerald crabs, I was able to get my algae problems in check. Another issue I had was overheating during the summer months. This past summer I went on vacation and forgot that I had left my air conditioner off. On day two of my vacation my Apex alerted me that my aquarium temperature had reached 86 degrees. Luckily I had a friend that could stop by my apartment and turn on my air conditioner. Sadly the stress of of the ordeal killed two of my fish and resulted in severe tissue recession in my gorgonians. Since then I have been very diligent about ensuring proper heating and cooling of my apartment while I am away.


    January 2018

    Future Plans

    I plant to upgrade my aquarium to a Red Sea Reefer 250 when I move apartments in May. I have been very impressed with the build quality of the Red Sea Reefer series of aquariums and look forward to having additional space for my fish and corals. I plan to add an additional Golden Dwarf Moray Eel when I upgrade.

    Words of Wisdom

    There are two key factors to my success with this aquarium: 1) Flow and 2) Stable chemistry & nutrient levels.


    In my opinion, flow is the most important of the variables since flow brings food and nutrients to your corals and whisks away waste and toxins. When I added a second MP10 to my aquarium, I saw a drastic improvement in terms of coral growth and a dramatic decrease in algae growth. I have my two MP10 wES running at 70% power on the Tidal Swell mode, anti synced to each other.


    I have also found that most of the issues I have had in this aquarium, from algae growth, coral bleaching, fish deaths, and poor coral growth, have been due to instability in the levels of micro and macro nutrients. Prior to adding the Neptune auto-feeder and doser for Acropower, I would feed my fish and corals by hand. Being a resident physician with a highly volatile work schedule, I was not always able to feed my aquarium on schedule, which led to wide swings in nutrient levels. Having a system that automatically doses macronutrients (Acropower and pellet food) to my aquarium daily has resulted in added stability and increased coral growth.



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    Congratulations, William!  I haven't been very active lately, but I saw this pop up on Facebook as was intrigued.  Lovely tank!  And I love the golden dwarf moray!

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    2 hours ago, Felicia said:

    Congratulations, William!  I haven't been very active lately, but I saw this pop up on Facebook as was intrigued.  Lovely tank!  And I love the golden dwarf moray!

    Thank you so much! I really appreciate your kind words, as your predator tank was one of the main inspirations for this aquarium. 

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    I’m an EMT and I’ve got to know. How do you get your dosing solutions back into the IV bags? Large syringe? 

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