Congratulations to community member WV Reefer and her 12 gallon "Long and Dirty" nano reef for being selected for our September 2018 Reef Profile! This beautiful nano reef is built on a foundation of natural simplicity, foregoing all mechanical and chemical filtration to rely on water changes alone. In this article WV Reefer shares her 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. Follow her aquarium journal for additional photos, history, and information about this wonderful reef tank.
WV Reefer's 12 Gallon Long and Dirty
Display: Mr. Aqua 12 Gallon Long (35.4” x 8.3” x 9.4”)
Lighting: 36” USA Current Marine Orbit Pro
Heater: Tetra 100w
Wave Maker: Jebao WP-10 x 2
No Mechanical Filtration
Established February 4, 2016
- 30% water change every other week with Reef Crystals salt.
- Manual top off as needed with RODI water.
- Scrape the glass and clean equipment as needed.
- I feed the fish a variety of frozen foods once a day.
- A few times a year I replenish the pod population so that there are always live food options for the fish.
- I do not feed corals.
- No Dosing of any kind.
“Nemo” Ocelaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocelllaris)
“Rico” Scooter Blenny (Synchiropus ocellatus)
“Buffalo Bill” Left-handed Zebra Hermit and murder aficionado (Calcinus)
“The Guy” Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)
"Nemo" the Ocelaris Clown
"Rico" the Scooter Blenny
"Buffalo Bill" the Zebra Hermit
"The Guy" Skunk Cleaner Shrimp
Sexy Shrimp, Money Cowrie, Keyhole Limpets, Cerith Snails, Nassarius Snails, Glowing Marginella Snails, Brittle Starfish, Asterina Starfish, Bristleworms, Spaghetti Worms, Peanut Worms, Feather Dusters, Bivalves and Sponges.
- Montipora Capricornis
- Cup Coral
- Green Montipora Digitata
- Neon Birdsnest Coral
- Ice Blue Leptastrea
- JF Spit Fire Leptastrea
- Clove Polyps
- Rasta Zoanthids
- Everlasting Gobstopper Palythoa
- Green Hairy Mushrooms
- Cotton Candy Mushrooms
- Grandis Palythoa
- Purple Gorgonian
I have been a keeper of freshwater aquariums for 20 years. I have had many types of freshwater aquariums including South American Cichlids, African Cichlids, Community Aquariums, Low Tech Planted Aquariums and High Tech Planted Aquariums.
One day while surfing Craigslist, I found a 12 Gallon Long tank for sale and wondered, "what in the world could you even grow in that thing?” I did a quick search online and found videos of a reef belonging to @Scorched, which in turn led me to Nano-Reef.com. I was amazed! I had never really considered a saltwater tank before but the possibilities were swirling in my head because I knew I had the perfect place for this skinny little tank.
In my experience, one thing that can quickly ruin the fun and relaxation of keeping an aquarium is maintenance. So I knew that this reef had to be simple. Simple in care and simple in terms of equipment. After much research, the Long and Dirty Reef was created. Long because, well, that's obvious. Dirty because it uses natural biological filtration only, which provides for a high nutrient environment. A dirty reef requires only three things: light, flow and heat. That’s it. Really.
I had my concept, now I needed to plan my equipment. I knew from reading other threads that the biggest challenge for a tank this long and shallow was proper flow. I decided that a powerhead at each end would be the best solution and picked the Jebao wave makers because they were small and economical. The heater was easy to choose, it just had to fit! The light was going to be more difficult because of the location of the tank in between the bookshelves. The USA Marine Orbit Pro was perfect because of the slim profile and its ability to grow just about anything at 8” deep. The last thing I needed was rock and sand. As a beginner, the thought of live rock scared me. Instead, I chose dry CaribSea base rock because it was small enough to easily work with and I chose the CaribSea Fiji Pink sand because I thought it was pretty.
After gathering all of my supplies and filling up the tank, I began a testing schedule of twice a day. I wanted to get a feel for the tanks natural ups and downs by knowing how much the parameters fluctuated throughout the day. After the livestock began to trickle in I continued testing to see how each new addition affected the tank overall. I found that as long as the new additions or changes in general, happened slowly there was not much impact on the parameters.
Now that the tank is mature, I no longer feel the need to test at all. I know this reef so well that I can tell if something is off usually just by looking. I think that one of the biggest mistakes some hobbyists make is chasing that “perfect” number. When testing, do not overreact to the results. How does the tank look? Are the corals open and happy? How much algae do you see? Unless you are having an actual problem, do not worry about the numbers.
With a dirty reef, you must rely on regular water changes to import and replenish nutrients and export waste and detritus. The golden rule of dirty reefing is: what goes in must come out. A dedicated water change schedule helps to keep the parameters stable and stability is the key to any reef. A water change can also solve most problems including overfeeding which is usually the cause of most algae problems. I have had no major algae outbreaks of any kind so far in this reef. Currently the algae has been so minimal, even on the glass, that I have been feeding my clean up crew extra food for fear they will starve. In the beginning, the water was changed religiously once a week but recently I decided to move the water change schedule to every other week. I have not yet noticed any affect at all on the tank from making this change and will continue to experiment with the schedule.
Natural reefing has served me well so far and I have accomplished the goals I set for this tank. The reef is now 2 1/2 years old and I intend to keep it running as long as possible. It is currently in a state of transition due to the removal of some of the larger corals but I will continue to make changes as needed and I look forward to sharing my progress.
The following characters were an essential part of my reefing journey and therefor must be acknowledged.
"The Creep” Eunice Worm (Eunice aphroditois)
"The Hulk” Green Legged Hermit (Paguristes sp.)
"The Clam” Crocea Clam (Tridacna crocea)
Words of Wisdom
Take it slow. You are building an ecosystem… it takes time.
You don’t need all that “stuff”! Keep it simple. Don’t make your tank a “to do” list.
Don't be distracted by labels. Cheap corals are just as pretty as corals with fancy names.
I feel that it is important to note that all of the photos in my thread and in this feature were taken with my iPhone. I do not use filters for my photos, I make an effort to only use photos that are a “real life” representation of my reef so that it looks the same in photos as it does in person.
Thank you to Christopher Marks and Nano-Reef.com. It has been a great experience creating my first reef and I am honored for it to be named TOTM. It is awesome to know that this reef will live on for future hobbyists to enjoy. Thank you to the people that have followed along and that have spent many hours talking and laughing with me about nonsensical things while still managing to fit in talk of fish and corals once in awhile!
-Christy @WV Reefer