Congratulations to community member Krish and his 16 gallon nano reef for being selected for our September 2019 Reef Profile! This mixed reef Biocube has made tremendous progress since it first began, with a growing collection of beautiful LPS and SPS coral. In this article Krish87 shares his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's journey over the past year. Share your comments and questions in the comments section below, and follow his aquarium journal for additional photos, history, and information about this lovely nano reef tank.
Krish87's 16 Gallon BioCube Mixed Reef
Display: Coralife BioCube 16 LED, 15" L x 16.75" W x 17.5" H
Stand: Coralife Designer BioCube 16 Stand
Rock: CaibSea Life Rock
Sand: CaribSea Arag-Alive! Fiji Pink Live Sand
Lighting: AI Prime HD with 3DReefing LED Diffuser
Heater: Colbalt Aquatics Neo-Therm Heater, 75 Watt
Circulation: AI Nero 5 Submersible Powerhead
Skimmer: Coralife BioCube Protein Skimmer
Filtration: InTank Media Basket within the BioCube sump
Filter Media: In the top section of the media basket, I have a double-bonded filter floss (by InTank). The second section has little Seachem Purigen, and the lowest/bottom section has Chemipure Elite.
Top Off: Smart ATO Micro connected to a 7.5 Gallon Freshwater Reservoir that sits inside the stand
Dosing: I dose only after I test. If my levels have dropped, I use the Seachem Two-Part Reef Fusion to stabilize the chemistry.
Parameters: Ca = 420 – 440 ppm range, Alk = 7.8 – 8.2 dKH, Mg = 1275 – 1325 ppm range, Salinity = 1.025
Established May 2018
I perform weekly, bi-weekly and quarterly maintenance on the tank. Weekly and bi-weekly is more of a “routine” activity, but the quarterly maintenance is a comprehensive approach that takes more time.
- Change filter floss (every 3-5 days depending on how bad it looks)
- Clean film algae off glass (every 3 days)
- Blow-off detritus (Typically on weekends, I just use my Nero 5 and move it around the rock work, and then the water movement takes care of the rest. Nero 5 does it very effectively!)
- Check ATO reservoir / pump functionality (every 3 days, the 7.5-gallon reservoir, takes care of the top-off for 3 - 4 weeks)
- Perform a 3.5-gallon water change (every other Sunday. In my case, I have noticed, smaller % of water changes do not shock the inhabitants too much and I have noticed a consistency and growth in corals)
- Check for detritus and unwanted build up in sump area (take care of it if urgent, or clean it in the Quarterly maintenance activities)
- Perform a thorough clean-up of the sump area
- Remove the return pump and swap it with the backup pump (I use the Coralife S-700 and Cobalt MJ900)
- Clean the media basket and replace the media in it
- Clean the circulation powerhead
- Clean the protein skimmer
- I follow a controlled feeding regimen
- The fishes and shrimp are fed every other day. Their food includes a mix of flakes, pellet food, frozen mysis and/or reef frenzy
- The corals are fed with Polyplab Reefroids every weekend
- I also supplement the corals with Seachem Reef Plus every week
- Ocellaris Clownfish (Nemo)
- Purple Firefish Goby (Oscar)
- Blueberry Fields Zoanthids
- Alpha and Omega Zoanthids
- White Polyp Toadstool Leather
- Weeping Willow Toadstool
- Branching Green Star Polyps (Long)
- Branching Green Star Polyps (Mini)
- Japanese Toadstool Leather x 2
- Acan Lords x 2
- Aussie Teal Duncan
- Australian Lobophyllia (Sunburst Orange)
- Australian Lobophyllia (Sunset Orange)
- Australian Ultra Trachyphyllia (Neon Teal Core)
- Golden Branching Frogspawn
- Indo Peach Tip Torch
- Metallic Green Hammer
- Purple Tip Hammerspawn (Hammer + Frogspawn Hybrid)
- Green Pocillopora
- Green Stylophora
- Neon Green Hydnophora
- Neon Green Catspaw
- Purple Stylophora
- Red Blood Fireshrimp (Flint)
- Pink and White Coco Worm
I have been in the aquarium hobby for a while, but it was limited to the freshwater horizon. I have kept Betta and Glofish tanks before; and have even tried a hand with planted tanks. Certainly, having an aquarium at home has its own charm. Saltwater was a completely new space for me, and it was so attractive that I couldn’t resist to try one! It was early April 2018 when I started reading about the saltwater hobby. I did a good amount of reading and research. I then went to my LFS a few times. I talked to the people there to get some first-hand information. I wanted to make sure of what I would be signing up for.
Choosing a Tank
The options were so many when it came to tank choices. It was a tough decision to make. At that point of time, I was totally impressed with the Coralife’s AIO BioCube series. Coralife has been a legacy in the industry. It was a tank that came with the lights which are on the lid, an effective sump design and decent build; that was perfect! I did consider a few others but, in the end, BioCube 16G won my heart. It came home right before my birthday! I was lucky to get a very good deal on the whole reef package from MarineandReef.com and that’s how it all began!
And the Adventure Began...
It was May 11th, 2018, I had got the tank wet. And that my friends, was the beginning of a journey that I never in my wildest dreams thought would reach this milestone. I am often asked what inspired my aquascape. I knew I had a limited space to work with and I had to be creative enough to ensure that I build something that would help me reach every corner of the tank for cleaning and maintenance purposes. My first thoughts were to have an arch looking rock-scape but that did not work out so well. So, I decided to keep it simple by just getting two big rock pieces that act as the foundation and small pieces that sit on top of it to complete the structure. I have always loved Tonga rocks because they add a unique character to the whole setup. None of the rock pieces are glued or cemented to one another. I can always take them out and build it back again, like Legos 😊
After my aquarium cycle, I was ready to introduce some livestock into the little ecosystem. I intentionally waited on the fishes, but the excitement to bring in corals was overwhelming! That was a special day because it was the time when I fell in love with the Euphyllia family. The first batch of corals included the Metallic Green Hammer, Golden Branching Frogspawn and the Indo Peach Tip Torch. I also got the Green Star Polyps especially for the Tonga rock. A month and a half later came in Nemo (my little nephew was so stubborn to name him that), Oscar (Purple Firefish) and Flint (Red Blood Fireshrimp).
The joy and dedication in helping this underwater paradise thrive took its own course over the last year, and this hobby became a way of life! The research, the conversations, the steep learning curve in Marine Biology, the art of sustaining a small ocean in a 16 gallon tank – wow, it goes unsaid that it has been worth it!
Now, if you notice, my BioCube is customized. It is clearly not the out of the box setup. And there are reasons to support those decisions.
- I was experiencing immensely high temperatures last summer that could have potentially put my whole tank at risk. I tried everything under the sun to control the temperature, but the efforts were in vain. Therefore, I had to take the lid off.
- Taking the lid off would solve the heat issue, but what about the light then! That led to me switching to the AI Prime HD light. I like the LEDs that the BioCube comes with, and there are so many tanks that are doing great with them, but having the AI Prime HD gave me more confidence in keeping SPS corals and bring in a wonderful diversity to the tank and giving it an exceptional character. My light schedule is based on David Saxby’s settings, but I have it tailored it to my needs.
- I also chose to go for the AI Nero 5 Powerhead because I love AquaIllumination and their quality of products. The USP for Nero 5 is most definitely their easy-to-use customizable application that helps you program the pump in a jiffy. I had 2 Koralia Nano powerheads before, but the upgrade to the Nero was well worth it and taken it up the notch!
- I have a custom built 7.5-gallon freshwater reservoir that fits perfectly inside the BioCube stand. That is indeed a good amount of water for the ATO, and I refill it every 4 weeks or so.
- I have a UPS Battery Backup that will ensure that my return pump, heater and ATO run for 30 minutes if at all there is any issue with power (this worked like a charm when the Pacific Northwest was hit with a snowstorm this February that led to unforeseen electricity outages).
- Given that I got rid of the BioCube lid, I had to get some level of screen protection to ensure that I don’t see a casualty due to “jumping”. Therefore, the new lid. It has been built by Matt Coddington from OctoLids. It is not only super functional but also uplifts the aesthetics of the setup.
A Valuable Retrospect
I have not been perfect. I can never claim that I was a 100% successful. Like many, I have lost a few corals and I also lost a Yellow Clown Goby. I had him only for 3 weeks and losing him was a very difficult moment. But never let yourself discouraged when you face and experience such circumstances. I know it is easier said than done, but if you treat them as opportunities to learn, then you sure can reach your goal!
Everyone will face one or the other challenge in this hobby. Some are a part of the tank’s establishment process and some can be termed as pests i.e. foreign invaders. I have battled diatoms, aiptasia, green bubble algae and most recently flatworms. Every roadblock taught me so much. Folks – never lose hope when you come across any of the above with your tank. There is a solution for 99% of the problems known. I would keep the 1% buffer as most of you will agree that there are unknowns prevalent in this hobby as well.
The Enchanting Evolution
My tank’s evolution sometimes takes me by surprise also! When I got into this hobby, I saw so many amazing nano tanks, each one so exclusive in setup and style, and I always wondered, “Oh man! Will I ever get there?!” Back then, it was a big “?” but today, I am so happy that I have been able to achieve what I had envisioned. A clean setup, healthy corals, beautiful colors (I might not score a 10/10 on the color splash), but a thriving reef tank with super happy inhabitants is all one needs! Long story short, if I can do it, so can you!
As of now, I’m going to stick with my two tanks – the BioCube 16 and the Waterbox 7. However, when we move to a bigger place in 2020, I might look at a Waterbox Reef 70.2 (at least that’s the tank I have fallen in love with recently). We shall see how it goes! 😊
Words of Wisdom
Patience is Virtue in this hobby! It is an often-heard quote, but trust me, it literally is. Nothing is going to happen overnight. When you decide to sign up, make sure that your mind is trained to wait. Believe me, it is worth the fun! Do not try to fix something that is NOT broken in the first place. Many a times, you will be tempted to try things just because it is not looking as it supposed to. Don’t! Let nature take its time. Everything falls in place! Do not get carried away by seeing upgrades on some other tank. Evaluate the requirement of the upgrade and debate with yourself with utmost honesty. And lastly, over-engineering might look fancy and have all the jazz, but if you are able to achieve the same by keeping it simple – what will you choose?! I rest my case! 😊
Advice to New Reefers
Here is a list for quick reference from my experience:
- Do your Research: A very thorough reading around tanks, equipment, and livestock is highly recommended before you step into this enchanted underwater universe.
- Do not miss Water Changes: Never try to get away without performing regular water changes. Sometimes, a solution as simple as a water change will help you a go long way!
- Don’t Hurry: As mentioned, this hobby requires a lot of patience. Haste is waste! Let nature take its course. It’s always a pleasant sight to see the good things in this hobby, but there are times when bad things can happen quickly too if we are not cautious and patient.
- Invest in a good RODI unit + TDS Meter: The RODI unit will prove to be very handy whenever you want to make a batch of saltwater or freshwater during an emergency. For those who will buy it from the LFS, having a TDS meter will help you ensure that the RODI water that you get from the LFS always reads a TDS of zero. Good water quality is half the battle won!
- Don’t Panic: You’ll experience good and the bad! And when you do get to the “bad” things, do not panic. Assess the situation and take the appropriate step. If you do not what to do, post your question here on Nano-Reef, and I am certain, there will be someone or the other would have experienced the same and will able to help you out!
Tips and Tricks
- MAKE USE OF ALL RESOURCES: Take advantage of the plethora of resources available online. For e.g. the Aquarium Calculator(s) on Bulk Reef Supply and Marine Depot, Critter ID on Melev’s Reef etc.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS: Never hesitate to ask your question on the forum here. No question is stupid. No one is going to judge you. Everyone goes above and beyond to help you out. I can personally attest to this! 😊
- REEF PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Click pictures often – not only to cherish them later but also to keep a track of your tank’s progression and coral growth. A good camera with filter add-ons really does the magic! Please refer to page 6 in my journal to check out my reef photography kit.
Light, in general, is such an important aspect of life, isn’t it? If there was no Sun, there wouldn’t have been life on Earth. On the same lines, one of the significant elements for your tank is lighting. LEDs have evolved tremendously over the last few decades and it is one factor that is more than just aesthetics to the tank. It directly impacts your livestock and help corals to perform photosynthesis. When I purchased the AI Prime HD, honestly, I was a little intimidated with it features. But once I got a hang of it, there was no looking back. Having a good light is always a plus. But that does not mean you have to spend a ton of money for it. I am sure there are plenty of options that would still allow you to stay in budget!
Protein Skimmer is an essential equipment. But do you really need one to have a nice-looking nano tank? No! Remember, skimmers do more than just clean the water. If you are planning to keep a large and diverse livestock which will generate a high bioload, then considering a skimmer is important along with timely water changes to maintain good water quality.
I am an advocate of sand beds, especially if you are planning to keep a nano. You would need the extra buffer in addition to the live rock to ensure that there is more place to house the beneficial bacteria and let them flourish to maintain and help with the stability of the tank.
Do NOT dose if you do not test! Learn your water chemistry first. Understand the range your corals and other livestock are happy in. Dose only if you are not able to balance the chemistry with water changes. I lean on dosing only when I confirm my parameters are going for a toss
This industry and the hobby wouldn’t have been where it is today if it wasn’t for aquaculture. I was very touched after I watched “Chasing Coral” on Netflix. It is disheartening to see the huge natural coral establishments being wiped out overtime. I think all of us must try and contribute whatsoever possible from our end to help conserve them. Majority of my corals are aquacultured. I usually share the corals that outgrow in my tank with local reefers or I take it back to the LFS and they help me by providing some store credit that I can use for something else.
Don’t we all love a variety in our foods? Same with fishes! I feed Nemo, Oscar and Flint with a nice mix of flakes, pellets, frozen mysis, and reef frenzy. It really keeps it interesting for them! My two cents on feeding: please keep a tab on how much you are feeding. Overfeeding leads to many other problems
An important little army of cleaners for your reef tank! Get an assortment of them if you like to have a diverse population of those in your ecosystem, but in my experience, Turbo snails are the best in keeping your tank spick and span 😊
A Note of Gratitude
In this hobby, you cannot succeed if you are know-it-all, you do only when you are a learn-it-all. With that in mind, I would like to thank Christopher Marks for honoring my BioCube with the “Tank of The Month” title. It really means a lot! I also thank him for creating this amazing platform which has enabled new and experienced reefers to come together as a community and share ideas, resources and help one another to steer through this amazing journey as one team! This community has not only helped me to reach where I am in this hobby today but also helped me foster some great friendships. On that note, I would like to thank my two amazing buddies - @banasophia and @Sancho who have been a great support in my adventure. I am always awed at their undying encouragements. And a big thank you to all those who have given supportive feedback on my journal and answered my questions. Thank you to the whole Nano-Reef family!
A huge thank you to my LFS – Saltwater City, its owner Trev, and the folks who work there. Jacob, Sydney, Chris – all you guys are just awesome! It is so convenient to have one at a walking distance from your house! They have been great in helping me procure some of my priced possessions in the tank.
Last but not the least, I would thank my beautiful wife who has been very cooperative and put up with my shenanigans with not just one, but two tanks 😊