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  • dferrari13

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member dferrari13 and his 10 gallon nano reef for being selected for our August 2020 Reef Profile! This beautiful mixed reef has found long term success through a simple but dedicated maintenance routine. In this article dferrari13 shares his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's journey over the past five years. Please share your comments and questions in the comments section below, and be sure to follow his aquarium journal for additional photos, history, and information about this beautiful nano reef tank.

    Drew's 10 Gallon Mini Mixed Reef



    Hey, my name is Drew, I'm a master electrician by day and a nano reefer by night. I wanna start off by saying, in no way do I consider myself an expert. This hobby is changing rapidly all the time and I learn something new everyday. That's why I am humbled to be chosen for August's tank of the month. This tank has been up and running for 5 years now. The start date is 3/15/15 and I first logged onto Nano-Reef.com in July 2015. I've learned alot from the people on this site, especially teenyreef who was the main inspiration for this tank, but don't get me wrong, there were plenty of others too.




    When you first start this hobby everybody tells you to go with a large tank due to fluctuations in water conditions, etc, etc. And while that may be true, after tons of research, I saw it a different way. A small tank to me meant less money, less water to change and less of a foot print in my house that already has 6 tanks (my wife wants to kill me btw lol). This is why i went with the 10 Gallon Innovative Marine Nuvo Fusion AIO tank. For this tank I have tried to keep it super simple and easy, so in my opinion this can be duplicated by mostly anyone who wants to get into the hobby.

    Tank Specs

    Display: Innovative Marine 10 Gallon NUVO Fusion Nano AIO Aquarium, 12” x 15” x 13”
    Rock: 8 lbs of dry rock.
    Sand: 10 lbs of live sand.
    Lighting: Kessil a160we with gooseneck, 90 degree attachment, and spectral controller.
    Heater: Finnex 50watt titanium heater.
    Circulation: Tunze Silence 1073.008 return pump with Spin Stream attachment, Hydor Koralia 425 Powerhead with SmartWave Controller, Tunze Mini pump 5024.040_A, a nice tiny poverhead pump for caves and bottom flow.
    Protein Skimmer: IM Ghost Skimmer
    Filter Media: Custom caddy with Chemi-Pure Blue Nano, Purgen and Phosguard.
    Top Off: Tunze Osmolator Nano (ATO) with a 2.2 gallon kalkwasser mix.
    Controller: Power Center by Coralife, makes things so much easier to unplug, it's like my power control center.

    Established March 2015



    Maintenance Routine

    My maintenance routine is pretty simple, I blast detritus off the rocks and corals using a turkey baster, and then do a 30% water change every Sunday religiously. For 5 years I have used Nutri Seawater by Nature's Ocean. Now don't get me wrong, it's expensive, but I don't care. I can be a little lazy and I don't want to spend time mixing salt water LOL. Plus I know what I'm going to get every time. Their parameters are rock solid and it supposedly contains live bacteria and trace elements.


    Feeding & Dosing

    As for feedings, I basically only feed pellets for the fish and occasionally I'll throw in some frozen mysis shrimp. As for my corals, most of them don't really need to be fed and get most of their nutrients from their symbiotic relationship with the zooxanthellae living inside them, but occasionally I will give them Reef Roids and dose Reef Energy AB+, but not religiously.


    • Percula Clownfish
    • Royal Gramma




    The corals i have in this tank are pretty basic, just because i can't bring myself to spend tons of money on corals. The longest standing corals I have are the Toxic Green Palys (mid-left), Turquoise Favia (bottom front and center), and the Light Blue Trumpet (mid-right). In addition to that I have 3 varieties of Florida Ricordea, 4 different types of Acanthastrea, 2 types of Zoanthids, 2 types of Rhodactis Mushrooms, a Kenya Tree Leather, a small Yellow Fiji Leather, a Neon Green Hammer, some Green Star Polys and an Aussie Duncan. I also have 2 Encrusting SPS corals, but I am not sure of their names.


    • 3 Hermit Crabs
    • 2 Turbo Snails
    • 2 Nassarius Snails



    System Design

    The tank is lit by the Kessil A160we which has been great for 5 years now, and I haven’t seen any diodes burn out yet. I love the stylish pendant look I get from the goose neck, which I have bent in a way I haven't seen before, giving it an original look. I upgraded the stock return pump to the Tunze Silence and added the spin stream nozzle for random flow in the tank. I also added a custom filter caddie where I run a filter pad, Chemi-Pure Blue Nano, Phosguard and Purigen. For heat I use a Finnex 50 watt titanium heater, which has been running for five years straight now without being touched once. I did just buy a replacement though, because I anticipate it could fail any day, now that I've jinxed myself by saying this! 😄 For extra flow I run a Hydor Koralia 425, and for an ATO I use a Tunze Osmolator Nano with a distilled water/kalkwasser mix. I got tired of picking up distilled water from Rite Aid, so I just recently got a super small "RO Buddie" reverse osmosis system made by Aquatic Life. 


    March 2015


    I decided to start this tank out with dry rock because of all the horror stories I have heard about hitchhikers and pests, but now after having a little more experience, it seems like, no matter how hard you try, they will get into your tank somehow anyway. I have about 8 lbs of dry rock and 10 lbs of live special grade sand. I have never vacuumed the sand and that is because I believe the sand is a big part of the biological filtration. Yes it holds some detritus, but between the beneficial bacteria, my nassarius snails, and my turkey baster, we keep the detritus stirred up into the water column enough for it to find its way into the filter.


    March 2016


    May 2017


    March 2018


    March 2019


    February 2020


    This tank was an upgrade from a 5.5 gallon nano tank I had started a year before. As my clownfish got older, I wanted to give him a little more room to swim, so I upgraded to this tank. It was originally setup on a crappy night stand, which was super sketchy. At that point I used the original 18 watt Innovative Marine SKKYE LED light to illuminate the tank. The more I got into the hobby, the more I realized I wanted a better light, and in the first year I upgraded to the Kessil. When the tank was a little over two years old, I bought a new house and had to move the tank. This was super scary to me, and I did a ton of research beforehand, and in the end I just did what most people recommended. I broke down the whole tank into several buckets, scooped the fish out and left the live sand in place in the tank with only 3 inches of water. The move was a success, and things have been on auto pilot ever since.


    Along the way I’ve had some corals do absolutely fantastic and out grow the tank. On the other end of the spectrum, I've had some random coral deaths, along with one or two fish, but for the most part it has been relatively smooth sailing in this tank. One thing I've struggled with is keeping SPS corals. Even with very "easy" SPS like Montipora and Birdsnest, out of no where, after doing well, they randomly die, even with all the other corals doing great. After a ton of testing and having my LFS test the water, nothing was found. All parameters were good. I've watched some videos on this subject and I'm leaning towards palytoxins or toxins from the leather corals? Still not 100% sure, but I will be trying to keep more SPS in the future. 


    More recently, I recently had a random dinoflagellate bloom come out of nowhere, but I quickly fought it off with Dr. Tims Waste Away and water changes.

    Closing Advice

    Even after keeping freshwater tanks for over 17 years and reefing for about 6, I still don’t consider myself an expert, and I'm still learning. But for the new comers out there, don't let anything discourage you, this is a fantastically mesmerizing hobby. (I can't wait until this whole virus thing is over and I can geek out at another reef show!) My best advice is to take it slow, nothing good comes fast in reefing. Get super educated before you dive in. I must have watched days worth of videos and read tons of articles and forum posts. Also, it's easy to get overwhelmed with all this info, take it from me and my super easy setup, it doesn't have to be complicated. On the other hand, if you're a person who loves new gadgets, monitors, and dosers, you can go that route too. This hobby can be as complicated or as easy as you want to make it.



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    Congrats! And also, how tough has the royal gramma been, I was really thinking about putting one in my 20 g nano reef 

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    Congratulations. Such a nice looking tank and I love your out look on the hobby. I wish you continued success.

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    I'm in the "get super educated before you dive in" phase. It's encouraging to see that success is possible with a disciplined routine.

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    Congratulations, Drew! I remember when we started our IM10 tanks and I can't believe it was over 5 years ago. You've done a fantastic job with this nano reef and it's still one of my favorites! 

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    Very nice!  It's always interesting to see tank progression in photos, how things get changed, moved around and grow/disappear. 

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    "Also, it's easy to get overwhelmed with all this info, take it from me and my super easy setup, it doesn't have to be complicated. On the other hand, if you're a person who loves new gadgets, monitors, and dosers, you can go that route too. This hobby can be as complicated or as easy as you want to make it."


    Very good closing statement!  Congrats.

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    Hi, I’m pretty new to the hobby and have had a tank for 7 months. This weekend I’m getting my first corals, what advice would you have for someone starting out with corals? @dferrari13

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