Congratulations to community member shaner014 and his 20 gallon nano reef for being selected for our October 2020 Reef Profile! This stunning nano reef cube has rapidly grown into a zoanthid and palythoa paradise, embracing the simplicity of a bare bottom tank to incredible effect. In this article Shane shares his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's journey over the past year and a half. 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 gorgeous nano reef tank.
Shaner014's 20 Gallon Cube Reef
Display: WaterBox 20G All-In-One Cube
Rock: CaribSea Life Rock
Lighting: NanoBox Duo + M
Heater: Cobalt Neo-Therm 150W
Circulation: MightyJet Desktop 326 Return, MP10QD, Generic Power Head
Skimmer: Cad-Lights PLS-50 Elite V2 (required modification to fit, see build thread)
Filtration: AIO 1st Chamber: inTank Media Basket, 2nd Chamber: IM MiniMax Desktop Reactor, Skimmer, 3rd Chamber: Heater, ATO, Return Pump
Top Off: XPAqua Duetto
Dosing: Manual; AquaVitro Fuel Capful every 3-4 Days
Lid: DIY Screen Top
Salt: First 12 months RedSea Blue Bucket, RedSea Coral Pro since.
Tank-saver: Gas Generator (saved the tank twice so far!)
Established December 2018
Maintenance Routine & Philosophy
My goal for this tank was stability, and ease of care. Like many of us, my commitment to my tank waxes and wanes as the rest of life tumbles on. I wanted a system that could handle spans of time where I literally did nothing but feed the inhabitants. I've been mostly successful in this goal. To achieve simplicity, I decided to implement Bulk Reef Supply's "BRS/WWC Hybrid Method" best I could, and really only strayed from that initially with length of time to cycle. (And never testing parameters... More on that later...) I won't try and explain their whole method here, as it's hours worth of videos on YouTube, but I will spell out what I did. I do recommend watching the BRS team explain it, as a newcomer to the hobby, and to anyone that might consider a new approach. Disclaimer: I did not keep meticulous records of timing on when and how the tank maintenance routines changed, they have evolved over time as the tank has. So below is my best explanation of what has happened, and not too far off the mark.
Initially, for the first 8-10 months of the tank, my maintenance routine was:
- Daily: Feed 1 whole frozen cube of mysis, Inspect tank and equipment, Dose 1 ml of AquaVitro Fuel manually
- Every 3 Days: Scrape Glass, Blow detritus off rocks w/ Turkey Baster, Replace Filter Floss, Inspect operation of skimmer and adjust level as needed
- Weekly: 2 gallon water change, Top of ATO reservoir, Scrape back glass and bare bottom with long handled scraper
- Bi-Weekly: Feed heavy dose of ReefRoids the day before water change, Empty skimmer cup, Change ROX carbon (2 Tablespoons in a filter bag in the reactor)
- Periodically: Test Nitrates
My maintenance & feeding routine as of writing this (and for the last 8-10 months) is as follows:
- Daily: Feed 1 whole frozen cube of mysis shrimp, Inspect inhabitants and equipment for operation (all of which is basically at-a-glance, and done in less than 5 minutes). Also, I only dose AquaVitro Fuel, and that's usually a capful every 3-4 Days
- Weekly: Scape front and side glass with Flipper Cleaner, Replace filter floss
- Monthly: The day or two before my monthly water change I turn all pumps off and feed reefroids heavily (at least a teaspoon mixed with tank water to a slurry and splashed over all coral with a tube feeder). Then, a day later, empty skimmer cup, 3 gallon water change, refill ATO reservoir, wipe off splashguard on light, Add ROX Carbon and run in reactor for 1 week
- As needed: Pull MP10 wet side and generic pump for cleaning
- Every 21 months (ha!): As of hearing I was selected for a TOTM honor (last week!), I hadn't yet ever siphoned out my back chambers of my AIO. The day after Christopher contacted me I decided I needed to do a little dirty work to get some new photos, and it was finally time. I DO NOT recommend waiting this long, in honesty I'm quite lucky the first chamber hadn't clogged completely and caused my ATO to empty and crash the tanks salinity. I pulled out literal handfuls of mulm from the bottom of the chambers. I am shocked my IM MightyJet didn't fail from the build-up around it, and I'm lucky that the gunk seemed to be relatively inert, as mixing it all up didn't crash the tank, and the crud has been in there slowly accumulating since the beginning.
- Never: Honesty here; As of today, I have never cleaned my skimmer pump, or return pump. They have been running daily since the tank started, the return pump I did inspect when I cleaned out the chambers, but I still run it on the lowest setting and it hasn't degraded output. The skimmer keeps on pulling skimmate to my liking and don't see a reason to mess with it until it stops working as intended. I also never test water parameters besides salinity + temp.
ARC Captive Bred Wyoming White Clownfish
ARC Captive Bred Standard Snowflake Clownfish
Green Star Polyps
Tri-Color Indo Torch
Green and Orange Lepto's
Red Polyp Digitata
Female Emerald Crab
2 Peppermint shrimp
2-3 Nerite Snails
2-3 Margarita Snails
Geometric Pygmy Hawkfish, Todd's Torch, 3 Hammer's, 3 Acans, 2 or 3 Zoa's and Paly's
I got seriously into aquarium keeping, in what seemed like overnight, back in spring of 2009. I started with a Betta and a half gallon cube, purchased while buying cat food from PetSmart. Five tanks in as many months later, I wound up joining Nano-Reef.com after seeing a nano setup at my local fish store. I'm really fortunate to have a great reef community in Buffalo, NY. The stores and hobbyists locally have helped me tremendously over the years. That said, I spent hundreds of hours on this forum in the first couple months of discovering the nano side of the hobby, and completely attribute my knowledge-base to reading this site. I was literally obsessed. I still am, but as mentioned, it comes and goes now.
My current tank is my fourth nano-reef, and also the largest and longest running tank of mine to date. I bought most of the equipment and tank on a whim when my wife green-lighted it just days before Black Friday. The only equipment changes I've made are adding the generic powerhead to create flow across the bottom back of the tank after running about 8 months, everything else is as started.
My initial research and planning led me to the BRS/WWC Hybrid method and I decided to follow that for this tank. In a nut shell, the method is:
- High Flow
- Heavy Feeding
- Heavy Skimming
- No Sand
Please watch the series on YouTube for the particulars, it's a great! I stuck to the method outlined in the videos consistently over the initial 8-10 months of the tank. With 2 exceptions, I cycled quicker, only about 5 weeks as opposed to their recommended 12-16, and I have almost never tested parameters outside of the cycle, with the exception of nitrates a handful of times in the early months just to be sure I had some. (I do test salinity with the hanna dip checker.) I do not recommend not testing, and still almost 2 years later tell myself I'm going to start... but here we are, and I haven't yet.
My self-justification for this is:
- I know some nutrients are going in via water changes and feeding and dosing fuel
- I know some excess nutrients and waste are coming out via biological filtration and skimming and water changes
- I am not likely to consistently implement anything in addition to my current routine
- Knowing these to be true, testing benefits are negligible for me and my current tank goals
The BRS/WWC method lends itself to this perfectly in my opinion. The flow keeps most detritus suspended and caught by the filter floss, the heavy feeding keeps nutrients going in that are bio-available, the heavy skimming and water changes keep a lot of nutrients coming out, and no sand means there isn't a place for the bad stuff to settle and fester. I also run ROX carbon for a week every month now, to pull out whatever it does, and to polish the water.
Over time a few things have changed as bio-load increased, to where I think I've reached a decent happy-medium with the routine vs where it started. Initially I was over feeding for sure, the coral and fish couldn't take it all in, and I had a bout with some ugly algae. Lazy me, not wanting to change my routine, decided to just use a dose of Reef Flux. It worked like a charm. Fast forward a few months, and I started to get bubble algae. I again looked to dosing something to kill it quickly, which this time was Vibrant. The Vibrant was slow to show any results so I added an emerald crab as I continued to dose. The bubble algae was eradicated quickly thereafter.
I should pause and say dosing Vibrant is my major regret with this tank. In dosing the Vibrant, I believe I caused the nutrient levels to zero out. I have no testing results to back this up of course, but I did lose color on all coral, and experienced my only coral deaths during this time. I don't think Vibrant itself was toxic, but perhaps the amount I was adding was stripping the water of nutrients too fast. For sure water testing would have saved me here! Bummer.
Since the bubble algae, I've also battled aiptasia successfully twice. First with Berghia Nudibranchs, and more recently with the peppermint shrimp. The nudis died off after they decimated the aiptasia, but about 6 months later the pests slowly came back, hence the peppermints living there now. The shrimp wiped out over 100 aiptasia in less than 2 weeks. I also recently successfully used Reef Flux to rid an invasive filamentous algae. It was on every rock surface and my powerheads. I think it came in when I added new snails, as I haven't added anything other than the shrimp, berghia, and new snails in almost a year. The tank literally started looking clean again 3 days before Chris asked me to do this! Some luck!
My short-term goals for the tank are to add more coral, specifically a couple torches and a couple hammers. The mid level and side of the main rock structure on the left are pretty open still. I surely have room for some more Z's and P's too! I'm also going to get rid of the generic powerhead and slap another MP10 on the back bottom left wall to continue to keep detritus pooling towards the front so it can be siphoned out. Past that, I hope the GSP continues to fill in completely on the back wall, because I can't wait to have to trim it all of the time! /sarcasm. Though it will look pretty neat. I want to keep this tank going as long as possible, no plans to transfer or tear down.
Words of Wisdom
Luck... I mentioned it a few times, but I do not actually believe luck plays a very large role in our hobby. Yes, things happen that cause us to say "Wow, how lucky!" Our reefs aren't built on brief occasions of happenstance though, but rather persistent and deliberate actions we know (or at least hope) to be sound. I think my success this go round is mainly attributed to what you see written as advice in so many past TOTM write-ups; "Keep it Simple" "Stability, Stability, Stability" and "Take it Slow." Everything good that has happened with this tank is a result of those adages.
I keep coming back to it, but I also honestly believe that any new reefer could implement the BRS/WWC method and be successful (I promise I'm not affiliated with either entity, though if you're reading, I'm all for being a brand ambassador 😉). The series is a lot to digest as a newcomer, but they set out to create a recipe for success with reefing, and we all know how actually impossible that notion can be. However, I followed it, and have had my most rewarding reefing experience so far. Sure there are weeks that go by where the tank isn't getting my full attention, but falling back into the method, always puts it back on track.
My tank is almost always as blue as shown here. I use the LPS preset on the NanoBox Duo. I slightly dropped the whites during an initial algae battle and left them there. I get asked for a more "natural" FTS sometimes, but honestly nothing about a glass box full of ocean is that natural, so, this is my "natural". To that end, do what you like! Emulating successful tanks is a great way to learn, but do adjust and adapt and evolve your own methods and processes and styles that work for you and fit into your life's constraints.
Most of my build thread photos are with an iPhone XS shot through a Polyp Lab V1 filter. Then edited with Lightroom Mobile for a color correction and some polishing. Everything on this write-up is a Canon 6D with a 40mm F2.8 lens, with the polyp lab filter hand held in front of it. Yes, not ideal but work with what ya got! The "macro"-esque shots are that same setup, except the lens is unmounted and turned around backwards and manual focused, an old camera trick to get a nice thin depth of field and a short minimum focus distance.
Nano-Reef will always hold a very special place in my reefing heart! Before Instagram and Reef2Reef and Facebook groups, here and only here was the THE place to have a nano and share wisdom. It always will be for me.
Try bare-bottom! This I feel is the biggest contributing factor to my tanks stability and long-term success. People do say initially it is harder to maintain, I myself did not experience anything more challenging bare-bottom vs sand. In fact, I'd say it was easier than my previous three sand substrate tanks.
@Reefkid88 you da man! Thanks for following my build thread consistently, though I have been very inconsistent!
Where's the coralline??? Honestly, I don't know! I did try to seed the tank with scrapings from an established tank initially, but it never took off. In hindsight, I much prefer the no coralline look, and have been hesitant to add any frag plugs that may introduce it.
I am a huge proponent of a skimmer on a nano for my style setup. I feed a lot. I have 5 fish in a 20 gallon and am pushing the stocking limit for sure. I have had some algae outbreaks, but they have been manageable each time. I think as my fish and coral load increased, and my feeding remained constant, the skimmer didn't have to work as hard, and my tank is at a nice homeostasis point currently. Before that though, without the skimmer there pulling out all the extra "stuff", the system would have likely seen its demise.
@Rehype is my favorite reefer.
It may take you 4 attempts and 11 years, but TOTM on Nano-Reef.com is attainable!
Message me if ya got questions!
Thank you @Christopher Marks. I literally couldn't have done it without you! Nano-Reef for me has been a source of motivation, inspiration, education, fascination, and especially now, gratification. I tend to be my harshest critic, and don't really feel I deserve this honor. It is just a couple of zoas after all, but; I really am incredibly happy to be able to immortalize my personal greatest reefing achievement on your platform. Maybe someone will read my ramblings or see a picture that puts them over the tipping point of diving into the hobby. They too can learn just how kind you are, and how kind everyone here can be (except @Lawnman and those scary kids who hang out in his thread). I have to also thank @metrokat, there are countless reefs here which command attention on their beauty alone, but few - if any - threads were as active and downright fun to be a part of when I first joined. It was that sense of community and draw to the forum that harbored my love for the hobby and this site. (Queue the Oscar walk away music) But I'm not leaving without thanking @DaveFason, the NanoBox Duo has been bombproof, and on your advice, I set a lighting preset and never touched it again. I hope you find a way to continue to contribute to the reefing community, because we need you. Thank you to you too! Each and every member and reader and lurker. This site rules and it's thanks to all of us. Cheers friends!