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  • Ajkochev

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member @ajkochev and his 2.6 gallon pico reef aquarium for being selected for our August 2021 Reef Profile! This diminutive reef aquarium is home to an incredible array of life, with jaw dropping views all around. In this article Ajkochev shares his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's journey over the past three 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 amazing pico reef tank.

    Anthony's 2.6gal Peninsula Pico Reef






    Tank Specs

    Display: Aquamaxx 2.6 Gallon Rimless Glass 12" x 7" x 7"
    Rock: Half and Half, dry rock from old tanks, and Live Rock from LFS.
    Sand: 0.25 inch Caribsea Live Aragonite Sand
    Lighting: Fluval Sea Nano in a DIY Basswood Frame and Black Styrene Sheet Canopy. Refugium light is a long USB LED bar I got off Amazon, wrapped in paper to diffuse the light. It is scheduled for a reverse night running.
    Heater: Marina C10 10 Watt Heater
    Circulation: Generic 80 gph powerhead from Amazon running at about 75% output.
    Skimmer: None
    Filtration: DIY AIO chamber made of 1.5mm Thick Black Styrene Sheets with Refugium (Entire AIO is Removable) Cheato is contained in a Plastic Cross Stitch Net Cage held together by Zip Ties.
    Filter Media: Marineland Z Size Filterpad, 1 Tbsp Chempure Blue and 1 tsp Purigen in a Media Bag.  Some Marine Pure balls in a media bag for extra Biological filtration.
    Top Off: 6 ml Brightwell Aquatics Kalk+2 Administered Every Hour via Jebao WiFi Doser 3.4.
    Dosing: 1 ml Seachem Reef Fusion 1 and 2 Two Part Dosed Daily in the mornings, 1m Seachem Reef Plus Dosed Twice a Week after Water Change.
    Controller: Reef-Pi (Only Monitors Temperature For Now), Smart Life Compatible Generic Smart Power Strip.

    Photoperiod: Main Light-5am to 9pm(see photo for program settings), Refugium-5pm to 10am next day.

    Salt: Red Sea Coral Pro made with Distilled Water to 35ppt.

    Established June 2018





    Maintenance Routine

    Twice A Week

    • 2 cup Water Change Using Distilled Water and Red Sea Coral Pro Salt

    • Clean Glass

    • Check Salinity

    • Rinse Filter Pad



    • AIO Removal and clean if necessary

    • Clean Heater and Powerhead.

    • Cheato Trim in Refugium (it doubles in size every month)

    • Replace all Filter Media

    • Stir sand bed

    • Fill ATO tank.



    • 6 ml Brightwell Aquatics Kalk+2 Administered Every Hour via Jebao WiFi Doser 3.4

    • 1 ml Seachem Reef Fusion 1 and 2 Two Part Dosed Daily in the mornings

    • 1m Seachem Reef Plus Dosed Twice a Week after Water Change



    • Twice Daily Feeding of Omega One Marine Flake and A Homemade Puree of Raw Shrimp, Nori and Various Commercial Filter Feeder Foods.


    • One Percula Clownfish

    Soft Corals

    • Green Star Polyp
    • Pulsing Zenia
    • Various Mushrooms (I know several are Superman)
    • Fireworks Clove Polyps
    • Zoanthids
      • Fire and Ice
      • Sunny D
      • Midas
      • Dragon Eye

    LPS Corals

    • Twos Acan Lords (I don’t know the names)
    • Green with Purple Tip Frammer
    • Duncan
    • Blastomussa

    SPS Corals

    • Plating Montipora

      • Idaho Grape Monti

      • Red Monti

      • Green and Red Blended Monti

    • Leptastrea

      • Witches Brew

      • John Deere

    • Leptoseris

      • Orange

      • Red Devil

    • Unknown Favia

    • Sweet Tart Madracis

    • Yellow Yutz Psammacoral


    • Two Porcelain Crabs

    • Two Astrea Snails

    • Two Nassarious Snails

    • Two Blue Leg Hermit Crabs

    • Dozens of Micro Brittle Stars


    I’ve been keeping freshwater aquariums since I was kid in the 1980’s, and in the 1990’s got to saltwater. I had 20 gallon tanks back then, and after a few years of keeping this size tank I realized I liked the smaller ones. There was just something charming about a small nano or pico reef that I found appealing. I tried a smaller 6 gallon reef, but a few corals took over and became pests. I also had some unwanted algae due to using filtered tap water.


    0.5 Gallon AIO Pico Reef


    My wife and I spend a good deal of spare time in what we call our hobby room, listening to audio books. I wanted to be able to look at the tank on my workbench there, so I downgraded to a 0.5 gallon pico! This tank actually flourished, had no pests or unwanted algae. It had its own removable AIO filter area with refugium that I made out of black styrene sheets. I started using distilled water from the grocery store instead of filtered and treated tap water. I also glued dry rock from old tanks together to make a base for corals so I had no unwanted pests. It also had a Masonite canopy I made that just sat on top of the tank.


    With this success I decided to go a bit bigger a couple years later. Thus this 2.6 gallon was born! I used my 0.5 pico tank as a model and just took everything that was good and improved it in the 2.6 gallon. I did have a few design flaws at first. I originally planned to have two power heads. This proved to be too much flow for the tank, even turned way down. The higher evaporation was also something I didn’t anticipate, so I designed a PVC pipe automatic top-off system. In June of 2018 the 0.5 pico reef was taken down and the corals moved to the new 2.6 gallon.


    July 2018


    The first year was rough. I wanted to try LPS and SPS, so I went with a low nutrient setup. I fed sparse and also had Phosguard in my media. No fish or inverts except a couple hermits and a snail. After a year of poor polyp extension, bland colors and no growth I was about to tear down the tank. After some research online I realized I had made my tank too sterile. I could go a couple of weeks without needed to clean the glass! I removed the Phosguard, started feeding more and added a small clownfish, to dose nitrate 😄. The Cheato also needed replaced as it was sickly. Things started to get better fast afterward!  Full polyp extension and coral growth started happening with in a couple weeks. At the same time I got a smart power strip and can turn things on and off with Alexa and set a schedule for the refugium light. I just let the tank grow for a few years at this point, picking up a coral here and there to try.


    July 2019


    The AIO made of black styrene is on version 3 now, made in March 2021. This last time I made it fit perfectly flush with the sides of the tank, I made sure all cuts were a perfect 90 degrees and used a thicker sheet to make it more sturdy. It is the best performer yet.


    The canopy is made out of a framework of ¼ inch square basswood and black styrene sheet 0.75 mm thick. The original light was a Aquamaxx Prism 300. In April 2021 I changed it out because I didn’t like how to program it, and I was on my third one as LEDs kept failing. The canopy needed redone to house the new Fluval Sea Nano light. I did a much better job building it this time. A used better screws, designed various brackets and printed them on the 3D printer, made sure things were 90 degrees (mostly) and sealed the finished framework well with black spray paint. I left a gap at the top for some ventilation.


    August 2019


    At the same time I made the new canopy, I did away with the PVC ATO and setup the Jebao WiFi Doser 3.4. It took me several weeks of trial and error before I found the 6 ml and hour needed to keep up with evaporation. I’m only using one pump on it for the Kalk+2 but have toyed with the idea of doing some sort of auto water change with two more pumps.


    I also got rid of my Pocillopora. It was getting huge and had multiplied all over the tank and was starting to become a pest to other corals.


    July 2020


    Most recent equipment change has been to add a Reef-Pi in June 2021 with temperature sensor. It doesn’t control anything but will email me if the tank gets to hot or cold.


    August 2021

    Future Plans

    What’s next? I’m not sure. I don’t want a bigger one or another tank, I’m happy with what I’ve got size wise. It is easy to manage and getting easier with automation. I‘ll see what more I can do with the Reef-Pi (pH Monitor maybe?) and the Doser to further automate the setup probably.


    August 2021


    This past year due to the pandemic I was asked to work from home exclusively. As the room I’m in doesn’t have a window, I’ve enjoyed looking at my tank as I’ve worked.

    Interesting Fact

    One thing I’m sure some will scoff at is the fact that other than salinity and temperature I do not test any other parameters. I have the test kits, even a Hanna digital, but as long as the corals look happy and are growing, I’ll just keep things as they are and keep doing what I’m doing.

    Advice For Hobbyists

    Research and learn as much as you can from others. At the same time, don’t be afraid to try new things or do things differently (within reason), that is how we advance in the hobby. This is what I did for my past couple of tanks by building the canopies and AIO filtration instead of ready-made options.  Forums like Nano-Reef.com are a great source for ideas and to learn from others. The site has helped me greatly over the years to become a better reef keeper.



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    Congratulations. Very well deserved. I’m always so impressed with hobbyists that can keep such beautiful reefs in such tiny tanks. This is no different, I am super impressed. Would love to see a video of the tank. 

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    That is a beautiful tank. Congratulations on TOTM. I love reading how happy you are with it. It is like it is in its sweet spot and so are you.

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