Congratulations to community member BearTheSquare and his 10 gallon nano reef aquarium for being selected for our February 2021 Reef Profile! This college reef keeper has built a richly diverse reef aquarium while attending school, providing a relaxing outlet between studies. In this article BearTheSquare shares his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's journey over the past twenty two months. 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 reef tank.
BearTheSquare's 10 Gallon College Reef
Display: 10-Gallon Innovative Marine Nuvo Fusion (11.8” L x 15” W x 13” H)
Lighting: AI Prime HD with bracket mount
Heater: Eheim 75-Watt Heater
Circulation: Sicce Silent 1.0 Return Pump, Hygger Controllable Aquarium Pump
Filtration: inTank Media Basket
Filter Media: inTank Poly Filter
Top Off: Water Bottle Top Off from Amazon, $12 and fail-proof (highly recommend)
Established March 22, 2019
Feeding: Every other day I feed my fish and corals ¼ cube of frozen mysis shrimp. Although when I first started cutting back on feeding I felt bad for the fish, I’ve realized how easy it is to overfeed and cause problems. Even though your fish will most likely always appear hungry and ready to eat, I believe the best way you can tell your fish are getting enough food is seeing their growth over time. This will save you a lot of unwanted headaches when it comes to preventing nuisance algae outbreaks and high nutrients.
Water Changes: For the past (almost) 2 years, I have performed 2 water changes per week using Instant Ocean Reef Crystals salt and RODI water. Each water change I perform is 2 gallons (~20%), meaning I change about 40% each week. Water changes are the only nutrient replenishment my system gets, so I have to stay on top of maintenance to ensure my corals are getting the nutrients they need to grow.
Cleaning: Every other day (or so) I will: 1.) scrape the glass and acrylic back panel to get rid of any film algae that has grown; 2.) use a turkey baster to lift any debris or film algae off the bottom of my tank since it is barebottom. Once a month I clean all of my equipment and the back chambers of my tank to help the equipment stay in working order.
Testing: This is one section that I know I hold an unpopular opinion on and many people will disagree with me, but I only tested my tank for the first 4 weeks until adding my first coral. Since then, I have only tested my salinity to make sure it is stable at 1.025-1.026. I believe stability is the biggest factor for a healthy reef tank and by being consistent when mixing your water, keeping a solid maintenance routine, and watching your inhabitants for signs of problems you can be successful without chasing numbers (which can often times lead to problems trying to correct them).
Hi Fin Goby (Stonogobiops nematodes) - RIP
- Neon-Green Toadstool
- Ricordea Yuma (Coral I regret adding the most, also my girlfriend’s favorite)
- Scrambled Eggs
- Raspberry Limeades
- Utter Chaos (2 Variants)
- Playboy Bunnies
- Goblins on Fire
- Latin Lovers
- God of Wars
- Sunny Ds
- Gonzo Lost Boy Palys
- CC Pink Constellations
- ORA Pearlberry
- Purple Pocillopora
- 6 Dwarf Blue-Legged Hermit Crabs
When I was a kid my dad had a 180 gallon FOWLR tank full of predator fish; Lionfish, Clown Trigger, and Snowflake Eel to name a few. He’d always take me with him to the LFS to help pick out the next addition and it was always my favorite thing we’d do together. When I got a little older, I remember him telling me that taking care of it was becoming too much and that he was going to get rid of it.
When I was in 7th grade I was in a class that had us research a hobby and do a report on it. Thinking back on how much I enjoyed my dad’s fish tank when I was younger, I decided to do my research on the aquarium hobby. I went home and told him about the project I was doing for school and asked for his help. This quickly turned into finding out how much he had missed the hobby and us planning a build together, which is when I stumbled on Nano-Reef.com.
We got to work setting up a non-upgraded 29 gallon BioCube with a Royal Dottyback, Maroon Clownfish, and some easy soft corals. This tank filled up really quickly with invasive corals like Xenia and Discoma Mushrooms, which got us to fully into the hobby again and soon after we decided to upgrade to a 75 gallon reef. I stayed actively in the hobby until about 2014, when our tank crashed while I was away at a basketball camp for my high school team. With college coming soon and being busy with summer jobs, I decided it’d be best to save the extra money and I’d eventually get back into the hobby when the time was right.
The itch to get back into the hobby ironically came at probably one of the worst times (while living at my fraternity’s party house), but I slowly saved up the money to get all the equipment to do it right. Since then taking care of my tank and browsing NR have been the best things to keep my mind off the stress that comes with college.
I chose the 10 gallon IM Nuvo Fusion mainly due to its size and that it’s an All-In-One system. When I got the tank, I could not have it in a common room and really the only place a tank could fit was on my dresser. The All-In-One tanks were very appealing to me because I could hide all of the equipment in the back chambers.
I chose the AI Prime HD because 1) It could grow any type of coral and gave me endless options for stocking; 2) The built-in controller allowed a sunrise/sunset with no extra cost. I’m very happy that I decided to go with this light and would definitely purchase it again if I was to start over.
I chose the Sicce Silent 1.0 Return Pump because of its controllability (I could reduce the output if it ended up being too much for my tank). The stock pump that came with the Nuvo 10 was very underpowered, even for the least flow-needing corals, and most people with the tank upgrade it immediately.
I chose the Hygger Controllable Pump off Amazon because I noticed how much longer my zoanthids’ skirts get when the flow is higher. Other than that, having a barebottom tank I quickly saw where the deadspots in my tank were and adding the powerhead was a quick and easy fix. Its controllability and small size are definitely a plus, too.
I cycled my tank with only live rock and live sand, and let it sit for 4 weeks before touching it. I tested for the first time after 3 weeks and realized I was good to go but gave an extra week before adding anything to be sure. My first coral was a small, $10 frag of Scrambled Egg Zoanthids that I picked up from my LFS. However, this coral did not come without problems, as it came with zoanthid eating nudibranchs, which I quickly noticed and removed without issues, and aptasia, which I mistakenly did not remove.
April 22, 2019 - First Zoanthid Frag
The next few months were slow moving for my tank as I waited to add much else, other than a hammer coral and high-fin goby (sadly eaten by a polyclad flatworm), until my girlfriend and I moved into our new apartment in May. Over that time of not adding anything new, I realized how quickly the corals were growing in my tank. What was 5 zoanthid polyps was now 10 and what was 1 head of hammer coral was now 2. This got me really excited to get more corals and truly let the tank grow in, but it also taught me how important being patient was in the hobby.
In May we finally were able to move into our apartment and the tank was the last thing we moved. The weather was pushing 90ºF and I didn’t have AC in my car, so the 15-minute move felt like a lifetime. Luckily, I learned how to move my tank successfully, because I would unknowingly be moving it 5 more times over the next year and a half!
Inspiration & Goals
My main inspiration for this tank was @dferrari13 IM 10 and @WV Reefer dirty tanks. My main goal for this tank was to fill it to the point of people on NR telling me I’m going to need to upgrade, which sadly I haven’t gotten to yet. I’d still like to let things grow in naturally and completely fill up the tank as nature would want, but maybe it’s a good thing it hasn’t happened yet as I’m currently planning to move after graduation to (hopefully) a more stable spot.
September 24, 2019
Disasters & Regrets
This tank has seen enough disasters to probably warrant at least a few restarts, but I’ve tried to remain optimistic when they occurred and overcome the challenges… I’m glad I did. No one’s tank can be perfect all of the time and if you give up the first time you have a problem, you either leave the hobby or start again from square one. I’d rather at least give it a shot to fix the problem than throw in my cards. I hope reading about these problems at least helps someone on NR to not give up when they’re dealt a bad hand…
First Disaster – Aptasia
Aptasia is a problem that almost all tanks will run into at some point, but it is one of the hardest pests to beat (in my opinion). When I first noticed the aptasia on my first coral I introduced to my tank, I immediately covered it in superglue and went about my day thinking I had won. Sadly, supergluing over aptasia did not work for me and neither did lemon juice, boiling water, Aptasia X, Peppermint Shrimp, etc., etc... This small problem quickly became an infestation that covered every rock in my tank and stung every coral I had. At one point I gave up on counting, feeling defeated, after 200. I would say that my tank had somewhere around 500 visible aptasia, meaning that there was probably at least 500 more that I couldn’t see in the rockwork.
After trying everything and receiving help from plenty of members on NR, I was pointed in the direction of Bhergia Nudibranchs. These 8 little miracle worms (crazy expensive) sure took their time, but after about 4-months of waiting to see results and wondering if the nocturnal nudibranchs were alive, I slowly began noticing less and less aptasia.
Second Disaster – Bryprosis
Bryprosis is my least favorite nuisance algae that I was unlucky enough to encounter. This disaster started as me thinking the new, invasive algae that quickly began to smother my corals was hair algae. Spending every day researching hair algae removal, personally removing the algae by hand, and wondering why I hadn’t made a dent after 2 months of this I watched as it began to smother my corals. After looking through the ID forum I quickly realized that my algae were in fact Bryprosis.
This led to being pointed in the direction of Flucozanole. Within 2 weeks of the treatment, I watched all of the algae that I’d spent months ripping off the rocks vanish. Without receiving that advice from a NR member I’m pretty sure I’d still be pulling at the algae as I type this.
My biggest regret for this tank is that I feel like I set it up at the wrong time in my life to truly let it grow in how I picture it. Constantly moving from apartment to apartment for college, working pretty low-paying jobs, and not being able to put much into it makes me wonder what it could be without those setbacks.
However, with that being said I’m pretty proud of how this tank has turned out for being kept on around $5 or so a month.
I am not sure what the future plans of this tank are, but I am sure it will be up and running until at least May when I graduate college and start my full-time job. I’ve been saving a bit to stock the tank, but I like the corals I have right now and would like to see the tank completely filled in. If I do decide to upgrade this tank though, I believe I would do an IM Nuvo Fusion 20 gallon and fill it with zoanthids and a Battle Box and call it a day.
Words of Wisdom
In this hobby there will always be some road bumps, don’t give up just because things get bad. At least one person on NR has dealt with what you have going on and is more than willing to help, just ask and wait for someone with a PhD in reef tanks to come to your rescue.
Advice For Beginners
Research as much as you can, join your local club/forum, and ask for help. We’ve all been where you’re at and we want to see you succeed.
Tips & Tricks
The biggest trick I have if there are any other college reefers out there without much money to their name is find a rental that covers your water utility. I’m taking full advantage and making a swimming pool worth of saltwater while paying outrageous, college town rental prices; making RO/DI for free is the least they can do for you.
Lighting has changed significantly, even in just the past 12 years since I started in the hobby. I believe that liking is the #1 most important piece of equipment for a successful reef tank. On my past reef tanks (2009-2011) I had used either stock lighting or whatever the cheapest T5 fixture I could find, and I never understood how others were growing corals so quickly while mine stayed pretty stagnant. I quickly felt defeated wondering if my tank would ever fill in or remain an empty looking reef with scattered tiny frags. In the hobby today, basically any reef capable light is reliable enough to keep your system growing, which is pretty awesome to see. I love seeing budget tanks that are using $60 lights from Amazon and growing corals well, because that makes the hobby more accessible for everyone. However, my main thought on lighting is that it is not the piece of equipment to skimp out on. If you can afford the nicer light but are thinking of putting that money towards a fish or coral instead, you will probably end up regretting it.
I’m personally a big fan of sandbeds, because I think they make a tank look very natural. Sadly, with how often I’ve moved this tank over the past year and 10 months, I had to remove the sand from this tank to cut down on the mini-cycle that occurred each time I would move for work, school, etc.
When I came into the hobby in 2009 the coral fads were not much different than now. SPS prices were still pretty crazy back then too (although much lower compared to today) and everyone wanted to own the most colorful and rare sticks. I’ve never focused on getting the most exclusive pieces in my tank for 2 main reasons 1) I enjoy a grown-in look where corals grow as they naturally would, rather than a tank full of 1-inch frags and 2) As a college student who has eaten ramen more times than I’d like to admit, I appreciate growing out a nice $5 frag or something gifted to me by a local reefer more than the $600 SPS that I’d need to take out an insurance policy on.
Cleanup crews are very important for successful reef tanks. Sadly, my cleanup crew has been mostly lost to a snail and clam eating Polyclad Flatworm (that has been lurking in my tank since I added the live rock). Now that my cleanup crew consists of only hermit crabs I have to do most of the work when it comes to removing algae and excess food from my tank.
Thank you very much Chris for featuring my tank this month, really caught me off guard but I’m very grateful to have this opportunity. Also, thank you for building this website and community that I have enjoyed so much for the past 12 years. Big thank you to my girlfriend for putting up with me constantly talking or complaining about my reef tank, very much appreciated. And thank you to @WV Reefer, @mitten_reef, @billygoat, and @Ratvan for always checking in, offering advice, and helping out throughout these past two years. Thank you, Nano-Reef Community, for helping me learn how to keep a slice of the ocean in my household, wherever I’m at.