Congratulations to community member @spazizz and his 20 gallon nano reef aquarium for being selected for our May 2021 Reef Profile! This nano reef is home to an incredible collection of leather and LPS corals, with a wide spectrum of hues and specimens. In this article spazizz shares his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's journey over the past two 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 reef tank.
Spazizz's 20 Gallon Nano Reef
Display: 24" x 15" x 13" with back wall sump area.
Rock: Mix of Fiji and Tonga dry and live rock, base rock is cut flat to keep detritus out from under them.
Sand: Bare bottom.
Lighting: 2 Full spectrum LED fixtures.
Heater: One heater.
Circulation: Two water pumps along the back wall.
Skimmer: 100 gallon rated hang-on-back running part time.
Filter Media: Poly
Top Off: Hand every day.
Dosing: Nothing usually, some times I drip Kalkwasser if the corals are growing too slow.
Established March 2019
For water changes they happen maybe once a month with Reef Crystals salt mix, usually 50%+ preferably 100%. I do no testing ever, but I did recently get a pH probe. I don’t test because I use the corals health and appearance as an indicator, and if things ever look off... I do a 100% water change.
Since I have a Dragonette fish, I feed frozen blood worms, brine shrimp and chopped up fish every day. Salt brand doesn’t matter to me to as long as it’s cheap and has elevated Calcium, Alkalinity, and Magnesium.
Yellow Tail Damsel
Black Ice Clownfish
Two Green Banded Gobies
I started nano reefing in 2007 after learning on Nano-Reef.com that a reef tank could be done with out needing a huge tank or huge budget. I’ve been reefing non-stop for 14 years now. I've had many tanks in that time. At some point in 2012 I got tired of losing live stock to parasites and disease, losing money, and more importantly losing pets. I started taking quarantining very seriously, no more shortcuts.
You could technically say this tank started in 2016, because during that time I set up a ten gallon nano reef after having moved to a new home. I was downsizing from larger reef tank, so I had some SPS originally, but I lost them eventually due having too much going on in my life. It was during that period I decided to keep things as low maintenance as possible. I originally had mushrooms, zoanthids and one LPS coral. Most of the zoas and mushrooms where eventually moved into their own dedicated zoa and mushroom tank, a 10 gallon that sits to the left of this 20 gallon. The Duncans are my oldest coral in this tank, I got them some time between 2013 - 2015. March 2019 is when I got the current glass box things are currently residing in, and keeping with the theme of low maintenance I added bunch of hammers and made the decision to focus on LPS and softies.
Within the first few months I was forced to change the aquascape (replacing rocks with dry rock), because I broke the rocks accidentally during a water change. This upset the tank, I got dinos, cyano, and some of my new hammers got brown jelly, I lost some completely while others survived. One of my green toadstools has never quite recovered to this day. Eventually I pulled all the sand out since it was feeding the dinos, and I knew bare bottom would be less maintenance. I treated the tank as normal ever since, and the dinos went away.
Originally I had a very nice Perula Clownfish pair, but the female went rogue and started killing all the fish in the tank including her mate. I found a new home for her. I had 5 Green Banded Gobies at one point too, but they eventually fought until there was only a pair left kind, of like how Firefish will fight. I had some mollies for awhile, but they chased each other relentlessly and gave the tank an energy I didn’t enjoy, so I moved them to other tanks too. I’ve had my Green Dragonette for a year now I believe, she has done well eating bloodworms, and brine shrimp.
I wanted more fish and different levels for corals so I started messing with the aquascape again, trying many different rocks and styles. I love the aesthetic negative space aquascapes but I feel they don’t work longterm unless they are filled to the brim with coral, there isn’t enough hiding areas for fish or enough nutrient export. To avoid dinos this time I soaked the new rocks in salt water for month or so. With the new aquascape I made many caves for fish and different levels to keep the LPS from stinging the soft corals. Soon after the big aquascape change, I changed things once more by moving the LPS mostly to the top of the tank so their stinging tentacles would be even further away from the softies. After this final change I’ve been very satisfied with the tank.
Recently in the last few months I added a ton of new fish after quarantining them. Those fish are Rolland Damsel, Yellow Tail Damsel, Talbot Damsel, Black Ice Clownfish, and Purple Firefish. I tried some Flasher Wrasses but they never could make it through quarantine. I tried to pair two Purple Firefish, but it didn’t work out so I moved one into my 10 gal. Currently things are working out, there are some squabbles here and there with the damsels, but nothing too bad.
All the new varieties of toadstools have been a great additions, soft corals don’t get the appreciation they deserve. No major gear upgrades have happened really, except adding two water pumps to the back. The most impactful change has been adding to the live stock list. More fish really liven up the tank. All the varieties of leathers and hammers give me something to look forward to with growth and color development. Many drab corals have become something amazing in my tank. I’ve had brown toadstools turn bright green, and brown hammers turn gold with green stems.
Inspirations & Goals
One goal of mine has always been to keep things low maintenance and keep the tank enjoyable. I achieved that with a bare bottom tank, hardy soft coral and hardy LPS. The ultimate goal is big coral colonies and all the color varieties of leathers and hammer corals. I’m always keeping an eye open for bright yellow corals and hardy colorful coral.
I find inspiration from all the early TOTM from when I first joined Nano-Reef.com. I found inspiration from some online personalities like Jake Adams, his diving videos of corals in the wild are very inspiring and educational. Marc Levenson and his partner Caitlin have entertained me and given me new ideas. The Spongebob series is an inspiration that helps keep an interest in ocean life alive, I’ve always loved reef life and ecosystems, so having a show associated with the ocean while growing up as a child probably made even more of a connection to the ocean for me.
I’ll be upgrading the live stock of this tank to a 100 gallon 48x24x20", I really need more room for larger coral colonies. I’ll be keeping my Mushroom dominated 10 gal running indefinitely, since it’s such easy maintenance. Mushrooms really shine and are easier to appreciate in a smaller tank rather than a large tank.
Advice For Hobbyists
Hardy corals are important for any plans of keeping a reef longterm. Use large containers to be able to do 100% water changes. If you’re using dry rock mostly, find a couple pounds of actual live rock from the ocean, or rock from a diverse reef system, or add bunch of hardy corals right away.
If you care about the inhabitants you take care of, quarantine everything wet. I quarantine every single coral and anything else wet in fallow conditions to insure no ich enters my system. Every fish goes through a tank transfer for ich and is treated for parasites. I’ve had no pest or parasite enter my tanks since starting quarantining in 2012. Everything in my tank is there because I chose for it to be in there.
I have a certain philosophy about brands, they aren’t important as long as the equipment is quality. There is no need to buy the most expensive fancy or featured thing, you’ll usually end up with the same results. I have no brand loyalty except maybe Reef crystals, the price and quality is just right.
My only regret is buying equipment twice, buy the best there is right at the beginning, or else you’ll end up spending twice the money down the road after first buying something inadequate.
LEDs are good enough right now, but they are no match to the appearance, coral health and growth you get with metal halides or T5. Metal halides have a brightness and shimmer that is like no other. T5 has amazing full coverage and growing abilities. I use LEDs now because the lower heat they put out and I like my tank to be blue part of the day and for a sunnier 10K look the other part of the day. I appreciate both spectrums. LED fixtures are small too, making it easy to light a nano. Currently you need many LED fixtures to avoid shadowing or to match the brightness and coverage of other lighting systems. Hopefully with my next tank I’ll be able to do a hybrid T5 LED system. The newer LED panels look promising.
Skimmers are useful and definitely have benefits, but with a nano tank it’s so easy to do a 100% water change instead, which helps with 100% mineral replenishment and waste removal.
Bare bottom allows me to have a lot of fish and do easy maintenance, sand looks great but is another thing to maintain. My new 100 gal tank might have sand, but I can see myself growing tired of maintaining it. Some animals like jaw fish really appreciate a sand bed. With sand there is definitely much more biodiversity of invertebrates.
Dosing & Feeding
Feeding LPS is very important, their growth rate is much faster when fed regularly. Dosing is only important if your inhabitants need it, automating as much as you can will increase enjoyment with less maintenance. Water changes are very efficient at replacing nutrients and minerals in balanced proportions but it can be costly. Thankfully nano tanks don’t need much salt for water changes.
I’m experimenting with making my own frozen mix of chopped fish and whole invertebrates. A lot of flake and pellets food have products in them such as wheat, other grains and fillers which doesn’t sit well with me. Fish should be feed aquatic foods that match their biology or natural diet.
Social media has definitely added a silliness to reef keeping which Reef Builders blog just covered and explains much better than I.
It’s ridiculous how much some corals cost, the silly meaningless made up names, inaccurate colors in pictures from vendors. So many corals I’ve seen look nothing like they did in person because an orange filter was used to make things look brighter or a completely different color. I prefer a properly adjusted white balance to accurately represent a real life appearance. Personally, accurate and realistic representation is important to me.
I can’t wait for more fish species to be commonly aquacultured. I wish aquacultured green banded gobies were more popular and readily available. I will continue to aquaculture the corals I keep and spread them with in the hobby.
Snails really help keep algae out of a bare bottom tank and keeping it looking nicer longer after a good cleaning.
Nano-Reef.com has been my reefing home and will always be. It’s one brand I can fully stand for, having no problem pointing any one towards its direction. I’m very grateful to Christopher Marks and all those who’ve helped me here on the forums over the years.