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  • jdsabin1

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to jdsabin1 for earning the tank of the month award for October. His nano reef is an outstanding example of what hard work and dedication to this hobby can bring. Information and photographs of his aquarium are below, direct from the man himself.



    20 Gallon Long

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    Featured nano-reef tank of the month? What an honor to be recognized among all the beautiful and breathtaking tanks at Nano-Reef.com. Seems like only yesterday I was trying to convince my wife that all those big, brown rocks I was adding to the tank were actually going to amount to something someday!




    Tank Specs

    • 20 long AGA
    • (2) Metal Halide 175 Watt 20K XM pendants
    • Aquaclear 150 HOB (with Rowaphos and carbon in media bags 24/7/365) attached to an Aquaclear surface skimmer. The carbon and Rowaphos get changed monthly.
    • (1) 200 GPH AquaSweep PH (I keep it clean to ensure it works as I know it is regarded as a POS for the most part. Right now I must say the concept works for my tank, and works well).
    • CPR 18" AquaFuge (stuffed full of several different types of macroalgae, pods, crabs and brittlestarfish, powered by a Rio 400)
    • Jali 13 watt PC fixture over the fuge that is lit 24 hours a day
    • Lee's Small CC skimmer using a Rena Air 100 pump
    • 100 watt EBO-Jager heater (in CPR AquaFuge)
    • 35 lbs. Fiji/Florida LR
    • 40 lbs. Aragonite LS (estimate I assume including the LS in my fuge. I used a larger grain of sand and not the sugar sized grain)


    I have always admired both freshwater and especially saltwater aquariums but felt like I could never devote enough time and energy to give a tank the attention it deserves to really thrive. Truth be told, in the fall of 2002 my cable internet access was on the blink in the neighborhood for nearly a month and during that time while I stared at a lifeless PC I also thought that would be the perfect time to start my quest towards finally setting up an aquarium. An associate at work informed me that a saltwater tank of any size less than 55 gallons was not possible so that actually provided me with more incentive to prove that it could be done. When I found Nano-Reef.com, I knew I was on my way. Naturally at the LFS's in town, the family would inevitably look at the freshwater aquariums and fish but then oooh and ahhhh at the marine fish and corals. When I asked the salesperson what the difference was, her reply was One uses salt, and the other one doesnt. That made it easy (or so I thought). I walked out of the lfs a few weeks later (after more research) with an Eclipse 12 acrylic aquarium and all the rest of it (ls, lr, heater, test kits, etc). I watched the tank cycle and soon I knew I would be on my way. In those early days I fought cyanobacteria and diatoms the most but struggled through it and when it was time to add my critters and corals, I could hardly contain myself.


    Early Beginnings

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    I try to buy local as much as I can since it helps support our local economy and also keeps the local fish stores in business. Early on I tested most every day for calcium, alkalinity, ammonia, nitrates and nitrites especially. Even after the cycle was over I still tested most every day. I also started with RO/DI water as my research indicated that tap water would bring nothing but algae trouble. Good thing my lfs sells RO/DI water cheap!


    I include background on my Eclipse 12 here because for the better part of the last year or so I was using that as my primary nano-reef tank. In the middle of July I decided to upgrade my tank to an All-Glass 20 long aquarium. I had seen FlyGTIs tank when he was kind enough to give me some live rock he had and fell in love with the 20 long footprint. As it turns out, he had an extra 20 long tank too and he basically gave that to me as well. The transfer to the new tank has been a smashing success. I added some additional components to my 20 long that I didnt have in the Eclipse like a fuge and skimmer and so far I have been very happy with the results. I also moved from a 130 watt Coralife PC 50/50 fixture to a metal halide configuration. So even though the 20 long has only been up for a few months now, the contents have been in existence for nearly a year.



    • 1 Royal Gramma
    • 1 False Percula
    • 1 Lawnmower Blenny
    • Peppermint Shrimp
    • Snails (several including stomatellas but no turbos)
    • Several blue legged hermits (small guys)



    Asstd Ricordeas Asstd Mushrooms Asstd Zoanthids Green star polyps
    Anthelia Clove (2 varieties) Salmon Acropora millepora with yellow tips Yellow Acropora sp.
    Green Acropora millepora Purple tipped Acropora nana Super green Acropora sp. monti digi Birdsnest, and some capri
    Bubble coral Frogspawn 4 mini-carpet anenomes 2 tulip anenomes
    Blastomussa merleti Blastomussa wellsi Sun coral Green fungia
    Fox coral Large zoo polyps Xenia Scolymia
    Squamosa clam Crocea clam Maxima clam Platygyra brain
    Favites brain Red/white feather duster Candy cane coral  


    Using IO salt with a 3 gallon water change weekly with gravity at 1.025 I have *always, and I mean always* used RO/DI water without fail. Auto-topoff from Physh1 from Nano-Reef.com. I try to keep my tank as close to 80 degrees as I can. It does vary however between 78.5 to 81 degrees based on the weather and what we're doing with the central air or heat in the house. Dose with B-Ionic every other day to keep calcium at 420ish and will occasionally use SeaChems Reef Complete if I need to raise the calcium slightly 9 hour photoperiod (Noon to 9 daily)


    I feed pellets to fish 2X day (with an occasional treat of zooplankton for them) frozen brine shrimp to sun coral, bubble coral, scolymia every other day. Golden Pearls - 2X weekly. DTs Phytoplankton - 3X weekly

    Other details

    I clean the aquariums glass a few times a week on average using a small mag-float glass cleaner. Of course I scrub down the glass during my weekly water change also. The refugium macroalgae is pruned, on average, once every three weeks or so. Fragging is normally done on an as needed basis due to corals growing too quickly or getting too close to one another. That is certainly a larger challenge in nano-reef land than the larger reef tanks have. Based on space constraints and coral diversity, it is a challenge to maintain harmony amongst the corals without worrying about chemical warfare, overgrowth, frags falling, space problems, etc. Its a daily routine just giving the tank a real close visual inspection. I have more plans for different corals in my tank and as I find the ones I am looking for I will add them. I have two other 5 and gallon nano tanks (one houses a pair of harlequin shrimp and the other houses a mantis shrimp) and fortunately they both have plenty of room for corals so some from my current tank will go in those tanks as I run across the chosen corals. I would bet that in a few months the 20 will morph into a slightly different looking tank, which is another neat benefit that the nanos provide in my opinion.

    Along with local fish stores that are great in the central Iowa area (The Reef Connection and Adams Aquatics especially) I have had very positive online experiences also and I feel I would be remiss if I didn't mention them. The Logical Reef, Aquadesignz, Clams Direct, Tropical Paradise, Reef Splendor, Dr Fosters, Premium Aquatics, Palmetto Reefs, Hellolights, Blowfish Aquatics, North Star Corals, and Goochs Corals have all provided first rate service and products to me.

    I would like to thank Nano-Reef.Com for bestowing this great honor upon me. I must admit this reef bug has bitten me and bit hard. I have had an absolute blast throughout the entire process and even though I wouldnt necessarily consider this a relaxing hobby, it has definitely been rewarding, and I know its a lifetime learning experience. Thanks to Seabass and FlyGTI, both of these fine nano-reefers have provided me with free frags and help with ideas and planning as I have gone along. Thanks to my wife and kids who have learned to love my hobby and especially my son Thomas who is just as fascinated with nano-reefs as I am. Quite often he'll pull up a stool in front of the tank and watch the life in the aquarium.

    I would also like to thank all the great people at nano-reef that have provided me with answers (to sometimes stupid questions), compliments and a helping hand too. Thanks to all the people who have gorgeous nano-reef tanks that I have spent a lot of time staring at. Tanks like Dananos, Brooklyn Johnnys, LiQuiDs, and Gilmans come to mind, and I know there are several others too.

    I live in landlocked Iowa but have always had a fascination with the oceans and the life they contain. I feel pretty fortunate to be able to have my small slice of the sea right on my desk. Ultimately I am planning for a much larger reef tank (as in 120 - 200 gallons larger) next year when our basement finally gets finished but I will never tear down my nano-reef tank. Having a small reef where you can get so close and personal provides me with a great sense of ownership and pride.

    Happy nano-reefing everyone, and to borrow one of my favorite signature lines from Korbin, May all your corals be fluffy!



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