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Bonsai Inspired Bommie Reef

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Chucktown Bommie Reef



I've been reefing for close to 6 years now and have been a pretty active member around here for the last few. I started with a 55g softie reef back in 2005 and was really happy with my first foray into reef-keeping. After keeping it for a little over a year, I randomly heard about nanos and have been hooked ever since (kept a BC29, then a 20H SPS, and now the 17g). The overall goal for this tank started as a "a simplistic yet colorful mixed reef; including some select SPS, top-notch Euphyllia and Acans, and hopefully some Zoanthids and Palys."


As you can see from my sig, this tank has actually been up and running for almost 15 months now. You can find the first 41 pages of my original thread HERE. I decided to start a new thread because it had been so long since I updated the thread that things were more than stale and some of the changes I've made over the last week have completely changed the way and direction I'm taking with the tank. Hopefully some of the old followers will keep tabs on things over here now and hopefully some new faces will become regulars as well.


Here are the specs on the tank and equipment, along with current tank inhabitants and a series of FTS's starting from the month I started last June/July.


The Tank

  • 17g 60-L from Green Leaf Aquariums
  • Dimension: 23.6 x 11.8 x 14.2in
  • Glass Thickness: 5mm






The Equipment

  • Vortech MP10
  • Koralia Nano
  • Pendant - Ryujin LED Lighting -- Made By NanoBox (DaveFason)
  • Heater (eventually will be an in-line)
  • Deltec MCE300



  • Green Slimer
  • Red Bug Monti (Green w/red polyps)


  • Green/Purple Hammer
  • Todds Torch (eventually)


  • Blue Cloves
  • Red Mushroom
  • Duncan
  • Blasto Merletti
  • Green/Purple Favia


  • FnF Sunset
  • Orange Rainbox
  • Blue/Red


  • Nightmares
  • Armor of God
  • Fruit Loops
  • Eagle Eyes
  • Various others


June - I was using my Aquatinics TX5 fixture with these while the pendant was built.















November/December - This is when I got Dave's first LED fixture prototype for testing.



January - Starting running into some phosphate issues here



March - First attempt at rescaping into one large island/bommie



At the end of May, this happened....effectively tossing the reef into auto-pilot (water changes every 2-3 weeks and just keeping up with top off and feedings) :)



Now that he's almost 4 months old, I feel like I finally have my feet under me and have enough time to dive back into reef keeping with the enthusiasm and interest I had before. Here's a recent shot of the lil guy, who by the way loves staring at the tank and watching all of the movement.




So that pretty much brings everything up to about a week ago, when I decided to pull the trigger on a number of changes that I've had in mind for a while now.


Hopefully I'll have another post up later this afternoon/evening as I'm excited to share how things look now.


As with my past threads, feel free to ask questions, post observations, let me know when I'm off in left-field, and general heckle from the peanut gallery (I'm counting on you D). Hopefully you find the information and discussions useful.


Since photography is one of my hobbies and side businesses, there will be plenty o' pictures to come.



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looking good on both ends!


Thanks. He's growing like a weed and now that the tank is rescaped, the coral have never have looked better.

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Adam - Post the pictures! The pendant with this bommie looks AWESOME!


Oh yea guys, I've seen it ;)



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Looks really good adam.glad to see your back.

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Awesome tank congrats on the little one!


Can't wait to see new pics!

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Cool Tank. Looks great!

And congrats!

Thanks. Check below to see how things look now.

well hell, i can't disappoint.


scape looks like ####.

Woohoo!!! Glad to have the same ol' D following along :)


Cute baby! And nice tank! :)
Ouuww .. cute lil baby :D
Awesome tank congrats on the little one!

Can't wait to see new pics!



Excited to see what the new design is Adam! :)

Thanks AM. Glad to have you following along.


Adam - Post the pictures! The pendant with this bommie looks AWESOME!



Coming right up Dave. The pendant looks great so I can't imagine how it will eventually look under your top notch fixture.


Looks really good adam.glad to see your back.

Thanks E. Glad to be back in action and hopefully more active within the NR community again.



The Big Change

As those who have been following my other thread for a while know, I've been going back and forth for months between deciding whether to set up a sump or make other changes. Although having a sump would certainly help with circulation and de-cluttering the tank (getting the skimmer off the back and getting the heater out of the display), I don't think that was the main reason for my disappointment or lack of interest in the tank. Although a sump will be designed and added in the future (6-9 months), I decided to really take a step back and evaluate what I didn't like about the tank. Here's the list I came up with and the main reason for the change:

  • Although an improvement over past tanks, I've never been fully happy with the minimalist "pile of rocks" scape that I created. It just wasn't aesthetically pleasing.
  • Because of it's mounded shape, flow from the MP10 would get funneled along the back edge and front, resulting in uneven flow in between and around the structure. This caused detritus to build up in certain areas while the sand was blown down to the glass in others.
  • Coral placement was always a challenge due to uneven surfaces and really just poor planning on my part.


So rather than spend the money on a sump (wanted to get a MAME and do it right), I decided to focus on scrapping what I had and starting from scratch. I've always been fond of the bonsai-inspired scapes that you 'll often find in larger reef tanks as they allow for open flow, large space for placing coral, and I've also just always loved the look of bonsai (especially Japanese Maples). From my dive trips in the Keys, I've also always loved the pillar/bommie reef structures found at places like Hens and Chickens off of Islamorada. With these two in mind, I set off to figure out how I could accomplish this in a small tank.


I've tried creating similar structures in the past and failed miserably, or I thought it was cool at first but it was always a little shaky, barely stable, and just too small. Long story short, I worked with one of the vendors on here to hand select one of the pillars and reef plates built/created by Aquaroche. I first saw this product when I visited this vendor's warehouse years ago but never really saw it used in nano setups. I ended up getting a fantastic deal (really a steal) as we discussed it being a way to show how these products can be used in smaller spaces.


After a few hours with the Dremel, adding a few pounds of new pearly white sand, and trying different configurations, below is what I came up with. Although I was apprehensive about the look at first, it's grown on me and I really don't think I would change a whole lot.


Without Flash (only RBs at low intensity)



With Flash



The rocks/rubble on the right is there to help seed this structure and also just help keep up the biological filtration/processing for the time being. This was also before some of the frags were moved around so it looks slightly different now.


The goal is to have zoas/palys blanket the lower left ledge, keep the Hammer either in the back as it can be seen now or move it up front, keep other Euphyllia and lower light coral in the lower right corner, and have several branching and plating Acropora up top.


Here are some other more closeup shots. The color is still a little funky and drab on some of them but it's pretty close to how it looks in person (at least at this time of day). I've yet to find a setting where the color of the Fruit Loops and Nightmares is accurately captured. Some day :)














Really glad to be back in action. I'll have a post later about fish changes and plans.



Edited by divecj5

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Wow thats an awesome piece of rock adam! Its going to look really great when those frags start to grow out and its eventually covered in corraline.

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Wow thats an awesome piece of rock adam! Its going to look really great when those frags start to grow out and its eventually covered in corraline.


I agree. It looks a little like a big, white dinosaur bone sitting in the tank for the time being. I'm still a little unsure how I will cover some of the more vertical space but I think it will fall into place when it starts getting covered in coraline. Should be fun to watch it "transform."


I'm still setting aside some space for some Digi's as the branching, spindly shape should compliment this structure nicely. We'll have to work something up soon.



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i like it ADAM! your baby is beautiful!


Thanks!! I'll have to try and get a picture of him propped up in front of the tank. I just about lost it when he was watching the other day and started laughing when the fish swam by. :lol:


nice looking acans there buddy!


It's a good start although I'd love to get my hands on a few others. It's hard to capture the orange/red hues on the one rainbow that I have. It's like looking at a black light poster under the Royal Blues.


nice. very well done with the new look.


Thanks D. I think it will give me plenty of options for coral placement and because I can always move/add other plates, it will be something that I can keep for a long time or change as my interests change.


Good to see you back on here, that rock is sweet!


Thanks Patrick. Glad you cruised by the thread. I have just a little bit of catching up to do on everyone else's tanks.

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i really like this idea. and your tank looks great. what is the structure made out of?

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i really like this idea. and your tank looks great. what is the structure made out of?


Thanks. The structure is a clay material that is hand-shaped and then fired at a high temperature to form "rock." If I were comparing it to the EcoRox from BRS, which I've used in the past, I would say it's a more dense material.


how many pieces is that centerpiece?


The centerpiece is one solid structure with two plates added to form the bottom left and upper right "tiers."


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OMFG..... That scape is gonna look soooooo cool, when it grows in! omgomgomg


Thanks Pismo!! All in good time...I've learned my lesson of stocking the cr*p out of things only to learn just how fast some SPS and others grow :)

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