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Katie's 1st SW nano!

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Hi!  I have recently joined the saltwater community (I keep freshwater nanos) and I'm going to catalog all of my tank goings in this journal!  This is going to be an -attempt- on a mini reef with fish tank.


A little background on me:

I am a PhD student in Illinois and I have 6 5 freshwater aquariums that I have been maintaining since March 2017.  The reason for 5 is that I have converted on of my 10 gal tanks at home to saltwater (this journal).  My freshwaters are detailed later in this post as the saltwater stuff is first and foremost in this journal.


My setup as of now is:

- 10 gal Aqueon tank - just your boring, cheap, rectangular, regular tank, but it's the best

- 1 HOB AquaTech 5-15 gal rated filter with filter floss

- 1 100W heather (usually off as my room runs a little warm and it doesn't seem to sense the water needs to heat (good!), thermometer reads steady 78F at various times in day

- 1 Elite mini underwater filter (powerhead) with filter foam removed --> this is being replaced with 1 Hydor Koralia Nano 425 and will eventually be fitted with one of those rotating water flow things

- 1 random light I found --> to be replaced with AI Nano bought from forum member here

- 1 HOB breeder box (med) because I needed somewhere to put the LR rubble while I scaped tank --> probably grow some macros here once I move the rubble into the main display

- lid will be acrylic custom made by my friend and I as I can get acrylic for cheap and he can laser cut it - woo!


And now the stock list!  Here's where I'd like some advice - I've read plenty of stuff on the forum here about not over stocking and such (researching is a major part of my job actually), so I'd like specific advice as it concerns to my stocking list.  Maybe there's nothing that could be said, but I'm sure you all have great advice to give to someone just starting out.


Fish (2 total):

- 1x Onyx true percula -OR- black and white ocellaris (or teardrop, undecided on pattern)

- 1x Purple firefish -AND/OR- Orchid basslet/ dottyback



- variety of snails, about 5 of larger species (turbos, nerites) and 10 of smaller species (nano conch)

- 1x electric blue hermie - I'm not too keen on hermits so let's say this is just a test, I can always take him back if I'm unhappy


Shrimp: (2 total) - here's where my LR rubble is going to do wonders for hide-outs/ territories

- 1x Fire shrimp

- 1x Skunk cleaner shrimp


Corals: (not terribly picky on colors though I love purple, xenia is a non-negotiable - does anyone have any?)

- 1x torch coral

- 1x hammer coral

- 1x star polyp

- 1x pulsing xenia (soon to be 1M hopefully?)

- 1x purple blade gorgonian


I am planning to get some good water tests for my tank, but as of now I'm just taking my water to the LFS for testing (actually a dependable LFS :o *gasp*). I should be ready to add something small this weekend.  Oh! Also I'm using DI water with IO sea salt to 1.024 - 1.025 sg and 30 - 31 ppt salinity. I used a combo of dry rock (extremely white) and fully cured LR to cycle my tank.  I see a few tiny feather dusters probing the water, but no microfauna as it's obviously been long blown away from my LR.


The photo I attached is my tank today. If you've read this far, congrats!


-Freshwater musings-

My freshwaters are: (and a ton of plants - maybe I'll post pictures tomorrow of the freshwaters if anyone's interested)


- 2.5 gal betta tank for 'Magmar'

- 5 gal shrimp tank: 4x amano shrimp, ?x orange rili neocaridina

- 10 gal community tank: 1x betta 'Sonic', 4x guppy (3f, 1m 'Sticky fin' xD), 6x pygmy cory cat, 3x guppy fry that haven't been eaten yet....


- 5 gal community tank: 1x f gardneri killifish (f), 6x lampeye killifish, 1x CPO, 2x amano

- 5 gal shrimp community tank (?): 6x white cloud, 1x nerite snail, 2x mystery snail

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Christopher Marks

Welcome to the community @Zorya! It looks like you're off to a great beginning with your first nano reef! I like the aquascape you've created, particularly the spire on the left. :) 


I'd love to see your other freshwater tanks too!

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Cool tank so far, sounds like you have a good plan in place. And yes, post pics of the freshwater tanks. There's a thread going for them, a lot of us keep them. I love xenias, mine are regrowing from a tiny nub, all that was left of a decent size colony in my Pico, also have a purple gorgonian, my avatar, and it is one of my favorites, loves lots of flow. I'll let the experts chime in on everything else. 

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:welcome: to Nano-Reef!  Scape is very interesting.  There have been some wonderful 10g tanks over the years (look for Yoshii's macroalgae tank for one example) as it's not what's outside, but what's inside the tank that counts! :happy:

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Looking nice, love your setup! 

Also, welcome! 

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This last week was a blast! I got my water tested on Monday at the LFS and the results were:

- 1.023 sg

- 8.21 pH

- 10 kH

- 0.5 NH3

- >50 ppm NO2

- undetected NO3

They said the cycle was going well and that it should be done by the weekend (this past weekend), so I take my water again into the LFS to have it tested on Friday and the results were:

- 1.025 sg

- 8.0 pH

- 7 kH

- 0 NH3, NO2, NO3

Cycled! Wow this must be the miracle of using fully cured live rock.  I went from adding all the substrate and dry rock + live rock on 10/6 and had a fully cycled tank in 1 week with very generous ghost feeding.  I suspected that when I got my water checked the second time it was cycled because I had quite the outbreak of brown diatoms on my rocks the day before.



However, against their suggestion of adding a fish, I did add some CUC members: (pics included!)

- 2 Mexican turbos (1 white, 1 black)

- 2 Nassarius snails

- 1 Dwarf blue-legged hermit crab :o --> it took awhile to find because it is in a shell that is about 1 cm long!


I also bought a torch coral from a local reefer who is trying to start up a business (pic included).  It acclimated well and immediately opened up and it's still getting used to the lighting and stuff, so the lights are turned down low and it's sitting on the sand for now.  The plug came with a lot of green algae on it, but overnight one of the snails cleared that out (or the hermit crab).  He also said he can get fish in as long as I can pick them up right when they arrive.  Since the LFS only stock Ocellaris clownfish, I might try him for a TR Percula. :) 


Equipment/ tank:

Lastly, I added the LR rubble from the HOB breeder into the main area, especially on the right to create 2 caves: 1 at the bottom and one small one in the top.  This top area is where the little hermit crab likes hanging out - I only saw him at another location right when I put him into the aquarium.  One of my rubble pieces looks like a giraffe!


I also received an AI Nano from a forum member here (light upgrade) and it's so blue, my entire apartment is blue when it is on.  Of course I turned it down a bit when I put the coral in, so it's not nearly as blue as when I was fiddling with the settings, but wow 35 W for 10 gal is crazy.  I got a Hydor Koralia  425 to keep putting flow into the tank and I got a Hydor rotating water deflector and attached it to the Elite mini to see what kind of flow works best.  I'm still trying to decide on where I want the pumps to face and how much flow I want.






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Full tank shot :o


Also, question for you! What should I feed to my snails/ hermit, since there's not really much going on here.  I obviously have to order some other CUC to take care of the diatoms, but anything in particular work for you for turbos/ nassarius?

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Nice! I'd do some major rock turkey-bastering and large water changes for the next few weeks to get rid of any potential issues from the ghost feeding. :)

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Looking great! 

Did you say you went from 10NO2 to 0NO2 and 0 NO3? Did you do a WC in between? I thought NO3 was the endproduct or am I being weird here?

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It did go to 0 with no WC in between :/ I did a WC anyways because that's CRAZY - not risking it when putting life in there.  Must be some magical, invisible macro that I cannot find (there's not :( ).

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Aye, big update from this week coming up tomorrow.  My torch ended up being too fussy in the tank, so it sort of melted... I ended up taking out the Hydor Koralia because it was putting way too much flow into my tank (50x turnover anyone? xD) and I can just use it for mixing water.  Which leads me to my next point.  When I got my water tested today, my Ca was super low, approx. 345.  I'm also unhappy with how my salt doesn't dissolve totally (that's where my calcium is going - precipitate!).  The owner of my LFS suggested the next time I go in, to get kalk and dose it and iodine (I have Lugol's, so I dosed that today already).  Besides that, my water is very VERY clean (0 ammonia, nitrite, nitrate) which isn't terribly bad, except my bacteria must be working overtime and I should have some trace.  In my FW tanks, I actually have never had nitrates register ever... I'm feeding frozen mysis to get that going.


But I got a super cute, tiny red skunk cleaner shrimp and it seems more active than shy - it stands out in the open for pictures :)


I'm planning to switch to red sea the next time I get salt (soonish - half my bag is gone already) and I'm getting a purple fire fish next week!!!

Also, my diatoms vanished overnight wooooooo :D

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345 is a bit low, but not enough to cause major issues. I'd suggest just switching salts before trying to use kalkwasser on a small tank. Kalk is easy, once you are familiar with it. However, I've seen more than a few kalk noobs kill their entire tank with it.


what store are you going to?

Also, stop dosing iodine. There's plenty in your salt. It's almost impossible to test for all its forms, and NEVER dose anything you can't/don't test for.

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Nice tank and great rock work. You should try to stabilize your parameters before adding more coral (LPS or SPS). Make sure that you are testing for Ca, Alk and Mag. Once these are stable, LPS shouldn't be a problem. I had low Ca at 360 and was able to get it in the 420 range through buffering with Reef Advantage Calcium from Seachem. It buffers Ca and Mag. I also use Kent marine dkh buffer for Alk. I like to keep my DKH around 8. 


Good luck! We look forward to seeing the FW tanks as well. 


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Thanks for the suggestions! 


I am am planning on changing salts first so that I can see if that helps before I have to buy kalk or other additives. And I only dosed about half of recommended for iodine because I had a molt problem in a FW for a crayfish and since I added a shrimp, I wanted to be sure it wouldn’t be an issue. It was about a quarter drop of Lugols. The LFS I go to is Sailfin - it’s a family operated store that’s been around forever and has a great reputation. 


I’m planning on taking fresh pictures of the FW tanks, but I only do water changes every two weeks else my plants look sad from no fish waste fertilizer, but today is the day!


More to come this afternoon after I finish up my research and water changes!

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Here’s my two office tanks :) sorry for the glare - some other people are working here on Sunday too (booooo!), so I couldn’t turn off the lights


The one with the orange origami paper background has:

7x lampeye killifish

1x CPO (not pictured - she hides) “George the crayfish” (lol)


The coldwater has:

10x white cloud? I forgot exactly how many

3x mystery snails (white no name yet, black no name yet, gold “golden delicious”)

1x nerite snail “kabuto”

The snails have plotted to try to uproot all the plants in an effort to clean the roots, but this has resulted in me having to stick my hand in there almost every day to replant everything. 




Both are standard 5 gal tanks*

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Ended up cleaning my apartment (it was bothering me quite a bit) and now I have all my fish supplies reorganized. I have some past and present pictures of my FW tanks though - enjoy :)!

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5 gal shrimpo tank


4x amano (1 very pregnant female)

11x orange rili


This tank hasn’t really changed very much as the parameters seem to be just right for my shrimp. They are all very active and none of them have jumped out of the tank yet, so they must be happy. I don’t really do water changes on this tank as it stresses everyone out and the tons of plants with little bioload allows for less maintenance.


I’m planning on moving that hygrophilia corymbosa compacta cutting to my 10gal and putting a new cutting in there to replace it because it’s growing too tall now. Besides that, no real changes planned except maybe moving the anubias pinto to a more shaded spot. 




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2.5 gal betta tank


1x betta splendens “Magmar”


Magmar looks red in almost every picture I take of him, but he’s more of a red-orange with dark blue metallic sheen in the middle of his scales. He’s definitely not one I would put in my community tank because he antagonizes the snails I put in his tank by stalking them and then when they least expect it, nipping their shells. He hasn’t actually ever eaten a snail though - he’s not crafty enough to realize you have to flip the shell over. 


I like to do large 50-60% wc every other week on his tank. I used to do it weekly, but now I put a screen over the top to reduce evaporation (he hates this screen so much). Unlike many bettas, he doesn’t seem to be a jumper, but an explorer. He swam into the cholla wood and I freaked out that he got stuck, but he can get out through the holes in the sides and also turn around completely inside of the piece of wood! He’s on my desk, so he has front row seats to all my glorious PUBG and LOL plays every night. 


His favorite hang hang out spot is at the front, top right corner because that’s where I put his food!


I don’t really plan on changing this setup. Probably change out the hygrophilia cutting like in the shrimp tank for a fresh one to grow here. 




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10 gal community tank


1x betta splendens - black lace crowntail “Sonic”

4x guppies (yellow cobra M “Mr. Sticky Fin”, grey variegated F “Mrs. Sticky Fin”, yellow F “I ain’t want none of that”, grey variegated juvi F daughter, plus babies that didn’t get eaten from the last spawning)

6x pygmy corys

1x horned nerite snail

1x large blue mystery snail


I couldn’t find a FTS from after my last cleaning, so you guys get to see the beautiful green hair algae growing off of my dwarf water lettuce roots. >:( I’m going to phase it out this time, due to the algae infestation (I hear a loud BOOOOOOO! from the fish). 


My guppies are not really named, but these names fit their activity in the tank. The one male only likes this one female and it seems to work out okay, but I wish she got a break once in awhile. Because I let her spawn in the tank, it’s a free no feeding week except for Sonic. 


More on Sonic: he’s the perfect little role model betta for community tanks, he doesn’t bite or chase or flare at any of his tank mates - even during feeding! Nobody else nips at him either. He’s super chill and just lazes around by the potted crypt on the left, or his magfloat sleeping spot in the top right by the filter. 


The cory cats hang out at the bottom by the driftwood or on top of some of the broad leaves from the various crypts and the hygrophilia. They used to be in the SW tank back when it was a fry grow out tank, but they seem to be a lot happier here than with a bunch of rowdy guppy kids. 



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Mystery snail pic :D

Also getting purple firefish >:( tomorrow!


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Got a purple firefish yesterday and he ate last night and today and is very active! He hasn’t tried to jump, but I put some mesh temporarily on the top to make sure he can’t get out. When I floated the bag in the top as I was setting up the acclimation stuff, my cleaner shrimp was desperately trying to say hello. Then after acclimation, it was following the firefish everywhere trying to be friends. Today it has chilled out and is hanging out in the usual spot on the tall rock on the left. By the way, the firefish’s name is: His Royal Highness George Mortimer Snickerdoodle the Disdainful. It’s a long name for a fish with a long body!


I had had to glue the gsp frag I got to the back wall because it didn’t naturally stick well enough with a paper clip and magnet, so it looks a little bummed out. Tomorrow I’m getting some Astria snails to combat some algae and round out the clean up crew.


Final updates before FTS: took out the hob filter as it did its job of cleaning out the particles suspended in the water and now just running the Hydor Koralia 425gph and the Hagen Mini Elite with flow deflector on the lowest setting (? gph). 



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These past few weeks have been crazy, but here's another tank update with some pictures to follow :).



- 1x purple firefish (Lord George Snickerdoodle has found a tiny cave entrance at the base of the tallest rock on the left and has since claimed it as his own.)

- 2x black snowflake/ phantom clownfish (just got them on Saturday and they are so adorable)



- large bunches of dragon's breath (wow, got some on the cheap from a local hobbiest and also two free frags!)

- chaeto (in hob right now temporarily)



- 2x gsp frags (one in front, one on back glass)

- 1x unknown paly (free :O)



- moved the Koralia 425 to the front and removed the hob as mentioned before

- just moved all the powerheads to keep things moving

- added tiny amount of polyfill and activated carbon to the chamber of the elite mini




My clownfish are very active.  I've been watching them at the LFS for quite some time (a few months now) and when I finally decided to purchase them, the girl who caught them for me mentioned she was glad they found a home cause they have been there for awhile (it might've been because of price).  They are SA black snowflakes and I'm not terribly informed about the 'attractiveness' of color variations or patterns, but I knew I wanted this specific pattern for awhile.  Although expensive, I managed to snag them during the marine fish discount weekend which was fortuitous timing for me in adding livestock.


On the other hand, after I added them into the tank and got food for them and returned, I found a small crack ~1" going from the top rim of the tank straight down.  After initially freaking out, I put some clear tape over it on the outside and traced the crack in sharpie.  It will at least give me an idea on if it's growing or not (hasn't since yesterday), but now I'm in the market for a new tank.  Might be my luck, but this has been the second Aqueon 10gal standard aquarium that has cracked on me (the last being a freshwater in my office).


I'm thinking about one of those all-in-one tanks between 15-30 gallons like a cube, but I'm also looking at some other options.  I hope my fish don't end up on the floor before I can get the new tank into my tiny apartment, set up, modded, and transferred.

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Pictures! :)

Starting with the FTS


The smaller clownfish is in the back corner snuggling the silicon. The firefish is just not having all the commotion (there’s a thunderstorm right now).


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Angry firefish, unknown palys, and my clownfish right when I put them in!





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Finally getting a replacement tank for the cracked 10 gallon and also a 20 gallon long to combine some of my freshwater tanks.  The tank is a jbj 20RL lagoon and the equipment is largely going to remain the same with an additional 10lbs of sand and 1 more 4-5lb rock.  Still undecided about a few things, but tomorrow is going to be a long day of figuring out all my rock work, placing everything fresh, and moving all the fish I own in my entire apartment.  They know something's up.


Overview of what is to happen this week!

Freshwater 20L:

- lots of driftwood and plants - I'm going to keep it natural

- seeing if my two bettas are okay together at opposite ends in their own little setups of the 20L, if not, I can move one back to the 2.5gal on my desk or put a divider, but I've convinced myself they are chill with each other because they are right next to each other right now

- one two punch algae treatment of all my plants to get them back in tip top shape and trim them to encourage some new growth

- still need to figure out lights (the tank is going in the bottom of a coffee table)


Saltwater 20 lagoon:

- buy new rock, sand - move all the sand and rock from old tank to new one and let water settle a little with filter floss x1000 from milk storm

- change all new water (I had a bad batch of IO, rip torch, but have since changed to red sea pro with good results with the current corals)

- coax my firefish out of hiding or move him in the rock cave to a bucket for drip acclimation, catch clownies for acclimation... snails, etc

- move all the corals (I'm thinking I'll make a frag rack sometime in the new future

- program AI prime light for new light cycle/ brightness

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