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The Girlfriend's 10 Gallon Mixed Tank

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Hello! Today, I moved over the stock and equipment from my 5.5 gallon into a 10 gallon, and decided to move my tank journal into the nano reef section of the website.


The general goal of this tank is to provide my girlfriend with a tank that's colorful and full of life without throwing her too deep into advanced reefing. She's just now getting into the hobby, and the plan is for her to eventually completely take this tank over - right now, I'm teaching her general tank husbandry, tank stocking, how to feed correctly, etc., and she's doing great. Any stocking choices you see in this tank are going to be her personal choices, and I'll choose not to steer her one way or the other unless what she chooses presents a danger to anything in the tank. So, no, there will be no hippo tangs! Maybe a yellow tang later, though 😉


Right now, we're still deciding on the particular direction that we want to go with this tank, but I think she's really enjoying LPS, macros, leathers, and monti's the most so far. Whatever she chooses, you can bet that this will be a mixed tank. I'll try and steer her away from the less hardy SPS, but SPS are new territory, even for me - I'll have to be asking some questions on here about that. Currently, we've just got a few macros (that aren't exactly thriving), plus a CUC and a fish. We'll be adding more in a month or so, once the tank settles in and we get some more cash flowing to this tank. College is so very, very expensive!


Equipment List:


10 Gallon Aqueon Glass Tank

AquaClear 30 HOB

Top Fin 10 Internal Filter (for added circulation)

Aqueon 50W Heater (set to 80F)

ABI 10000K PAR38 23W

9W PAR30 Reef Bulb


So, I'm planning on adding in a Koralia 425 once Black Friday comes around, and that'll be replacing the Top Fin filter I have in the tank right now. Right now, I'm only turning the tank's volume over about 21 times per hour, and I'm shooting for between 30 and 40 - which should be no issue with the Koralia powerhead.


For lighting, I went the PAR38 route instead of DIY LED's for the initial savings. I'll probably DIY a light at a later date, but for now, I'm using one ABI PAR 38 and a cheap, off-brand PAR30 I found at my LFS. I'll probably be adding in another PAR38 at some point, but the tank is well lit right now, so that's not at the top of my priority list.


I may eventually turn the HOB into a fuge, depending on how nitrates and phosphates settle out in the tank.


Stock list:



1 False Percula Clown



1 Scarlet Hermit Crab

15 Dwarf Ceriths 

1 Florida Cerith






Dragon's Breath


Caulerpa Prolifera


The CUC came packaged with a tank on Craigslist, and I plan to fill it out with some Nassarius snails, and maybe some Nerites or more Ceriths. I think I'll eventually get some sort of ornamental shrimp, probably a blood shrimp, but that'll be later on.


As for fish, she loves Finding Nemo, so we had to get a false perc. She's only about 1" right now, so she's pretty tiny. I think we're going to avoid getting a second clown, to avoid the possibility of constant aggression (I've had to separate two pairs over the years), and right now, we're looking at a Royal Gramma as the only other fish for this tank. I've read around online, and talked to some people on forums, and this seems like it'd be okay. Any opinions on this? I'm looking for something with more blues/purples, that isn't going to be so scared of the clown. Suggestions are welcome!

As I mentioned above, we're planning a mixed reef, with a focus on LPS and macroalgae. Kinda random, but I gotta admit, I think it could look really nice. She's also really liked the photosynthetic gorgonians everytime we've been to the LFS, so those are probably in our future too.


Finally, a few pics of the setup. The macros have accumulated a little bit of debris on them since they've been added to the tank, but excuse that. I'll be adding some more dry rock to the tank this week, once it finishes soaking.




Dragon's Breath:




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Alright, so a quick question here for anyone that may know. I've been having some issues with the macros - the Codium has been growing some sort of hairy stuff on it (maybe a type of hair algae?), and the dragon's breath has slowly been turning pale. Considering the conditions this stuff came out of, I wasn't surprised that it was having issues. But, I figure that it should have turned around by now, so I'm a bit lost.


I made a thread about this in the macro forum, and not much luck so far. The general consensus so far has been a lack of nutrients - and that maybe the Caulerpa is uptaking too much, too fast, so that even though I'm getting readings for nitrate and phosphate, the Codium and Dragon's Breath can't get to it before the Caulerpa does - or that's what I think that guy was saying. Is that possible? If it is, what can I do to help? Skip a water change? Feed a bit more to increase available nutrients?

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So, I tested water late last night and discovered that the Nitrate I had in the tank had been taken up, and was now reading as 0. I decided to tackle the issue head on.


I'm using stump remover (AKA 61.4% powdered (potassium?) nitrate) to directly increase nitrates. More or less, this stuff is completely environmentally friendly, and as far as I can tell doesn't actually contain anything dangerous to life. It's just a bunch of nitrate, that I assume would encourage bacteria and other detritavores to grow on stumps and get rid of them naturally. I think, anyway.

I took 10 grams of stump remover, and crushed them up into a fine, white power. It looked pretty bad in the process, but luckily, no one walked in on me. I then dissolved that 10 grams into 1 liter of freshwater, and the resulting solution contained around 6.14 grams of nitrate, or 6,140 PPM of nitrate. By adding 1 ML of that solution per 2 gallons of tank volume, you can raise nitrates in your tank by 0.8 PPM. 

I dosed the 10 gallon with 10 ML of that solution, and theoretically raised my nitrates by 1.6 PPM. I added 5 ML to my 5 gallon betta tank as well, to see how the shrimp and plants in that tank react. I'll test in about an hour to see how much I actually raised things by, and I'd say we'll see results within a week as far as how well this is working.

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I hope the possibility of a yellow tang going in at a later date was a joke lol . 😆

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Don’t even think about snorting that stump remover!!😂

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11 hours ago, Andreww said:

I hope the possibility of a yellow tang going in at a later date was a joke lol . 😆

Yeah, it was. I can't imagine putting one of those guys into a 10! I hear white tip reef sharks do well in smaller tanks, though - maybe that's a possibility? 😉


9 hours ago, Snazxy said:

Don’t even think about snorting that stump remover!!😂

It looked SUPER suspicious once it was crushed up! I had to make a makeshift pestle and mortar too - I used a glass measuring cup with a smaller plastic measuring cup inside of it to crush up the granules. 'twas ghetto!


The stuff is working miracles, though, or at least I think it is. I dosed the tank up to 5 PPM Nitrate last night, after I saw no ill effects in either aquarium. This morning, a few things have happened:


1) Diatoms! They've started growing a bit on the filter intake, and the rocks are noticeably brown(er than usual).


2) Maybe I'm just imagining it, but I swear that the Dragon's Breath has changed color overnight. The tips are still awful pale, but the center of the algae is an incredible scarlet color - I have no clue if maybe it's just a placebo, as I wouldn't imagine the algae to look so much better so quickly, but I'll take it!


The tank is getting a WC tomorrow, since I gave the clown a large meal tonight. She got a few bits of a salad shrimp, so seaweed, and some oyster eggs. It was messy, but I'll give the tank a good vacuum. I don't want nitrates to fall back down too low, but I don't need all that food causing any issues. If need be, I'll redose nitrates.

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Great news! Looks like the stump remover did the trick.


Here's a pic of the dragon's breath from the 17th...:



...and here's a pic from the 22nd!:



Camera settings were slightly different, but the color change really is that noticeable. Got some new growth on the Caulerpa as well, and the Codium is cleaning up a bit.


Other than that, the biggest change in this tank has been diatom growth. The stuff is everywhere! But, the macros are looking better, and the water is clearer than it has been before - not that it was ever cloudy, but it's like the fish is just floating now.


I mentioned earlier that I had been thinking about a Royal Gramma for this tank, and I think I've kinda veered away from that direction, and started looking into a pair of yellow clown gobies. They're small, light on bioload, cute, and as I understand it, are similar to clownfish in that they'll change sex to create a male/female pair after a bit of fighting. I don't plan to keep SPS, so I don't see nipping being a problem, either. I think that would fill out this tank pretty well fish-wise, and keep aggression to a minimum. 



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It may be time to invest in a small clean up crew

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I've got a small CUC in there - 15 dwarf ceriths, a scarlet hermit, and a florida cerith. They came with the macros and the tank. I'll be adding more soon!

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Alright, quick update!


The Potassium Nitrate has been working wonderfully. All macros have been recovering, showing great color, and even growing. The Codium is still being plagued by what I suspect now to be hair algae, but it's also showing good color and growth. So maybe it's not too harmful? I can't manually remove it, whatever it is. It's my fault for overdosing, but I'll be scaling back in the future.


I've found nitrate uptake to be sporadic, often showing no patterns. One day, I'll lose 1 PPM. The next, I'll gain 2 PPM, and the next, I'll lose another 4 PPM. I suspect it has something to do with microalgae uptake rather than macroalgae uptake, but I don't have anything to back that up. I'll be dosing to around 3 PPM every week, and I'll see if that gives me a sustainable amount of Nitrate with starving any macros and without causing nuisance algae to run rampant.


Here are some pics I took earlier today.




Dragon's Breath:







The caulerpa has shown a ton of growth! Not many "leaves" yet, but it's got a pretty substantial "root" system on that rock. I suspect it'll be growing pretty well soon.


The clown is doing well - very active, aggressively eating, and even interacting with me while I'm around/in the tank. Much more curious and gentle than any clown I've had, for sure. She's still a bit skinny, I think - I upped her feeding quite a bit (a few pellets in the morning, with chunks of salad shrimp and seaweed in the evening), and she's definitely happy about it - but no notable weight gain yet. She doesn't have parasites (normal poop, and she was treated for them), so I'm not sure what's wrong. Worst comes to worst, I'll do another round of Metro, but I'm not sure that'd help at all.


Where's a good place to order macros? I know that this time of year kinda sucks when it comes to shipping and collecting macros, but I'd like to get a few more in for Christmas. There actually seems to be some good deals on Ebay (333aquatics?), and the sellers get a good rep. I'm curious to see how that'd work out. Maybe I'll bite the bullet with something hardy!


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So, what happens when you overdose nitrate? Algae blooms! Then, after that, there's bacterial blooms! Fun times. 


I accidentally caused a minor bacterial bloom in this tank. It only lasted two days and never got too bad, and has mostly cleared up today. But yeah, I'll definitely be cutting WAY back on dosing from here on out - I maybe even just dose 1-2 ML this coming weekend (after a large WC), and then continue that dose or a slightly larger dose to try and keep the tank in good health. That said...


This stuff has been doing wonders for the macros. Great growth out of every species (even the Codium!), and so far, I've seen no negative effects throughout the tank that can't be attributed to dosing issues. Once I get some more macros going, dosing shouldn't be such an issue. The Dragon's Breath in particular seems to be doing well - it pearls every day, and has had noticeable growth and change over the past couple of weeks. Here's a comparison of the some portion, the first pic being from November 30th, and the second being from December 5th:






Perhaps it's a bit difficult to see in the picture, but a couple of things have happened:


1) It's really "bushed" out. It hasn't grown a ton upwards, but has gotten thicker and seems to be expanding outwards from the center.

2) The color has changed. I moved it to a higher light location, and it's really begun to change from a deep scarlet to a light red/pink. I'm not a huge fan of it, but I can't argue with the growth. I may eventually move it down back to the sandbed, but for now, I'm happy with it growing!


Aside from the macros, not a ton has changed in this tank. The hermit molted last night, and seems to be doing well, and I constantly see snails bumbling around the tank. I can't wait to add a few more to really help clean up some algae - I can get rid of most of it, but I'd appreciate the extra life and the help.


The clown (Penny) has had some issues with getting pellets down, since even the mini size is a bit too big for her mouth - and I suspect that's part of the issue she was having with weight. She was being fed pellets and mysis in the store (and by me, for the most part), and she tends to give up if the food is too big or too rigid for her to get down. I've found that letting the pellets soak in water for a minute or two and then sucking them onto the tip of a syringe offers her a non-moving target and an already softened meal. Less food wasted, and a fuller belly. Win/win?

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