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  On a whim one day I popped into Petsmart on my lunch break and was inspired to create a pico reef for my office by a tiny Top Fin Retreat 2.5 gallon all in one tank. I grabbed a 25w preset heater, a 5lb bag of Ocean Direct live sand, and a thermometer and checked out for less than $70! On my way home from work that day I stopped by my LFS and grabbed two chunks of purple "life rock" and a tiny bottle of Fritz Turbo Start.

After messing around with the rocks that evening I decided to use one interesting chunk.

  The next day I lugged a couple gallons of premixed, preheated saltwater from home. It took about 2 minutes and the pico was wet and cycling. That same day at lunch I shot over to another LFS and picked up some zoa's, a small finger leather, and a rock flower nem for the pico. Upon my return to the office I started planning the upgrades. The little tank is cute, however the light isn't right for Coral and the tiny pump is pretty weak and doesn't really create decent flow. So of course I jumped on this forum to get some ideas and then on to Amazon. I was able to find a tiny Tunze pump (hope it fits) which will increase the flow and a Astra 20 light all for about $70. I'll be installing these on Monday when I return to work. Fingers crossed the pump fits or at least can be jury rigged.... Stay tuned for an update with pics tomorrow! 







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On 1/17/2021 at 9:41 AM, JustReading said:

Pico builds are awesome 

Today's update. The tiny Tunze pump did not fit in the filter area. I took it apart and discovered that it will fit if the nozzle is removed, this gives me hope that it could be modified to work. For now I popped it in the back for additional flow. Light looks great! I snuck in Friday evening and put it on the tank. I forgot to bring the timer for the light so rather than leaving the corals in the dark all weekend, I set the light to 10% and let it run the whole weekend. Everything looked fine Monday morning. I currently have it turned up to 60%. I'll leave it set there and see how it goes. The outlet timer is set for 8hrs (9am-5pm).

  I did bring some Revive in today because the torch I bought had some tissue damage. There was some GSP growing up around the opening (I removed it), it may have stung the torch and caused the damage. I noticed it was completely closed this morning with no polyps in sight, when I basted it in the revive solution I saw that it had completely died 😞. Only white skeleton remained. Zoa's haven't opened yet today but I think it's just a light adjustment phase. The finger leather looks fine and the rock flower nem is open and happy. I'll probably do a 100% water change this week. The torch death may have released toxins. More to come soon, including a very nice upgrade! 




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Looks like a good start mate, the Asta 20 looks ace on that size tank. Torches can be fussy (even on established tanks) so don't take it too hard. How's your alk and ca etc? Personally I'd hold off on fussier LPS till the new tank settles down a bit.

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Solid advice on the LPS for sure. Honestly, I haven't tested the water parameters. It's been up and running less than a week with premixed Reef Crystals Kept at SG 1.025. I couldn't image CA and ALK being out of line at this point. I'm planning on a water change tomorrow just to be on the safe side. I might also invest in a second refractometer to keep at the office as I understand salinity swings on pico tanks can be quite drastic. This tank came with a wool and charcoal filter insert, I think I'll change that out for a piece of Poly Filter. 

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IMG951112.thumb.jpg.ed17590d5e782370bbd6ce48f0629df6.jpgThis has been a good week for the little pico.


  • Tuesday it had a 100% water change. I was very surprised that my water was still near 78 degrees. I commute half an hour to work, and it's January. So this was a welcomed surprise.
  • Wednesday I added another beauty of a rock flow nem and some very nice Orange Acans.
  • Thursday was another fun day. My extra refractometer was delivered so now I can check salinity each morning without taking one back and forth and saving me the inevitability of forgetting it at work. A local reefer near my office was nice enough to deliver me three zoa frags, a nice blasto, and a three headed candy cane frag I bought from him.
  • Friday, I'm planning on another 100% water change before the weekend. I'm also planning on placing the frags I purchased Thursday. I'm seriously considering changing the scape from the lump of rock to an actual structure that will facilitate better flow. It's early enough that I don't think it will throw things out of wack. Plus I have a bit of turbo start left and I don't have anything in the tank other than corals for now...OH! Except the little amphipod I found running around the other day!

  I'm a bit disappointed in the Asta S20 light... I'm able to adjust the colors to the spectrum mix the corals like. When the timer controls turning the light on and off, the light comes on in full spectrum mode and not the one I programed. However, if I turn the light off and back on with the control for the light, it returns to the setting I created... weird.  

I also ordered some tools to help me keep my hands out of the tank. They'll be very handy tomorrow. 

Anyway here are some update pics...stay tuned for more! 







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Friday was a great day, although a bit stressful. Removing coral frags from their plugs, glueing them, and placing them on the rock is not a comfortable task especially at the office. 

I was able to get a razor blade from the maintenance dept, which I used to remove the frags from the plugs (obviously). I brought in the reefing tools I ordered, which amounted to two long tweezers, one with an angle, a substrate tool, and a pair of long, angled scissors. The long tweezers helped a lot and will be a great asset in helping me keep my hands out of the tank. Once I had the corals placed and everything all stirred up in the tank, I did a 100% water change. This was a good way to make sure most of the coral slime was removed from the tank. I'm still on the fence about putting a fish in this tiny tank, but I might be getting close to needing a snail or two.  I was able to get the light intensity up to 100% on full spectrum and the corals LOVED it! This is a bit of good news as I won't be there on the weekends to adjust the light. The timer can take it from here now. Fingers crossed the upgrades I've ordered actually arrive this weekend, but the tank is doing just great with the equipment it currently has. I don't plan to do any testing except for checking the salinity daily. I also placed tape over the gaps in the lid in order to cut down on the amount of evaporation which will help with stability and reduce the need for frequent top offs. Stay posted for more! 


pico reef.jpg

pico reef 2.jpg

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Another great day for the Office Pico!

Upgraded the light to a Kessil A80. It was used but fully functional. Win! 


I ordered another pump for the tiny 2.5 Top Fin Retreat tank, but once again it was just slightly too big, it would fit if I forced it but I didn't think the thin glass could bare the strain.

The good news is that when I took the original pump out, I noticed that the tube that connects to the pump had an adapter. This adapter had a small opening, a flow restrictor in other words. I took the little part out and drilled the hole bigger. This totally helped get more flow! Success! I decided to take out the extra Tunze pump (clutter) and run with the stock return with the added push. Your can see the added water movement in the pic below. 

Tomorrow will be 100% water change day. Stay tuned for more updates! 




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This is a an excellent build thread. Let’s see where is goes! I love it. Small and fast and filling up with corals. And on a whim, no less.

I really like the A80s for nanos and picos. The color is great. The shimmer is nice. And while I’m not sure you’ll care much at work, the quiet operation is a major positive.

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100% water change today. I did lose a Green Sinularia frag I clipped from my home tank 😞. I accidentally sucked it right off the rock! It was a very small piece, and I can replace it, but a bummer nonetheless. I added a piece of filter pad just to help polish the water. Other than a piece of Poly Filter, that's all I'm using for filtration. The rock and sand are providing the biological filtration and with multiple 100% water changes per week I don't see a need for anything more. I scrubbed down the glass and basted off the rock just prior to the water change. 

It looks like it's time for a tiny clean up crew! Algae is popping up here and there. I noticed there was a bit of hair algae on some of the frags as well. I've plucked as much as I could get at, now it seems like it's time to let a couple snails take it from here. 

The flow isn't as strong as it was when I had the extra pump in the tank. However, the improvement to the stock pump seems to be adequate and I hate extra stuff in the tank. I'm second guessing my aquascaping decision. But I'm going with it..... For now! Stay tuned for another update soon. 


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The Office Pico got its first residents today! A Chestnut Snail & Nassarius Snail. I also added two nice Ricordias. Using the back panel will be fun and crucial in order to pack it full of corals. 





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I told myself I wouldn't add any fish to the Office Pico Reef ....UNLESS.... I found a fish rarely kept in stock at any of the LFS in and around my area. I was confident that this tank would remain fishless...

Today I stumbled upon not just one of these rarely stocked fishes..but four! So I purchased the most charming of the pack. And with that please welcome "Squirt" The Citron Goby!


Of course this wasn't the only addition. I also picked up a very vibrant red shroom.


Any thoughts on the Riccordia pictured below? I think it might "bounce"! 


Today was a great day for the pico reef!




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Thanks @ajmckay! The closest place to my office is Tropicorium Mini-Reef in Romulus, MI. They're okay.. My preferred LFS is Pet Connection in Livonia, they have a good selection of health corals and fish. 

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18 minutes ago, DCaldarona said:

Thanks @ajmckay! The closest place to my office is Tropicorium Mini-Reef in Romulus, MI. They're okay.. My preferred LFS is Pet Connection in Livonia, they have a good selection of health corals and fish. 

Awesome!  I'm on the east side so never even heard of Pet Connection.  I'll have to make a trip because it looks like you've scored some pretty nice corals. 


I've always wanted to hit up Tropicorium but they have weird hours it seems and they're never open when I'm in the area.

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I was able to max out the flow in the stock return pump. My pump didn't come with anyway to adjust the flow. It did, however, come with a bit of a flow restrictor. There is a plastic piece that fits over the output of the pump on one end and goes into the tube on the other. This plastic piece significantly narrowed on the end where the water exited. I drilled it a bit more open earlier in as an experiment. It worked to increase the flow! So in an effort to max out the flow, I drilled the opening all the way open. This made a significant difference. Less back pressure on the pump is probably a good thing as well. I'll see what I can do about getting some video uploaded.



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Monday, the Office Pico had a 95% water change (Squirt had to stay covered). The tank got an unnecessary upgrade in thermometers, but a nice one nonetheless. Really, I wanted to get rid of the one hanging at the back of the tank. I have a vision, and the thermometer isn't part of it. However, I was surprised by the difference in temperature readings. The old one I removed said the temp was steady 78. The digital has been reading 79.8° - 80.2°. I think this one is far more accurate.......More to come soon! 


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I figured if I'm going to be photographing my tanks I should have a proper filter set. It has good reviews and for $25 I felt like it was very much worth it.  I can now attest to the fact that it helps get awesome tank shots! 








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  • 2 weeks later...


I suppose it was inevitable, being a new setup and all. The UGLIES have set to work. This was a concern I had with adding a fish. The bio-load (tiny though it may be), and food breaking down, all contributing to added nutrients in the tank. The twice a week 100% water changes (still going strong) don't seem to effect it much. I'll pull the algae from the rocks, cut it with scissors, then suck it out with a water change, but it comes back. The snails are working diligently but much of this is too large for them. I contemplated putting a baby Sailfin Tang in there (temporarily of course!) just to mow it down, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. 2.5 gallons is just too small even for a 2" baby Tang, even for a short time. I've also been contemplating a Bicolor Blenny, I know they munch on the stuff, but I've also heard they may munch on corals as well. Maybe I need to consider crabs, though I'm not a huge fan, and they tend to eat detritus rather than hair algae. Emerald Crabs have proven themselves to me to be great at taking care of bubble algae, but horrible around certain corals. 

I know that this phase will pass with maintenance. I just like to use natural remedies that expedite the process. 

I picked up some Marine Pure Gems for my other tank and I'm setting some aside for the Office Pico filter. I'm quite sure the filter isn't providing much in the way of actual filtration and is simply just  providing circulation. My hope is to give it an added boost by using Poly-Filter and Marine Pure Gems. This is all more than I would like to be using. We'll see how this works..

I just found out I'll be getting a bigger office! This could mean an evolution for the pico....stay tuned!




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It looks to me that the triangle shaped rock with the mushroom on it that you added to the back of the tank about 3 weeks back was covered with hair algae? You think that might be where it started?

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