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Cultivated Reef

Fluval Spec III - 2.6g Pico Reef


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This is a pico reef that I started in June 2021.


About three years prior, the wife got me the Fluval Spec III and a bettafish:




Took real good care of that guy for nearly 2 years, until he got old and bit the dust. After that, I took the tank down, cleaned it thoroughly and decided to repurpose it into a pico reef.


Here's a small list of the equipment I added/upgraded for the shift from FW to SW:


  • InTank Media Basket (to replace the foam filtration)
  • InTank Plug and Director (to raise water level and enhance surface skimming)
  • Sicce MicraPlus 158gph (to replace stock 46gph pump)
  • RandomFlowGenerator output nozzle (to replace standard output)
  • Kessil A80 Tuna Blue (to replace stock LED fixture)
  • NiCrew 50w Preset Heater
  • BN-LINK Smart Power Outlet w/ Amazon Alexa (as my pseudo controller and timer)


My idea with flow was to have the MicraPlus act as both the return and flow pump while the RFG nozzle provides some randomness. It worked really well! Clean, quiet, non-invasive with great flow all throughout the tank.


The A80, as per Kessil's recommendation, is sitting roughly 4" above the waterline. I had to double-tape the gooseneck to the backside of the tank for that to work.


For the filtration, the InTank basket has three baffles. The bottom one I filled with MarinePure Gems media, the middle one is Carbon and/or GFO and at the top is a piece of filter floss.


My initial idea with keeping Ca/Alk/Mag up and NO3/PO4 down was 1-gallon water changes weekly or bi-weekly. I'll explain later why this plan ended up failing spectacularly! 😄 


I got a bag of Carib-Sea Arag-Alive, a box of TLF Stax. I glued a scape together, let it dry overnight then filled up and started to cycle:




After about six weeks, it was cycled and ready. I went and got a Frogspawn and Cleaner Shrimp to start things out.




My wife named the shrimp, Ceviche. I let those two sit and chill for a few weeks and monitored nutrients.


Once I knew things were good, I started adding to the collection, week by week.





- 2x Frogspawn

- 2x Acan

- 2x Ricordia Mushroom

- Chalice

- Montipora

- Red Leg Hermit Crab

- 2x Trochus Snails


So right around this point, my water change plan started to fall apart. Calcium and Alkalinity were being consumed waaay too quickly for WC's to keep up with. Alkalinity would drop by upwards of 1.4dkh per day.


Long story short, I started dosing ESV B-Ionic by hand. After roughly a week of dosing, the Montipora started receding alarmingly fast. I had no idea what the cause was so I reversed the only change I made and stopped dosing B-Ionic. The recession stopped and it sloooowly started to recover.


Maybe the pH was swinging too much? Maybe it was getting burned by the concentrated Alkalinity? I'm not sure. I was just happy to see it get better.




I read about Tropic Marin's All-For-Reef as being a "gentler", all-in-one solution for Ca/Alk/Mag and decided to try it out. The results were fantastic. Corals perked up and the Monti continued to recover. I bought a dosing pump and small container and started dialing it in:




Really happy with the results. The Kamoer X1 Pro was super easy to setup and VERY accurate. I have it dosing 1.8ml of All-For-Reef per day, spread throughout the entire day. Now my Ca/Alk/Mag are locked in at 420ppm / 8.2dkh / 1300ppm consistently. I test once a week and it's always the same result.


After that issue was resolved, I naturally waited a few weeks, then went straight to adding more livestock:


- Goniopora

- Blasto

- Alveopora

- Emerald Crab




This is where I started running into major issue #2 --- Lack of nutrients


The two Acans started shriveling up. Phosphates and Nitrates were both completely bottomed out at 0.00ppm.



I stopped doing water changes entirely, removed all filtration media and half of the Gems, then began HEAVILY feeding daily with Reef Chili, frozen Mysis and sinking pellets. A week or two of this and NO3/PO4 still tested flat zero. It was so strange to run into this issue. Every tank I've kept, I've always had to work on keeping nutrients DOWN, now I'm desperately trying to get them UP and failing. 😕


I took advice from fellow reefkeepers here and got a bottle of NeoPhos and NeoNitro. Started dosing them and it was SHOCKING how quickly it bottomed out afterward. I dosed 0.20ppm worth of NeoPhos in the tank and 6 hours later, it was back to 0.00ppm! I was advised to keep hammering it with phosphate dosing until consumption slows down. Eventually, it did. Though I still have to dose, it's not nearly as much and doesn't drop down as fast.


The Acans never recovered though. The recession was very slow but kept going. Some days they perked up, then the next day they shriveled up again. I decided eventually to take them back to the LFS so they can be babied back to health. Replaced them with this magnificent Indigo Torch:




Throughout the entire nutrient crisis, the only corals affected were those two Acans. The rest looked fine and most kept growing quite a bit. The Goniopora, Blasto and Alveopra look like they've doubled in size. The Montipora grew over most of it's own dead skeleton and is working on going off the edge. Chalice and Mushrooms are slow growers in here, but are noticeably larger than when I got them. Frogspawns... not sure about those. I thought they'd get bigger, faster but they don't seem to?


That's about it for now! Here's a full-tank video that I took today.




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  • 4 weeks later...

Starting to feel the nano pains.


Corals are growing quickly. Maybe too fast. The Alveopora and Goniopora have at least doubled in size and started grazing one another. Thankfully they seem to get along. Neither one looks annoyed and polyps are still fully extended.


Torch tendrils are starting to reach the Ricordias and they are NOT playing nice.

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