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24G Nano Cube DX Startup, Setup, Manual for newbies, in the works

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Crabs are another invertebrate that you can add to your cube. General recommendations are only 1-2 per 3-5 gallons if small and only one if they are large. Some types can be semi-aggressive and some might pick at corals. Others have good advantages in that they eat leftover food or detritus. One eats a nano cube pest, bubble algae.


1) Emerald crabs (mithrax)--a green crab with heavy claws and hair on it's hind legs. Primarily nocturnal, hiding in crevices during the day. Generally not aggressive.Very hardy and eat algae.

Advantages: they eat hair and bubble algae;very hardy

Disadvantages: they may not control ALL the algae; some may pick at

coral;larger crabs might become aggressive



2) Sally Light Foot (Nimble Spray crab)--this crab generally gets a 'no vote' in the nano reef forums. The crab has yellow markings around it's joints and a green-brown carapace. Primarily algae eaters and very active.

Advantages: pick at algae on LR and eat left over food; very hardy.

Disadvantages: Nano reefers claim this crab may attack your corals.

They do walk over them and disturb them; can compete aggressively for food;

low iodine levels may cause molting problems; larger crabs have been accused

of attacking shrimp.






First off, there are some nano-reefers who don't put hermit crabs into their tanks. It appears that some may get aggressive and darn right thefty. Not only can they steal food from others, they can steal their homes. They are very good scavengers though, so, you'll decide on whether or not to use them.


1) Red leg hermit--these are dark red with yellowon the eye stalk and claw tips.

Advantages: very hardy, good scavengers;clean algae;

Disadvantages: can grow fairly large; can uproot corals and loosen rocks



2) Left handed hermits: this hermit's left claw is larger than the right, used to close off the shell. It has long eye stalks. Herbivorous.

Advantages: sifts and aerates the sandbed; eats red slime algae


Disadvantages: vulnerable when molting/leaving it's shell,

bold temperament



3) Blue legged hermit: small hermit crab with bright blue legs. They are scavengers and will eat detritus and algae.

Advantages:very hardy; stays small

Disadvantages: has been known to harass and attack other snails; needs

needs new shells as it grows, thus, need to keep some shells in the tank



Other hermits to look up: the scarlet hermit.



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Great work, steelhealr.

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Thanks Sterling...the thread is almost done. After that....I'll prolly just do the tank update thing. LOL SH

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No cocktail sauce here. Shrimp in a nano-reef are supposed to be great cleaners. One of the interesting aspects of these inverts is that they can help to rid your fish of parasites. They can actually pick ich off your fish. Anyway, here are a few friendly ones.


1) Skunk Cleaner Shrimp(scarlet cleaner shrimp): red with a white stripe and white dots near the tail. It can actually set up a cleaning station on the reef. Does not tolerate high levels of nitrates or copper and needs iodine for molting.



2) Blood Shrimp (Fire shrimp): one of the most popular shrimp to have in the aquarium. Doesn't get along with others of it's kind unless it's a mate. Prefers caves and overhangs away from the light. These may clean fish also and will clean up some leftover food. Does not tolerate high nitrates



3)Camel Shrimp (Hinge Beak Shrimp): has a movable jaw and has multiple white stripes on it's body. Prefers caves and crevices. May pick at certain corals (soft leather corals).



4) Peppermint Shrimp (Veined Shrimp): considered a scavenger, these guys might munch on one of the pests we see, Aiptasia. Won't tolerate any nitrates.



P.O.I. : Look up the symbiosis of a pistol shrimp and certain goby fish, eg, a high fin goby. It maybe an interesting combo for the tank.


Next, hitchhikers. SH

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This really is a great post. Are you going to hit on stocking the tank. Should you add fish first or corals, and should you wait a few weeks between adding corals like you do with fish or can you add them anytime you want?

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HI WB9258....once the tank cycles and algae arrives, the cleanup crew is added...usually followed by livestock. Corals need really great water quality, so, I would be in no immediate rush to add them. Some can be expensive. My tank is already looking like it is starting to complete it's cycle..ammonia and nitrite are dropping. When zero, next is a water change to get the nitrates down. SH

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Hitchhikers (or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)


The diversity of life in the ocean is truly amazing. What blows me away is the tenacity of some organisms and their ability to survive under the most adverse conditions. Thus...our live rock..it comes from halfway around the world. When it goes back into SW and cycles, wonderful things happen. Some coralline algae survives. Even certain corals. But what keeps us running to the tank? Why, to see who popped up in the middle of the night, that's why. These are the 'hitchhiker's...things that were hiding in the LR and survived. Some, in fact, most, are beneficial to our cube. Others can be outright nasty.


By now, most who chose to follow this thread as a guide have their Nano Cube up and running. Therefore, the following is just a help in recognition, trying to keep a guide in one thread. If you see any of the following in your tank, some action may be necessary or none at all. I'll leave the 'treatment' details/techniques up to you.


The Good


Calcareous coralline algae: that colorful encrusting growth on the rock. Good quantities can mean good water quality and inhibit the growth of undesirable algae.



Macroalgae: can help to keep nitrate to a minimum and provide food. Some can overproliferate and many nano-reefers prefer to keep it in their refugiums.



Sponges: add color to the reef. Filter the water and need nutrients (not photosynthetic).



Microcrustaceans: mollusks, small worms, echinoderms, copepods, amphipods etc.



Featherduster worms: they filter water to get their food (not photosynthetic). Can be very attractive



The Bad


Aiptasia anemones (glass anemone): these usually appear soon after the LR cycles. They may appear as light brown to nearly transparent growths that then spread like wildfire. They sting other inverts to make room for themselves. Trying to remove them manually may spread them or is impossible since they withdraw into the rock. Treatment includes rock removal, injection, finding a suitable predator that eats it.



Mantis shrimp: Not shrimp at all, they are nocturnal predators with an evil weapon, their chelae. This attachment can spear or smash prey. They can split your finger easily, so, beware. Most aquarists become aware of it's presence when their livestock start disappearing. Treatment is to catch it with a trap. DON'T HANDLE IT!



Bristleworms: careful again. These worms have rows of bristles which can either cause a reaction or sting if touched. These worms are getting less of a bad rap except for a few species (hermodice carunculata) which can eat polyps. They actually eat detritus. They can get quite long. If problematic, they can be caught with traps.



The Ugly


Bubble Algae: Well, actually, some people think it is attractive in the tank.

Bubble algae is not necessarily a hitchhiker and may arrive in the first algae bloom. It is considered a pest in the mini-reef tank. Bubble algae can overrun your tank. It can't be controlled by reducing lighting or trying to 'starve it'. Best bet is to CAREFULLY remove it manually from the tank (bursting it may remove hundreds of spores). Emerald crabs eat it and some tangs ( but they are too big for the cube).



Here are two links to do more reading on hitchhikers:

1) http://www.reefs.org/hhfaq/index.html

2) http://www.reefcorner.com/hitchhikers.htm

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thx for all of your hard work

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My tank is cycling faster than I thought for uncured. My parameters:


pH 7.6

ammonia 0

nitrite 0.125 ppm

nitrate 15 ppm

dH 8

s.g. 1.026


I topped off my water to bring it back down to 1.025 and I made SW yesterday. If my parameters are all 0 today, then it will be time for my first water change already. Hopefully that will bring the pH back up and drop the nitrates down. I also think that I am seeing some algae on the back of the LR in the back. If so, it's getting closer to adding the cleanup crew. No new life as yet. I'm still waiting for my other aliquot of live sand from someone's live tank...I'll have to watch for a recycle since it is being shipped and you don't want to add livestock if there is going to be more die off. SH

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Excellent thread. Thank you very much for the details you are providing.

Buying sand from an unknown source (assumed) do you not run the risk of adding some of your bad and ugly hitchhikers, as well as toxins and other unwanted nasties?

You mentioned earlier about buying sand on ebay, that is why I have assumed you do not know the true source of the sand. I guess you just have to trust your supplier and hope his/her tank is not a chemical bath, containing things like copper?

I may be wrong also.

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Greetings SH, excellent post.I just purchased the same unit you have described today over the internet.. Should recieve it on saturday......I have purchased all of the equpiment that you have suggested for modding the hood for the refugium, and new powerheads ect. I wanted to ask you about the refugium set up. Should i use both rubble and micro alge combined or just the alge? I have decided on Halimeda as the alge of choice, any thoughts on that?

Also, not sure if second power head should be placed inside or outside of intake bulkhead....

Lastly, any ideas on an auto top off system?


Thanks again for taking us newbies along on your nano journey,





Please submit some new photo's of your rig

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HI Wooby..thanks a lot....I have 3-4 lbs of LR rubble placed in the middle chamber. After the tank cycles, I will put the macroalgae in the middle chamber above the rubble and under the light. I don't think there is a problem with Halimeda. Chaeto is another very popular one. Caulerpa as I understand it can cause problems.


As for the additional powerhead, I tried placing the stock pump behind the grill/intake in the first chamber. Although it fits by hanging off the wall between chambers 1 and 2, I was unhappy with the result. If the intake is not placed down, it can suck in air and cause a ton of bubbles. Placing the intake down, I found, draws some water up from the sponge and I found it shooting out some debris. Also, it seems the output nozzle tends to aim upward. Maybe it was just me and others have had better success. One of my gurus here dremeled a hole in the middle chamber and his second powerhead comes out of there. I would like to see it I could stack the stock pump in the 3rd chamber and see if there are some fittings to bring a tube over the wall and attach a nozzle there and direct flow towards the left facing the tank. If you are not a perfectionist, you could always just attached a powerhead to the back wall with the supplied suction cups.

As for the auto topoff system, check this out:


Keep me posted on how you make out. My tank appears to be cycled. SH

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To outtafocus...there is always a risk..but...I was comfortable with the feedback, responses and answers to my questions. As mentioned earlier, I've been very disappointed with the lfs's in my area. The best way is if you have a good buddy with a tank. Be that as it may, my tank ammonia is now at 0, nitrite 0 and nitrates 10 and dropping. I can't believe how fast it is cycling. SH

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Adding Fish (or, now can I finally add Nemo)




There is not much room in the cube, so, one has to be very careful about adding fish. This part is the personal part, so, I am not going to do 'stocking suggestions'. Also, to post dozens of pictures of individual fish takes time and space. 'Googling' the image is the best way to go. So, just a few rules on the basics:


1) Make sure the tank is cycled and you've changed out your water. Zero across the board if possible with your parameters.


2) Go slow. No slam dunking and dumping all the fish in at once. Resist the 'just one more fish' urge.


3) Acclimation is extremely important...think drip method. Remember, you have pH, temperature and specific gravity to think about.


4) READ UP ON THE FISH YOU WANT TO ADD. They have differences in aggression, termperament, territorialness, eating behavior, etc. Many don't get along with similar sexes or types of their own kind and should not be in pairs. Some might pick at corals.


5) The most passive fish should be put in first; aggressive last.


6) Don't shoot me....there is the classic 1 inch of fish per 2 gallons still printed out there. Suffice it to say, buy fish that will stay small. On average, for our cube, 4-5 fish.


7) The dreaded word...quarantine. Yes, SW species should be quarantined. Think quarantine tank.


8 ) Resist the 'just one more fish' urge.


9) Know what and how much to feed. Overfeeding is a sure source of nitrates which are not tolerated in SW nano systems compared to FW.


10) Avoid the classic 'dumping the lfs' water into the tank.


Nano-Reef Fish


Here is a brief list of some common or popular nano fish:

1) Gobies: Green and Brown Clown Goby, Catalina Goby,Citrina, Court Jester, Hi Fin Red Banded, Neon Blue, Hector's, Orange Spotted, Two Spot, Watchman Gobies, Shrimp

2) Firefish: Purple

3) Clownfish: Black and White Percula, True Percula, Oscellaris

4) Blennies: Harptail, Barnacle, Black Lined, Red Sea Mimic, Bicolor

5) Wrasses: Six line, golden or canary

6) Basslets: Swissguard, Blackcap

7) Cardinalfishes: Pajama, Banggai, redtail

8 ) Clingfish

9) Jawfish: dusky and yellowhead

10) Damselfish.: can be very pugnacious and aggressive. Look at the Yellowtail Blue Damsel (chrysiptera parasema)

11) Royal Gramma

12) Dottybacks (Pseudochromis): caution, may be aggressive; less aggressive species are the Orchid Dottyback, Springer's and Sankey's (Black-and-White)

13) Hawkfish: flame

14) Assessors: Yellow and Blue





Advanced Projects (or, hey, I'm getting the hang of this)


Almost done with this for the cube owner. Just a few final thoughts, some previously mentioned, for us Nano Cubers who started out stock and want to move up in the world.


Corals and Lighting


This is the Achilles heel of the present 24G Nano Cube DX.....lighting. Many corals including hard ones require moderate to intense lighting. Our cube will support some soft corals (softies). Examples are Ricordia and some Zoonanthids. So..one project is to DIY improve your lighting. Be aware that there are some heat issues involved with the hood. You can always check out this site, http://www.nanocustoms.com, run by a gentleman named Chris, who modifies the hoods. However, dont' jump ship if you dont' upgrade. Here is a link for the stock lighting on a 12G Nano.As for the corals, you're on your own now just like me.





As we talked about earlier, many nano-reefers turn the back middle chamber of the cube into a refugium, an isolated/protected area separate from the main tank. Many place their macroalgae back here, but, again, lighting is the issue. You've seen my DIY which is awaiting setup. Try coming up with something unique. Someone is now looking into a submersible compact fluorescent light that will fit back there. Some have used an AquaClear filter cut into the back. Come up with a new idea.


Water Movement


I saw a post with a rough guide of 10X average flow; 15X good for 'softies'; 20X for hard corals. Design additional water movement for your tank. One of my SW gurus dremeled (a special drill) a hole in the top of the middle chamber and added another pump and outflow nozzle. I tried putting my stock pump in the first chamber but was unhappy with the results--churned up debris from the sponge in the chamber and angling the flow was difficult.




Skimming not only removes dissolved organics but also can removed dissolved nutrients. I think the majority of nano-reefers believe that regular water changes obviate the need for a skimmer. However, if you feel strongly about having one, you can try and design one. As of this date, there aren't any retail skimmers that fit in the cube that function well, unless, you want to open up the hood and use one periodically as an external one.

Here is a popular link on how someone used an old cassette cover as a skimmer:


Please note that this is a surface skimmer...see Outtafocus's post on page 5 re: surface and protein skimmers.



Auto Topoff

Some people have come up with ways to have their tanks 'auto-topped-off'. They add a float switch and when the tank level drops, fresh water is automatically added. Here are a couple of links to ponder:




Moonlight LEDs


As you know by now, if you put your lights on a timer, you will not be able to use your moonlights since cutting off the power to the CPF's also cuts power to the LEDs. You could look into a way to rewire the LEDs in the hood or make your own. There are many links for this as well.


Last but not least....cube maintenance. SH

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SH thanks for the reply...

Concerning the mod on the middle tank (hole for the power head) could you include a pic? I am still confused on the circulation process. I was under the impression that the first bulkhead is an intake. If you have a PHead returning outward from the intake grate does that not turn it into an outtake? Or is the jet flowing another direction? Is there a way to mod two Pheads in the third tank and leave the other two for filtration? Probably making a mountain out of a mole hill huh?


Thanks again,



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Hi Wooby cat...not at all. If you plan on getting into corals, water circulation is critical. Some people here are going 20X for hard corals (20 times tank turnover/hour...or...for our 24G, almost 500 GPH).

The circulation process is as follows....water enters the first chamber via the intake grate on the top and circulates downward. If you have a sponge here, it passes thru the sponge and out a slot towards the bottom. The water now enters chamber two, where, if you have LR rock rubble, macroalgae or chemi-pure etc, it passes thru here. So....mechanical filtration in chamber one, biologic and chemical in chamber 2. Then enters the bottom of chamber 3 where it is pumped out into the outake nozzle at the top of the tank


People are always looking for ways to modify this cube and, as I said above, I don't think putting the pump in the first chamber is the best mod, especially if you are going to use a sponge in it. For one thing, it WILL pull some water up thru the sponge and pull particulate stuff out and shoot it out into the tank. What people have done is take the stock pump and fit it into the first chamber and direct the nozzle out of the lower left corner of the grate. I found it unsatisfactory and YES...I agree with you...the first two chambers should be for filtration.


If you make the middle chamber a refugium or have LR rubble here, that would make placement in this chamber somewhat problematic. I think chamber 3 would probably be the best place for it somehow.I am looking into this. I don't have any pix of the other mod...my guru is working on it. I'll ask him about it. I want to see if I can place the stock pump in chamber three above the other one and see if there are some elbows/ tubing that I can connect over the wall if possible short of drilling another hole. Not sure if this is feasible as I think someone else would have come up with this mod already. The only concern is whether the two pumps would create a heat issue. SH

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how did the wp light work in the back?


What and where did you get this light?

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WP? meaning..? The light I planned to used is a 10 w halogen submersible. I'm going to put it in after the tank cycles and after I get livestock in. I'll post here. It is an egglite..you can get them online, on Ebay and at some pond stores. SH

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Beauty Happens Slowly, Disaster Happens Quickly (or, Tank Maintenance)


I think this is a good place to stop the diatribe and just fade into the classic 'here is how my tank is doing'. But...specifically for the cube, a brief review of some stuff we can do to prevent a 'crash'. Get in the habit of doing the maintenance and stick with it. Those of you who came over here like me from FW.....these tanks won't take the missed water changes or parameter checks. So, the basics again:


Water Changes


Hey..broken record here, but, this is obviously the most important thing to do. I did weekly changes with my FW and I will do weekly with the cube to start off. If you get really good and comfortable and have a good handle on your bioload, biweekly might be the way to go. Recommendations are 10% if you do weekly changes, 15-20% if biweekly. Make sure the water is tank temp and same s.g.


Topping Off


Don't forget that evaporation will raise your salinity/specific gravity. You must top off with pure water as you see needed during the week. It can be daily or less. DO NOT top off with SW unless you are trying to bring up your s.g. SALT DOES NOT EVAPORATE.


The Chambers


In chamber one, make sure you keep up with cleaning the sponge to prevent it from becoming a 'nitrate trap'. Cleanse it 1-2 times per week in either aquarium water or change it out altogether (rotate it) with another sponge. Some cubers don't use a sponge at all, so, biologic activity loss seems much less a risk in view of our great live rock.


In chamber two, make sure your temp probe batteries stay fresh. I put a backup LCD strip on the back side of my tank. Use a gravel siphon to do some cleanup if you placed LR rubble in here.


In chamber three, don't forget that the pump requires monthly maintenance. The impeller may need cleaning. Some people have put a sock over the intake if they have detritus getting into the pump. I have the sieve/screen that came with the Maxijet.




As long as you have a good cleanup crew, there shouldn't be much to do for your substrate. Some people try a light gravel vac but, seems not to work very well for obvious reasons.




This build up of salt on the edge of the tank can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. NEVER USE CHEMICALS OR A CONTAMINATED RAG.




Algae may have to be scraped from the tank walls. The MagFloat works well. If you have other areas of algae building up...check your cleanup crew roster and see if you need any more or different players.




Don't forget to have replacement lights available around the six month period. CPF bulbs begin to lose some lighting power at this point.




This is your call depending on how your tank runs and how your nitrates are. Obviously, more frequently in the beginning is better until you know that you keep getting '0's all the time. Don't forget s.g. And, finally:


Deadly Nitrates, What Do I Do?


In general, zero tolerance for nitrates. SW inverts and fish just don't do well with them...in fact..it's poison. If you start turning up nitrates, you'd better look into it and quickly.


Visible Signs of Rising Nitrates/Excess Nutrients


1) Increasing necessity to scrape the glass with a magfloat, ie, increased diatom load

2) Corals close (xenia, leathers and hammer/anchor coral are sensitive to water conditions and are good barometers)

3) Appearance of unwanted visitors, ie, cyanobacteria (red slime algae)or hair algae although could be phosphates as well


SH's Law, well, uh, JMO


Nitrate levels:


0-5 ppm Nanomaster, great job

5-10 ppm NanoEnsign, not bad, not bad

10-15 ppm All hands on deck, if you have that dark yellow to orangey color, you'd better start doing something

>15 ppm NanoNewb....urgent intervention, you may lose livestock.


Possible Sources


1) Poor tank maintenance

2) Lapse of/infrequent water changes

3) Overfeeding

4) Overstocking

5) Someone's dead

6) Nitrate 'traps'




1) Immediate water change. If you are using filtered tap water (which isn't the best option), check it for nitrates. You may want to switch to distilled or RO. Pure water is still the best and the reduced phosphates may also prevent an algae bloom.

2) Examine your feeding habits....reduce feeding

3) If you used the ceramic beads and/or bioballs, clean them in aquarium water or discontinue them altogether. Siphon out the live rubble chamber

4) Clean that sponge. Consider cutting it in half, or discontinuing it or switching it out.

5) Consider adding a refugium with macroalgae to help with nitrates in the tank

6) Return any overstocked livestock to your lfs...they should take them back and its the most humane thing to do.

7) If you added a non-photosynthetic coral (eg, tubastrea or sun coral), you maybe overfeeding it. Consider it as an 'extra fish' in the tank. Cut the feeding down.

8) There is a media insert called Algone which reportedly denitrifies nitrates. http://www.algone.com/

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Originally posted by steelhealr

WP? meaning..? The light I planned to used is a 10 w halogen submersible. I'm going to put it in after the tank cycles and after I get livestock in. I'll post here. It is an egglite..you can get them online, on Ebay and at some pond stores. SH

Sorry WP = water proof

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Hey Steelhealr. This keeps getting better.


I just want to comment on the skimmer issue. Some people may get confused about skimmers with the way in which you describe the cassette tape case skimmer.

1- protein skimmer: uses micro bubbles to which dissolved organic compounds cling and are carried to the collection cup to be removed.


2- surface skimmer: A device which allows the tanks surface water to fall over the edge and then flows either to a sump or other filter method. This is what the cassette case does, removes surface scum by "skimming" the surface of the water. See also the Fluval/Aquaclear surface skimmer.


I'm just ensuring everyone sees the difference between the two. Thanks

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Outtafocus...excellent point. Thanks for posting this. I hope you don't mind but I'll make an edit note in the thread to look here on this page to see your comment. See page 4 under skimmers. Very good..thanks. SH

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Just want to say thanks to Parker 313 at TFF...hers were the first photos of a nano tank I saw and the reason my garage smells like seawater (just teasing). And...of course..to trekbear for picking me up, dusting me off and pointing me in the right direction(lol).....and...to all the people here at nano-reef for nothing but supportive PM's and posts, especially in the face of posting a newbie thread before the monitor screens of hundreds of experienced nano-reefers. SH



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Just as a side note, for anyone that is a complete newbie to SW tanks and likes to learn about the processes there within, the links SH gave about LR provide some great information about the subject.


SH, again, much appreciation for putting together this thread.

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Hey SH,


24g cube should arrive today..A couple of questions for you. What additional tubing (dia. ect) will I need to swap the stock rio for the mj 1200 you suggested....Also, any ideas on how to place 2 powerheads in the 3rd chamber as to leave the first two as filtration?





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