Featured Aquarium: The Nano Reef of Diana

Continuing this month, Advanced
Aquarist is hosting a series of unique featured aquariums. These
aquariums are nano-reefs, more specifically tanks that contain no
more than 20 US gallons in total system volume. Each is one of
top five contestants and an independent result of a “Nano
Tank Buildoff” hosted by Reefs.Org in a contest that ran
for 9 months ending in December 2005.

If you wish to see the rules framework or view any of over 30
entries as they progress from concept and design through to the
complete nano reef, please see the following thread on
Reefs.Org’s bulletin board:

Our second entry is from Diana, detailing her entry into the


The Nano Reef of Diana

One of the biggest faux-pas when beginning reefkeeping is
starting with a small tank. I’ve heard it all:
“It’s hard to keep the parameters stable”, or
“You’ll just end up upgrading anyways, so don’t
waste your money”, and even “You won’t be able
to keep anything half decent in a small tank”. But, being
the stubborn fish-keeper that I am, I decided when entering into
the world of saltwater that I would begin with a 5 gallon tank.
Why? I’m not exactly sure. But I figured it would allow me
to give saltwater a shot, and to see if it was my thing. Just as
it would happen, the beginning of my saltwater tank co-incited
with the start date of Reef.org’s ‘Nano Reef
Build-off’. And so it began.


Now, being a fresh face to the world of saltwater I
didn’t have any unique ideas for the build off. I
didn’t really have anything in mind, other than to keep
anything I put in there alive. I started with the basics:

  • 5 gallon tank
  • Aquaclear 150 filter (sponge and floss for media)
  • 150 watt heater
  • 18 watt Coralife PC lighting (1 x 10,000K 1 x Actinic)
  • 1 x 50 gallon bag of Kent salt
  • Crushed agronite substrate

Within the first week I added 7 lbs of live rock and some red
grape caulerpa (which to my dismay slowly deteriorated over time,
and finally disappeared over a year later in one of my newer, and
yes larger, reef tanks). And from there the spending began. It
started with the “easy” stuff, like some Mushrooms,
Zoos and Anthelia. I knew I didn’t have the wattage to
attempt keeping everything I saw, nor was the tank old enough. I
was cautiously adding little to the tank at a time, making sure
to take everything really slowly. The water parameters were
stable: salinity 1.022, pH 8.2, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate
<10 (At the time I was not testing any other parameters, such
as hardness, calcium, etc etc). As the months went on I added
lots of neat things…. some good and some, well, not so
good. Like my Electric Flame Scallop (what was I thinking!?). My
Feather Duster lasted a little longer, but not by much. I
couldn’t for the life of me keep a little Clown goby alive
in there. I think I went through 3 of them, as well as some neon
gobies, before I gave up. But for every single thing that died I
had two things that survived, so I was happy and figuratively
fairly successful keeping this tank going.


My maintenance routine was very basic for such a seemingly
“unstable” Nano tank.

  • Bi-weekly freshwater top-offs
  • Weekly water change 25%
  • Bi-monthly filter maintenance
  • Glass cleaning
  • 3-4 times a week feeding Cyclopeeze, Brine shrimp, and
    Mysis shrimp.

I ended up having to remove some corals due to lighting
requirements exceeding that which the setup could provide, but
aside from that the tank did very well up until the end of the
Build-off. Now that I know a little more about saltwater I see
how incredibly simple my setup actually was, and also how lucky I
was to have the successes that I did. If I ever attempt another
Build-off in the future, I think I will stay true to one thing:
Keeping it simple.

  Advanced Aquarist

 Advanced Aquarist

  (125 articles)

Leave a Reply

was shared times