10g Super Simple Nano Reef, First Marine Tank

HomebroodExotics

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Hi All,
I'm excited to share my nano reef build with everyone. I have been doing freshwater aquariums for quite a while now so I have a good bit of previous experience with aquariums, but I have been dying to have a marine aquarium.

My goal for this aquarium was to see if I could create a decent reef environment on a small scale using the basics just to keep things simple as possible and still have something nice to look at. I have always wanted a mandarin dragonet and I'm not sure yet if one will go in here. If this tank is successful I plan to set up a 40g breeder soon.

Aquarium:
The aquarium is just a regular 10 gallon aquarium with aragonite substrate 2-6'' deep. A piece of caribsea life rock, and some lava rock make up the hardscape. I use a plastic top made from a green house panel that's cut to fit tight to prevent evaporation.

Filtration:
I am using what I am calling an internal nano refugium as additional filtration which is a box filter with sea lettuce and lava rock with aragonite and clay substrate. Also 1 hydor koralia circulation fan rated for about 500 gph I believe.

Light:
Light is the 18'' nicrew marine led from amazon.

Salt mix is instant ocean using dechlorinated tap water.

Process:
I started this aquarium on 11/2/2020. I seeded with ecopods from algae barn a few days after setup along with 3 peppermint shrimp. I dosed with seachem stability for about a week to start it off. Since starting I've done a small water change to lower my salinity as I over shot it a bit at the start at 1.030 although I'm still sitting at 1.028 everything seems to be fine. I top off with declorinated tap water or salt water as needed so far which has been one time each for this first month. I'm not planning on doing large nor many water changes, that's the goal. I added the corals in 3 separate batches about a week apart and they have done fine. The first batch took a beating though, I didn't do the best acclimation so not sure if that was the issue or if it was just due to new tank syndrome, but they have all recovered and doing extremely well IMO.

Feeding:
I've been feeding the tank with oceanmagik phytoplankton, vinegar eels w/ the vinegar, and live baby brine shrimp.

Thoughts:
I'm extremely happy with this aquarium so far, parameters seem to stay pretty stable, and I haven't dosed anything yet. This week the water has cleared up and I'm absolutely in love with it. I was expecting hair algae to start coming in now but instead I have this thick leaf like algae growing out of my rocks and some of the substrate. This is unexpected and I'm not really sure what to do about it, though i'll probably just let it go and see how it works out. I would really appreciate it if anyone has any idea on what type of algae this is.

I'm interested to know what opinions would be on adding a mandarin dragonet to this tank. I have a lot of copepods so far and will supplement with baby brine and frozen foods.

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HomebroodExotics

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Added a small cleanup crew of 2 hermit crabs and 2 snails on 12/5/2020.
I was wondering what everyone does to get new shells for their hermit crabs? Any place to buy some?

I was encouraged to redo the scape a bit because my clean up crew started moving my frags around. I'm really impressed with the amount of algae the big turbo snail has eaten already. The other snail is mostly decoration. I started with a 2 ml dose of all for reef to get my alk up. It has hovered around 7-7.5 since start up but recently dropped to 6.8, should be an easy fix. Hair algae is getting a bit long on some corals but nothing to stress about yet. The hermit crabs seem to be doing an excellent job at removing the algae around the frags. Really enjoying this aquarium.

If anyone has suggestions or questions I'm here for it.
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HomebroodExotics

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Thanks for the comments! I am prepared for the event that I will have to dose pods and if it starts to get unmanageable or I see it is I'll just speed up setting up a bigger tank, because so far this has been a joy to maintain and look at and I really need a bigger one like now.

So the filter is a box filter that I've basically turned into another aquarium. I have a clay substrate layer with aragonite on top. Then It has some lava rock and sea lettuce in it. Since it's clear it gets light and the sea lettuce is growing well. Don't know if it has any measurable effects in this tank since this is my first time either way. It basically functions as a refugium with an undergravel filter. My hope is that it will give pods and other creatures a place to live and reproduce and clean my water. So far so good. Its hard to tell if pods are moving freely in and out of it, but I would imagine they are. I don't really plan on cleaning this filter but I will check it out from time to time and pull out some lettuce if I need to. My water is really clear and there's no complaints there.
 
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HomebroodExotics

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I forgot to ask, is there any specific clean up crew I should stock up on? I know I want some trochus snails but my LFS doesn't have any. Other than that no clue. My biggest issue at the moment is the thick leafy algae, it looks like the turbo snail is doing a good job with it, so was thinking of adding another. I don't want to go overboard on the clean up crew because I'm already at low to no nitrates so not sure how much more algae will be growing.
 

Bribo12

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So a couple things to say here:
1. Do you test the tank for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate? Alk, calcium, mag? If so what kits?
2. I see you’re using tap water and it looks like you’re getting a lot of green turf algae as well as green algae on the glass and sand. I strongly recommend an rodi unit or using distilled water at least. Tap can have lots of nasty things in it that you have no clue are in there.
3. I see a couple SPS corals (birdsnest, Acro? Monti cap?) these corals need a lot of light and stability. Since it seems your are newer to saltwater I’d recommend against adding more of these kind of corals until your tank is older and you get your algae issues under control.
4. mandarins are tough. Even the captive raised ones eating prepared foods can revert and need a lot of pods. More than a 10 gallon can support usually. I’d suggest a different fish. You’ll be spending a lot of money per month to keep it fed.
 
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HomebroodExotics

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So a couple things to say here:
1. Do you test the tank for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate? Alk, calcium, mag? If so what kits?
2. I see you’re using tap water and it looks like you’re getting a lot of green turf algae as well as green algae on the glass and sand. I strongly recommend an rodi unit or using distilled water at least. Tap can have lots of nasty things in it that you have no clue are in there.
3. I see a couple SPS corals (birdsnest, Acro? Monti cap?) these corals need a lot of light and stability. Since it seems your are newer to saltwater I’d recommend against adding more of these kind of corals until your tank is older and you get your algae issues under control.
4. mandarins are tough. Even the captive raised ones eating prepared foods can revert and need a lot of pods. More than a 10 gallon can support usually. I’d suggest a different fish. You’ll be spending a lot of money per month to keep it fed.
1. I do. I use Sera, Salifert, digital meters, hanna checker now, refractometer, etc. I have been much more thorough on testing this tank than Ive ever tested a tank in the past. I did put a lot of money in corals in after all so I would like to them to survive. See test results below. I've also spot checked whatever parameters I felt like in between these times.
DATETIMETEMP FSALINITY
1.024-1.026
pHCa (ppm)
/5ML VIAL
Mg (ppm) 2MLAlk (dKH)
5 ML
Ammonia (mg/l)
5ML
Nitrate (mg/l)
10ML
Phosphate (mg/l)
10ML
DOSINGMAINTENANCE
11/8/20207:00 PM75.61.037.7 meter
8.0 sera
102101EXCHANGE AT LEAST 4 CUPS WATER TO REDUCE SALINITY
LEFT AT 1.027
11/13/20205:33 PM76.31.037.9500 mg/l141090.5251-2
11/16/20207:55 PM77.31.0297.9480138070101-2
11/20/202012:25 AM78.81.028846013507001-2
11/22/202010:28 PM77.51.0297.8844013207002+
11/28/20202:40 PM75.81.0297.848012907-80.5251-2
12/2/202012:18 AM79.71.0288.15460129070.525
12/6/202011:15 AM78.81.0297.94601290700
2. Using tap water is the whole point of this aquarium. If I have to use RODI water then I don't want to do reefing. I honestly don't believe its necessary, especially in conjunction with the rest of my tanking philosophy. I'm not scared of stuff in the water. I need more stuff actually. I see every other reefer using RODI water and struggling with algae on here as well so that doesn't seem to be the answer, I'm sure it helps though. I might change my mind on this tomorrow or in 6 months if I see otherwise of course. but so far so good. I refuse to maintain barrels of RODI water for a future 40 or 75 gallon aquarium. So if that's the only way I could reef then I wont be getting past this 10G.
3. I have to disagree. These corals have grown tremendously since being introduced into the tank and I really feel they played an important part in cycling the aquarium. I don't really have any "algae issues". I'm not afraid of the algae, I just want it to stay maintained so it doesn't overwhelm coral. Other than that I like the way it looks for the most part. I like a natural ecosystem that works together. Also after googling turf algae, that algae looks nothing like what I have in my tank. It looks like sea lettuce growing out of my rocks, I don't know what it is exactly though.
4. I agree keeping a mandarin in a 10 gallon could be difficult which is why I am really trying my best to turn the tank in to a copepod heaven. However I am starting to get the suspicion that the coral is doing a good job of eating copepods too. Any experience with mandarins eating live baby brine shrimp?

Here's a couple pics of the growth in the birds nest from intro to now. They like to eat.


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Bribo12

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I do agree the birdsnest definitely looks better now! I hadn't seen the original pic of it and yes sps do love to eat. I still stand by it for that acro? frag in your tank that I see. I agree you shouldn't be afraid of algae and it is a beneficial thing, however when it gets out of control and starts choking out frags is when it becomes a problem. With tap water you really have no control over what contaminates are going into the tank. Yes people still get gha and all sorts of other nasties on rodi but imo and experience I feel more comfortable knowing I am putting 0 tds water into my tank vs who knows what is coming out of the tap and I have very good tap water <20 TDS. I'm curious to see how in the long run tap water will do for you. Like said above I definitely wouldn't do the mandarin until you have a larger tank. Good luck! I look forward to seeing how it goes as the tank is still very young and is definitely a different approach than most people follow.

P.s. not trying to sound like you are wrong or anything, hope I didn't come off that way :eek: as there's definitely many ways to reef!
 

Frigus Reef

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Added a small cleanup crew of 2 hermit crabs and 2 snails on 12/5/2020.
I was wondering what everyone does to get new shells for their hermit crabs? Any place to buy some?

I was encouraged to redo the scape a bit because my clean up crew started moving my frags around. I'm really impressed with the amount of algae the big turbo snail has eaten already. The other snail is mostly decoration. I started with a 2 ml dose of all for reef to get my alk up. It has hovered around 7-7.5 since start up but recently dropped to 6.8, should be an easy fix. Hair algae is getting a bit long on some corals but nothing to stress about yet. The hermit crabs seem to be doing an excellent job at removing the algae around the frags. Really enjoying this aquarium.

If anyone has suggestions or questions I'm here for it.
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For shells I go to Hobby Lobby and get a bag of seashells, idk if they have wax or anything so I’ll take about five shells and scrub them with their own sand in their own container in some dirty saltwater then rinse them in really hot water, scrub again, rinse again and add them to the tank. Turning them around underwater in a circle gets the air bubbles out so they sink. And try to pick a wide range of types and sizes of shells I found my blue legged hermits really like cerith and sometimes a whelk shell but I think perforation ranges depending on the crab. Nice tank though! I’m def following
 
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HomebroodExotics

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I do agree the birdsnest definitely looks better now! I hadn't seen the original pic of it and yes sps do love to eat. I still stand by it for that acro? frag in your tank that I see. I agree you shouldn't be afraid of algae and it is a beneficial thing, however when it gets out of control and starts choking out frags is when it becomes a problem. With tap water you really have no control over what contaminates are going into the tank. Yes people still get gha and all sorts of other nasties on rodi but imo and experience I feel more comfortable knowing I am putting 0 tds water into my tank vs who knows what is coming out of the tap and I have very good tap water <20 TDS. I'm curious to see how in the long run tap water will do for you. Like said above I definitely wouldn't do the mandarin until you have a larger tank. Good luck! I look forward to seeing how it goes as the tank is still very young and is definitely a different approach than most people follow.

P.s. not trying to sound like you are wrong or anything, hope I didn't come off that way :eek: as there's definitely many ways to reef
Thanks for the kind words and support. A little more info on my tap water, I have pretty hard tap water that comes out about 200 TDS and around 7.5. Also yes that is an acro at the very top. It hasn't died, but it hasn't done much else. I definitely can see how acros get their rap. It isn't glued down yet so if the algae starts to overtake it ill just pull it out and scrub it a bit.
 
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ludnix

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Great work with the tank, I love a simple build even if it's not the norm these days, ha.
There's so many ways to run a reef tank and the thousands of species of corals live in different environments and thus thrive in different setups. I don't think this setup will be conducive to acropora growth but that still leaves tons of other genus of coral that will thrive! I personally love a nice soft coral like a leather, toadstool or Kenya tree. They can also help suck up some of the excess nutrients in these low Tek setups.
 
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HomebroodExotics

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I would say it's going pretty well. I started dosing 1-2 ml of all for reef and that stuff is fantastic.

I added another giant turbo snail to mow down what I believe to be sea lettuce growing from the rocks. They have done a fantastic job. I currently have 2 turbo snails, 4 trochus, 5 hermit crabs, 1 astrea snail for a cleanup crew and they are getting the job done perfectly.

I also pulled the sea lettuce out of my mini refugium because I didn't feel like worrying about it over growing and having to pull it out. I will just let natural algae form in it and do the job instead. I have enough sea lettuce growing on my rocks so I don't think the sea lettuce in the refugium was contributing much to the tank.

I did have a big screw up. I didn't have all of my frags glued down and the zoas fell onto the substrate and the GSP fell on top of the zoas. They nuked each other. I thought for sure the zoas were done for, they looked absolutely terrible for 2 days but they have come back better than ever. The GSP on the other hand has gradually gotten worse since then. I also noticed that some of the other corals, especially the goniopora must have gotten affected by the toxins released from the chemical warfare and it is not looking great. However it is starting to look better so I am hopeful. All the other corals seem to have recovered really well, except for the GSP. Time will tell, and I will put a small bag of carbon in the tank today to hopefully help the process along. All in all, pretty successful so far, and I believe its ready for some fish.
 
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