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50litres nano reef journey

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Owned a marine FO tank 3 decades ago and since then only planted tanks. With more time on my hands now, decided to try something new; a reef tank. Intend to keep things basic & simple thus a nano tank. As I have zero knowledge about corals, it will also be a trial and error process.

Re-used an old 50L tank as DT with a DIY sump and OF blox. The sump is placed on the same table as the DT to facilitate easy access and maintenance. Making it visible means I will make the effort to clean, maintain and keep it tidy (visual management)

It’s a basic setup with no skimmer, relying on weekly approx. 15% water changes (about 7L, only a small pail of water). Filtration is wool, purigen and a bag of siporax and coral chips each. Water testing is just salinity and nitrate. Will be removing the coral chips soon as I understand it is of no help in buffering the kH due to the high pH of saltwater and a potential nitrate factory. (let me know if anyone has a different opinion)

Set it up since early Aug.

Equipment and setup
5kg of Caribsea rocks (not live rocks) and a thin layer of live sand. I made the mistake of stacking the rocks too high, thus unable to put larger or taller corals on top of the rock scape. 

Lighting is re-using a Chihiros A301 full spectrum plant light with the addition of a low cost FROK LED blue strip light to evaluate if a dedicated and rather expensive reef lights are a must for easy corals. I won’t recommended the FROK light as 2 drivers failed me in 2 weeks. In the end I adapted an old laptop charger to drive it and is working well now. Plant light is at set 20% (to have a good balance with the blue light) and photoperiod is only 4.5hrs daily (photoperiod seems low compared to what I read but the corals seems happy at the moment and growing. Thinking of extended by an hour or 2 but split the photoperiod apart like what I did for my planted tank so that I can enjoy the tank for longer period without algae growth.

Chiller is 1/10 HP at 26 deg. For those interested, it is much cheaper than the Hailea (by about 30%) and though too early to tell, working well. Noise level could be a little quieter but then, I have it in the open and not in a cabinet. (Sold by a hobbyist in Carousell. Search around for “AL 160 chiller” and you’ll find he organize mass buy for it regularly)

An inline UV light is installed fitted with a second pump with low flow. It is usually considered as optional equipment but to me, I find them useful and beneficial (in conjunction with H2O2 dosing to keep diatoms, dinos and free swimming parasites at bay) It is link to the tank’s lights’ timer (4.5hr).

After trying out 2 swing arms, floating tube hydrometers and 2 optical refractometers, I gave up on all these and bought a Hanna salinity meter. It gives me a good peace of mind. 
I do have a mini skimmer but only on standby. Tried it for a few days but it pulled nothing. Anyway as I am using water change as the main method to export nutrients, its not really needed on top of opinions I read that it pull out trace elements. 

2 tiny wave makers to push water around.

Just setup a quarantine tank as I will be adding fishes in a few weeks time.

Last but not least, a self-assembled RODI system for top up and water change. Am reading up on the best and shortest period to quarantine. I find the typical 30days period really torturous for the fish and I. If any of you have neat tricks/cheats (reduce to 10 days?), please offer your tips.

In the tank  
Fishless at the moment as I wanted to have all the corals in first (still adding slowly)
Torch, Hammer, GSP, Cauliflower (not sure about the name but its pink), leather, brain, candy cane, mushroom and 1 snail. In the past 2 weeks large numbers of copepods and then amphipods appears in the DT. Am told it is healthy and quite ready for fish.

All tank inhabitants seems happy except for the leather. Hardly see its tentacles. Its like a big piece of smooth leather most of the time. It is also the biggest in the tank so don’t look too good. Am thinking of chopping it up (“fragging” is a new word for me) never done that before and seems interesting. Bought some Caribsea frag rocks and will attempt it soon

Feeding on alternate days with Reef Energy AB+ and Seachem Phytoplankton. Some sinking pellets for the torch, hammer, brain randomly). Have not decided on feeding regime once I add fish. Intend to reduce but not sure by how much (advise appreciated). 

Intend to add maybe another 4 to 5 corals as you can see it is still quite bare (if you have some nice frags that you think will add colour and diversity to my tank, please private message me. No SPS though, not confident of it yet)

As for fishes, maybe just 3 to at most 4 small fishes. (Clown, blenny, Gramma, Dartfish) and maybe a couple of cleaner shrimps. I am very tempted to have just 1 flame angel in lieu of all the rest of the fishes but read that it is not reef safe.  If anyone is successful with a flame angel in a nano tank with corals, please share how you manage to do it.

Maintenance Regime 
Daily : wash filter wool, top up water. Dosed with 1.5ml H2O2 daily (started since 3rd week after setting up when a light coating of diatoms appear). Intend to taper off the dosing in the next 2 weeks as diatom gone and green spots of algae are appearing in the tank (not nuisance algae as far as I can tell)

Weekly : Clean DT glass and sump, remove 7L of water (including siphoning of sandbed) and rinse very lightly the siporax and coral chips in the removed water. 

Monthly : Add Dr Tim’s waste away a couple of days before doing the weekly cleaning as above.
Might add Reef Plus and Reef Trace on a monthly basis since water change is only 15%. Not started yet, maybe when I feel I have enough corals added. 

I only tested for nitrate so far and don't intend to test for all the other stuff if I can avoid it

Issues encountered/mistakes made 
Sump can be bigger and better constructed to make cleaning easier and more space for equipment and potential refugium (will be doing a sump 2.0 in a couple of weeks time) 

Did not quarantine my 1st couple of corals and one of them had about 10 small aiptasia. Manage to kill them all fortunately (Take it out, dig deep and dig out the aiptasias and soak coral in strong mix of H2O2 (50/50) 

Added a camel shrimp that attack my candy cane and took out a chuck of the brain. Was a nightmare to catch it. 

Having the salinity wrong from the inaccurate refractometers. No idea why as this is a common tool. Maybe the ones I got (2 in total) are junk quality. Likewise 2 swing arms gives 2 different readings.  

Stacked rocks too high, unable to put larger corals on top of it.

The most stupid mistake ever made (don’t laugh) is I thought I bought a coral when it is a anemone. What a joke. Manage to return it but super embarrassed. I am still learning about corals.

That’s it. Hope other newcomers and experienced reefers can offer your advise and insights to my nano reef keeping journey.

Attached a short clip of my tank.

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  • 2 months later...

Nice scape! I have similar problem with my leather until I give it a direct flow. They seem to be constantly releasing "mucus "and thus need the flow to help them shed off. I have a similar size tank as you at 60L!

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  • 3 weeks later...

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