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So You're Ready For A Nano Reef?
I must admit I was a bit leary to try the jump to Saltwater tanks because since I was a kid, people always told me that Saltwater tanks are a pain, or difficult or both. Because of this, I always stayed on the Freshwater side of the store. Now......

After many months of having this website built, we have received quite alot of email asking us various questions about the setup and maintenance routines for our Nano Reef. This page will be dedicated to the Setup and Maintenance of our AGA 7 Gallon MiniBow Nano Reef.
Hopefully this page will help others in their quest for information on different Nano Reef setups. If you do not see something pertaining to our Setup and Maintenance on this page that you feel should be listed here, please feel free to contact us with your questions or ideas.
Choosing The Tank
Our Nano Reef after it was first setup. You can see a Spray Bar I created in this picture that ended up not being used.When I started doing research about Nano Reefs back before our tank had been started, I found that people were using all different sized tanks up to 30 gallons for Nano Reefs. Our Nano Reef is kept in the bed room, so the main issues to overcome were the size, the look (outside look), and sound (or lack of it). My decision to go with an A.G.A. Minibow 7 Gallon tank was based mainly on these points initial points of concern as well as basic preferance. I really liked the way that the Minibow looked setup as a Nano Reef on other peoples websites. I also liked the fact that the Minibow could be setup without the clutter of any additional equipment such as a sump, skimmer, or large fans. This helps keep the actual system itself looking very nice and compact.

To prepare the tank for water, I cutout a space in the plastic tank lid so the Hang On Back filter (HOB filter) would fit on the tank, and put a permanent background on the tank as well. The tank lid has some prefab slats that can easily be pulled out that are meant to be spots for the HOB Filter, but I cut out my own custom fit slot using a Dremel Tool. I wanted good tank coverage so if a fish ever jumped on us, it would end up back in the tank instead of on the floor.
(note: so far no jumpers.)

To put a permanent background color on the tank, I went with Krylon spray paint which I purchased at WalMart. Krylon spraypaint is safe to paint on vinyl and rubber, so I figured this would be the safest on if it were to get onto the aquarium silicon. I made sure to mask off the tank very well before painting, and ended up putting on 4 or 5 coats of paint. Be careful after you paint the tank, because it can scratch pretty easily. Don't ask how I know that, grrr.

Minibow Lighting
CSL 32 Watt Retrofit LightingAfter choosing our tank, the next major consideration was lighting. I went with the Custom Sea Life 32watt Smartlight Retrofit Kit that costs right around 40$-50$, and seemed to be a proven bulb/ballast combination in other peoples experiences. The Retrofit kit fits very nicely into the existing lightstrip that the Minibow comes with. Putting the new lighting into the lightstrip was extremely easy.

The most difficult part was drilling holes into the reflector to make the holes on the reflector line up with the screw holes on the lightstrip. The way I accomplished marking the holes was to put some of Liza's nail polish onto the screw posts in the lightstrip. I then put the reflector into the lightstrip as it was to sit making sure to push down in the area of the screw posts. When you pull up the reflector, there will be nail polish marks where to drill the holes.

Dealing With Heat Issues Caused By Lighting
After installing our new lighting and trial running our tank with water in it, I found that the tank was running fairly hot. To help decrease heat, the first thing I did was remove the glass between the light and the water. This was easily done using an exacto knife to seperate the glass from the silicone that holds it into the canopy. Removing the glass helps both with bringing down the temperature, as well as promoting gas exchange by evaporation which is very important in a tank this size.

I performed one other proactive measure concerning the heat issue in our Nano Reef. As an added precaution, to keep the tank temperature down to 80 in the summertime, I added a small computer fan directly to the back of the lightstrip. The fan that I decided on was from Radio Shack and the part number for reference is CAT NO 273-240. I am happy with this fan, but it is a little bit loud, in fact, it sounds like a computer.... Go figure. To run the fan, I also picked up a basic AD/DC converter.

The fan and lighting is all on the same powerstrip which is then running on a timer. This insures that when the lights come on in the morning, the fan comes on as well. At night when the lights turn off, the fan turns off as well.

Lighting Schedule
Our lighting is run on a basic timer for 12.5 hours on and 11.5 hours off. This lighting regimen has worked well for our Nano Reef and has produced great growth rates with our corals.

Other Heat Issues
In the winter, nights get much colder than the reef ever should, so we have installed a Tronic 50watt fully submersible heater. The heater was set to temp (80 Degrees Farenheit) during the initial test running of the tank. I have used Tronic brand heaters for quite some time with Freshwater Tanks and have had only good experiences with them. I have not read any bad press on the various reef boards about these heaters either.

Water Movement
To move water in our Nano Reef, I have employed a MiniJet404 Powerhead and a Whisper 10-15 HOB Filter. The MiniJet404 is working well for us and is very quiet. These powerheads are adjustable flow, but I have it running on the highest setting possible. The MiniJet 404 is rated to flow at 108 gallons per hour. It sounds like alot for 7 gallons of water, but it really is not that strong of a flow. The HOB Filter and Powerhead are setup at opposite ends of the tank so their currents intersect in the center of the tank. This seems to create some nice haphazard currents.

The Whipser HOB Filter is running with no filter media and is used for water movement alone. In order to create more of a waterfall effect and to help with surface scum in the tank, I have added length of tubing that is around 1" thick to go between the rim of the tank and the HOB filter. This extra 1" of height helps water movement and seems to keep the surface scum a non issue. note: I have also heard of people cutting the outflow slide on the HOB filter to create more of a waterfall.

To handle filtration in our Nano Reef, we are using Fiji Live Rock, Live Sand, and Diligent Water Changes (see maintaining our Nano Reef). We chose almost 9lbs of premium cured Fiji Liverock from our (LFS) Local Fish Store and around 8lbs of Live Sand. We also put down 2lbs of Aragonite beneath the live sand because we happened to have some on hand. I learned about using Live Rock for filtration from the various reef boards and people's experiences. This method of filtration has worked very well for us.

Daily Routine

Liza is in charge of daily freshwater topoffs gaining her the friendly nickname of "auto topoff unit" which she has definitely earned over the months since our Nano has been setup. We use RO/DI water that we purchase by the gallon at our Local Fish Store.

Weekly Routine
Every week I perform a 1 gallon Saltwater change on the tank using premixed Saltwater that we purchase by the gallon at our Local Fish Store. Our Local Fish Store mixes their RO/DI water with Tropic Marin salt mix, and I would recommend this salt to others since it has worked so well in our tank. Our salt is mixed to a specific gravity of 1.024. When removing the 1 gallon of water from the tank, I vacuum out Planaria, Coralline eating Starfish, and excess deitrous if it is obvious. The vacuum I made is simply a piece of Rigid Airline Tubing and a piece of regular Airline Tubing as a small aquarium vacuum. The rigid Airline Tubing is great for vacuuming planaria from rocks.

To get the replacement water closer to the tank temperature, I just put the gallon container in a sink with some hot water in it. After I am done with the tank vacuuming, the water temperature has usually come up nicely in the gallon container.

Also, weekly we decide if anything needs pruning. Corals and Macroalgae need pruning in such a small environment. Xenia for instance is almost invasive by nature since it grows so quickly and needs to be pruned regularly so it will not take over neighboring corals. If Liza is around, I always ask her very nicely to hold the light up for me when pruning the tank or moving corals. I also remind her every time she holds my life in her hands.

Feeding Routines

We feed our Clownfish a couple times a day with small food pellets (not sure on the maker) and also the red type of frozen Formula One every few days to switch it up. We feed a small pinch of the Frozen Formula One food directly into the tank and it gets around. We purchase the Frozen Formula One as a flat piece in a bag so it is easy to pinch off small amounts. We received the small food pellets in a foil pouch with no name or logos from a local reefer. The Clown seems to like the Formula One much better than the pellets.

Our Squamosa Clam gets fed live Phytoplankton that we purchased from Marine Depot. Some local fish stores stock live Phytoplankton, but ours doesn't. I dose approximately 3ml of live Phytoplankton twice weekly.

Our Bubble Tip Anenome gets fed once a week or so a small piece of seafood. So far we have fed shrimp, scallops, and Formula One. It seems to eat them all, but spits out the shrimp pieces after many hours. It does not spit out the scallops or formula one.

Products We Use
All Glass Mini-Bow Aquarium
Tropic Marin Sea Salt
Frozen Formula One (red)
Custom Sea Life Power Compact Lighting
Whisper HOB Filters
MiniJet Powerheads
Tronic Heaters
Salifert Calcium Test Kits (Calcium, Alkalinity)
Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Test Kits (Nitrite, Nitrate, PH)
Marine Depot Refractometer
Boyd Enterprises Chemi Clean
Krylon Spraypaints
Zap Gel