Nano Cube Reef 24G #1

I have been setting up a Nono Cube as a Reef aquarium and the experience BEGS to be blogged and blogged it will be. I have been mostly quiet for the last couple of weeks, having been caught by an AdSense jail. If you do not know what that is, maybe it is a new phrase!

I had been planning to setup a reef tank for quite some time and the time and the money were right. I bought a 24 Gallon, JBJ Lighting Nano Cube from eBay. It was a good purchase and the seller was more than helpful. If anyone is considering buying one of these, I will be glad to set you up with Joe Granato. Good guy, good prices. I digress.

I had done a lot of reading on Nano Cubes and Nano Reefs but every suggestion was different. The only common strain was that it was expensive, filled with frustration and very, very patience intensive. My only problem with this formula was the expense. I do not consider myself an expert aquarist but I have reared African Cichlids with relative success for quite a while now and I know my way around freshwater fish. That hobby is cheap compared to reefkeeping, but the rewards are HUGE and I really look forward to the trials and tribulations. The Nano Cube was a good choice for me because of a few reasons. The unit is self contained for the most part. The glass aquarium is curved and contains two 36Watt 50/50 Actinic and 10,000 K bulbs with their own ballasts, just about enough for a reef tank. There is a three stage filter built into the back of the aquarium which is nice and out of the way. There is no heater or Protein skimmer, which is a problem. I have added a 50 watt pre-calibrated heater to the setup. I will probably get a SeaClone Protein Skimmer in a couple of months. The protein skimmer is going to require some serious modifications to the structure of the aquarium, but that will have to wait.

In the meantime, I have a found a reef store that is owned by “Gary”. He specializes in new reefkeepers and even had written instructions for setting up a new reef tank. His methods are completely unorthodox and do not match with anything that I have read or seen on the internet. But I believe him. He is friendly, courteous and a good businessman. Here are the first few steps according to him:

(PS: If you have read this far, you are probably interested in reefkeeping yourself and need to get yourself a rig!)

  1. You need to purchase the following:
    • An aquarium, buy what you feel comfortable with, the larger the better. Just remember that you have to pre-mix the saltwater for every water change. For me, a 24 Gallon was plenty big since I did not want to pre-mix more than a couple of gallons every couple of weeks. (20% water change every 2 weeks) $100-Anywhere!
    • A filtration system. Some reef places will say that three stage filtration systems are bad for reefs. The hobby has moved away from that philosophy. Get yourself at least 0.12 gallons per gallon per hour of water movement in terms of filtration. So in my case. I have a 24 gallon tank with a 200GPH (Gallons per hour) filter. Hang on filters are easy to maintain and very easy to setup. Cartridge filters are nice because they require little or no maintainance. I prefer the bio wheel kind, but thats just me. The more the water moves, the better. $30 Upwards
    • A heater if you are in a cold clime. Twice the number of gallons is good. So a 24 G tank would do well with a 50W heater. Pre-calibrated (pre determined temperature settings) means you do not have to guess. Heaters do NOT do well plugged in and out of the water. $10 Upwards
    • Lights. This is a sticky subject and anything you buy WILL be reaplced soon enough. You cannot have enough light in your reef tank. Start with at least 3.2 Watts per Gallon of water. More is better. A reef tank WILL require Actinic Lighting and/or Metal Halide if you can afford it. Start with small, buy more if you want or see something better. I have 2 36 Watt 50/50 Tubes which provide me with both the Acitinic Blue spectrum and the 10,000 Kelvin spectrum. Enough for now. $100 upwards
    • Ground Probe. Saltwater aquariums are extremely prone to getting shorted out and any stray electrivity is really bad for your aquarium. Get yourself a ground probe that grounds your aquarium and kill stray electricity. About $10 bucks but worth it.
    • Stress Coat and Stress Zyme. Essential chemicals that nutralize the chloramine and chlorine in your aquarium and provide beneficial bacteria for new aquariums. Do not be cheap here. These ten buks will prevent loss of livestock
    • Crushed coral substrate. About 0.7 Pounds per gallon is needed. Buy more if you like. This crushed coral is REALLY particulate. It will cloud your water when you add it and there is not much to be done. Just wait.
    • Misc items. Buy yourself a good net and a good thermometer if you do not already have one. Gravel vacs are cheap. Get one of those as well.
    • Test Kit. I bought the Master test kit which is nice. I would have preferred a “dip” kit but thats the next purchase. I like the strip dip kits where you dip your strip and get the results in one shot. You WILL need a test kit. Get yourself the best value for all 4 tests (pH, Nitrate, Nitrite, Ammonia).
    • Hydrometer. I bought myself the manual meter but I think I would have liked the lectronic one better. A little more expensive, but much less hassle.
    • Base Rock. Buy as much as would look good in your quarium minus about ten pounds. Depending on the size of your aquarium.
    • Protein Skimmer. You will need one. Air stone skimmers are crap. You can wait a couple of moneths before getting one. Venturi skimmers are nice but pricey. Thats the best option in any case. I have not gotten one but will get the SeaClone 100 soon.
    • UV sterilizer. Again, you WILL need one, but can wait
    • Chemi Pure. I swear by this product. It levels pH, removes unwanted metals and provides negative ions for the inhabitants. It keeps working for 6 months and so is cheap. Get a big bottle and install as directed. You will never know the difference, which is the secret.
  2. Setup tank and gently rinse the crushed coral and put in tank. Do not overrinse since the crushed coral is very, very “dirty” and WILL cloud your water no matter what you do.
  3. Put in tank decorations including in kind of base rock (NOT live rock). Fill Tank
  4. Put in salt into the tank, no need to pre-mix. Put in stress coat if using city water. Set thermometer temperature to 78 degrees (leave in water for 20 minutes before plugging in)
  5. Plug in grounding probe, powerhead with pre-filter (if you have one) and protein skimmer on lowest setting
  6. Wait till Day 4 to tet pH. Should be between 8.0 and 8.3/ Test Salt Level. Want it to be at 1.024. Fix accordingly.
  7. On Day 8, test pH and salt level. If the levels are right, add Stress Zyme to water (and seven days from that day and 14 days from that day and once a week after that). ADD LIVE ROCK on this day. About 1/3 pound per Gallon is sifficient. Make sure the live rock is not covered or restricted in any way. Water should flow freely and the live rock should make direct contact with the base rock.

Come back in exactly seven days for the rest of the story. I promise I will blog it!

PS: I will promote Gary. He is a good businessman and takes care of his customers. If you need help, equipment or anything else, just call him at (419) 874-6504 and ask for Gary. If he wants to know who sent you, just say Nano Cube Mark did! :)

16 comments

  1. stack says:

    I’m bored at work and ran accross your nano blog and thought I’d give a couple tips. I’m by no means an expert but do keep some very successful tanks and have only happened upon that success by many past failures. As far as filtration goes bio-wheels or any type of wet/dry filtration is crap in the long run, complete nitrate factories. All you need is a generous amout of live rock (1 to 1-1/2lbs per gallon) and good water movement via powerheads. An internal filter is also good to run carbon continously or intermintantly depending on the needs of the tank. Don’t ever use stress coat, stress zyme, chemi pure, or any chemicals in any tank!!! Adding chemicals to remove chemicals is counter productive. Use a good quality buffer to raise and sustain PH and Alk. Stress coat is not needed if you are using purified water and purified (RO or RO/DI) should only be used in a reef. You can buy it at the grocery for .95 cents a gallon or invest in an RO/DI filter. Never use springwater, tapwater, or distilled water or you’ll learn why algae sucks in a reef tank. Stress Zyme is snake oil. Think about it; can live bacteria colonies really survive being manufactured, shipped in hot or cold trucks and sit on the shelf at the pet store for months and still be alive? Waste of money. With good cured live rock you should need no “seeding” of bacteria. Protein skimmer needs depend on your tank. If you have a lot of corals and only one or two very small fish I wouldn’t use one. Skimmers remove good things as well as bad and in a small tank you can easily strip the water of things your corals will thrive on. Setting up a fuge with xenia and/or macro algae is a much better way to export nutrients on a small tank. A fuge can also be setup for a reverse photoperiod which will keep your PH steady and prevent it from diving when the lights go out, very important on a small tank. Its not all that expensive when you don’t fall into the “I need this chemical and that filter” crap. Spend the money on good quality live rock and build yourself a fuge, then you can spend the money you saved on some leathers, shrooms, green star polyps, xenia, zoos. Good luck.

  2. Mark says:

    Wow. Good advice from experience! Thank you.

  3. Greg says:

    Read your comments while bored at work. I’ve been thinking about a Nano cube and setting up a “nano reef” in my office. i saw one recently at the local aquarium shop. it looked great. But, of course i had not gotten serious about it until I started on-line and checked out some sites. I ran across your comment by accident. Any suggestions on what to read before I make a purchase. I’ve had freshwater in the past, but got out of the fish business several years ago. I always thought “saltwater” was too much trouble, but over the years have come to find out it’s not that difficult once you get things set up. What are your thoughts about these new reduced size cubes for small reef development?

  4. wm renfro says:

    Nano Cube!!! == nano mess..I bought a new 24 gallon cube at Christmas for my wife’s present from a new dealer..He made it sound as though it was the best thing in the world for newbies getting into salt water aquariums. Now, it’s the first of June, the dealer’s close to going to jail,(fraud) he only got me for around $600.00, my fish are sick, my corals are dying, and the Nano-crap glass broke. Everything was fine at 3pm, left the house for an hour, and came back to a MESS!!! The cube’s glass had broken for no apparent reason; shattered like a stone on a windshield, water all over, leaked to the utility room, air conditioner/ furnace fuses smoked; who knows what else..Home owners insurance??.. If i could find JW, a.k.a fishtank, I’d shove the new and improved nano-crap-cube up his ass. Right now i have 2 nemo’s, an emerald crab, several snails, and all my expensive corals in 5 gallon buckets. I wonder if i’ll have any luck in getting anything resoved through the mfg…IN my opinion, if you’re looking for a nano-crap-cube, save yourself some trouble and buy a YUGO..

  5. Dave says:

    my 2cents. For the last guy, I’m sorry about the mess with the Nano system. I use and sell them my self without really any problems? Only problem has been a couple bad ballast in a new one and a old one that lasted a year and a half? I have read much on the net and as always there is pros and cons to everything. Hope it all works out and you do not total give up on the Hobby since it is one of the best out there!
    I have to agree on most of what the experaince stated. One thing I see left out is live sand! I would highly recommend it instead of crush coral being that the ocean substrate is basically sand and can promote natural behavior in some animals and make them more comfortable? Plus it is live with bacteria? (some may defer) but any case I have had luck myself with it so I will promote it. Salt is more chemistry and monitoring and little more maintenance but if you keep up with the micro/nano reefs they are not bad. I do not use a skimmer for several I use and I do use Ro/Di water and add Kent marines reef products to promote coralin algae and healthy corals and rocks.
    Just do a lot of research and ask a lot and you will be better off! Even though its like politics and one person will tell you one thing and another will tell you something else? Plus try to purchase tank raised animals and rock to help save the natural reefs.

    good luck

  6. James says:

    Give me a contact for Joe Granato, and an update on your tank… Nano Cube Mark. I was planning on the same protien skimmer in a 24 gallon setup so did you ever do this to yours? James

  7. Toby Williams says:

    Hey Guys! I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have a 100gal.tank, and I have been doing the “reef” thing for a few years.I am still learning new stuff all the time. I figured out it sucks if you ever have to move. I just bought a new house and My corals got stressed out and croaked from the move.(Still Learning) I figure I lost about $900.00 I am looking for a 24 gal. Nano for my son. By the way, Who has the best price on the net? From my personal experience, the Nano is small enough that you dont have to freak out over a Protein skimmer. You do need to do a “Weekly” water change of 25%(or about 4″ from the top” though. It should remove as much of the dissolved nutrients,as a skimmer would. With Less mess, and it would save the look of your cube. And to the guy that says “Wet/Dry” or Sump Filters are crap; and Nitrate Factory’s,I have a 250 gal. wet/dry with a built in skimmer and a 1100 gph flow. I have “very little or no nitrates” at any given time. I do regular water changes. The sump is excellant on larger tanks for CO2 Exchange. The more splash effect you can get out of a filteration system the better. These are only “My” Opinions. Everybody has em’. I hope this helps somebody. Toby

  8. Amy Gardnwer says:

    I have had my 12 gallon nano for about 10 months now and just recently it has begun to have pump problems. I am not sure what is going on. The powerhead is spurting out a mess of tiny bubbles. The cube is clouded with this gas. All I can tell is that it is not filtering properly and the powerhead hose is not getting water fast enough from the middle cavity. The first filter cavity\’s waterlevel is way too high,. I don\’t know if something is blocked. Could i release harmfull bacteria if I mess with those sponges? I had to turn off the jets untill I figure out what\’s wrong. Will it be okay over night \’till I can contact my local store?( when I turn it off, the three compartments fill up and the water level goes down. Problem resumes when turned back on) I love this thing, and don\’t want to sqrew it up. Pleas help

  9. deb kimble says:

    I am having the same exact problems as Amy with our 24 gallon! I was looking for answers to the same question! Help us!

  10. New Nano Cube Owner says:

    I\’m a new Nano Cube owner and am having trouble with the water levels in the rear compartments. When facing the aquarium, the compartment furthest to the right always does way down to the point and I have to constantly refill it. When I bought the tank off of this girl I think she showed me a plastic cover that could be removed that controlled the water level in these compartments. I can\’t find this cover now however. Do you know what I\’m talking about and is this what I need to solve this problem? Thanks in advance

  11. Heidi says:

    We have had a Nano Cube for 3 years and have not had any problems until tonight. We were getting ready to serve dinner when we heard a strange sound and turn around to find our Nano Cube glass broke down the side and water was pouring out. We have no idea why this happened, no one was even near it??

  12. joe says:

    ok, so, i have a question about your nano setup….it doesnt seem to me that the tank would get very good filtration because the water doesnt fall between the three different chambers. so, i dunno how it really forces the water to pass thru all the different filter media….in the first chamber for the cycle i have the sponges….in the second is the usual ceramic, bio balls carbon and the sponge holding it down…..it just seems like that after the water goes through the spongers (since it\’s all at the same level and doesnt have to use the little rectangles at the top or bottom between the chambers that the water wouldnt filter right………..any thoughts or am i just making no sense?

  13. Leighann Jones says:

    I\’ve had my nano cube for almost 2 years, bought it used from a co-worker. She had cleaned it and forgotten to replace the screws that hold the plastic cover over the lights which allowed moisture/salt to collect near the lights. I got it from her, replaced the lights and screws successfully. Trouble is that the metal portion that rests behind the lights, along with the little metal pins that attach the bulb to the wiring, are somewhat corroded. The light went out, so I bought another new bulb, but it wouldn\’t work after I replaced it. I took the bulb out, but now the attachment pins are breaking off. I can\’t figure out what to do to fix the problem, short of buying a replacement hood. Anyone have and advice/suggestions?

  14. Leighann Jones says:

    Cant find the question I posted. Anyone with advice, feel free to email me. joneski82@hotmail.com

  15. noob mariner says:

    commenter 6 and 7, you are having algae bloom, I will recommend do the water change about 10% every week, but your case you might have to have major water change 20% in twice week for one week and 10% per week. You should remove your sponge in your back chamber, specially you never clean it. it traps dirt and other stuff that creating high nitrate environment which is causing your algae bloom. Marine creatures are very sensitive to change in the water, due to they are adapted for vast ocean water. You need to keep your water quality high. you can check out the webwetmedia.com it will be really good resource for you guys. you don\’t actually have to get live rocks and sands, if you could get small piece or cup of live sand it will help seed your base rock and dry sand. I hope this help, if you have any question your welcome leave comments on my blog.

    thanks

  16. hcl tank says:

    Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m inspired! Very useful information specifically the closing section :) I deal with such information a lot. I was looking for this particular information for a very lengthy time. Thanks and good luck.

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