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Below is the sand and rock i used for my saltwater nano reef aquarium. Also some information on the cycling process of this aquarium.

CaribSea Live Reef Sand SAND: I used all 20lbs of the live sand, which gave me a base height of 1” of sand throughout the entire aquarium. Great looking sand and would buy again. I found that Amazon had the best price on this sand and with free shipping, I saved some money.

The sand is a whitish/Pink in color and shows off in my nano aquarium very well. The sand texture is course in size but not too small like fine sand. Didn’t rinse the sand before putting into the tank because I didn’t want to remove any of the natural bacteria that’s in this sand. That’s why I made sure I bought an aquarium that incorporated a filter sock to clean fine particles like sand silt from the water column. Within two days my aquarium was crystal clear and replaced the filter sock with a new one.

ROCK: The South Sea Rock is awesome to say the least. The rock had plenty of nooks and crannies and the color of the rock you can’t beat. Best of all, no curing needed. I went with the lighter color rock because I felt it would help me determine what was going on with my saltwater aquarium when it came to algae growth (Good or Bad). With much darker rock colors (Purple Rock), you can’t always see all the algae growth because of the darker color of the rock. Plus, in my opinion the lighter color shows of corals and fish better. I bought two boxes (10lb each box) of this to give a good verity of rock shapes and sizes. As a rule, they say you need at least 1lb of rock per gallon of saltwater. I know I didn’t use all 20lbs of rock in my saltwater nano aquarium. I roughly used between 12-14 lbs. of rock. Using all 20lbs of rock would be too much rock for this size of aquarium unless this was going to be an all fish aquarium.

While building the rock structure I definitely wanted to have some hiding places for fish and to create a more realistic ocean environment while looking at my nano aquarium. Since I knew this nano aquarium would have mostly corals in it. It was important not to build the rock structure to high off the sand floor.

SALTWATER AND RO WATER: I decided early on that I didn’t want to be mixing my own saltwater at home. Just didn’t have the room and space to do that. So, I bought several 5 Plastic Containersgallon containers at my local aquarium store so I could transport the aquarium saltwater from the store to home. Even though the JBJ aquarium is rated at 25 gallons, with sand and rock added. I only needed 20 gallons of saltwater for the entire tank, so 4, 5 gallon containers did the trick.

Try buying your saltwater from the same aquarium store your buying your corals and fish from, this helps in faster coral and fish acclimation to a new aquarium and reduces overall stress. Plus knowing your using the same saltwater as your local aquarium store, salinity levels will be the same.

I also decided early on I wasn’t going to spend the money on a RO filtration system since I lived in an apartment. So, I bought two 2.5 gallon containers at my local aquarium store so I could transport the aquarium RO water from the store to home. I always keep at least 1 container full of RO water on hand for aquarium evaporation and cleaning.

LIVE BACTERIA STARTER: Did add Brightwell Aquatics Microbacter Start XLM to kick start the cycling of my nano aquarium. Follow the directions and don’t overdose since this is a very small aquarium. Between using live sand and this product, over dosing isn’t needed. Just be patient and let nature take its course.

BIOFILTER GEMS: Added MarinePure Biofilter Media Gems to the rear filtration system to have a higher surface area for growing bacteria and algae.

LIGHTING: As a rule, they say you shouldn’t leave your lights on while cycling your saltwater aquarium. I did just the opposite. I left my lights on the entire time to kick start the cycling process and to promote algae growth faster. Lights were set at 100% blue and 30% white while cycling this nano aquarium. Once I started to see any algae growth (end of weeks 2), I reduced the light intensity to 50% Blue and 10% White to slow down the algae growth (At least in theory) before getting out of control. At this time, my lighting is still set at (Blue 50%, White 10%).

The Aquarium Cycle: To be totally honest, im not sure when the aquarium cycle came full circle. I placed my first two corals in my aquarium in week 3 and used the corals as a gauge on how well the aquarium was doing. I did testing for Salinity (PPH) and made sure the temperature of the aquarium was consistent all the time. Salinity at 1.025 (PPH) and temperature between 76-79 degrees. In week 5, I concentrated on raising my Alkalinity (DKH) from a low of 7.6 DKH to 8.6 DKH to help with better coral growth and the overall stabilities of my saltwater aquarium. I used Tropic Marin All-For-Reef to raise the Alkalinity to the levels I was looking for plus raising Calcium (PPM) levels along the way (410 PPM).

I realize that the way I cycled my nano aquarium with the lights on the entire time will be very controversial and I’m sure I will be criticized for it. My logic is that at some point after turning on your lights after cycling your aquarium (let say, 4 weeks or so) you will get algae growth. Some people have mild algae grown and some have out of control algae growth once they turn on the lights for the first time. Every aquarium is different and will cycle differently even if you have the same size aquarium as I do and bought exactly everything as I did. Your aquarium will still react differently to cycling because there so many other factors that affect cycling and algae growth. For example, is your aquarium exposed to outside light? Is the temperature of your aquarium to high? Are you using live rock in your aquarium? These are just some factors that will affect your aquariums cycling and algae growth.

I start the cycling process sooner by keeping the lights on the entire time and then reduce your lighting once you started seeing algae growth. Plus, let’s keep in mind that this is a very small aquarium (20 gallons of total water volume) and if things got out of control with algae growth. I could mix it much easier compared to a much larger aquarium let’s say a 120 gallon aquarium or larger.

Another factor is the amount of cycle starter additives you add to your aquarium to kick start things. I think it’s fair to say most people overdose their aquariums thinking more is better when in reality, less is better. Overdosing your aquarium with cycle starter additives like Brightwell Aquatics Microbacter Start XLM could promote an outbreak of algae that’s out of control. So, my advice is follow the recommended dosage on the bottle and don’t overdose your aquarium.

Cycling an aquarium is a hot topic and widely debated between saltwater aquarium hobbyists around the world. You can find so much information on the internet regarding cycling saltwater aquariums that it can become overwhelming, and everyone seems to have the best answers when it comes to cycling. If you’re starting a saltwater aquarium for the first time, my advice to you is to talk with a friend that is in the hobby or find a local aquarium store and ask them there advice on cycling your aquarium.

CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Aquariam Sand

CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Aquariam Sand, 20lb - Bought on Amazon:

  • It is developed from CaribSea's cooperation with public aquariums and zoological parks, where authenticity is a must. Arag-Alive helps maintain a proper pH for the life of your aquarium without the constant addition of chemicals, and creates a biological balance to discourage nuisance algae. Arag-Alive contains millions of bacteria per pound specially engineered for aggressive waste reduction in closed systems like your aquarium.
South Sea Base Rock

South Sea Base Rock, 10lb box - Bought on Amazon

  • No curing needed
  • South Seas is ready to use right away.


Brightwell Aquatics Microbacter Start XLM

Brightwell Aquatics Microbacter Start XLM - Bought on Amazon

  • Live Bacteria Culture to Establish Biological Filtration and Nitrification in Saltwater Marine Reef tanks
  • Professional strength live tank starter nitrifying bioculture for rapidly cycling new fish and reef aquariums in 5-7 days
CerMedia MarinePure Marine Pure Biofilter Media Gems

CerMedia MarinePure Biofilter Media Gems - Bought on Amazon

  • High Surface Area Biofilter Media
  • Great for Nano Tanks
  • Country Of Origin: USA
  • MarinePure Gems Are Approximately 3/4" In Diameter.


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