Budget Nano Reef Cube Tank Setup

45cm cube with unique overhead sump setup
45cm cube with unique overhead sump setup

The big day has arrived and I was all set to set up my first ever marine tank. It would be a FOWLR setup, and then when I’ve done more research on corals would I then convert it to a full reef tank. Well, at least that is the plan for now.

Equipment List

Remember, what I am trying to achieve here is to spend as little money as possible for a reef tank. It seems like most of the items I used for planted tank cannot be used here. Arrrg.

TankANS OPTICLEAR Tank 45C (45cm X 45cm X 45cm)
FiltrationSingle chamber acrylic overhead sump tank.
Protein SkimmerBubble Magnus QQ1 HOB Skimmer
Surface SkimmerEheim Skim350
LightsChihiros A-Series for marine reef tank
CoolingBoyu FS-120A Cooling fan
Wave PumpSun Sun Wave Maker JVP110
Wave MakerJebao SW-2 Wave Maker
Up flow pump900L/hr power head
ATO SystemAuto watering timer for gardening
Substrate5kg REVOREEF® 3DM REEF-SAND
Dry Rocks10kg REVOREEF® 3DM REEF-ROCK
Marine SaltRed Sea Salt 4kg

Of the above list, the only item that I could bring over from my planted tank setup was the tank itself. Other than that everything else I had to purchase new. 😓

Of the above list, the most expensive item I had to spend was the REVOREEF 3DM Reef-rock. It cost an average of $15/kg. 😰

Step 1 – Disinfecting and setting up

Assuming you have gotten yourself a new tank, otherwise I hope you had a great time cleaning the old tank setup. I spend an entire day removing substrate from the previous setup and bleaching the tank.

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It is perfectly safe to bleach the tank! Do not use detergent. There are plenty of people giving out formula on bleach to water ratio. For me, I emptied 2 litres of bleach and fill up this 100 litre tank. You can tell if there’s bleach in the water by smelling on the residue on your hand. If you can smell bleach it is good enough.

To remove the bleach later on, simply use your usual chlorine neutraliser like the Seachem Prime/Safe. I use Safe as it is only a fraction of the cost of Prime, but it is in powder form.

Steps to neutralise the bleach

  1. Empty the water from the tank just like you are performing a water change.
  2. Fill the tank up with water again to the brim!
  3. Pour in 10x the strength of the chlorine neutraliser.
  4. Place a powerhead or water pump in to aid water circulation.
  5. Smell the water for any sign of chlorine.
  6. Keep adding the chlorine neutraliser until the smell of chlorine is gone.
  7. Let the water sit a couple of hours.
  8. Repeat the process one more time.

If this is your first aquarium I strongly advice you to buy a strong cabinet or stand because it will not be possible to replace them later on should you find your cabinet rotting or warping. Also you will need to get one of those sponge matt to equalise the pressure between the tank and your cabinet/table surface.

Next I relocated the power sockets to a higher location. Previously it was lying on the floor! 🤪 This is important!

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And I bought a roll of velcro cable strap to help with cable management. For 5 METERs of velcro strap for just USD5! A meter cost about USD3 though.

Step 2 – Fill up and leak observation

My next step was to fill it up with water, put in overdose of Seachem Safe (Prime is the same except Safe is in powder form and much cheaper if you have multiple aquariums).

I left the water to sit for 24 hours and turn on all pumps and wave maker to test for leaks which may have developed during the cleaning process. It is also a good practice to ensure whatever chlorine you used to disinfect the tank can be neutralised.

Immediately, I identified a severe problem with my overhead sump. The downflow pipe is creating A LOT of bubbles. This is due to either the upward pump is under rated or the down flow is excessive.

For now, I would prefer to stick with the up flow rate and reduce the down flow rate. To do that, I simply place a L pipe into the sunk hole and wah lah! No more bubble!

Step 3 – Salt Mixing

This part is completely up to individual.

to be continued…

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