Tiny Tank Trials and Tribulations

I’m having some challenge with my tiny tank. No, not managing water quality in such a small space. Not even the budget (although I think that will get blown due to the problems listed below). Other things.

Like the filter. I set up this nice filter, worked great, then I tried to add some crushed coral to help harden our very, very soft tap water. Well, that slowed the filter down to a trickle. I’m going to have to re-think how I’ve got this set up, maybe take out some of the coral? I’m not sure yet. It’s a project for next weekend.


Then, the light. The one I had in the basement wasn’t working (it’s only about 20 years old) so I broke down and bought a new one. I very carefully chose one that was pictured on a framed glass tank.

Got it in today and, yeah, it’s not designed for a framed glass tank. I was able to carefully cut away some of the framing to fit the supports (with only 5 gallons I’m not worried about weakening the integrity of the tank by making the “frame” thinner). But then I tightened the screw that is important for bracing the light and…


Dammit. The tank cracked. It’s not leaking (yet) but I guess I’m going to have to buy a new one.

Did I say dammit yet?

And, of course, this happens the day I get my plants. Which look great! I’m thrilled with how this looks but replacing the broken light and the broken tank will push me over budget.

tiny tank with plants

Should have bought one of those kits off Amazon…

Can I start over?


Cuttlefish Update

So I woke up, checked the tank, and found eggs this morning. I count at least 3 but they’re all tucked away in the back, so it’s hard to see. There may be more. She’s not quite 5 months old, but I noticed one of the 4 acting differently this week; much more shy than usual, and then actually observed what looked like mating, so clearly I was wrong about having all males.  

#TinyTankChallenge — Ethan Update #1

I decided to take a calculated risk today. Since I used substrate, water and rock from an already established tank, and I’ll be doing frequent large water changes weekly, I decided to just go ahead and add a few TINY frags from my big tank. If I have a big ammonia spike I may lose them, but everything I keep is pretty hardy and has already endured some of my stupid mistakes.


A snail hitchhiker. Those zoas opened up about ten minutes after being introduced to the tiny tank. There’s some bubble algae in there, but hey, nobody’s perfect.


Also, speaking of hitchhikers, I have no idea what these tentacles belong to, but it came in on that rock and I’ve never seen it before. Some kind of anemone maybe?



#TinyTankChallenge – Brian Update #1

The tank is filled, the filter’s pumping, and the hardscape is all in!


To start, I tested the filter to make sure it worked. I hung it on the side of an operating tank for several days to help seed the filter media with beneficial bacteria. To continue cycling the tank, I added a couple of sinking food pellets to serve as a source of ammonia. I also tossed in a small handful of gravel from the existing tank to help seed those beneficial bacteria even more. The filter is nice and quiet, and is creating a nice gentle current across the tank.


I acquired some driftwood from an LFS. I knew it was going to be too big to fit, so I cut some of the end off with a coping saw. I then soaked it in dechlorinated water for a couple of days to make sure I leached out any excess tannins from the wood. When the water was all clear, I added it to the aquarium. I scrounged up some river stones from an old aquarium I have in storage to help add to the riverbank feel of the scene. I may tweak it a little more. I’m not entirely happy with the depth of the gravel, so I may change it once the plants are here.


I changed my mind and decided to use a lid on the tank to help reduce evaporation and to retain some heat. I made the lid out of a leftover acrylic sheet I had on-hand from another project. I cut custom notches in the lid to fit the filter and the clamp for the light, so the lid sits flush on top of the tank.

Finally, I was able to locate (on eBay) one of the location-specific plants needed to make this a true biotope setup. I’ve ordered the first batch of plants (some Blyxa japonica, sometimes called the bamboo plant), and they should be here by Tuesday!

s-l500Running total:

  • Previous spent: $53.48
  • Driftwood: $12.00
  • Bamboo Plants: $6
  • New total: $71.48

Wish me luck finding the rest of my plant list. Finding the right species is trickier than I thought!

Liz’s Pico Reef…?


(Sorry, I have to say that as a student at Texas A&M)

I’m joining the #tinytankchallenge because I study the intersection of science and leisure. Basically, keeping an aquarium is a leisure activity that is all about SCIENCE! I’m a grad student at TAMU and while I have limited time nowadays, I used to be HUGE into aquarium keeping! That’s how I got into studying it!

Anyway, as a cheap fish nerd I always look for found items that I can use in or as an aquarium. When I was bicycling down the street to last year work I saw a small glass tank and tiny HOB filter sitting in someone’s trash. It looks to be home made and is an 8″x8″x8″ cube. ADORABLE! So, I took it home.

I didn’t know what to do with it and was having motivation issues. I set up a 10g marine tank for a frogfish we caught in the gulf but when she laid eggs and croaked, the tank went to he11. I was not so sure I could maintain a marine aquarium during this point in my life. I’ve kept several before (20L reef, 58g reef, 100g tub reef), but never a pico.

Kermitta the frogfish laid eggs then croaked. 😦

I’ve been a bit indecisive about doing a marine tank… I’ve wanted to do a nice little planted FW tank with shrimp… but SW is calling…

So, I’ve taken Ethan’s advice and started looking at http://www.nano-reef.com (where I used to be very active, actually; I’m “Six”). Inspiration is stemming from my strange preoccupation with species-only aquaria as well as my interest in making things well… interesting. I read Anthony Calfo’s books on greenhouse reefing and I distinctly remember him using a concrete item in his reef that he grew fire coral on as a joke. That concrete item was a peeing boy:

pee boy.jpg

So I’m leaning towards a single coral species tank, probably metallic green star polyp (gsp), that is trained to encrust on something funny (but it would have to be TINY!). Or, perhaps I’ll make a bonsai-looking treescape? Or a farm scape with little goats and chickens on the GSP? The possibilities are endless!

  • 8x8x8″ cube tank = $0.00
  • small HOB filter = $0.00
  • ridiculous ideas = priceless

Thanks for reading! Follow me on twitter for more updates! @LizMarchio