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 (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



#TinyTankChallenge – CB Edition!

Guess what tiny human is hoppin’ into tiny tanks for 2016? Me. That’s who. CB. And boy, am I gosh diggity dang excited.

My secret not-so-secret is I actually already have experience with Tiny Tanks. Due to space limitations, I drained an old 20 gal and swapped it for a 2 gallon shrimp tank about two years back. I’ve also got a fluval spec III 2.8 gallon hanging out on my desk for a couple months now that I’ve been using for excess plant storage since its betta tenant died, so this challenge is a good excuse to get it back on track.

Marvel at my algae bloom excess plants.

My super nerdy and very loose inspiration is That Forest in That Movie.


“That Movie” is also called Princess Mononoke.

I plan to accomplish this obviously-achievable-in-real-life-cartoon-forest look by using old java moss that I’ve been keeping in a critter carrier for a duration of time that is estimated to be approximately-Too-Long, and tying it down the the everloving surface of everything.


Mmmmmm. Mossy.

And also maybe tie a plant on some driftwood to make a tree. Who really knows at this point, not me, because I’m a professional*.

I’m only purchasing a couple new things for this challenge, namely a new light which I got yesterday, and hopefully a nice piece of driftwood if I can find one that fits in just the way I want. The rest are recycled supplies, but I’ll go ahead and list them anyway with rounded up prices that I got them for when I got them! Exception is plants, which I took from my old tank and had grown from some pretty sad ones that I took off a friend’s hands years back, so those fellas cost me nothin’. So if you also want to use plants I highly suggest you make friends with people who have some and take theirs because you love them.

Fluval Spec III, $20, used (these things go on sale ALL THE TIME, by the way, so always wait for the drop in price if you like this particular fish house)
13w clip on light, $25 (these too go on sale ALL THE TIME.)
25w submersible heater, $10, used (the same hydro heater Ethan is using, they’re reliable and don’t acquire that awful knocking sound that most submersible heaters end up with)
-GRAVEL, $5 I’ll be using plants that feed from the water column as opposed to substrate, so no need to start with a rich substrate. No link because it’s just some rocks.

Total is sitting at $65. No filter being purchased on this one because the spec has a very overpowered unit already built in.

So that’s it before I drain the thing and actually start. Join me next time as I drown a naughty piece of driftwood for days before throwing it in, and try to decide on what critters to stick in here. Probably a betta, because I like them and the tank is already modded to accommodate one. Definitely some cherry or ghost shrimp, because I like them even more.

This is my old fish. This fish is dead now. Maybe I will get another just like him, but less dead.

*I’m not a professional.

Tiny Tank, Tiny Shrimp

Hi, I’m Diana and I’m new to Parlour Oceans. When BlackMudPuppy posted the Tiny Tank Challenge on Twitter I decided to join the fun and try something new. I have (redacted) years of experience keeping aquariums but right now I’m down to one: a 125 gallon community tank with live plants.

Jan 2016

When I decided to accept the the challenge I wanted to try something different. I thought about salt water (which I haven’t done before), brackish water, maybe something for an amphibian. But the challenge has a price limit and the poison dart frogs that I’d really like to try are seriously pricey. Maybe next year. And since small tanks are harder than big tanks I thought I’d be more successful with freshwater, where most of my experience has been.

If you Google “planted aquariums” you will find some spectacular tanks. My tank does not look like that. It’s really a community tank with plants. So that’s my Personal Challenge. I plan to device a spectacular scenic planted aquarium. With Shrimp.

To date I have bought a 5.5 gallon tank for $13.99, a thermometer for $2.99, and a filter bag for $2.99. I’ve also ordered an in-tank filter for$11.99 and a small heater for $17.59. I already have excess substrate, decorations and a hood to finish things off.


My biggest concern is my water supply. My tap water is very, very soft (carbonate hardness of around 50 ppm or 3 degrees). This means the pH can change quickly (and, in fact, my tap water pH varies between under 6 and up to nearly 8!). So I plan to add a layer of crushed coral under the plant substrate to help modify the hardness in the Tiny Shrimp Tank. Fingers crossed that this works.

Once I get the filter and heater I’ll start cycling the water and getting ready for the plants!

#TinyTankChallenge – Brian

I thought I’d give a little more detail on my #tinytankchallenge project. Like Ethan, I will be using a “standard” 2.5-gallon tank. Unlike Ethan, I will be creating a freshwater biotope aquarium using plants and fish from the White Cloud Mountain area of China. White Cloud Mountain is the type location (the place where a species is first found) for the White Cloud Mountain minnow (Tanichthys albonubes), my feature species.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow, Tanichthys albonubes. Photo by sannse. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

A biotope aquarium, as I mentioned in my previous post, is an aquarium that uses livestock and design elements from a specific geographic region. This can be as precise as only choosing plants and fish from a particular spot in a particular stream, or as general as using plants and fish from the same watershed, or even just the same country-of-origin.
As far as equipment goes, I’ll be using a 2.5-gallon tank I had on hand for another project that never came to fruition. I’m happy to put it to good use here! I will not be using a lid so I can maximize the light reaching the plants.


I’m using a fine gravel substrate that I purchased when it went on clearance ages ago. At the time, I think I may have paid a dollar for the bag, but a five-pound bag of this kind of gravel typically runs around $5 or so. Plants prefer a finer grain, and I’ve done really well growing all sorts of rooted plants in this type of gravel. I do realize that this isn’t “plant substrate”, but I’ve had good success using this less expensive gravel and occasionally supplementing with root tab-type fertilizer pellets.


Filtration will be provided by a small hang-on-back filter that I’ll actually hang on the side of the tank to create a nice current. This will mimic the flow found in sluggish streams, similar to the ones in which White Cloud minnows live. The filter cost $22.50 at an LFS (local fish store).


I will use this small LED light bar to light the tank. The LED light cost $19.99. This tank light has a number of benefits: it’s very bright, it has a small size, and therefore it doesn’t use much power. One negative feature is that it IS so small, so I may end up getting something else. Updates to come! The tank won’t need a heater, since the plants and fish all come from cool-water habitats.


Current Project Costs:

  • Filter – $22.50
  • Light – $19.99
  • Gravel – $1.00
  • Tank – $9.99
  • Total – $53.48

So that’s where I’m at coming up to the beginning of the year. Next steps include rinsing the gravel of dust, research into the species of plants found in the type location, locating those plants for purchase, and starting the cycling process in the tank itself.

Stay tuned!


Hey guys! My #tinytankchallenge project is going to be a 2.5 gallon “pico reef” tank. I haven’t completely decided on what I’m stocking it with yet (probably some zoas and frags from my big tank which won’t cost me anything), but I just ordered most of my equipment, so I thought I’d get things rolling with that.


I had a $50 Amazon gift card from my birthday, so I’ve technically only spent ~$40, however, for fairness sake, total so far is $68.48 US dollars. I didn’t need to buy a lid, since the tank came with one, nor substrate, since I already had a bag of crushed coral lying around. (I’m not counting that anyway, because lots of people like bare-bottomed reef tanks, so this was optional). CXehKVeUAAA0usSI also have a small powerhead handy I may use, depending on how powerful that little filter is. For live rock (which will be doing most of my filtering, I have a bunch of small chunks I can scavenge from the big tank, but I may buy one nice piece from the local shop, which will probably put me right at the $100 mark.

I went with the 25 watt heater, even though it’s about 3X what I actually need because I’ve had good luck with that brand and didn’t want to chance an off-brand, pre-set betta heater, which is basically what all 10 watt aquarium heaters are. Funny, probably a better chance of cooking your tank with one of those than a decent thermostat controlled heater at a higher wattage.

I chose the filter I did because of the thin build. A lot of people use Aquaclear filters because they add the most water volume, but they’re significantly more expensive, around $40 or $50 and I’m really just using it for some chaeto algae. The reviews on this filter were generally good (quiet) and since it’s going on a desk in an office, I liked that the pump was internal and the external case is one solid piece so there’s no chance of a leak. I may have to mod the pump to slow it down by removing one or two of the impeller blades.

There really isn’t room for a fish in this tank, besides maybe a small goby, but I’ll probably have some micro-brittle stars, snails and such. Maybe an emerald crab.

The Desktop Challenge!

Starting this January 1st, some fish-head friends and I are starting what we’re calling the 2016 Desktop Challenge. We each are designing and building a small aquarium that could be kept on a desk or a strong shelf. The idea behind the Challenge is not to compete against each other, but to challenge ourselves as we practice our aquarist skills and promote the hobby. IMG_7374

The parameters for the challenge are as follows: the tank size must be less than five gallons, and the project must cost less than $100. Other than that, the rest is up to the individual aquarist. Freshwater or saltwater, aquarium or paludarium, with fish or without fish, biotope aquarium or community tank, the possibilities are endless!

From en.wikipedia: White Cloud Mountain Minnow, Tanichthys albonubes. Photo by sannse. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

My own entry will be housed in a 2.5-gallon glass aquarium. I am researching plants and hardscape for a Southeast Asia biotope aquarium. A biotope aquarium is one where all the plants, fish, other livestock, and design elements come from the same geographic location. White cloud minnows have always been one of my favorite aquarium fish species, and few of them will do really well in a small, planted, unheated tank.

We want to invite anyone who wants to set up a desktop aquarium of his or her own to join us this new year. We’re here to offer advice on equipment, setup, livestock choices, and any other question a beginner may have. Follow us on Twitter, using the hashtag #tinytankchallenge, to find the participants, get updates on our progress, ask questions, and show us YOUR progress!

Happy New Year!