Cali Kid Corals

tribbitt's 20L Nano Build


Supporting Member
Last four months have been crazy, went from reef-tankless and sad, to tankful (?) and broke lol

Custom-designed stand, built from 2x4s w/ wall tether (overbuilt for earthquakes)
Petco Aqueon 20 gallon long tank
Aquaclear 70 HOB filter
Caribsea Arag-alive special grade sand (20lb)
Dry rock
Aqamai LRs50 Kessil A360N light

I'm lucky enough that I was gifted a light: the Hydor Aqamai LRs50. It's a 50w LED light, almost AI style with the little compact circle of LEDs. I also tossed some media into my LFS's sump a couple weeks beforehand, and was allowed to collect cycled media on tank startup.

The tank being set up next to my freshwater system:


I then spend two hours scaping the tank. It'll turn out later that I scaped badly: while I did add a lot of surface area, in certain areas there wasn't enough clearance to the glass, and some entire "surface area" was very steep: i'll have to rotate some rocks to better the scape later.


Filling the tank (this took all day because I had no RO reservoir: I had to ferry the water back and forth one gallon at a time, in a milk jug



It cleared up a little the next day, and I played with the lights a little.



First inhabitants after cycling: 3 hermit crabs (2 pictured here)


First uglies! I was genuinely excited about this stage, as I had read about this extensively. I would very quickly grow tired of the algae haha


Shortly after, I got four corals within a week: First, an unhappy (no flesh band) green tip hammer, and later a small zoa colony, and a green and plain leather. The green leather, unfortunately, died. It just started to collect algae, and eventually started to fall apart. I removed it when it started to mush. The plain leather is on the right side, behind the rock.

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First four months, continued:

I get a small anemone and some rock flowers:


I go on vacation immediately after adding the anemone (scary, yes, I know) and when I return I cannot find it anywhere. I overturn the rocks I'm willing to overturn, I look inside every crevice, shine a flashlight into little holes, nothing. He's disappeared. I find a single speck of orange tissue on the sandbed with the same color and pattern as a tentacle, but my nitrates test low (<5ppm) and the tank's not cloudy, so I doubt the anemone's dead. I wait for a couple weeks.

Meanwhile, my hammer, under the guidance of some amazing reefers, is recovering nicely, and its flesh band is extending down the skeleton.


Remember the anemone that went missing for a couple weeks? He turned up. I was cleaning the HOB filter, and guess who I found stuck to the bottom of the coarse sponge! I find a larger and a smaller piece of anemone, which somehow made its way through the impeller, got jammed in the filter, split, and stayed there for two weeks. I am astounded. Life finds a way, I guess, because this is nothing short of a miracle.


Now that there's a (living) anemone in the tank, I pick up two black and white ocellaris clownfish as my first saltwater fish. I am entirely enamored with these two little fish wiggling up and down in the tank. As I should've expected, they pay absolutely no attention to the anemone and instead host the corner of the tank for two weeks.

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Soon after, I find a naked hermit crab perched on a rock, apparently unbothered by its own vulnerability. The coral it's next to is an interesting one: I thought it was an encrusting sponge, but a month later when its polyps finally come out, it turns out to be a Blue Ridge coral (Heliopora sp.) - so named for its (apparently) blue skeleton. It's a major reef-building pacific coral. Somehow, it survived being under a piece of rockwork for some unknown period of time until I saw it sticking out of the sand and placed it in a corner.

What's really, really cool about this is that it is a stony octocoral. Octocorallia are your leather corals, gorgonia and a couple of weird deep sea animals, and so the calciferous nature of this coral (and its ridiculously lax care requirements) make it perhaps the easiest stony coral for beginners; unfortunately, aside from being a novelty coral with interesting growth form, it possesses no other appealing qualities: it is brown, smooth and its polyps are small and barely visible.


Here is a picture of the Heliopora with polyps extended (a couple weeks after the above picture) just so you can see what it looks like.


I get a firefish! He made it through ich, his colors are stunning, his behavior is adorable, and he's got such character.

He jumps a month and a half after I purchase him while I test water. I leave the lid off for an hour, and I find him on the floor later that day.


If you look carefully in the bottom right corner, you can see that the tiny, tiny frag I had that was behind my rock has grown into a fist-sized coral. I don't notice until later. In the meantime, I grab an unhealthy (vomiting), but stunning rainbow bubble tip anemone.

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Get yourself a protein skimmer and another power head to blow more water around.
And I would change 5gal every week
Yeah! I've got another powerhead now, it'll show up later as I finish updating my journal to current day.

Protein skimmer is a little harder: I can't fit it on the same side as the aquaclear, and it can't go on the back (wall) side of the tank because of an earthquake tether. Luckily for me, nitrates have stayed less than 5ppm for most of the time I've had the tank, and recently as I've started feeding a little heavier, it's risen to 10.

Water changes are always king.
First four months (even more continued:)

I pick up a beautiful little lump of green plating micro Alveopora. I sit it on a convenient ledge as I don't have glue yet, but when I try to lift it up to glue it two months later, I find it has attached itself by growing new tissue (and skeleton) onto the rock. I am shocked by (and ecstatic about) its growth.


Full tank shot at this time:


As you can see, the leather has gotten too big to not notice, and I finally realize it's been growing. You can also see in this picture a flat rock I glued to a magnet scraper, onto which I can place coral and move all around the back glass.


At this point, I realize my first coral, the green tip hammer, has gold on the sides of its tentacles. I feel it's important to mention that I do not alter my images. I crop, rotate, and use an orange camera filter on my smartphone. Nothing else. I find it garish and dishonest if you go beyond rendering the coral as lifelike.

With that being said, look at the color. I didn't expect this pigmentation at all.


After an import at LFS, some acros aren't doing so well, including this mariculture acro that had RTN'd and had lost all of its color (under full blues, it was black aside from the exposed, white skeleton). I take it home to my tank, chop it into small frags (ensuring half an inch from the receded edge) and toss the pieces on my rockwork and hope for the best.

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First four months (they never seem to end!)

I head to a wholesaler to see fish I would never have seen otherwise. Here's a photo dump of some of the fish I saw:

Mystery toad-frog-something fish? They looked goofy and I snapped a pic.

A batfish (no weird camera angles, this is a full side-view. What a strange adaptation to look like this!


I see a bunch of sand-sifting stars stacked like pancakes. If anyone could clear this up, i would be interested to know what they're doing!


A ton of copperbands:


What I think are scopas tangs (I'm not great with bigger fish simply because I could never dream of having them in my 20 gallon)


Some fish i've never seen before:


And all. All. of the emperor angels.

Wow you have some amazing photos and great narration skills. I see your off to a good start also i'm also impressed with your fresh water scape. Looking forward to following your reefing journey. I'm no guru compared to some of the people here as I'm fairly new to the coral keeping side of reefing but if I could offer any advice or assistance don't be afraid to reach out.
First four months (how long has it been?)

From the wholesaler I buy a banggai cardinalfish. Stunning little fish. You can see the acro frags in the background, tossed carelessly over the scape.


An amazing fellow reefer hooked me up: this jawbreaker, with a nice streak of red, roughly the size of a dime, for $30: I hope you can see the red clearly, i don't think it's showing up nearly as bright as it does in person.


Sometime soon after this, I got tired of my clowns not hosting, and although it took some coercing with a net and an hour with the nem inside said net, they are now best buds and the female now can't stand being outside her anemone for more than a few moments. The male, despite sleeping in the nem with the female and loving it just as much, was kicked out (despite much shuddering and submission) and now spends his time in some zoas not far away.

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I found a baby stomatella snail and snapped a photo. Now, my rocks look like they're covered with sesame seeds, each one a baby stomatella snail. I was lucky enough to witness them spawning one time, each releasing little puffs of cloudy water into the water column.


Visited Neptune Aquatics, saw a decently sized (2 inch across when polyp is happy), tank-raised (sprouted out of a skeleton) Heliofungia fralinae for $20, and immediately bought it. Three days ago I went back and bought a stunning ORA Hawkins Echinata (Acropora turaki) frag ($35 for a two-inch, bushy frag), and a large, healed piece of Montipora palawanensis for $10.

The fungia mother colony:



Hawkins Echinata mother colony, the frag I bought, and the montipora:


The color accuracy on the montipora is a little wack, it's actually a lovely purple-pink. I was originally afraid it was bleached, and it is a little pale, but under whites, you can tell the zooxanthellae are present and I just placed it a little lower for the time being.

You may notice that the acro pieces have turned green and are now fluffy: I have ID'd them as Acropora millepora, the polyps are extending, it is turning green, and I began dosing kalkwasser, magnsium, iodine, and begun testing much more carefully.

So the tank as of March 20th, 2024: some other frags have popped up here and there, zoas, and a couple frags.

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Wow you have some amazing photos and great narration skills. I see your off to a good start also i'm also impressed with your fresh water scape. Looking forward to following your reefing journey. I'm no guru compared to some of the people here as I'm fairly new to the coral keeping side of reefing but if I could offer any advice or assistance don't be afraid to reach out.
Thank you! I appreciate it a lot :)
Did you get permission from pan ocean to post those pics?
What LFS are you working at?

And swap a HOB skimmer for the aquclear

I asked if I can take pictures and one of the guys that works there said I could.

I work at Clear Water. It’s nice, especially so because I can get there without a drivers license lol

As for the skimmer, I worry if I swap my filter out that I would go through a mini cycle. It also delivers a lot of the flow in the tank and I’ve not felt too much need for a skimmer.

If the need arises, my budget grows, or an elegant solution presents itself, I will seriously consider a skimmer: everyone keeps telling me to get one
Many updates!

I got a chalice coral (with some damage in the center) for free. In the time that I've had it, it's recolonized a few millimeters of skeleton in each direction.


While the monti has bleached a little (I moved it lower), the ORA Hawkins I picked up from Neptune's has grown noticeably, with stubs appearing near the base, noticeable encrusting over the glue, and the existing branches of the coral have lengthened. New polyps are showing up everywhere. Look for branches that are just starting to split off in picture one, for reference. All this growth, in just three weeks. I expected it to take longer than that just to settle in! Here's a picture of day 1 and one of now:



I grabbed some rasta zoanthids and a Nemenzophyllia turbida fox coral for ridiculously inexpensive at Clear Water aquarium, and they are now thriving in my tank:


Today, I picked up a beautiful, beautiful frag of the DBTC Sprung's Burning Bush macroalgae from @dangalang. It looks, somehow, better than the photos claimed. The compression is messing with the quality of these pictures a little bit, but that's okay.


Allan at Clear Water gave me his PNW customs frag rack because he wasn't using it, and now it houses some frags of zoas that I plan on bringing to the frag swap since they're growing well for me – I hope they puddle a bit in the two months before then, because they're a little sad right now. I will be removing my nepthea tomorrow because it's not quite what I want, aesthetically, for the tank, and because it makes the whole tank stink of angry leather and eats up my carbon.

I also started dosing two-part instead of kalkwasser, mixing my own CaCl₂ and NaHCO₃ solutions in RO/DI.

If anyone has any ideas what to put on the lower left side, near the tiny little jawbreaker, I'm open to suggestions. It's very, very low light (on the opposite side of the tank, in the same spot, zoas have stretched to two inches!) and very low, somewhat laminar flow. I was thinking something Duncan-related because Thanh from Tidal Gardens mentioned that they had lived fine in 30 par - Clear Water has some nice specimens of Duncanopsammia Peltata Pagoda Cup coral (yes, it's a duncan!), do you guys think that'd work?

Aside from that, I'll leave you guys with a full-tank shot of my tank, as of twenty minutes ago :)

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From what I can see, I’m guessing that area is fairly low flow and lower par. Comes down to personal taste, but that’s a great area for a little Acan garden.