60g Reef Aquarium

60g Reef Aquarium
60g Reef Aquarium

The main reasons why I tore down my old 90g v2.0 reef aquarium were due to high heat, high noise levels and boredom. So I decided if I can build a silent, cool tank, with different organisms than my usual selection I could try again. Furthermore, I needed a source for my photomicrography. Living in Canada limits what is available outside during the cold winters.

Below is the final result - take note this tank has only been up 3 weeks so I have left the glass panels uncleaned to give the diatom and copepod populations chance to establish.



This time I opted for a smaller 60g cube. This allows me to place it behind my microscope. The tank is from Marineland, and measures 60cm x 60cm x 60cm. It has a basic stand with a door and open back. There is not a lot of room, but it suffices. I just wish I opted for a star fire (low iron content) tank. The tank has no hood - it is completely open.

The sump is a custom built unit I designed to fit this particular stand and tank. Initially I designed an RO chamber as well, but much to my dismay I found that the 13 litres it held was not enough and in the end it consumed more space than it helped me conceal an ugly bucket of RO topup water. I ended up breaking out the chamber after the tank has been operational for a while, which was quite a mission.

The sump has a main chamber for the skimmer and kalkstirrer and overflow outlet, then a small baffle (over/under) to eliminate micro bubbles, then a final chamber for the return pump and the pump that feeds the GAC and phosphate reactors.

Here is a photo when I still had the too powerful Eheim pump installed - it looks like the creation of the oceans...

Sump 1
Sump 1

Mechanical Filtration

The only mechanical filtration is the settling of detritus that happens naturally in the sump.

Chemical Filtration

Two Phosban 150 reactors are used - one with RowaPhos, and the other with GAC (Granular Activated Carbon), helps keep the phosphates and possible unwanted chemicals at bay, and helps prevent yellowing of the water.

Biological Filtration

I only have a 3" sand bed made from CaribSea Aragamax Select sand. This is not deep enough for a DSB, so this sandbed will not form a major part of denitrification. Instead the inhabitants are wholly dependent on the live rock in the tank to perform denitrification. Lastly, my Vertex Omega 150 skimmer will take care of the DOC's (Dissolved Organic Compounds) before they break down to cause phosphates/nitrates. Update - I replaced the Vertex with a Deltec APF-600 skimmer since I felt it was not skimming as well as they Deltec used to skim. So far I am happy with the Deltec, just a bit of a pain as I had to add another Eheim pump to feed it as I do not want to change my plumbing.


I have one Jager 300W heater in the sump. Since this condo never gets colder than about 18C even in the winter without central heating turned on, I believe my biggest concern would be heat in the summer. I have no active cooling as I tried to design the system with minimal heat input.


The Tunze Osmolator 3155 is handling the auto topup from a 20l reservoir of RO water. The topup feeds through a Deltec Kalkstirrer that doses Kalkwasser to help keep Alkalinity and Calcium in check.

Return Pump

Experience has taught me the Eheim pumps - though expensive - are simply the most reliable and quietest pumps out there. I therefore got a 1260 for the return flow, rated at 634gph. Unfortunately this pump was too strong for this setup, so I replaced it with a Tunze 1073.040. This pump is only slightly weaker, but it does not cause my sump to look like it is boiling. Tank is quiet and I have zero micro bubbles.


My trusty Tunze pump takes care of the internal flow. This time I got one 6095 nanostream with the 7095 controller. The Tunze pump comes with a magnet, so no more paying $40 for extra magnets. I have programmed the controller for a straight pulse action, with 4 second between 10% and 30% and night mode turned on.


For lighting I have a Giesemann Futura LED pendant (two modules) suspended over the tank. This light is extremely pretty, dead quiet and very bright. It is programmed to gently fade in and out of daylight between 09:00 and 21:00.


For automation I use the Neptune Apex system. It has one 8-way plug bars, a temperature probe and a lab grade pH probe. This system controls my lighting, heater and pumps.

Neptune Apex Controller
Neptune Apex Controller

Water Parameters

Measured: 27 Feb '14

Temperature25.5 - 27.0C
Specific Gravity1.025
Ammonia - NH3+NH4Undetectable
Nitrite - NO2-Undetectable
Nitrate - NO3-2.5mg/L
Calcium - Ca390mg/L
Phosphate - P
Magnesium - Mg
Silica - Si


I feed a combination of frozen foods including Brine and Mysis shrimp, frozen cyclopeeze, diced Nori and New Life Spectrum Marine Fish formula.


Monthly 30% water changes are performed with D-Deltec H2O Ocean Pro salt. GAC and RowaPhos are replaced once every 3 months. Since I am a horrible person I clean the pumps / skimmer whenever it stops working.

Power Backup

I purchased an APC SMX750 UPS with one extended battery pack. Everything except the heater and lights is on the UPS. I get 7 hours of runtime at 18% load.