The final part of the Albert Thiel interview

Interviews | 8th February 2013 | Article by Curvball | View comments (4)

The following post concludes our interview with Nano Reef Aquariums author, Albert Thiel. If you missed the first part and introduction to the interview, you can can read it here.

I am a firm believer in “research” and that is probably the most important thing any Hobbyist can do.

Know everything there is to know about whatever you are going to put in your tank before you acquire it as that will greatly enhance your success rate in keeping it alive and thriving.
~ Albert Thiel

nrb: Are you currently running a personal reef aquarium? Can you tell us about it please.

Yes I do, and as you would imagine it is a Nano-Reef of course, 20 gallons, with a 20-gallon sump that includes a small refugium. The sump and Fuge were only recently installed as the tank ran with an HOB filter and an HOB skimmer; gravity feed Kalkwasser drip, and an Oxydator Model D ever since it was installed.

caula0106The tank is actually a standard 20-gallon one that is drilled, and uses ‘only’ equipment that any hobbyist can acquire. I did not want to run a tank that was not typical of what others would run, and did not want to use methods that others would not use either. Everything on and in the Nano-Reef can be acquired by any Hobbyist, except perhaps for the Oxydator, as currently there is no US Distributor for them.

Those who want one order it from the UK actually, and because I have been talking about it on the forums I have dedicated threads on, I know of quite a few US and Canadian members of those forums who have actually embraced them, and are using them as well.

The main reason for using it is that it is far safer an easier to run an Oxydator on a Nano-Reef, than running an Ozonizer. And of course it is also far less expensive. So in that respect it is a Nano-Reef that is like any Nano-Reef out there.

I have a shallow sand bed and around 15 pounds of Totoka live rock in the tank.

Below is a list of what is in the tank using common names for simplicity:

Fishes currently housed include:

  • A Bicolor Blenny
  • A Banggai Cardinal
  • A Lantern Basslet
  • A Citron Goby
  • A Yellow Rose Goby


Clean-Up Crew:

  • Assorted Snails (Nerite, Cerith, Nassarius)
  • Stomatella (3)
  • No Hermit Crabs
  • Small Emerald Crab (1)
  • Bristleworms (not sure how many but not a very large number)
  • No known Fireworms in the tank



  • Large Cluster Pavona Coral
  • A number of Pavona Frags
  • Candy Cane
  • Duncan
  • Leather Corals (Sarcophyton) (1 Medium – 2 Small)
  • Ricordea yuma (2)
  • Ricordea yuma baby born in the tank (1)
  • Red Mushroom (1)
  • Red Mushroom Babies born in the tank (3)
  • Green Star Polyp Cluster
  • Cabbage Leather Coral (Single) (1)
  • Cabbage Leather Coral (Branched) (1)

The load is actually fairly high but I have no issues with Nitrates, Phosphates, or any other water quality parameters. I change 10 % of the water one week and 15 % the following week, and then 10 again and then 15 and so on.

Filtration chemicals used include GFO and Aluminum oxide on an alternating basis, Poly-Filter material, GAC and filter floss for mechanical filtration. The skimmer is a Red Sea Pro Prism which was actually running on the tank before the sump was added and which I continue to use although I am looking at upgrading the skimmer to a larger model at some point.

nrb: What are your thoughts on the current state of the reefkeeping hobby? What are some of the biggest changes you’ve witnessed?

Lots of changes have taken place in the Marine and Reefkeeping Hobby in the last 5 to 10 years, and I mean a lot, not just a few.

Note though that a lot of the major, and basic practices, remain the same even if they are implemented in somewhat different ways than they used to be. Below are just a few of all the changes I referred to:

– A major shift in the type of lighting used towards LED’s, although T5’s, T5HO’s and Metal Halides are still in use by quite a few Hobbyists; also used are T5’s in combination with LED’s that are now available in a large number of different types, colors, strength’s and configurations. In addition actinic lights, although not as common as they used to be, are still used by some in combination with the ones already mentioned. In some cases LED’s that emit light in the same spectrum range has replaced them

– A far better understanding of the requirements of corals and invertebrates, and although there still is a lot to be learned, great strides have been made, and our understanding of their requirements has increased substantially compared to what we knew a few years ago

– The introduction of different types of additives: specific ones rather than all-including ones, containing 100’s of different elements, some of which no one was even sure whether they were needed, or whether they needed to be supplemented at all because the life forms in our Aquariums and the compounds used for filtration were depleting them from the aquarium’s water

– Improvements in the quality and reliability of a good number of commercial salts, although some still are not quite up to the level they should be, which leads me to recommend, as you will see, that you should always buy a high grade brand of salt, one on which you can find a number of positive reviews

– Newer style Aquariums, e.g. rimless ones, all-in-one types, drilled tanks, tanks with built in overflow boxes, all-in-one tanks with compartments built inside the tank, etc.

gsp0910- A far larger selection of rock for Aquariums, both live rock (from more and different geographical origins) and a large choice of non-live rock (natural and artificial) giving Hobbyists the ability to aquascape their Nano-Reefs in just about any which way they wish

– Newer Power Head Pumps that not only have higher output ratings, but some that have different output modes (laminar, pulsing, alternating directions) and some that can be controlled by outside devices, allowing the Hobbyists to tailor the water flow in his or her Aquarium to the needs and requirements of the life forms in the tank. Water flow strength is indeed important as we will discuss later, and so is its type

– Improved Protein Skimmer design, some using more advanced impellers and Venturi valves that create more and finer bubbles, and some that use an additional valve that increases the bubble formation even more (Beckett™)

– Newer and far better foods, more specialized ones and foods more suitable for specific corals, whether LPS (Large Polyp Stony) or SPS (Small Polyp Stony) ones, whether photosynthetic or not (also referred to as “azoox” type corals). A large number of choices of such foods are now available and newer ones are coming on the market on a regular basis

– Different substrates for different types of Aquariums, e.g. for those who now wish to run DSB’s (deep sandbeds), or use finer or coarser types, or mixes of them. Sands now even come in mixture of different size grains for those who need a mixed substrate type

– New and improved filtration compounds to remove unwanted and undesirable nutrients such as nitrate, phosphate, silicate and more. The will be discussed later on their respective sections as there are quite a few new ones and improved older ones that can now be purchased

– The availability of far more authoritative information on just about every topic that deals, for instance, with Aquariums, with filtration, chemicals, corals and requirements, lighting in general, water additives and their composition, newer chemical filtration compounds, system wide type arrays of additives, meaning not just one but a whole series of them (Zeovit™, Ultralith™, and other similar ones as examples of such newer methods)

– Improved reactors for compounds (single and double types) and filtration media, as well as for the advent of carbon dosing systems (more on those later in the book); the newer reactors are also made in such a way as to minimize tumbling of some of the compounds and rubbing against each other, producing small grain sized particles in the process that we do not want to get into the water as was the case with the older type reactors that just sloshed the compound around and did produce that fine particulate matter

– Small hang-on-the-back refugia, with or without lighting, with compartments where Hobbyists can add a number of life forms, algae and crustaceans, or whatever they decide on that will be beneficial, including clean up crew type life forms

mushbab23- Far more captive bred fish and LPS coral frags than was the case a number of years ago. The number of SPS coral frags has also greatly increased, not only from resellers but also from Hobbyists who trade such fags more and more, and events such as “swaps” which seem to be happening on a far more frequent basis all over the Country

– Far more automation, including advanced Controllers that allow Hobbyists to manage their entire Aquarium remotely, often with software programs on their Smartphones (e.g. iPhone™ and Android™ models), basic ones and far more advanced ones that allow Hobbyists to select the ones that suit their wishes and budgets and controllers that are modular, in as much as one can buy the modules one wants to start with and then add more and more of them as time goes on and the need for them arises

– An increased amount of interaction between Hobbyists thanks to all the Forums that have come about, some of which have thousands and thousands of members who exchanges information, post pictures of their Nano-Reefs, and allow beginners and even more advanced Hobbyists to ask questions and get answers often within hours of posting their questions

pavonaL0108- And although maybe not as popular as they used to be, far more advanced and improved Canister filters that can be used on Nano-Reefs themselves, on quarantine tanks, and to hold specific compounds for additional filtration (as will be discussed in a later chapter

And those are just a few of the changes that have come about over the last few years. There are, in fact far more, and all of them are covered in the main part of the book.

nrb: Where do you think this hobby is going in terms of small tanks?

As prices keep decreasing, and as the technology, methods, equipment and our understanding of the requirements of the life forms kept in Nano-Reefs and Reefs keeps growing and expanding, I personally feel that the small tank, Nano-Reef, Hobby will keep growing and growing and expanding.

It has been for the last few years and there is no reason I can see that this will change. In addition as the availability of more and more captive bred fish and more and more fragged corals keeps expanding, more and more individuals will be attracted to this wonderful hobby of ours.

Additionally, as our knowledge of the nutritional and other requirements of corals and other life forms, and of water chemistry required is progressing as well, greater success rates will become the norm, and will make the hobby more appealing to many who have been thinking about getting into Reefkeeping in the Nano way, but have not made or taken that step yet.

nrb: What would be your personal favourite coral and fish for a Nano reef?

My favorite coral is any coral that flourishes in our Nano-Reefs. There is IMO no really one “most desirable” one although there are some that to some Hobbyists carry more appeal, e.g. Chalices, Acans, and a number of the SPS corals that exhibit vibrant colors.


If I had to really pick one for the sake of really answering the question I would pick this Echinopora


nrb: What one single bit of advice would you offer a hobbyist who keeps a Nano reef?

I am a firm believer in “research” and that is probably the most important thing any Hobbyist can do.

Know everything there is to know about whatever you are going to put in your tank before you acquire it as that will greatly enhance your success rate in keeping it alive and thriving.


If you are interested in pre-ordering Albert’s upcoming book or just finding out more about the book in general, you can do so online here. Be sure to keep an eye out for special posts by Albert himself right here on nanoreefblog – we already have one lined up and will have that online in the next few days.

About the author:

Curvball is the editor and founder of Having kept aquariums on and off since the age 8 years old, this now 32 year old hobbyist is well versed in various types of aquariums. His passion is SPS corals and the challenges of maintaining them in relatively small amounts of water. His professional background as a designer and writer combined with his love for this hobby makes the perfect extension of his passions.

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4 Responses on The final part of the Albert Thiel interview

  1. Dee says:

    I love to see someone that does the research to keep their animals alive and happy. My animals quickly outgrew the nano

  2. Anonymous says:

    […] thanks Les food for thought Worth looking up what Albert Thiel has to say about Oxydators. The final part of the Albert Thiel interview | NanoReefBlog Nano Reef Aquariums by Albert J Thiel: The first review | NanoReefBlog Just a few but there are a […]

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