Setting Up An Eclipse System Six Nano-Reef


This article will describe how I went about building a 6 gallon reef tank that will fit virtually anywhere. This article will gloss over the basics of fish keeping and maintenance of a reef over time (which is non-trivial for beginners). Also, keep in mind that a Nano-Reef is not cheap with a fully stocked 6 gallon reef costing anywhere from $350 to $750. Building this reef was a lot of fun and continues to be lots of fun to watch on a daily basis. I would recommend it to anyone for many reasons including getting you away from that darned TV set.

What You Will Need

    1 x Marineland System Six Self Contained Aquarium
    1 x Rio 50 Water Pump / Powerhead (45 gph)
    1 x Tronic 50 Watt Heater and Heater Guard
    1 x Aquarium Thermometer
    1 x Dick Boyd's ChemiPure (small pouch)
    2 x Aquarium Hobbyist Supply 13 Watt Power Compact Ballast
    1 x Aquarium Hobbyist Supply 13 Watt 6400K Power Compact Bulb
    1 x Aquarium Hobbyist Supply 13 Watt Blue Power Compact Bulb
    1 x T-12 Fluorescent Bulb Sheath
    1 x Power Cord
    1 x One Outlet Timer
    1 x SeaTest Hydrometer
    1 x Kent Marine Starter Kit
    1 x Kent Reef Starter Kit
    1 x Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Saltwater Master Test Kit
    1 x Red Sea Calcium Mini-Lab Test
    1 x Damsel
    5 x Lbs. Marine Salt
    5 x Lbs. Crushed Coral
    9 x Lbs. Fiji Live Rock

    -- I highly recommend every brand I mention --

First Off

Before you begin you will need to decide where to put this tank. All told the tank will probably weigh 60 or so pounds. Mine is kept in the living room entertainment center. You will also need to understand every component of the Nano-Reef. Keep in mind that the reef is a biological system that needs your help to survive. Every part of the reef is crucial to it's survival so don't skimp anywhere!


This is possibly the most important piece of the system. Invertebrates and soft corals use light to make energy. Without light they die. Also, without the proper light spectrum they die. 50/50 (6000K) bulbs and Blue (7000K) bulbs are generally used for corals and inverts. In a two light system you would want one of each. Due to the shallow depth of the tank you can keep clams which would generally prefer a White (5000K) light spectrum. It is recommended that lighting be in the range of 3-5 Watts per gallon with 4 Watts being ideal. With power compact fluorescent lighting you are getting a bright yet space efficient solution. I got mine at Aquarium Hobbyist's Supply ( Their 2x13 Watt kit is a perfect fit, at an excellent price, and provides 4.33 Watts per gallon. They also include some wire and vent caps. Ask them for two extra vent caps.

Installing the lighting is the hardest part of setting up the reef. First you will need to remove the old (and terribly underpowered) ballast and socket assembly. There are four screws. One is by the ballast. There is another clear, plastic screw holding the bulb cover in place. Once the bulb cover is removed the final two screws are beside both sockets.

Next you need to install the new sockets. Bolt them into the hood using black nuts and bolts so you can't see them. Two nuts and bolts per socket will do the trick. I lined up the notch of one socket with the screw hole of the old assembly. The other socket fits perfectly in the little dip left by the old ballast location. One set of wires will exit the already made wire opening. For the other set you will have to cut out a small bit of the hood. You could use longer wire if you wanted and run both to the one side.

Install the ballasts on the back of the hood high enough so you can't see them through the aquarium when the hood is on but not so high that you can see them over the aquarium when the hood is on (trust me it can be done).

Connect the wires from the lights and the ballasts as shown on the diagram you received with the lights. You will either need to cut the power cord from the old lighting system or get one elsewhere. Install the bulbs. I put the 50/50 bulb in front because it is brighter. Finally, cut the T-12 tubes to fit over top of the ballast and bulb. This won't keep the bulbs totally waterproof but it will prevent huge splashes from electrocuting everything. I have not yet dicovered whether it prevents or promotes salt creep.

When you plug your new light setup in for the first time your will immediately notice how much brighter they are than the old setup. You will also notice that the cool power button that turned the lights on and off before is now useless. I am looking for a way to put it back to use without destroying it's elegance. Put the lights on a timer and keep them on for about 9 hours per day.


Your aquarium will need heat. Marine fish and reefs like a temperature around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Your heater should be set to this temperature. If you use the heater guards you will probably need to set the temperature to 81. Use a thermometer which is easy to see and read to check these settings.

Since we are adding so much heat from the new lighting we will need to place four vent caps in some crucial places to dissipate it. Drill or cut two 1" holes on either side of the old lighting button with the center about two inches from the center of the button. Put two vent caps there. Also drill or cut two 1" holes two inches further out and one inch further towards the middle of the hood on either side of the old button. Put two vent caps there.

With these four purposefully positioned vent caps in place and a well ventilated area for the tank you should get a constant temperature of 80 in the summer and winter.


Filtration is a fundamental part of the reef. Without it toxic elements will build up and suffocate the tank inhabitants. The bacteria in the filter media will break down ammonia that came from fish and other waste and turn it into nitrite and then nitrate. Though nitrate is also harmful to a reef it can be removed through regular water changes and kept at an acceptable level. High nitrate levels will promote unwanted hair algae growth and prevent wanted coralline "purple" algae from spreading. The live rock will do most of the filtration by it's very nature but we will add some of our own filters as well. One and a half pounds of live rock per gallon of water is recommended.

The Marineland Eclipse System Six provides it's own filtration in the form of a small sump and Wet/Dry Bio-Wheel. They provide filter floss and carbon to put in the sump but we will put the ChemiPure in there. Good active carbon is necessary for eliminating unseen fish waste and ChemiPure is the best and longest lasting carbon I have found. It should be replaced once every six months or when the water starts to get a little yellow.

Marine fish and reef corals also like current. The Rio 50 PowerHead (fish speak for water pump) will cycle 45 gallons per hour and will keep the inhabitants happy. The way I have the pump pointed towards the Bio-Wheel outflow from behind and to the side promotes a circular water pattern. If the pump is any bigger there will be too much current. If there is not enough current you will get water stagnation.

The substrate will also provide some filtration. You can use live sand which will provide it's own natural filtration but you need creatures to move all this around to help the sand breathe and we cannot support a necessary abundance of those in such a small tank. Worms can be used but most people don't like the idea of worms in their fish tank. We will use crushed coral to keep up the pH up. It may eventually become live sand itself.


The final ingredient is water. Good water chemistry is the hardest part of keeping a reef. The varied inhabitants of the marine world require many supplements not found in our tap water. It is important to keep the water chemistry consistent and in good condition. You don't want to breathe dirty air and fish don't want to breathe dirty water.

You will have to change one gallon of water once a week. You can use a tap water purifier if you like, your fish will thank you, but it is not essential. With weekly water changes a protein skimmer will not be necessary either if you don't over stock your tank with fish.

The following table lists the key concentrations of compounds in the water:

pH 8.0 - 8.3
Ammonia 0.0 ppm
Nitrite 0.0 ppm
Nitrate 0 - 10 ppm
Calcium 400 - 450 ppm
Specific Gravity 1.020 - 1.023

Adding the supplements included in the Kent Marine and Reef Starter Kits will get these readings where you want them. A good salt mix will help. Use your test kits to track the concentrations. Test every to every other day until you are confident your tests are consistent.

Other supplements I add that aren't strictly necessary (because they are included in other supplements in small doses) but very helpful are Iron and Iodine. Kent Marine makes these supplements as well.

Setting Up

First you will need to assemble the tank. Rinse the crushed coral very well before putting it in so you don't cloud the water. Put two to three inches of substrate down depending on what you think looks better. Prepare your water to the above specifications. Put in the heater and powerhead without plugging them in. Follow the Marineland directions on getting the water in the tank and the Bio-Wheel started. Use the ChemiPure instead of their floss and carbon. Put the retrofitted hood in place. Plug in the heater and powerhead. Let the tank run for 24 hours.

Now you can buy a damsel. They are cheap and hearty. Let the tank run for a minumum of two weeks with only the damsel in it. This will start the biological cycle to break down ammonia and nitrite. Do not change the water during this time.

When the ammonia and nitrite levels are zero (about two to three weeks time) remove the damsel and add the live rock. If you plan on keeping the damsel leave it in there but most people trade the damsel for a fish they want more after the tank has cycled. If you keep the damsel in the tank and add live rock but later decide to remove the damsel you will literally have to go fishing for it. Start changing the water weekly now.

When the ammonia and nitites read zero again you can add soft corals, invertebrates, and other fish. Add them slowly making sure the ammonia and nitrite levels are zero in between each small addition.

Feeding & Care

You will need to feed many creatures in the small tank. Corals, Invertebrates, and fish. Corals and inverts can be fed with liquid plankton and supplements. Kent Marine Coral-Vite and Micro-Vertare good supplements. I use plankton and both Kent supplements.

Fish will need marine flake food. I also feed live baby brine shrimp to my fish for a balanced diet. Some fish won't eat flakes too.

You will need to add some of the supplements on a daily basis. This includes Calcium, Iodine, and Buffer. I use a 1ml dropper but other dosing methods exist.

If you follow the directions on every package you will be fine.


Keeping a Nano-Reef is lots of fun but it is a bit of work as well. I currently keep 10 lbs. of live rock, two false percula clowns, a yellow purple tip anenome, and a coral banded shrimp. I will be adding a bubble coral in the near future at which this point this tank will be fully loaded.