Reef Jar 6 Month Review

It’s been about ½ a year since I started adding life to the cookie jar and I’m proud to say it’s finally looking like a Reef Jar!

What’s possible in 6 months?​

Here is my most recent video of where things are at right now. I hope you enjoy the music and hope this post helps inspire others!



Top Down Comparisons

2 months ago

corals top down 2 months ago


corals top down new

Top Half Comparison

3-4 months ago

corals top half old


corals top half new

Full Jar Comparison

3-4 months ago

full jar 3-4 months


full jar 6 months

Fighting Coral Photos

Not everything has been happy inside the jar.

Here is a picture of the octospawn attacking a ricordia. At first I thought the mushroom was attacking, but after i separated them, it was apparent that the ricordia took a lot of damage.

ricordia vs octospawn

The octospawn also did damage to the warcoral and monti caps.

war coral octo damage
octospawn glory

Unfortunately I lost some photos of the Pavona I had, its sweepers were insane!

Random Updates & Observations

Here are some random update photos. These are all taken with my Samsung Galaxy s3 phone.

sunny d coral
night time acan

The following comparison is pretty incredible. I honestly thought this monti-cap was on it’s way out…. wow! Heavy feeding + keeping on top of those water changes really helped this one.

Damaged Monti – 3 months ago (Mar. 7, 2016)

damaged monti

Today (June 3, 2016)

healed monti

Montipora Confusa & Spongodes

The spongodes (lower right) went through a lot of stuff. It was eaten by monti eating nudibranchs, dipped in hydrogen peroxide, eaten some more, cut up, glued and left out of the water for a long time (1hr +)… and here it is today growing with great polyp extension!

3-4 months ago

montis confusa spongodes before

Today (June 3, 2016)

montis confusa spongodes now

Current Live Stock

stomatella snail on glass


  • Red Planet ORA (acropora)
  • Birdsnest (different types of stylophora)
  • Montipora (spongodes, confusa, capricornis)
  • War coral
  • 1 unknown

LPS & Other

  • Acans
  • Candy Canes / Trumpet
  • Zoas & Palys


There are many critters in the jar, some of which I haven’t been able to identify.

  • Copepods / Amphipods
  • Bristleworms & other unknown worms
  • Stomatella snail
  • 1 unknown snail
  • Feather dusters

Unknown “worm”

unknown worm

Unknown snail – Appears to be nocturnal

unknown snail

Current Hardware

The only thing that has changed since the beginning is the lighting, but I’ll get to that in a moment. For those who are just stumbling upon my jar for the first time, here is a list of hardware for my current setup:

  • Cookie jar + plastic planter saucer
  • Air pump + airline & fittings
  • Ikea worklamp
  • Chinese Par 38 bulb 12w (8 blue, 4 white)
  • Hydor heater

For mixing salt I have a 5 gallon pail with a rio 90 pump and heater. I also use the pump and heater for quarantine purposes when getting a new arrival (to use Coral RX and to get as much algae and pests off the new arrival).

I also have a betta mag for cleaning the glass. Although at this point I don’t use it often, maybe once a week. For real suborn algae on the glass I use a piece of Velcro glued to a chop stick to use as a scraper.

One of the issues I ran in to was air bubbles and vibrating rocks against the glass. My solution was to control the airline in a better way. I don’t use an air stone, so what did I do?

modified heater tubing

In order to control the flexible air line tubing,​ I glued a piece of hard tubing to the side of the heater. It’s only attached plastic to plastic and not the glass. the bottom of the hard tubing is cut like a fork to allow the whole thing to be pushed down, without the air bubbles disrupting the sand bed.

A New Light

I switched lights from the ABI Par 38 Bulb (6 white 6 blue) to another Chinese Par 38 bulb (4 white 8 blue) as recommended by Maritza the Vase Reef.

New Bulb – Weighs more than the ABI bulb (feels like better quality)

par 38 12w led coral bulb

The white LEDs from previous bulb were too strong, even at a distance. I ended up covering the whites with duct tape, but I wanted more blue.

With the new bulb, I still covered the whites, the overall blue in the jar is just right for me and the corals are thriving. Remember these are only 1w LEDs ($25 bulb) growing SPS corals!

new led bulb par 38

I’m keeping the light about 9.5″ from the water’s surface and currently on for 10hrs/day.

Current Maintenance Schedule​

I’m a little disappointed with myself because I wanted to dose c-balance to get the coraline growing at an accelerated rate. However, I’ve been so busy with my business that I’ve slacked off with other things… like Reef Jar.

The good news is that even though I haven’t been dosing, the jar is thriving! So if you’re thinking about starting a small pico reef like this of your own, you can see that you don’t have to worry about some of the things you have to with larger systems.

Currently I change 100% of the water each week. I feed the jar, heavily, a few hours before I change the water. I don’t have a set time between feeding and the water change, but I definitely change it the same day.

I tried using reef roids a couple months ago and it seemed to have caused a massive algae outbreak. I think there were a few reasons for it.​

  • I didn’t read the instructions and I added a lot of Reef Roids. It says ¼ teaspoon for every 25 gallons, I added probably twice that. Currently with my new water change (as seen below) I add ¼ teaspoon mixed with calanus/mysis juice.
  • I believe the jar was/is still growing. Even though I had added some established rock and pre-seeded sand, I think there wasn’t enough life from all levels to deal with the abundance of nutrients. Not including algae of course.
  • 100% water change wasn’t exporting enough waste/excess.

More On Water Changes

First, I will quickly use the betta mag to clean the walls. For real stubborn areas I’ll use some Velcro. If my chop stick with Velcro can’t get in to a space where I want, I will bunch up some Velcro and use forcep-tweezers to get it where I want.

Depending on how much time I’ll take after draining the jar, I might unplug the heater. If I don’t have to take care of any pests inside the jar, then I’ll leave the heater plugged in. I also leave the air going at all times. This helps keep things stirred up so that I can siphon out as much detritus as possible.

When I’m draining the “flush” I tilt the jar slightly (careful not to tip over anything inside) so that I can suck as much detritus out as possible. I usually use a turkey baster at the end after the siphon tube stops. Be careful with tilting, it’s really easy to knock things over and create a lot more work for yourself.

So in a nutshell, I empty the jar 100% and then do a “flush” of new salt water with about 1 gallon or so. I drain it again and then refill with new 100% salt water (1.025 @ 80c).

I mix salt water in a pail and make sure it’s the correct temperature and salinity before adding it to the jar. In the beginning I would mix the water the night before, but now I do it 5 or 6 hours before I’m ready to do a water change.

More On Feeding​

I currently feed the jar once a week before water changes and that consists of:

  • Spot feeding mysis shrimp to the acans and candy canes
  • Dripping a mixture of ReefRoids/Mysys juice/Calanus juice with the pump off for 20 minutes.

What is this juice? I get the mysis and calanus in frozen cubes. So I use a little salt water from the jar to thaw them. I then strain out the mysis so that it’s easier for me to pick them up with tweezers.

straining mess
coral food juice

The left over juice is mixed with Reef Roids and fed to the jar. The SPS love it and it makes all the critters come out, even those that don’t like the light!

Plans Going Forward

Things are going really well and I will continue to let the jar grow and shape itself. I think the rock structure that I have now is what I’m going to stick with.

If I had to start over, I’d try to come up with a rock structure setup that I like in the beginning, because as the corals grow it becomes much more difficult to move and shift things around. In fact, it makes it difficult when Zoas start growing on both the glass and rocks (thankfully I don’t have SPS growing on the glass yet).

I may need to cut some corals such as the teal birdsnest, it’s growing the fastest out of all the SPS. It’s not only growing vertically, but horizontally as well. or I could just let it do its thing and see what happens. It started to touch the Monti Confusa and the monti wasn’t having it!

More Corals?

Yes, I want to add more corals. I’d like to get my hands on some forest fire monti, purple bonsai and some rastas.

I’m in no rush, so I’ll keep an eye on the local classifieds and forums for deals that pop up. There’s always someone shutting down a tank or trading X for Y.

Oh speaking of trading, I still have the Octospawn. I currently have it in a 1 gallon Brita water filter with the old light. I’m not sure what I’m doing with it yet. It doesn’t extend like it used to because I have a small Rio pump in with it. It doesn’t like any sort of flow above a gentle breeze, so sorry!

Maybe I could put it in a .5 gallon vase on its own. The OctoVase!

Well, I think I covered everything I wanted to. I hope you enjoyed this post and thank you so much for all the kinds words!

If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section on here or on Youtube.

Cheers, Justin​