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One gallon "Reefbowl" still going strong

By Leonard Ho - Posted Jan 03, 2013 08:00 AM
Many reefkeepers have heard about Brandon Mason's remarkable Reefbowl pico aquarium: a living reef grown in a one gallon glass vase. Brandon started this miniscule ecosystem in 2006; It's now 2013, and the Reefbowl still thrives.

The Reefbowl (circa 2011): Petri dish on steroids
The Reefbowl (circa 2011): Petri dish on steroids

It's a Small World

Brandon Mason (AKA Brandon429) is an active member in many reefkeeping communities and has regularly shared updates about his grand experiment (if you can call a one gallon body of water that) throughout the years.  On New Years Day 2013, Brandon uploaded a new video of his Reefbowl.  It shows his seemingly impossible pico system is still flourishing.

Approximately a dozen species of corals occupy nearly every square millimeter of the vase.  They're not only surviving; The corals are thriving.  The most notable success is the growth of the Blastomussa merletti.  Brandon purchased this ten-polyp Blasto in 1999, and since it was added to the Reefbowl, the colony has grown to over 100 polyps even after repeated fraggings.

So how does Brandon manage to keep such a tiny reef aquarium healthy for so long?  He credits the following four core techniques for his success:

  • Weekly or bi-weekly feedings paired with water changes shortly after.
  • Consistent dosing of C-balance
  • Use of hydrogen peroxide to control nuisance algae
  • Restricting evaporation (and consequently the need for constant topoff) by sealing the vase's lid


To learn more about the Reefbowl, read about its history, philosophy, and design in a article Brandon published in 2010.

The Reefbowl may not appeal to the uninitiated eye.  Coralline and SPS encrust the glass.  There is no aquascaping to speak of (hey, it's one gallon for crying out loud!).  It's guaranteed to score low for WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). And the equipment setup is utilitarian at best.

But to nano/pico reefkeepers, aquarium tinkerers, and microecosystem junkies, Brandon's overgrown saltwater vase is a thing of beauty.

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.


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