Using a JBJ Nano Cube 28 Gallon HQI Reef Series Aquarium for Your Nano Reef
Learn about the JBJ Nano Cube and see if it is right for your ideal reef set-up.
The JBJ Nano Cube 28 Gallon HQI Reef Series aquarium is one of the best all-in-one tanks for the saltwater enthusiast. Traditional all-in-one setups have been extremely limited in areas such as lighting, resulting in them being poor choices for people wanting to keep reef tanks. However, the new HQI Reef Series includes many of the features required for a successful reef tank and can make taking care of your tank extremely easy.
The tank's volume is 28 gallons and it measures 18" x 22" x 22". These dimensions are nice for creating a wall of live rock and it is deep enough that you can place a variety of corals at different depths depending on their lighting preferences. The glass thickness is 6 mm so you do not have to worry about it breaking or cracking under normal circumstances. The glass is also slightly curved in the front which adds to the elegant look. The all-in-one design is compact and sleek as everything is enclosed. The protein skimmer does stick up a little bit in the back, but everything else is out of view.

The best feature of the HQI Series is the lighting. The aquarium comes equipped with a 150 W GQI/14K metal halide light with a parabolic reflector. This means you have plenty of light for the vast majority of corals. Integrating metal halide lighting into an all-in-one setup is fantastic from the perspective of a reef keeper and has been on peoples' wish lists for many years.

One thing I was initially worried about regarding metal halide lighting in an enclosed system was the heat. I wondered if the water temperature would spike out of the acceptable range, especially on hot summer days. However, I found that the four integrated cooling fans (3000 rpms) do a nice job of keeping everything well within the norm. There are some temperature fluctuations between when the lights are on or off, but nothing that is not typical. I did notice that when the ambient temperature of the house raised above 80 degree Fahrenheit, the fans had a difficult time keeping the water temperature down. However, most people keep their houses well below 80 degrees and as long as you do this, you will be fine. If you keep your house hotter than this mark then you will probably want to invest in a chiller to help out (JBJ sells a chiller that fits into the ventilated stand they sell for the HQI Series tanks).

The integrated fans run on two separate circuits to keep them from all shutting down if one fails. Also, if the fans do fail, the metal halide lighting is automatically shut off. These are nice safety features that can prohibit you from having an aquarium disaster.

In addition to the metal halide lighting, there are four blue LEDs (located one per corner) that allow for night viewing. These are a great deal of fun as I really enjoy seeing what crawls around the tank at night. One of the benefits of a reef aquarium over a freshwater tank is that all kinds of interesting creatures can hitch-hike into your aquarium (although this could also be a negative if you get a mantis shrimp or aiptasia). Many of these creatures wait until night to emerge so the LEDs are a very neat feature and they do a nice job of lighting up the tank enough that you can see.

The HQI Series has a 3-stage filtration system included in the rear compartment of the tank (out of sight). The water passes through a mechanical filter (sponge), chemical filter (carbon), and biological filter (ceramic rings) before being pumped back into the tank. Cleaning the filter is also extremely easy as you simply lift out the rear baskets and clean or replace whatever media needs to be. The water is pumped back into the tank via two pumps (total of 532 gph). There also is an Ocean Pulse Duo Wavemaker that comes equipped with the tank which allows you to adjust how the water is delivered back into the aquarium. There are two return nozzles in the top rear corners of the tank. These are adjustable in terms of your ability to change the direction they point and the Ocean Pulse Duo Wavemaker allows you to make them alternate (between 10 seconds and 6 minutes) to give your aquarium a more natural current. The adjustable directionality of the return valves is also nice because you can direct the current away or towards specific corals depending on their needs. I personally prefer to set the wavemaker at pulses of 10 seconds as I think it gives the aquarium a very nice and natural look.

One piece of equipment that is not included is a heater. However, there are heater compartments in the rear so once you purchase one, you simply drop it in one of these compartments and the water is heated after it leaves the filtration system.

Another great feature of the HQI system is its integration of a protein skimmer. Now, advanced hobbyists may look down on this skimming system and call it simply a gimmick, but it really is nice. Is it the best skimmer in the world? No - but it does a nice job for what it is supposed to do. It does stick out of the back which kind of ruins the all-enclosed look, but it always does a pretty successful job of removing organics from my tank. Discarding the skimmate is also easy as there is a removable cup located at the top of the skimmer (or you can use the provided drain hose and hole to have it empty into a container such as a 2-liter bottle). For people unfamiliar with skimmers, they basically remove dissolved organics and oxygenate the water. The counter-current design of the HQI Series' skimmer is effective at both of these although as I stated earlier, if you are an equipment junkie and really look for top end stuff, you will probably want to upgrade. However, people keeping nano tanks usually do not have a huge bioload anyways so this skimmer should more than suffice for the majority of people looking at these kinds of setups.  

Finally, the aquarium's canopy is great. It has a feeding lid for easy access during feeding times and then when you are cleaning the tank or need access to it, the entire canopy lifts up and is supported by brackets on both sides. The metal halide light can be a little blinding in this tilted position so be sure to watch your eyes or turn off the light.


Overall, the JBJ Nano Cube 28 Gallon HQI Reef Series is a great tank for saltwater enthusiasts if you are looking for an all-in-one design that still enables you to successfully keep a wide variety of corals and/or fish. It is a significant upgrade over older designs and features such as the metal halide lighting, Ocean Pulse Duo Wavemaker, and protein skimmer make it an attractive option. Of course, if you want the ability to customize your setup or like to mess around with different equipment then an all-in-one setup is not for you. However, if you want to minimize the amount of tinkering you have to do and have an all-enclosed system that looks very professional, you cannot go wrong with this tank.

To learn more about the HQI Series, visit the following page on JBJ's website:

Additional Reading


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Using a JBJ Nano Cube 28 Gallon HQI Reef Series Aquarium for Your Nano Reef
Using a JBJ Nano Cube 28 Gallon HQI Reef Series Aquarium for Your Nano Reef
Learn about the JBJ Nano Cube and see if it is right for your ideal reef set-up.