Tank of the Month | UltimateReef.com | 03.07
Dave's (Dave_P) Reef Tank
1 Introduction
First of all I would like to thank the members of Ultimate Reef forum for nominating my system for TOTM. I have to be honest and say it came as a complete surprise. I did secretly hope to be up here one day as I am sure most of us do, but I certainly didn't expect it as my tank has only been set up 9 months.

Anyway, I started fishkeeping in my early teens which was just under 30 years ago, I am sad to say it was that long ago! I started like a large number of people with a freshwater community tank in my bedroom. This soon gave way to more tanks and I bred a number of cichlid species such as kribs, auratus, convicts and sold the offspring to the LFS. I can remember having 4 tanks in my bedroom at one point. As I was still living at home with my parents it became quite a squeeze.

About 24 years ago I moved on to marines (still living at my parents). At that time under gravel was all the rage, so I setup a reverse flow under gravel tank (5 foot). This fish only tank was covered in cyano from start, I could never get rid of it.

After a couple of years I setup a smaller (4 foot) tank to house corals. Again I used a reverse flow under gravel system. This tank was much more successful. Algae was not a problem, as at a very early stage I introduced caulerpa to tank, not to export nutrients but because it look nice on the rock in the shop. This grew like wild fire all over the tank and needed harvesting weekly to stop it over running the corals. By chance I had introduced nutrient control without realising it. I also managed to keep sea horses in this tank for 3-4 years. But my weekly trip to local fish shop which was situated 35 minutes away became a chore to collect live food for them. This tank came to end when I was on holiday in Australia. One of the hoses became disconnected and the tank half emptied itself killing everything other than a clown fish.

Having moved out of my parents house and into my own house, I decided I would setup my biggest project yet a 6x2x2'. This would house a mixture of soft corals and fish. The setup had its own sump, which was my own design. It had half a dozen compartments of coral gravel, siporax, sand. It worked well to keep ammonia and nitrites at bay. The tank looked good for about six months and then green hair algae took hold. It covered everything! I kept on performing extra water changes, but it didn't help, the algae got worse. After reading an article in a magazine which discussed phosphates and nitrates in the aquarium and how they are a nutrient for algae. I went out and bought myself a phosphate test kit. Before then all I tested for was NH4, NO2, and NO3 and salinity.

Banggai Cardinal (Pterapogon Kauderni) Acropora sp. Percula Clown (Amphiprion Percula)

I then tested the mains water for phosphates and found that the levels were very high. This together with the very high levels of nitrates. I was on a losing battle, I was just putting fertiliser into the tank. At that time (the late 80s), the only RO water units available were very expensive and inefficient. I really didn't know what to do, my only choice was to strip it down and start again. But due to the fact I was considering moving again. I gave up!

After a five year break in my new house I set up a fully planted community freshwater tank, this had been very successfully. I became very much engrossed in the technical/chemistry side. Not so much for the fish (they are easy!), but to grow plants. But every since I set this up, I knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to get back to marines. But memories of the 6' tank with that thick carpet of hair algae put me off.

After six years with this tank, early in 2005 I decided I would replace this with a reef system. For the next six months, I scanned the forums, visiting websites and generally getting myself up to date on what was needed to run a reef system, determined to avoid my previous problems. I couldn't believe the knowledge there was on the internet and how the understanding of keeping reef tanks had transformed from my earlier experiences. I started to understand what I had done wrong in my earlier tanks.

It was during this time I came across the Reef Eden website. I really didn't know who this Simon Garratt was, but the way he explained his setup on his website seemed to make sense to me and gave me confidence to proceed with my new system. So I based my system on his design, I am sure people will see the similarities to his 2003 reef.

Left side of Tank Centre of tank Right side of tank

2 System Details
I don't know why, but from the start I wanted to keep a SPS dominated tank. Maybe it was the challenge, I am really not too sure.

The system consists of a 72"x24"x24" main display tank and a 48"x18"x18" sump. The tank and sump were built by Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts. The build quality was excellent!

First of all I built my stand in wood, however when placing the tank on the stand. I noticed a 2-3mm gap in the middle and the top was warped front to back and an even greater gap at the back. I checked the wood for straightness prior to purchasing and bought dried wood. But after purchasing I made a big mistake, I left it in my garage for a week or so before taking it inside. Even though I had bought dried wood, the wood had gathered moisture in the garage and after being my house for 2-3 weeks it warped! I hadn't noticed this warp and built it into the stand. The stand was built using screws and PVA glue, so there was no way I could dismantle it. This left me with only one alternative, which was to start again. Also when I placed the stand on my floor, I noticed that that the floor was far from level and needed a lot of packing to compensate.

Following a number of threads on the forum mentioning warping problems with wooden stands before and after you fill your tank. I decided that I would use a metal stand and then clad it in wood. The stand was to be supported by eight adjustable feet. The feet have an articulated joint between the thread and the base, this allowed for variations in the floor level. I estimated (probably over) that the tank + sand + rockwork + equipment would weigh 1250kg. The maximum load of each foot is 700kg each. So as long as there was a minimum of 2 touching the ground, there was more than enough capacity.

Each foot has a 50mm metal base, 100mm M12 thread, with a load capacity of 700kg. To estimate each downward load, the tank weight is divided by the number of feet. So each foot would take approximately 1250/8 = 156kg load. So the 700kg load capacity of the feet was more than enough. I used eight feet to spread the load across the floor, this was to try to prevent my floor tiles from cracking. Nuts were welded into the base of the stand, to take the thread from the feet.

Levelling the tank was so simple. I started with the four corner feet. The middle four feet were screwed up so they didn't touch the floor. Using a spirit level I then adjusted the level of the tank. Once the tank was level, I then screwed down the centre four feet so that they just took the weight. If you screwed them down too much the corner feet would lift. Overall the operation took less than 10 minutes to gain a perfect level tank on a very uneven floor.

I started putting water in the tank in May 2006, the tank cycled very quickly and by early June I started introducing livestock.

Acropora sp. Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) Bubble Coral

3 Lighting
The tank is lit by three 250W Metal Halides. I am currently using Coralvue Reeflux 10K bulbs SE (Single ended), Lumenarc III reflectors, Icecap electronic ballasts. At the moment the bulbs are 11" away from the surface. I decided not to use cover glasses as I was unsure how the glass would alter the intensity of the light and the spectrum of light emitted. I checked with Coralvue before hand as to UV protection this was the reply:

SE bulbs have a borosilicate glass which is a UV blocker. While all MH bulbs emit UV light the SE bulbs do have a blocker to limit the amount. DE bulbs have no UV protection and you must use a glass shield to protect the live animals.

Tank SideThis combination gives a very bright white light, while at the same time enhances the blues in the corals. I tried adding an Actinic tube to see if there was any difference. I found there was no difference to the colouration of the corals, so I do not use any Actinics.

As I am happy with this combination and achieving good growth rates. It is my intention to continue using these bulbs again when it's time for their annual change.

The lighting period is 12 hours from 11:00am to 11:00pm. This enables me to have a decent viewing time at night, forgoing the morning session. I have programmed the Aquatronica to stagger the startup of the lights by 5 minutes from left to right. I do the same when switching off. The fish are used to this regime and are normally all hidden by the time the last light goes out.
4 Water Movement
Sequence + Sump PumpsI designed the circulation so that the Sequence 15000 would take water from the top of the tank and then return it the bottom. The sump and chiller pumps return their water to the top of the tank. This creates a random effect where the two water movements meet.

The heart of the system is a Sequence 15000 pump. The output of this pump is divided into 3 outlets, which are situated front and back of the main tank, together with one placed under the live rock. I also have two inlets for this pump in the tank. The main reason why I chose two is simply incase one gets blocked for whatever reason, and also it reduces the suction.

Each outlet is equipped with 4 nozzles, these are simply a 45 bend. To combat the problem with water flow being different from the first outlet to last outlet, I used different sized reducers (i.e. 25mm to 20mm, 25mm to 16mm, 25mm to 12mm) in the end of each nozzle. I swapped and changed until I felt I had evened out the flow rates of each nozzle.

After about six months, I decided that I didnt have enough flow in the tank. The acros were growing fine, it was was just that I was getting a slight cyano/diatom problem on the lower reaches of the tank. So I added a pair of Seio M1500 (6000 lph) to each end of the tank. These are alternatively switched on every 10 minutes by the Aquatronica. The downside to this is that the Seios create a noise every time they are powered up. I am eagerly awaiting delivery of the new Seio controller to combat this.

Adding up my water circulation, Chiller + sump returns are 4900lph, Sequence 15000lph, Seios 6000lph gives a total of 25,900lph. I estimate the system to be about 790 litres, so this gives a turnover of 33x.
Under the tank5 Filtration
There is approximately 180kg of liverock in the tank. Although the photos show a fairly solid wall of rock, the photos are misleading as I have placed the liverock so that there are many caves and empty spaces. All the rock was bought from Acropora House and I have to say I was very impressed by the quality/price.

I use a Deltec AP851 skimmer together with Eheim 1260 supply pump. The pickup for the pump is situated in the first chamber of the sump and the skimmer return is into the DSB/refugium. I empty and clean the skimmer cup every 3-4 days irrelevant of whether it is full or not.

Tank SideTo remove phosphates, I use a Deltec FR509 phosphate reactor filled with Rowaphos. The Eheim1048 pump takes and returns water from the first chamber of the sump. I change the Rowaphos every 2-3 months.

The sump is based on Simon Garratts design http://www.reef-eden.net/diy_4.htm. The DSB is filled with a 4-5 mixture of STMs Ultra fine marine sand and Caribsea Aragmax in a 40/60 mix. Above this I am growing a mixture of Chaeto, Caulerpa and any other macro algae I found growing on the liverock. The sump is lit 24 hours a day using cheap fluorescent tubes from B&Q.

I also have a small reactor filled with RowaCarbon which is changed weekly.
6 Heating/Cooling
I am using 2 Visitherm 300W heaters situated in the sump and an Aqua Medic Titan 1500 chiller. Using a temperature probe, the Aquatronica controls whether heaters or chiller are switched on. As a fail safe I have set the heater thermostat to 1C more than I want i.e. 27C and the thermostat on the chiller to be 1C less than I want i.e. 25C. I have programmed the Aquatronica to switch either on/off within 0.1 C of 26C.

This setup maintains a very constant temperature, I do not experience a temperature variation of more then 0.5C but normally it is a lot less than this.
Yellow Headed Jawfish (Opistognathus Aurifrons)7 Additives
Calcium Reactor

I am using a Korallin 1501 calcium reactor filled with A.R.M. media, this is run at a pH of 6.5. As my magnesium levels drop over time, I fill the reactor with approximately 5% of Grotech Magnesium Pro. This seems to be a much cheaper approach than adding additives, Labpak etc. to boost up depleting levels.

Since having the reactor I have been through various stages of setup and problems. Initially I followed the instructions i.e. setting the bubble count and adjusting the flow using an Aquadoser variable speed peri pump. I could never set the CO2 correctly so that it didnt accumulate in the top of the reactor, no matter how hard I tried. So next, I added a pH probe together with a solenoid. I programmed the Aquatronica to switch the CO2 on/off and maintain a constant pH in the reactor.

Even with this setup the CO2 still accumulated in the top of the reactor. Basically CO2 would accumulate in the depths of the media and then when big enough, a bubble would push its way up. To solve this I connected the outlet on top of the reactor where you can dump off any accumulated CO2. Using an airline T piece I joined this outlet to the inlet of the reactor. Any excess CO2 is now re-circulated through the reactor. This works perfectly.

After several months the Aquadoser died, so I decided to use a T piece off of one of my pumps.

During all this my calcium/alkalinity levels were wandering all over the place. I just couldnt get it to settle.

Acropora sp.My latest change to the setup was to use an SP3000 peri pump (which gives 50ml per minute). I use a segment timer to switch the peri pump on/off. This enabled me to specify how long the peri pump would be on and give me far greater control over how much calcium/alkalinity would be added to the system. If the alkalinity was low I just added a 15 minute segment, if too high I removed a 15 minute segment. The added advantage to this setup is that I could stop using the reactor 24 hours a day. Overnight the segment timer is setup, so that the pump cycles with 15 minutes on then 30 minutes off pattern.

At the moment I am dosing about 50ml per minute of effluent with a 25dKH alkalinity. In total the calcium reactor is on 17.5 hours a day.

After 9 months of playing with the reactor, trying different setups, I have arrived at an approach which enables me to keep the calcium/alkalinity levels constant and easy to control.

I am also using a small secondary reactor before returning the effluent to the refugium. This reactor is filled 2/3 with ARM and the top inch filled with Rowaphos. The idea being that it would raise the pH of the effluent coming out of the calcium reactor before entering the sump. Having tested the effluent coming out of this reactor it hasn't really increased the pH. So my next change to the setup is to use a bigger secondary reactor.

I am reaching the maximum amount of time I want the calcium reactor to run. The next stage is to run the pH in the reactor at 6.4, hopefully increasing the calcium/alkalinity from the effluent. A pH of 6.4 is the lowest I dare go with A.R.M media in the reactor. Once the tank wants more calcium/alkalinity my options as I see it are to explore other medias or buy a bigger reactor.

Other additives.

I have decided to trial the Prodibio approach of nutrient control. I only started this 3 weeks ago, so it is in the very early stages.

Green Chromis (Chromis Viridis) Seriatopora Caliendrum

8 Control
The Aquatronica controls Lighting period, Seio pumps, auto top-up, Calcium reactor CO2, together with monitoring pH in the tank, pH in the calcium reactor, salinity, redox and temperature.

My auto topup system is completely automated. I have a separate 50L food safe container which I use for RO water to top up evaporation. The RO unit is plumbed permanently to this container. Within this container I have added two float switches top and bottom. I have designed the controller so that the water in the RO reservoir is only replenished when the water level reaches the bottom float switch. The RO unit has a good run filling the reservoir until the water level reaches the top float switch. I test frequently using a hand held TDS meter and I am achieving 0-1 TDS. If it climbs higher then I know it is time to change the DI resin.

Using the Aquatronica Auto Top up device, the Aquatronica computer starts an Eheim 1048 to pump water from this reservoir to the sump.

I used the controller on my website for the first 2-3 months, at the end of which it decided to pack up. I could not trace the fault. Having used the unit, I thought it was far too complicated (I had fun building it anyway). So I decided to build a much simpler version using about 5% of the components of the original. I have now been using/testing this for the last six months. I am now happy with the design and will be uploading the design to my website (www.suttonreef.co.uk) in the next few months.
9 Feeding
Feeding TimeI do not feed any flake food to the tank only 4 cubes of frozen. I try to give as much variety to the fish as possible and alternate daily between Mysis, Mussel, Squid, Emerald Entree, Angel & Butterfly Cuisine, Gamma shrimp and basically anything else thats available frozen. Additionally I also feed daily frozen Cyclopeeze.

For Tangs, Fox face and Angels I feed daily a strip of Julian Springs Seaweed.

Once a week, I drop 4-6 cockles at lights out (so the fish do not consume it) for the hermits, shrimps and Nassarius snails etc. These are always picked clean by the morning. I prefer using shelled cockles as these tend to remain in one spot, enabling me to check that they have all been eaten.
10 Maintenance
A 5-10% water change is done monthly using Reef Crystals and RO/DI water. I use a 200L food safe container to mix the water and leave it a couple of days to mix. Normally I test the new salt mix for alkalinity, calcium, magnesium. Usually I have to increase the magnesium levels.

The glass is cleaned every 2-3 days and the skimmer is emptied and cleaned every 3-4 days regardless of whether it is full or not.

There have been occasions where the calcium, magnesium and alkalinity levels were adrift. I adjusted these using Labpak chemicals and Baking Soda from the supermarket.

I use the Andy Hipkiss calculators (http://andy-hipkiss.co.uk) to find the desired weight of chemicals and then mix with a litre of RO water. I then use airline + valve to slowly drip the contents into the high flow area of the sump over the course of a day.

All my test kits are Salifert, except for PO4 which is D&D. Results of my tests and frequency can be found on my website page http://www.suttonreef.co.uk/Testdata.html
11 Problems
Regal Angel (Pygoplites Diacanthus)After introducing my Regal Angel, I noticed that Sun corals were not expanding as should. After a few nights watching I noticed the Regal Angel was coming up to the Sun corals and taking a nip and to my horror some of the tentacles were floating around in the water. I had my answer it was now a choice between my Sun corals or the Angel. I am afraid the Angel won and I relegated the Sun Corals to the sump.

Since then the Regal is nipping at my Candy Cane corals, and these are not what they should be. I have other LPS colonies in the tank, Euphyllias, brains, bubble and he has not touched any of these, nor have I noticed it nipping at the SPS colonies.

I did start to have a flat worm explosion, but this stopped as soon as I added an Iridis wrasse. I haven't seen a single flatworm after its introduction.

Initially I lost a few fish which decided to go carpet surfing. This led me to using egg crate over the top of the tank to prevent the fish jumping out.

Most of the macro algaes are gone since introducing the Foxface and Tangs. However there is still one which prevails. I believe it is Caulerpa Webbiana. Manual extraction is very difficult as you never seem to be able to get it all off the rock and it just grows back. If anybody knows how to get rid of this please tell me!

At the moment I am having a slight problem with cyano and diatoms on the lower reaches of the tank. The vast majority of the cyano is on the Caulerpa Webbiana. As it is a bushy seaweed I am assuming that detritus is settling there and causing the cyano.

I am using the Prodibio products to see if this has any effect on the cyano and macro algaes. Also I am increasing my water changes regime to 10% per week.
Green Chromis Shoal (Chromis Viridis)12 Livestock
Most of the SPS corals were purchased as frags from FishmansFrags, Reefworks and SPS Hoover. I have had a 100% success rate with every frag. I would certainly recommend these people as a source of supply if you are starting to keep SPS.

Some of the SPS colonies were mari-cultured bought from the LFS. Out of the 9 purchased I have lost 2. I am not too sure why they bleached as it happened when I was on holiday.

There are a few colonies/frags obtained from fellow reefers, again I have had 100% success rate with these.

All the LPS together with zoos and mushrooms were purchased at the LFS.

All the fish were purchased at Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts.
Leopard WrasseCandy Hog Wrasse (Bodianus Bimaculatus)13 Fish
Common Clown
Fire Goby
Green Chromis (6)
Pacific Sailfin Tang
Orchid Dottyback (2)
Banggai Cardinal
Scarlet Hawkfish
Iridis Wrasse (Halichoeres Iridis) Pacific Sailfin Tang (Zebrasoma Veliferum) Leopard Wrasse
Algae Blenny
Candy Hog Wrasse
Flame Angel
Regal Angel
Onespot Foxface
Tomini Tang
Yellow Headed Jawfish
Iridis Wrasse
Lawnmower Blenny (Salarius Fasciatus) Scarlet Hawkfish (Neocirrhites Armatus) Red Spotted Blenny
Yellow Tang
Purple Tang

14 Corals
Well, quite a few!

My stock at the moment consists mainly of hard corals: Acroporas and Montiporas. In addition there are Pavona, Porites, Euphyllias, Plerogyras, Turbinaria, Caulastrea, Stylophora, Favia, Seriatopora, Pocillopora.

A full list of my corals together with growth pictures can be found here http://www.suttonreef.co.uk/Coral_Stocks.html

In addition to these there are some zoos, mushrooms, xenia (which hitch hiked their way into the tank with an Acropora). Star polyps, Palythoa which were hitch hikers on the liverock.

My initial strategy was to buy quite a few frags and see which ones survived and which ones didn't. The problem is all survived and I don't really want to get rid of any of them.

Brains Tank Side Euphyllia Montipora Turbinaria Acropora Millepora Acropora sp. Acropora Millepora Acropora sp.

15 Invertebrates
Electric Blue HermitBelieving that variety is the key, I have introduced many different species of hermits, snails etc. The figures quoted are approximate as it is impossible to count in a live system and I cant remember exactly how many I have introduced. Also I must have very well behaved hermits as to my knowledge none have attacked my snails.

50 x Common algae (Brown Legs)
60 x Red Leg
30 x Dwarf Blue Leg
6 x Tibicen
20 x Mexican Red Tips
3 x Electric Blues
50 x Astrea Turbo
25 x Astralium
12 x Trochus (Black foot)
40 x Nassarius Vibex
6 x Fighting Conch
6 x Tonga super Nassarius
30 x Ceriths
6 x Mithrax Crabs
1 x Sally lightfoot
5 x Cleaner shrimps
1 x Boxing Shrimp
16 Final Thoughts
My plan for later in the year is to upgrade the system, to an even bigger tank. I am thinking along the lines of 82"x40"x(30" or 36").

Why, I've got the bug good and proper now! At the moment I don't think I have enough room to grow the acroporas. I want to experiment with different species and be able to put them in different locations. I also want to experiment with other SPS families. Apart from that, I really like deep tanks.

I am not that happy with my closed loop design. I do not feel I am maximising the flow rate out of the Sequence. Hence my addition of the two Seios.

There are plenty of other niggly bits I would want to change.

Onespot Foxface (Siganus Unimaculatus) Feb 07 Montipora

17 Acknowledgments
First of all I would like thank my wife and children for putting up with what I can only call my obsession.

Also I would like to thank all the members of this board whose questions and answers have increased my knowledge of the hobby at an exponential rate. There are plenty of members on the board who put in enormous effort to pass their knowledge/experience onto other people who they have never met. You know who you are, I don't need to list them out. However I would like to thank Simon Garratt for his website, without which I am sure my tank would be no where near as successful.

Finally I would like to thank Anthony (Antsreef) for the general help/advice he has given me in setting up this system, for looking after my tank when I am on holiday and being a sounding board for some of my crazy ideas.


Please leave your comments and questions on the Tank of the Month thread at UltimateReef.com.

Fact File
Water Parameters
Temperature: 26C
pH: 7.95 - 8.15
Salinity: 1.026
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 1-2.5 ppm
Phosphate: 0 ppm (using D&D test kit)
Calcium: 430 ppm
KH: 9 dKH
Magnesium: 1400 ppm
Iodine: Iodide >.1ppm Iodate 0ppm
Strontium: 12
Redox: 300-310

Skimmer: Deltec AP851
Lights - Halides: 3 x 250W Reeflux 10K, Luminarc III Reflectors, Icecap Electronic Ballasts
Pumps: Sequence 15000, Eheim 1262 (2), 1260, 1250, 1048 (2), Seio M1500 (2), SP3000 peri
Heaters: Visitherm 300w (2)
Chiller/Cooler: Aqua Medic Titan 1500
Phosphate Reactor: Deltec FR509
Calcium Reactor: Korallin 1501, secondary reactor
Control System: Aquatronica
Top up: Aquatronica, Home made controller
RO Unit: RO-Man 100 GPD 6 stage
Other reactors: Small fluidising reactor for carbon

Tank Specifications
Tank Dimensions: 72"x24"x24"
Sump Dimensions (1): 48"x18"x18"
Tank Volume: 680 Litres (Main Tank) 250 Litres (Sump)
System Volume: 790 Litres approx adjusting for rock etc.

Written by and Photography by Dave (Dave_P). Image copyright with photographer - please contact for use.
Published on March 6th, 2007 at UltimateReef.com

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