Tank of the Month | UltimateReef.com | 04.07
Tony's (Reef Bloke) Stunning Reef Tank
1 Introduction
Iím extremely flattered to be voted TOTM by my fellow U.R members, itís an accolade I never dreamt or thought I'd be awarded. I had kept tropical fish as a youth but my first marine fish experience occurred shortly after I met my wife at the age of 17 (Iím 36 now). Her father had been keeping marine fish only tanks complete with under gravels and air stones for a couple of years. The 4' by 18'' by 15'' tanks looked huge back then and housed various Tangs and Triggers. I was immediately hooked, the marine fish were of outstanding beauty and their behaviour was so very different to that of my tropicals.

bubble tip in residenceIt was after some five years of keeping my own fish only that I decided I wanted a more natural looking tank. As a lad I remember being transfixed by the likes of Cousteau and Attenborough on the box, where were all my plant like animals called corals they used to bang on about? After a few comments like ĎYou wonít be to able keep those!í from the father-in-law my first soft coral reef tank was born.

My current tank is an SPS dominated system, it does take a little more effort to keep it looking good as opposed to a soft coral system but I think the rewards have been worth it. That's not to say that I donít miss my soft corals I just found them not to be compatible with SPS in my tank due to chemical warfare.

I have also been able to learn a great deal via the internet and U.R and have made many great friends. We meet socially to share our experiences and we are always on hand to help each other out when required.
2 Tank Information
tall cabinet for viewingUnfortunately I have no garage at home so an in the wall tank was out of the question, for this reason I have gone the tank on cabinet route. The tank and cabinet were supplied by the Classic Cabinet Company in silver.

The Display tank has a central weir containing two 40mm standpipes. The primary standpipe is around half the height of the weir, the second standpipe sits around one inch lower than the top of the weir glass. The primary standpipe is throttled back using a ball valve until the water in the weir just seeps over the full height standpipe. This set up results in a near silent weir with added protection against flooding due to the second standpipe if the ball valve on the primary standpipe should block.

The dimensions are:
Tank: 60" by 30" by 30"
Cabinet: 60" by 30" by 39" tall.

This gives a very nice viewing height and keeps the display tank up out of the way of knocks and bumps. The System holds around 200 U.K gallons net.
from the left hand side3 Lighting
When I first set the tank up I opted for a two by 250 watt series 3 Arcadia Halide unit, it was only after I offered the lamps up that I realised that the lamps were sitting over two dirty great brace bars.

looking through from the right,ignore the pg tips monkey!Back to the drawing board, I sold the lights and hung a set of triple 250 Arcadias up. This did the business and coupled with a 5 foot Deltec mega twin T5 unit built into the hood for extra actinic it really hits the spot.

Light specification:
3 Arcadia 14k Metal halide lamps
2 built in 5 foot T8 actinics
2 5 foot Narva blue T5 actinics built into the hood
Total wattage 1018 watts
Halides on 8 hours a day
T5's on 10 hours a day
T8's on 12 hours a day

I maybe looking towards changing the lighting to all T5's in the future but I just donít think I can do without that halide shimmer that gives such a natural look.
4 Circulation
Water movement and circulation within my system is quite unremarkable really, no closed loops or fancy plumbing here.

Being an SPS dominated system water movement is brisk and this is taken care of in the main tank by 4 streams (aka German hairdryers). Two of these are fixed 6060's and two 6100's on separate controllers. One of the 6100 streams is connected to a light sensor to reduce flow a little during the night. There are also two maxi jet 1200's blasting into the rockwork to help keep detritus in suspension.

This equates to a water turnover in the main tank of around 40 times per hour peak and around 35 times per hour off peak.

The return from the sump is taken care of by an Ocean Runner 6500, the water exits close to the water surface to encourage gaseous exchange. This results in a sump turnover of around 6-7 times the system capacity an hour.

An unusual morph One of two A very pretty christmas favia

5 Filtration
Filtration is based on good quality live rock, DSB in the main tank and a good quality skimmer.

The tank contains around 80kg of live rock with a DSB composed of a mix of Caribsea Fiji pink and Grand Bahama biome. Skimming is taken care of by a Deltec AP850, i have played with the idea of upgrading the skimmer but it seems to be doing a grand job. Whenever I up my feeding regime , skimmate increases , so for me this is a good indicator that my skimmer is skimming out whatís going in.

what lies beneathIn addition to my basic filtration listed above my sump includes a section for PO4 remover thatís bagged and sandwiched in floss. My standpipe flows directly into this and I find the PO4 remover easier to maintain this way than using a reactor. I have always found my PO4 reactor messy to fill and it ended up the job that I'd do tommorow. The floss polishes the water beautifully and the amount of crud that ends up in there when I replace weekly is unreal!

I also keep a section in my sump that I grow Chaetomorpha and grape caulerpa. This section also includes crushed liverock thats sat up on eggcrate as a home for pods,mysid shrimp etc.

My weir also contains a small 9" square egg crate open topped box; this houses Chaetomorpha and my Calcium reactor effluents drips into this. The Chaeto then hopefully utilises some of the CO2, whats missed , ends up in the sump and either gets blown off or the second algae bed nabs it.
6 Heating/Cooling
A slow grower but very prettyThe main tank heating is taken care of by one 300watt heater/thermostat connected to a habistat controller. This is a belt and braces approach in case the heater sticks on. During the hours the halides are on the heater doesnít come on at all and it may only come on now and again on a cold night. That said with the tank sited in a centrally heated room I could probably remove the heater all together but its best left in place in case of emergencies.

Cooling is taken care of by two systems, one main and one back up.

coral reflectionsThe main cooling system consists of a Hailea 1/2 horsepower chiller that is located outdoors in its own small shed .This way it doesnít re-introduce heat back into the room the tank is in and push up ambient temperatures even more.

The secondary back up system consists of three large fans located above the aquarium; these are controlled by a habistat cool control that is set to come in if the tank temperature exceeds the temperature that the chiller is set to control. The fans work very well but are quite noisy and make the house quite humid due to the evaporative cooling.
7 Additives
growing out nicelyI use a 50/50 mix of vodka/white vinegar to control my nitrates if and when needed.

I have also started to use Fauna Marin Ultra Bak and Ultra Min daily . I have seen colours improve slightly it's still early days yet as I've only been dosing for a week!

I also use FM Ultra bio to boost bacterial counts monthly.

Aqueous iodine gets dosed weekly at a rate of 0.25ml per 1000 litres.

My Calcium and Alkalinity demands are taken care of by my Schuran Jet stream 1 calcium reactor for the most part. I have included a second chamber of ARM media to achieve an effluent dkh of 58 at 60ml/min with an effluent ph of 6.8.

I use Labpak chemicals or generic ones from a chemist as listed below for any adjustments that need to be made to maintain balance.
  • Calcium Chloride - Calcium
  • Sodium Bicarbonate/Carbonate - Alkalinity
  • Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom salts) and Magnesium Chloride - Magnesium 1-7 ratio.
8 Monitoring
I have been looking at computer control but as yet im not convinced i need it.Iíve been quite happy with my reasonably basic approach, this includes:

  • PH controller: This is set to monitor the internal PH of the calcium reactor, I have set the controller to shut off the CO2 below a pH of 6.0. I have set up the controller this way as the reactor likes a constant feed of CO2 and I have adjusted a pH of 6.1 manually using the gauges. The controller is there to shut down the CO2 if the gauges are altered accidentally.
  • Digital and analogue timers: I use these to control my lighting and turn the CO2 controller off at night so it shuts the CO2 down during the period of lights out/reverse coral and algae respiration
  • Stream controllers: Two of my streams are controlled, two are fixed output.
  • pH monitor: Battery powered Pinpoint pH monitor is used to spot check my pH within the tank.
Grubs up!9 Feeding
Even though I'm quite heavily stocked I donít feed my fish a great deal. I gauge my feeding on their appearance if they look healthy and plump I know Iím feeding enough. If they start to look a little pinched I increase my feedings.

I feed two pinches of formula one flake food in the morning daily.

In the afternoon I'll either feed 3 blocks of frozen food or 1/2 a sheet of nori every other day. I always wash my frozen foods in RO water to reduce the amount of PO4 I add to the tank.

I feed my corals once a week at 3am with Spectra vital amino acid based food.
10 Maintenance
  • Weekly : Clean glass, change floss, clean skimmer cup, thin out Cheatomorpha, test water parameters
  • Monthly : 40 gall water change one month 80 gall the next, change PO4 remover
  • Six monthly : Check all pump impellors, clean out skimmer, 120gall water change
  • Yearly : change halide lamps and tubes
11 Problems
Well Iíve had my fair share of problems, in October 2006 I noticed that the tips of my Sps corals had started to strip. This was followed a few weeks later by a few Acro's that Rtn'd. Although water chemistry was fine this continued for a few weeks until during routine maintenance I discovered that two impellors in my Eheim pumps had blown. This had caused the magnets to rust and leech out into the tank.

most recentAfter replacing the impellors I under took a 160 gal water change over the period of a week and started to dose Aqueous Iodine (courtesy of SPS Hoover). After this, things started to turn around and coral growth resumed.

Around this time I'd also purchased a Moorish Idol, he was a great fish but loved to chow down on my beloved Sps. Needless to say that he was re-homed shortly after, these fish cannot be considered reef safe in my opinion.

My other close call concerned the feet of my cabinet a month or so later. I noticed my brace bars were in the water at the rear of my tank. After inspecting the cabinet I stumbled across pieces of plastic scattered on the floor to the rear. To my shock and horror the rear feet had exploded and the cabinet was now resting on the deck! The front feet were also splitting and threatened the same fate. I was on the verge of breaking the tank down as the mere notion of 200 gallons of water on the floor resulted in the wife gnashing her teeth and giving me 'the lookí. With a heavy heart I posted on U.R for advice and within 24 hours U.R members Pavlo and Hippolad were at my door. They managed to lift the full tank, cabinet and sump off of the floor and install new heavy duty feet. There were quite a few rectum twitching groans and creaks as they lifted her up but the job's was a good un. If youíre reading this guys you saved my bacon and quite possibly my marriage.
12 Fish
The clown of the tankFish, err well I like fish and Iím probably a little overstocked for an Sps dominated tank. Itís quite a balancing act keeping the fish well fed but equally not feeding to the point that it pushes nutrient levels up. Iíve also got a few fish that can be a bit of a pain especially when they nibble Lps, these are my Majestic and Flame angels. That said Iím not a fan of SPS tanks that are very short on fish, for me a reef tank is very much about fish and Iím prepared to endure a little nibbling here and there. Anyhow this is whatís swimming around my reef.

anthias 2 Yellow tangs Zebrasoma flavescens
2 Regal tangs Paracanthurus hepatus
1 Majestic Angel Euxiphipops navarchus
1 Fox face Siganus vulpinus
2 Banggai Cardinals Pterapogon kauderni
2 Green Chromis Chromis viridis
1 Red spot flymo Blenny Istiblennius chrysospilos
1 Six line wrasse Pseudocheilinus hexataenia
1 Peacock Leopard wrasse Macropharyngodon bipartitus
Naughty but nice! 1 Cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus
4 Anthias (one of which is a bi-colour male) Pseudanthias squampinnis and 1 Pseudanthias bicolor
1 Mandarin (male) Synchiropus splendidus
1 Flame angel Centropyge loriculus
2 Black saddleback clowns Amphiprion Polymnus
13 Corals
When I started my present reef I had quite a few soft corals including Sarcophyton and Sinularia. I noticed that the growth of my Sps was somewhat slow and I removed my soft corals. After this I noticed growth improve so now I only keep Sps, Lps and Gorgonians, as well as a scattering of Zooís and mushies.
My coral stock includes.

Various Acropora sp
Seriatopora hystrix
Echinopora sp
Pocillipora Damicornis
Various Montipora (Danae, Capricornis, Undata and Digitata)
Hydnophora sp
Porites sp
Turbinaria sp
Trumpet/candy cane Caulastrea sp
Open brains Trachyphyllia sp Lobophyllia sp
Maze Platygyra sp
Closed brain favia sp
Hammerhead 3 various Euphyllia sp
Torch Euphyllia sp
Various Zooanthus sp
Various mushrooms Actinodiscus sp
Various furry mushrooms Rhodactis sp

Large Lobophyllia centre piece A beautiful coral and one of my fav\ very slow grower This monti really is super! A small frag that\ I won this frag in a comp,growing well!

14 Invertebrates
My lovely bubbly!invertebrate stocking is as follows:

1 Rose bubble tip Anemone Entacmaea quadricolor
50 Nassarius snails
30 large Turbo snails
1 Sand sifting Starfish
1 Large green Brittle star
20 various hermits
2 Cleaner shrimp
1 Blood shrimp
1 Boxing Shrimp
1 Large Urchin
1 Pink and black sand sifting sea cucumber.
stunning fish and always on the move15 Final Thoughts
Iím already thinking up plans for a larger reef tank but to be honest id like to take my present one as far as I can.

I may continue to tweak the flow of the system as it grows out but Iím now hopefully at the stage where I can sit back and watch it .Famous last words!
One of a bonded pair16 Acknowledgments
Obviously such a hobby can take its toll on the family so id like to thank my wife and kids for putting up with soggy floors, money disappearing without a trace and a grumpy old reef keeper.

Great friends that have been there to help through the bad times and share the good. Ultimate Reef for sharing its wealth of info with me, my credit card company and bank manager and Mother Nature!

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

Fact File
Water Parameters
Temperature: 26-27 degrees
pH: 7.9-8.2
Salinity: 1.026
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 5-10
Phosphate: 0 according to a Salifert kit
Calcium: 420
KH: 10
Magnesium: 1390

Skimmer: Deltec Ap850
Lights - Halides: Arcadia 3 by 250 watt 14,000 kelvins plus 2 built in T8 actinics
Pumps: 2 Stream 6060's , 1 Stream 6100,1 Stream 6000,2 maxijet 1200's in rock,Ocean runner 6500 return pump
Heaters: 300 watt on habistat controller
Chiller/Cooler: Hailea 500 1/2 horsepower chiller plus 3 fans on habistat cool control as back up.
Ultra Violet: TMC 25 watt in line with input side of skimmer
Phosphate Reactor: Bag of Rowa placed in standpipe return section of sump
Calcium Reactor: Schuran Jetstream one plus secondary chamber,Ph controller
Dosing Pump(s): Coral culture variable 0.54l-7.2l per hour to feed the Jetstream 1
Lights - VHOs: 2 80 watt T5 actinics
Top up: Aquamaster top up system
RO Unit: RO-MAN 75 gall with Di
Other equipment: Sump lit by 2 18 watt T8 tubes

Tank Specifications
Tank Dimensions (L x W x H): 60" x 30" x 30"
Sump Dimensions (L x W x H): 36" x 15" x 18"
System Volume: Around 200 gallons

Written by and Photography by Tony (Reef Bloke). Image copyright with photographer - please contact for use.
Published on May 1st, 2007 at UltimateReef.com

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