Greg Timms (snappy) Sumptuous SPS
I would like to thank Chris & UltimateReef.com for selecting my tank to be featured this month, it is indeed an honour. I hope that through my photos and remarks you will be able to feel the passion I have for this hobby and get a sense of the enjoyment I receive from it.
I have always been fascinated with the ocean and its' vast diversity of life forms. It truly is another world. I love this hobby that allows us to keep a small part of it in our homes. No matter where we live in the world this great hobby gives us a common bond and draws people together regardless of backgrounds or other beliefs. I am grateful to be given this opportunity to share my little piece of the ocean with you.
2 Aquarium Profile
I ran freshwater aquariums for years, African cichlids mainly, and like many people I seldom had less that two tanks going at any given time.
When I shut my last tank down in late 1989 due to a leak I decided at that time that when I eventually got back into the hobby I would switch to salt water. In October 2004 that dream became a realisation when I had a tank custom built.
I thought I would begin my salt water adventure with a fish only with live rock system and maybe add in a few soft corals to sway back and forth in the flow. I had seen this kind of display at some fish stores and thought they looked pretty cool. Within about four months I found I was actually buying coral as often as fish and my tank slowly started to become a reef.
By spring 2005 I was up to about 24 fish, an RBTA, several LPS with a few leathers and mushrooms as well as some Montipora caps and digitata.
In November 2006 I connected an acrylic 60 gallon aquarium in-line to use as an ornamental Refugium & Softie tank. The refugium is made up of live rock, soft corals, and macro-algae. This tank has an old school sump in the rear where I also keep a cheato chamber running on a reverse photo period. I have since plumbed in a 40 gallon frag propagation tank to the system. This has increased my water capacity to approximately 250 gallons; the extra volume along with the increased nutrient exportation has made a huge difference in helping to stabilize the system and decrease nuisance algae growth in the display. Adding more volume to the system meant more water draining to the sump in case of a power failure so I installed a new sump that is capable of handling the extra capacity.
In the long run I continue my never ending quest for rare and interesting SPS corals. Because I am pretty much out of room when I acquire a new gem on my wanted list I am forced to trade out pieces in the display that I find less appealing to wait it out in the prop tank until I upgrade to a larger tank.
My original lighting was a 72” Power Compact fixture which I thought was pretty bright and assumed it was all I would ever need. However, by the summer of 2005 I knew I wanted to upgrade to Metal Halides so I could add in some harder to keep sps coral such as acropora. In July 2005 I upgraded to a 72 inch fixture with 3x175 watt & 2x 96 watt PC actinics.
Right after my ordeal with the skimmer in 2006 my main ballast died in my light fixture so I was again at a crossroads. It helped me realise my reef wasn’t where I wanted it to be anyway, so in October 2006 I once again upgraded my lighting. I decided on a 72” fixture that houses five HQI bulbs, two 150 watt 20 K and three 250 watt 10 K, that would allow me to create a better sunrise and sunset effect with a higher intensity and then added in some moon lights for extra effect. I have since added a T5 fixture to supplement the lighting to help give that little extra pizazz I had been looking for.
8:00 AM – 1 watt moonlights on
9:00 AM – T5’s on
10:00AM – 150 watt 20k m/h on
10:30 AM – moonlight off
12:00 PM – 250 watt 10k m/h on
8:30 PM – 250 10k’s off
9:30 PM – T5’s off
10:30 PM – 150 20k’s off
10:45 PM – 1 watt moonlights on
12:00 AM – moonlights off
white led moon phase light runs automatically via sensor while main lights are out
NOTE: I try to time the photo period in a way in which I can spend more time on the reef while it’s active. By starting the lights a little later in the day they are on for a longer time after I get home from work which gives me more time to tinker and enjoy.
40 watt light on reverse photo period in the rear sump Cheato chamber
8:00 AM -actinics on
9:00 AM – pc’s on
10:00 PM – pc’s off
11:00 PM – actinics off
Frag Tank (250 watt Geisman HQI pendent)
9:00 AM – on
9:00 PM - off
4 Water Movement
Around that same time that i added the chiller in October 06 I also changed the powerheads to Tunze’s with a multi-controller. The difference in the flow and random surge has made a huge difference in keeping my reef happy and growing.
In September 2005 I added a sump and Dec 05 upgraded my protein skimmer. I once again figured I was all set. Then in summer 06 I added in an RO/DI unit with an auto top-off going to the sump. I finally switched to R/O because I had a major hair algae outbreak that almost killed my reef.
It got so bad that I did a complete tear-down in September 2006 and was rethinking whether or not to even stay in the hobby. I obviously kept going which is a decision I am pleased I made.
As it turns out my skimmer had been running at about 1/3 capacity for several months which had sent my nitrates through the roof.
I was without a protein skimmer for most of the summer and in late August 2007, I upgraded to a much bigger unit that could handle the load. The new skimmer has a 24 inch footprint and is 30 inches tall so I had to install it away from the main display as there was no room for it.
I modified the skimmer to drain into a 5 gallon bucket both to help with emptying skim mate because it’s inconveniently located under the frag tank, and as a safe guard against it overflowing.
There is approximately 500 Lbs of live rock through out the system containing a mixture from Australia, Fiji, Jakarta, Vanuatu, Caribbean & Belize, Hawaii, Mexico & Tonga.
After upgrading my filtration and lighting in 2006 I was closer to the intensity I wanted but the water was getting too hot. I decided after loosing many sps colonies from the heat that I needed a chiller.
After installing the chiller I started to question why it had to keep running so often to keep things cool, I mean my light was hot but not that hot.
Anyway, I did some checking and discovered I had a faulty heater that was staying on 24/7 and this had likely been my biggest problem all along.
That said the chiller is still a definite necessity and really helps keep the water temperature stable.
In January 2007 I started running the Polyp–Labs Reef Fresh program which helps keep the nitrate levels in check using bacterial strains, amino acids and other supplements. It basically encourages a low nutrient environment. I have been pleased with the results over this past year or so. I have also been using a few Zeo supplements as well with good results.
I give Polyp-labs a lot of credit for keeping my nitrates under control while I was without a protein skimmer for most of the summer in 2007, I was very fortunate to not have a huge algae bloom and put that down to dosing with reef-resh during that time.
2008 has been a very good year for my reef in general so I can focus more on improving through automation and equipment. I have found you don’t need a lot of fancy gadgets to have a successful reef tank but it does take more time without them.
Feeding is provided on a daily basis, generally twice per day, and food is alternated to give their diet a variety of flakes, pellets, brine(super)shrimp, mysis shrimp, cyclopeze and nori seaweed. I also mix in some Reef-roids or similar product on occasion to provide some extra food for the corals.
I use Randy Holmes Farley’s 2 part recipe for dosing Calcium & Alkalinity. My reef has a demand which requires 500 ML of alk & 400 ML of calcium on a daily basis to keep the levels stable. Magnesium is added at approximately 500 ML per week as per Randy’s recipe. Potassium is also dosed daily while other trace elements such as Iodine & Strontium are dosed biweekly.
Skimmer - empty & clean once a week
Pre-Filter bags – change twice a week
Carbon – change out monthly (media bag runs through an Aquaclear filter in the refugium)
Water Changes – 10% weekly
Prune & frag corals as needed
It seemed whenever my reef started to do well Murphy’s law kicked in and something else happened. The summer of 2007 was to be no different.
I discovered our dishwasher located in the kitchen, on the floor directly above where the tank is, had been leaking and dripping straight into the tank for an undetermined amount of time. The drain hose had sprung a leak and who knows what chemicals ended up in the tank between the soapy dish water and the basement ceiling tiles, etc.
Needless to say I took immediate action, especially in the light that I was without a skimmer at this time!
I changed and added extra carbon and did seven water changes in eight days of 15% each and managed to save the majority of livestock but the SPS took a big hit. Most of it lived although I did I loose several nice pieces. Unfortunately what did live either bleached or browned out, but for the most part they bounced back quite nicely.
No good sps drama would be complete without having a few red bug battles so of course I have had run ins’ with them and learned the hard way that nothing goes into my system without being given a dip for such pests. I have been lucky so far and never had acropora eating flatworms (AEFW).
Anyway, it’s now been well over a year since any major problems, (knock on wood) so with things being stable my tank has never been healthier or looked better. The biggest problem I’ve had lately is trying to keep up with the growth of the corals. Not a bad problem to have since the demand for frags has greatly increased.
|Blonde Naso Tang
||Coral Beauty Angel
|Yellow Tail Damsel
||Stripe Damsel x4
||Black&White Ocileris Clowns x2
|Blue Devil Damsel
||Watchman Gobies x2
||Foxface Rabbit Fish
|Blood Red Hawkfish
||Yellow Coris Wrasse
||Blue Mandarin x2
||Red Serpent Star
|Black Brittle Star
||Nardoa Novaecaledoniae Star
||Tridacna Crocea clams x3
|Soft Coral Tank
|False Percula Clowns x2
||Banggai Cardinals x2
||Yellow Clown Goby
||Skunk Cleaner Shrimp x2
||Blue Striped Pipefish
||Blue Lankia Star
||True Percula Clown
I don’t know the Latin names of all the corals in my collection so I will only list those that I have identified through research and/or a lot of help from others in the hobby who are more knowledgeable than me. Acropora identification in particular can be quite difficult when trying to compare an aquarium coral with one in the wild, especially when you enter reticulate evolution into the equation. Magnified skeletal examination is really the only sure way for a positive id. That said, I have tried to be as accurate as I can and where possible have listed the corals by the general taxonomic family first and then by genus and species.
SCLERACTINIAN (stony) CORALS
First listing SPS & then LPS.
A.Loripes, A.Lovelli, A.Rosaria, A.Nana, A.Verweyi, A.Hoeksemai, A.Microphthalma, A.Humilus, A.Gemifera, A.Caroliniana, A.Jacquelineae, A.Prolifera, A.Loisetteae, A.Prostrata, A.Youngei, A.Austera, A.Tortousa, A.Valida, A.Proximalis, A.Millepora, A.Aspera, A.Kimbeensis, A.Batunai, A.Formosa, A.Tenuis, A.Turaki, A.Lokani, A.Horrida, A.Abrotanoides, A.Robusta, AAbrolhosensis, AStriata, A.Pichoni, A.Efflorescens, A.Plana, A.Pulchra, A.Subulata, A.Aculeus, A.Insignis, A.Maryae, A.Cerealis, A.Echinata, A.Bifurcata, A.Convexa, A.Chesterfieldensis, A.Divaricata, A.Hyacinthus, A.Vermiculata, A.Desalwi, etc.
M.Digitata, M.Capricornis, M.Danae, M.Verrucosa, M.Capitata, M.Confusa, M.Samarensis, M.Flabellata, M.Tuberculosa, M.Aequituberculata, M.Undata, M.Setosa, etc.
Pocillopora Damicornis, Pocillopora Verrucosa.
Stylophora Pistillata, Stylophora Subseriata.
Seriatopora Hystrix, Seiatopora Caliendrum, Seriatopora Stellata.
Hydnophora Pilosa, HydnophoraRigida.
Turbinaria Peltata, Turbinaria Reniformis
Euphyllia Ancora, Euphyllia Divisa,
Acanthastrea Echinata, Acanthastrea Lordhowensis,
Corallimorpharians (mushroom corals)
Rhodactis, Actinoddiscus (=Discosoma)Striata, Mutabilis, Cardinalis, etc.
Tubipora Musica, Xenia sp. , Alcyonium, Lobophytum Pauciflorum, Sarcophyton Elegans, Sinularia Notanda, Sinularia Dura, Capnella Imbricata, Heliopora Coerulea, etc.
Briareum Asbestiumi, Rumphella,
Zoanthids (Various species)
Pachyclavularia Violacea (green star polyps)
14 Favourite Remarks
In Michael Paletta’s book Ultimate Marine Aquariums he asks his subjects about some of their favorite remarks that people make when they see their reefs. I liked the concept so I approached Mike & he gave me permission to use that same idea in my article. I often get a kick out of people’s reactions when they see my reef for the first time. Here are just a few first time comments;
- Oh my gosh, I’ve never seen anything like this before.
- Is that salt water? Is all that stuff alive? Are those plants?
- They’re all corals? Even those? Are they real? How did you get them?
- Do you bring these back when you go scuba diving?
- I used to have goldfish but it wasn’t like this.
- I’ve been diving before and it wasn’t nearly as colorful as this.
- One reaction I find quite rewarding is when people simply stand there and say words like wow or beautiful. (repeatedly)
But being of Christian faith, I think my all time favorite comment was when one individual out of the blue stated:
- I’ve always believed in evolution but after seeing this I think there must be a creator.
15 Final Thoughts
My aquarium’s look and especially my tastes have continuously evolved. This amazing hobby has taken me up and down and back and forth, through euphoric feelings of reward to great depths of frustration. It is said that experience is what you get when you were doing one thing and expected something else. All the (school of hard knocks) experiences along with my desire to learn and improve have brought me to where I am today and I wouldn’t trade them for anything else.
There are of course many things I would do differently if I had a do-over but overcoming challenges and hard lessons are often the best teachers. I still have much to learn and am never satisfied for very long with what I’ve achieved so more changes to my reef are imminent.
With my reef continually growing and corals so often crowding each other, I have found that regular pruning is necessary so starting a frag business became the next logical progression of the hobby for me. Having frags available creates an opportunity for me to meet lots of great people in the hobby, make a lot of cool trades and even get a few costs covered now and then.
The growth of corals over the past year or so has helped push me into planning for a larger tank so over the next few months I will be upgrading to a 400 gallon in-wall aquarium with a room built behind the display where I can hide all the equipment, other tanks and the mess I so often make while tinkering. I plan to automate the system as much as possible at that time and hopefully have more time available for viewing and enjoying the reef.
This hobby has had quite a profound effect on me and has even changed the way I scuba dive. I used to mainly look for the big things; dolphins, rays, turtles, sharks, eels, etc which I will always enjoy seeing, but since having my own reef I spend more of my dives looking at coral details and the small things many people miss such as Christmas tree worms, nudibranches, flatworms, tunicates, etc. I enjoy it more than ever. I hope that my write up and pictures have provided a little something for everyone to enjoy and that my love for this hobby is apparent through my story. I wish you all good luck and happy reefing.
I would once again like to thank everyone at UltimateReef.com for their interest in featuring my reef aquarium. I also want to thank all the people who have helped to educate me and given their support since I got started.
I would like to thank the suppliers that have put up with my bending their ear trying to learn from their knowledge. There are so many people I have learned from, too many to mention here but I again want to thank all those who have willingly shared their knowledge, time and friendship. Thanks also to Mike Paletta who was very gracious in giving his blessing when I asked to borrow his idea.
I especially want to thank my wife Penny for her years of unquestioning support and always giving me plenty of room to run with my dreams.
Please leave your comments and questions on the Tank of the Month thread at UltimateReef.com.
Temperature: 27 C or 79-80 F
Ammonia: not tested
Nitrite: not tested
KH: 8 DKH
Iodine: not tested
Strontium: not tested
Potassium: 350 ppm
Skimmer: Euro-Reef RC500 (3x Eheim 1262)
Lights - Halides: Aqua Medic Sexy Ocean Light (all HQI) - Aqualine 3 x 250 watt 10k & 2x 150 watt 20k
Pumps: Ocean Runner 6500 (return pump) - Ocean Runner 3500 (return for frag tank), 2x Vortech MP340w with battery back up, Tunze Turbelle Stream 1x 6000 & 1x 6100 with Tunze 7095 Multi Controller (with single white LED moon phase light), 2x maxi-jet (for additional flow in behind the rock work)
Heaters: 200 watt titanium heater with Aqua Medic Temperature Controller
Chiller/Cooler: Aqua Medic AT5000
Lights - VHOs: Aqua Medic T5 fixture 72” - T5’s Koralen Zucht 4x 39 watt Fiji Purple - Moon Lights 2x 1w blue LED
Top up: Aqua Medic SP3000 Single Dosing Pump, 45 gallon container aerated 24/7 to maintain PH level
RO Unit: Coralife 3 stage with pump
Other reactors: Filters – 100 micron pre-filter socks installed in sump beneath tank’s overflow and on the skimmer return to improve water clarity and bubble control
Other equipment: Refugium Lighting – 2x 96 watt Power Compact 2x 96 watt Actinic Power Compact