Tank of the Month | UltimateReef.com | 12.12
Neil's (Rantok) 54 x 24 x 24
1 Introduction
Tank in the roomSo, upon checking my PMís as I do most nights I happened to see one jump out from the rest. rattters....TOTM! Surely not, it canít be!? I was so surprised I thought it must have been a practical joke. I honestly counted the Ďtísí in ratttersí username to check it wasnít some naughty person with a new account winding me up. It was real!

Then after the elation and shouting to my wife, reality started to set in; I just didnít think my tank was worthy of following in the footsteps of those that have gone before. This month in particular following Mark!! I thought long and hard for a few days, as to whether I should accept the award, particularly as the tank is still relatively young and still has a lot of improving to do. However, after a bit of encouragement from my wife, who had pointed out that it had been voted for by other members, I resumed my celebratory mood.

To all of you who have voted for my tank, or even tagged along in my threads, I really canít thank you enough. To have so many people even look in on my build and growth threads has been simply amazing, and I have met so many great people through this forum over the last couple of years. This really is the icing on the cake.

Thank you so much! It genuinely means a great deal to me.

I have kept fish for about 10 years or so (excluding goldfish as a kid!). I started with tropical fish in a planted aquarium of a modest size. After moving house about 4 years ago I decided to have a crack at marines. I made all the common mistakes you can make, particularly in the equipment stakes buying an all in one that was not easy to upgrade and therefore I quickly outgrew it.

Reading UR for an unhealthy amount of time, looking at all the fabulous systems out there, and with so many helpful and knowledgeable people on hand to offer advice, I decided it was time to try again.

About 2 years ago I started planning this tank and was determined to get it right from the start.
2 System Details
Well this is embarrassing..! No fancy sump rooms, no monitoring computers, t-offs, auto water changers etc.

All I have is a tank that is 54 x24 x24 and a 4 section sump in the cabinet. Even one of those sections is empty save for one pump and a heater!

The total system volume is about 450 litres after displacement.

I run Balling lite on the tank, and use a GHL independent doser to dispense the solutions. This has worked great, keeping everything nice and stable.

From a filtration point of view I run the following:

  • live rock in the main display
  • Mechanical filtration using filter wool to catch larger particulates in a DIY tray - changed every 3 days
  • BM NAC7 Skimmer in first section of sump
  • Gyractor running biopearls
  • Fluidised reactor containing Rowaphos (now PO4x4) - Changed every 4-5 weeks
  • Fluidised Reactor containing Rowa Carbon - run 24/7 - changed every 2 weeks

  • Water is returned to the display via an Eheim 3000 pump. I use D-D H2Ocean Salt for all waterchanges.

    The tank has been wet now for about 12 months and stock has been in for less than a year so it has come on a great deal in a short space of time.

    FTS Middle Reflections

    FTS FTS End on

    End on End on End on

    End on End on FTS

    3 Lighting
    lighting end onLighting was one of things I wanted to make sure I got right on this tank. I knew I wanted to keep SPS and so looked at the successful tanks and what they were running at the time. I had my order in for an ATI Sunpower Dimmable but that order got delayed... and delayed and delayed. During this time I had started to look into a new kid on the block, the Ecotech Radion. After looking at the numbers and the other benefits of running LEDs I decided to take the plunge. I have never looked back.

    These lights are fantastic, and with the upgrade path available to new tech as it comes around I am confident they will be a sound investment for some time to come.

    There was a lot of debate at the time, and still is, as to whether LEDs could sustain and grow SPS corals and deliver good coloration on par (pun intended!) with T5ís and Halides. While there are still some doubters out there, I hope this tank and the growth thread I maintain are starting to convince people that LEDs are indeed the way forward and PAR and spectral output combinations available give a whole new variety of options for reefers to use rather than traditional tube combo options.

    I think this is the first tank to win TOTM lit solely on LEDs from the start; one thing I can say is it most certainly will not be the last!

    I run the lights from 8am through to midnight at varying degrees of intensity and colour temp.

    radion mounting
  • 8am - sunrise (orangey red using combo of RGB) - 10% intensity
  • 9am - sunrise - 20%
  • 10am - 7k Kelv - 50%
  • 10.30 - 10k Kelv -80%
  • 11am - 12k - 90%
  • 12-5pm - 12k -100%
  • 5pm - 14k - 100%
  • 6pm - 18k - 100%
  • 7pm - 20k - 90%
  • 8pm - All Blues - 90%
  • 9pm - Deep Blue - 75%
  • 10pm - Deep Blue - 15%
  • 11pm-12am - Moonlight (white) - 10%

  • This gives 5 hours of peak output and then PAR starts to ramp down through the evening. I find this possibly the single best feature of the lights. As the colour temperature changes throughout the day, it brings out different aspects of the tank and makes it, and its inhabitants, look totally different.
    4 Circulation
    Waterflow in the display is managed via two Vortech MP40s in Reefcrest mode. They are positioned at each end of the tank and run in anti-sync mode.

    I love these pumps as I have managed to find the balance of creating enough varied flow in the top half of the tank without creating a sandstorm and annoying the LPS on the sandbed (I leave that to the wrasses!)

    Over time, as the corals have grown out, I have found I have had to increase the flow rate from about 70% to 100%. As growth continues I may have to add another to ensure no dead spots appear.

    Vortechs Vortechs

    5 Heating/Cooling
    Again, I kept it really simple. I have two 300w heaters in different sections of the sump set to 26C to keep the tank warm.

    Cooling isnít so much of a problem living in the north east of England. If the sun does appear for any length of time I open the windows and doors to create a flow of air through the house. If that isnít enough I have an emergency frozen bottle of water I can place in the sump... I havenít needed that yet thanks to the marvelous British summer!
    6 Supplementation Methods
    As mentioned earlier I use the Balling light method via an independent doser to keep my Alkalinity, Calcium and Magnesium at the desired levels.

    Other than that I have had good results with some KZ products namely:
    top down Coral Snow
    Amino Acids
    Coral Vitaliser
    Flatworm stop

    These are not dosed to a specific amount per day, rather I have learned to judge based on how my corals are doing what I need to dose. Depending on whether tissue or pigmentation is darker/thicker or lighter/thinner I will adjust the usage of the supplements to suit. This has worked pretty well so far for me, and will continue with this approach going forward.

    Polyp extension and coral colour has definitely improved and I think these supplements have helped me maintain healthy corals despite running ULNS via pearls and Rowa.

    7 Monitoring/control systems
    Not much to mention here I am afraid. Other than the heaters and the GHL doser the only other bit of automation I have in the engine room is a Tunze Osmolater auto top-up which is one of my favourite bits of kit on the whole tank... exciting eh!? No? OK we shall move on!
    8 Feeding
    The tank is pretty heavily fed with a wide variety of food about 5-7 times per day. One advantage of working from home is I do get to feed more regularly. In terms of the food used, it is a mix of around 10 different types of dried food and a similar number of different types of frozen.

    In addition to this there is a very healthy amount of live food within the tank for the fish to graze on. The Mandarin refuses to eat anything else but is still one fat fish!

    I target feed the BTA, sun corals and LPS about once a week using a mixture of meaty frozen foods.

    Cataphillia SPS

    SPS Zoas LPS


    9 Husbandry
    I clean the glass every 3-4 days using a Magblade which has been a fairly recent purchase and is an awesome piece of kit. The back glass is cleaned using a long handle blade cleaner but this is one of the jobs I hate the most!

    Balling canisters are checked daily and solutions mixed as needed.
    Water parameters tested weekly with the exception of Alk which is tested twice weekly.
    Skimmer is cleaned, and filter floss exchanged every 3 days.
    All pumps and equipment get a strip down and clean as needed (usually 3-4 months).
    Water changes are done without fail once per week at 5% of system volume.
    RO chamber topped up every couple of days.
    Corals and fish are inspected multiple times per day. The tank is in the lounge so I often find myself stood in front of it!

    Tank progression:
    FTS January 2012 FTS May 2012 FTS November 2012

    10 Problems
    Luckily there have not been too many! One of the main issues I have had leading to the loss of a number of LPS corals has been my wrasse collection. Particularly the Halichoeres sp which love to feed and sleep in the sand. When they do this they have covered a number of LPS with sand and I have ended up fighting a losing battle. No amount of basting and tank visits has helped.

    Due to the wrasses and a very fine substrate my water can appear a bit cloudy at times too. However, I wouldnít swap them, they are great fish!

    Other than that, most of my problems have actually occurred very recently when I have pushed the alk on my tank a little too hard. I did this after seeing the effect on growth rates of running alk a bit higher. However, as the tank is very nutrient poor, this has led to some of the weaker corals stripping and I have lost a few colonies that I have had for a long time. Alk has very slowly been reduced and the system has recovered, although there are still some corals showing signs of damage. I will now run with 8dkh going forward which seemed to be the best balance for my tank.
    11 Fish
    Current fish stock:

    Tiera Anthias (Pseudanthias pulcherrimus) Orange Shoulder Juvi (Acanthurus olivaceus) Tomini Tang (Ctenochaetus tominiensis)
    Yellow Spot Anthias (Odontanthias borbonius) Purple Tang (Zebrasoma xanthurum) Black and White Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
    Orange back fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis) Gold Nugget Wrasse (Xenojulis margaritaceus) Black Leopard wrasse (Macropharyngodon negrosensis)
    Xmas Fiji Wrasse (Halichoeres biocellatus) Mandarin (Synchiropus Splendidus) Helfrichi Firefish (Nemateleotris helfrichi)
    Earmuff Wrasse (Halichoeres melasmapomus) Yellow Chrysus Wrasse (Halichoeres chrysus) Male Peacock Wrasse (Macropharyngodon bipartitus)
    Naoko Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus naokoae)

    Tiera Anthias (<em>Pseudanthias pulcherrimus</em>) Orange Shoulder Juvi (<em>Acanthurus olivaceus</em>)
    Tomini Tang (<em>Ctenochaetus tominiensis</em>) Yellow Spot Anthias (<em>Odontanthias borbonius</em>) Purple Tang (<em>Zebrasoma xanthurum</em>)
    Black and White Clownfish (<em>Amphiprion ocellaris</em>) Orange back fairy wrasse (<em>Cirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis</em>) Gold Nugget Wrasse (<em>Xenojulis margaritaceus</em>)
    Black Leopard wrasse (<em>Macropharyngodon negrosensis</em>) Xmas Fiji Wrasse (<em>Halichoeres biocellatus</em>) Mandarin (<em>Synchiropus Splendidus</em>)
    Helfrichi Firefish (<em>Nemateleotris helfrichi</em>) Earmuff Wrasse (<em>Halichoeres melasmapomus</em>) Yellow Chrysus Wrasse (<em>Halichoeres chrysus</em>)
    Male Peacock Wrasse (<em>Macropharyngodon bipartitus</em>) Naoko Wrasse (<em>Cirrhilabrus naokoae</em>)

    12 Corals
    As you probably have guessed by now I am a little addicted to keeping SPS. There is just something about watching them grow, the different forms they take, and the feedback they give you in terms of colour, polyps etc that is just fascinating.

    I also really enjoy LPS and the amazing feeding techniques and colours, but keeping so many wrasse, as mentioned earlier, has made it a challenge to keep them on the sandbed.

    In addition I also have a number of softies such as a variety of mushrooms and zoas. So I guess while the tank is SPS dominated, it is actually a mixed reef tank.

    SPS SPS Sun Coral

    13 Invertebrates
    Usual clean up crew here. About 20 crabs mostly red leg hermits although there are an electric blue, Hawaiian, and some dwarf blues in there.

    In terms of snails the population has exploded thanks to some in-tank breeding of dove snails. As well as the doves there are some spiny astrea, a couple of Mexican turbos, some normal astrea, a load of nassarius, some ceriths and a conch.

    I also have 2 cleaner shrimp and 3 peppermint shrimp. All of which provide an added challenge to target feeding LPS

    In terms of starfish, only one purchase here which is a sandsifting starfish. It does a great job of keeping the sand clean. There are a few brittle stars in there that have hitch hiked and I only ever see come out at night with the red light on the tank.

    Cleaner Shrimp Hermit Hermit

    Conch Starfish

    14 Final Thoughts
    I am pleased with where the tank has progressed to so far, but I still think this has some improving and growing out to do to get it to the vision I have in my head. When set up originally I wondered whether I could keep SPS at all as it was my first time ever attempting to keep them. Being my first time I have made mistakes in terms of not really appreciating their future growth patterns and requirements so I think this tank will get a makeover soon, in conjunction with a new project in the next couple of months.

    This tank has really rewarded me for following the advice of some of the really knowledgeable people on this forum. In particular, the mantra of Ďkeeping things stableí. It has also kicked me in the nuts a few times when I have been a little complacent. I have learned so much over the last year or so that the tank has been running, and keeping the tank has always felt like a pleasure rather than a chore, which I guess is the ultimate test!


    15 Acknowledgments
    Too many individuals to list here to be honest so I am going to keep it really general and just list this forum and its members, in addition to the sponsors on here that have helped make the tank what it is. I can honestly say that everything I have learned about keeping marines has come from this forum, the amazing people and sponsors that contribute to it.

    There is one individual I would like to call out however and that is my wife Anna. She has slowly seen her house transform from a home into a large fish room. Bits of equipment all over the place, tanks in 3 rooms, kitchen cupboards hijacked with fishy related foods and potions, and the smell of a just cleaned skimmer wafting through the house every Saturday morning! All the while Anna has been really supportive and really encouraged me to make the tank as good as I can. Thank you! Oh, and Anna if you read this, I told you I could set this tank up, buy the equipment, and stock it for less than £1000! *cough*

    Click me!

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

    Fact File
    Water Parameters
    Temperature: 26
    pH: 8.1
    Salinity: 35
    Ammonia: 0
    Nitrite: 0
    Nitrate: 0
    Phosphate: 0.01-0.05
    Calcium: 440
    KH: 9 currently but reducing to 8dkh
    Magnesium: 1350
    Iodine: 0.06
    Redox: not tested

    Skimmer: BM NAC7
    Control System: None
    Lights Ė VHOs: 3 Ecotech Radions
    Pumps: 2 xMP40
    Top up: Tunze Osmolator
    Heaters: 2x300w Visitherm
    RO Unit: Osmotics 4 stage 300gpd with booster pump
    Chiller/Cooler: frozen water bottle and some open windows
    Ultra Violet: none
    Phosphate reactor: 2 Phosban reactors now running PO4x4
    Carbon reactor: Phosban 150 running Rowa Carbon
    Pearls Reactor: BioAquatek reactor running BioAquatek pearlsL
    Dosing Pump: GHL 3 channel indpendant doser running balling light

    System Specifications
    Tank Dimensions: 54x24x24 inches
    Sump Dimensions: 32x15x15 (9.5'' water depth)
    System Volume: 450 litres after displacement

    Quick Fire Questions
    1. Do you subscribe to any publications? Not currently.
    2. Whose is your favourite tank? Luc Loyen's (jawsee) just before breakdown, I have never seen a man frag with a hammer and chisel before! Krzysztof Trycís and TonyBís tank. All have been an inspiration but there are loads I have looked at on here and drooled at over the years.
    3. What books do you recommend? Books? Do people still use them?
    4. Who has been your inspiration? Friends and family, those that are most important tend to have the biggest influence.
    5. Who do you turn to for advice? Anyone I trust enough for the subject in hand.
    6. What's been the greatest purchase you've made? RO booster pump, closely followed by Mag Float scraper or Tunze Osmolator
    7. If you could change one thing on the tank, what would it be? Weir design doesnít seem to be able to cope with increased flow.
    8. What do your family think of this? Love the tank, probably hate the time and cash I spend on it.
    9. What do you do for a living? General Manager for large telecoms company.
    10. What other hobbies do you have? Golf, watching Newcastle United, and drinking lager.
    11. What single piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of taking up reef keeping on this scale? Read lots, go see lots of tanks, and speak to lots of people about what they are pleased with and what they would change on their own tanks. That will help you avoid the pitfalls and share the successes.
    12. Chicken or egg? Egg, anyone who thinks different is just wrong!
    13. Dream fish? Probably some sort of large angel, since keeping SPS will probably keep that type of fish as a dream only.
    14. Anything, invented or otherwise, that you'd love to be able to get your hands on? A backwall blade cleaner that works like a carwiper, fully automatic and can detect any critters or obstacles on the glass. Or pestbuster 1000 that identifies all known pests and kills them without you even knowing. 100% guarantee not to hurt livestock and improves coral colours.... why not!?
    15. What camera/kit do you use? Canon 400D Ė stock lens and a 100mm Macro.
    16. Which is your favourite forum on UR & why? Members tanks, itís where the inspiration comes from.
    17. Favourite music It depends on mood, canít go wrong with Dire Straits though.
    18. What car do you drive? Audi S4

    Written by, and, photography by Rantok (Rantok).
    Image copyright with photographer - if you wish to use an image please contact the photographer.
    This article may not be reproduced or copied without the express permission of the UR.Com Board owner or the UR.Com TOTM Co-ordinator. Published on December 4th, 2012 at UltimateReef.com

    Copyright © 2012 UltimateReef.com