Unlike most winners, I can't say 'I was surprised and shocked to receive the PM from rattters that my tank has been nominated for TOTM'! I am overwhelmed though by the number of PMs I do receive voting for my tank and the comments posted on my tank thread for the tank to be featured as TOTM. This is my third marine tank, will it be my last........possibly not!
I have kept fish on and off for the past 30 odd years, from pond to tropicals, but never on the scale to rival the set up I now have. The salty side of the hobby (obsession) has opened up a whole new world for me, meeting a wealth of knowledgeable, keen enthusiasts which has led to some great new friendships along the way.
The Red Sea has now become our holiday destination of choice. I'm lying here today compiling this article looking out over Sharks Bay. You just can't beat it! Being here again has also opened the door to another 'world'. Scuba is now another hobby that we are both embarking on. We will be back!
2 System Details
The main display tank is a 78x30x30 manufactured in 12mm glass with black silicon and a painted-on black background. It has a diagonal weir in the left hand rear corner. Connecting the tank to the sump are twin 50mm drains.
I originally set the tank up approximately 18 months ago using a conventional sump in the cabinet under the main tank.The tank, cabinet and sump was purchased second hand from Reef Bloke who had the tank custom made and the cabinet was all his own work, with a little help from his good friend Pavlo.As the system grew though, and I added separate fuge and frag tanks housed in an under stairs cupboard, along with phosphate media slow flow pods, the maintenance of the system became more time consuming and restrictive due to space limitations. So, after helping a good friend set up his new system with a dedicated sump room there was only one option..........more to follow later on the sump room!
The main display tank is lit by an 8x80w ATI Powermodule, dimmable on 2 channels, which for the most part is more than adequate to 'cover' the tank's footprint. However, with the corals growing from 'end to end', I have added two 2x24w Arcadia units, one at each end, mounted across the tank to cover the last 6" to provide a more uniform light coverage.
KZ Coral light
KZ New Gen
The Arcadia units both have a KZ Coral light and a Narva blue.
The rear pair of tubes switch on at midday and are at full brightness by 1pm; the front pair of tubes switch on at 12.30 and are at full brightness by 1.30pm. The 4 centre tubes switch on at 3.15pm and turn off at 9.15pm. The inner & outer pairs then start dimming down at 10pm with the last pair being fully off at 10.40pm.
I use a GHL full weather stick and a pair of GHL simu spots for sunrise and moonlight illumination. Sunrise starts at 06.30am and is the only illumination until the main lights come on at midday. The moonlights are set to follow the lunar cycle for my home location. Frag tank lighting:
The frag tank is lit using a ATI Powermodule 6x24w
One pair of tubes (blues) are timed to switch on at 1.30pm and these remain on until 10pm. The remaining 4 tubes then switch on at 3pm and remain on until 9pm.
The fuge is lit with a 6x39w T5 unit, but only the 4 centre tubes are wired to illuminate. The tubes are Sylvania Triphosphor 865 6500K Daylights. The lights are set to switch on at 10pm and switch off at 1pm the following day.
I aim to replace the tubes in all the lights every 9 months.
The circulation is provided by a mixture of Vortechs, Tunze and Polario units. These have been strategically placed to allow the flow to be not only random, but also to give a good balance around the rock work and the corals.
I have 3 MP40s, two of these are the wES models, the remaining one is the gen 2 version. All 3 are wirelessly controlled via the GHL, 2 are connected to a battery back up should there be a power outage. I use 2 MP's on the right hand side of the tank, on the left hand side is a single MP40, this one being the gen 2 version.
I have a Tunze 6105 mounted 6" down on the weir, pointing upwards at a 45 degree angle to add surface movement, plus a Polario 7M behind the left hand scape to add flow along the rear of the tank.
The Vortechs and the Tunze are further controlled by the GHL to allow for feeding pause whereby their output drops to 50% for a predetermined time interval depending on the food being fed. The Vortech modes and time intervals are set as follows:
The right hand front MP40 is set as the master, predominantly it is set on Reef Crest Random at max speed, with the GHL the speed can be set for all the pumps in steps between 0-255. The pump switches to Lagoon random at 10.30pm and the speed drops to 200 at this time, it then reverts to Reef Crest at 8.30am the following day. For 15 mins every day, starting at 7.30pm, the pump switches into Nutrient transport mode to free off any trapped detritus from feeding at 6pm. Should the mains power supply fail, this pump is set to continue running on battery back up at 50% speed.
The left hand MP40 is set as a synchronous slave running at max speed. During the night hours, from 10.30pm to 8.30am, it switches to anti-synch slave and runs at a speed of 170. This pump is also set to run from the battery back up in a power outage at 50%.
The MP40 at the right hand rear is also set as a synchronous slave, but running at a speed of 140. During the night hours, this one continues as a synchronous slave and runs at a speed of 170. As this one is also an ES version and in synch with the master, it also runs the Nutrient transport mode.
The circulation in the frag tank is provided by a single MP10wES running at a constant speed of 160, this coupled with the flow from the return is more than adequate.
Two 400w Visitherm heaters are employed to look after the heating for the tank. These are set independently to act as a master and a slave. The 'master' is located in the skimmer section of the sump. If the temp falls from my pre set of 26 degrees, then this heater 'kicks' in. The 'slave' is the first chamber of the same sump. If the 'master' can't keep up with the heat demand, then this heater kicks in at 25.8 degrees. So far, the 'slave' rarely comes on due to the house being well insulated and the heat from the lights keeping the temp up during the day. Winter may prove different though, as the sump room hasn't seen a winter yet!
Due to the room the tank is in being South facing, plus the fact it only has French doors and we can't leave any windows on 'vent', when I first started using T5s the temperature of the tank in the summer months would rise significantly. I purchased a second hand Hailea chiller which is located outside in a small 'shed'. The chiller is fed with a Eheim compact 5000 from the settlement tank. The chiller is underrated for the water volume (it was borderline on the previous tank) but does keep the temp in check on really hot days. The chiller is set to come on at 26.8 degrees to compensate for the time it takes to bring the tank temperature back down to the nominal temperature.
I also have two GHL Breeze 5 fan units over the main display, set to first activate if the temperature rises above 26.2 degrees, then ramp up in speed to be on at maximum speed if the temperature exceeds 26.4 degrees.
Sump stack stats:
The frag tank is 3x2x15'' (212l)
Main sump is 4x2x2 (190l) 10'' water depth
Fuge is 30x12x13 (77l)
Settlement tank is 2x2x18'' (170l)
Water change tank is as the settlement tank.
Total water volume of the stack is 649 litres
The flow from the main display returns into the settlement tank through 50mm pipes, controlled by a gate valve. The ball valves allow the settlement tank to be isolated for water changes and changing the filter sock which is a 200 micron.
To the left of the tank is a 25l container for the ATU. This is connected to a 600l IBC in the garage, so topping up the container is easy!
The pump in the tank is for the chiller, the hole in the bottom of the tank is for water changes so when the tank is isolated the water can be pumped down the drain by opening a ball valve next to the waste for the sink, and switching on a pump under the tank. Gravity will do the job, but a pump makes it quicker!! The new water is then 'dropped' in from above. The mixing tank is the same size as the settlement tank.
All of the above can be carried out without switching off any pumps, thereby leaving the system running constantly.
The water flows from the settlement tank into the main sump. This contains all the returns from the frag tank, UV, DaStaCo and fuge which is on the top shelf. The fuge is returned into a 400 micron sock to prevent any macro algae being sucked into the pumps.
The centre section houses the TC2060 skimmer, fed by an Eheim 1260, the same as the original sump set up. Air is drawn from outside through a carbon filter to feed the skimmer venturi pump. The air supply line to the venturi pump is T'd off to accept the Ozone intake supply from an Aqua Digital unit set on low. The air to the Ozone unit is also drawn through an Aqua Medic drier, the beads for which are replaced monthly.
In the return section are 2 Lagunas, a 7500 which feeds the UV, PO4 pods, fuge and frag tank, and an 11000 which is the return to the main display.
Above the main sump is the frag tank and above this is the fuge. This has 25mm twin standpipes, whereas the frag tank utilises 40mm twin standpipes.
To control the PO4 level in the tank I have adopted the slow flow method using DI pods and Aqua Phos. The first pod contains a 30 micron sediment filter as I was finding the fine filters in the pods were blocking up after a while and slowing the flow. The second pod has 400g of carbon which is replaced 4 weekly. The next three pods all contain 400g of Aqua Phos, each of which is replaced in rotation as the PO4 level rises, so I don't change all three in one hit. The flow through the pods is approximately 5 lph.
7 Supplementation Methods
When the tank was first set up I was using the Balling Light method. As the demand for kH increased due to coral growth, I sought an alternative method for supplementation, this being a calcium reactor. After trying a couple of different options and struggling to find a reactor that I could happily 'get on' with I purchased a DaStaCo six months ago and now have a stable kH level week in, week out. In addition to the above I dose 10ml of Grotech A, B and C on alternating days. No other additions/potions are dosed as I find a regular water change maintains the tank's health and vitality.
The salt I am currently using is Tropic Marin Pro Reef which I find close to the parameters the tank now runs at.
8 Monitoring/control systems
The system is predominantly controlled/monitored by a GHL Profilux III ex which I can access through the web. My phone (Android) has an app to allow remote monitoring plus the system is set to send an email with a status report every 2 hours of the main monitored parameters, pH, temperature, redox and the status of the level sensors. If the email doesn't arrive then its time to panic! The email notification is a good way to know that the system is ok and the power to the house is still on.
I like to feed my fish a variety of different foods. They are fed 4 times per day. The first feed is a pinch or two of flake, usually around 7.30am. I feed 'New Era' flake and follow the 6 week regime using the 'Aegis' or 'Marine Flake'. If the latter I mix in the Herbivore variety. The same flake is then fed around midday.
The 'evening meal' is made up of a variety of frozen foods. I buy frozen slabs of Mysis, Brine Shrimp, Krill and PE Mysis, add equal quantities of each to a litre jug, fill it with RO, let it thaw out, then mix it all together and rinse it through a strainer with RO. The mix is then divided up into ice cube trays and refrozen. I take a cube out every day, pop it in the fridge and then feed this at 6pm to the tank. I also add a sheet of Nori to the tank at this time which doesn't take long to be consumed by the Tangs!
The last feed of the day is at 9pm, this is either 'New Era Marine Pellets' mixed with the herbivore ones, or the 'Aegis Pellets'. Again this depends on the current cycle following the 'New Era' regime.
For me the maintenance and general 'housekeeping' is the basis of a successful reef tank. I may be construed as a 'bit obsessive', and can often be found 'tinkering' in the sump room or just observing the traits of the livestock. Once you have established a routine and can learn the behaviour patterns of the fish, then the rest falls into place naturally.
I carry out a water change every two weeks now I have a dedicated sump room. The volume of the water I change is 170 litres, which equates to roughly 10% The filter sock in the settlement tank is a 200 micron nylon type and is swapped out every 3-4 days. Usually I will do this on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Saturday being water change day. The water change/filter sock changes can be done by isolating the settlement tank, so the system continues to run normally by turning two ball valves which allows the flow from the tank drains to bypass the settlement tank.
The skimmer cup is cleaned at monthly intervals due to the use of a swabbie to keep the neck clean. The swabbie cleans the neck every 6 hours. The skimmate that collects in the cup flows into a Davy Jones locker which I empty weekly. If the level of skimmate collected were to rise quickly for whatever reason, there is a sensor that registers the locker is full and the GHL will shut off the skimmer Venturi pump.
I aim to harvest the chaeto every fortnight and pull out a good carrier bag full each time.
The glass on the main display is cleaned every 2-3 days. This includes the back of the tank which I do with a home made long handled mag float. Basically it is a mag float attached to a redundant long handled scraper. When the tank was first sited I left a good 6" clearance behind the tank for this purpose.
The VorTech wetside assemblies are cleaned when they start to look like they need it. I don't have a set time scale for doing them, but when they have been done there is a marked improvement in the flow they produce! The Eheim 1260 for the skimmer is probably cleaned every six months, along with the skimmer venturi pump. Again I don't stick to a fixed routine with these, it's when I feel like they need doing! I don't tend to clean the return pumps either, 'if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it'.
Really the only 'set in stone' routine I do have is a good look at the livestock every night, fish counted and checked, corals checked for any signs of 'damage' and a general once over of the system.
The one 'problem' that springs to mind with this tank was coming home from work one day to find the living room carpet 'squelchy'! Panic mode cuts in pretty darn quick in this situation as I'm sure some of you reading this will testify to ☺
Initial thoughts were the tank or sump is leaking. Out comes the torch. In these situations are you hoping to find a leak, or when you don't, confusion really gets the better of you! Every line in the base of the sump looks like a crack, you have to reach in to 'feel' it with your finger nail!
It is then that you spot the water coming out of a pipe connecting the peri pump to the supply line to the PO4 pods. The fine filter in the pod had blocked up, the peri wasn't going to give up, but the RO connector did! Its amazing how far a little water can go!
Hence I now use a pre filter in the PO4 pod set up and it is tapped off the return line to the sump stack.
2x black/white Common Clown (Amphiprion ocellaris)
The Kole is a permanent resident in the frag tank for algae control for which he does a fantastic job!
The Clowns were rescued from a local tank shutdown and keep the Kole company, plus they wouldn't get too warm a reception from the existing pair in the main display!
The system is predominately SPS, most of which have been grown from frags and transferred from previous tanks. Their placement was carefully chosen but even the best made plans don't always work out and growth rates can and will catch you out unless you intervene. For me though, I like to keep my hands out of the tank as much as possible and let nature takes its course as it would in the wild.
I do have a small collection of LPS, mainly to add colour and movement to the front of the tank at sand level. As for soft corals, a few zoas and mushrooms is now all I have which have found their own place on the rocks to 'settle'.
Top down shots:
I have a mixed selection of CUC, virtually all employed for a specific role.
People often ask me, 'how do you keep the sand so clean'? I don't, its the sand sifting stars and the orange lipped conch that do a fantastic job here.
2 x Astropecten polycanthus (Sand sifting starfish)
6 x Strombus luhuanus (Orange lip conch)
2 x Lysmata amboinensis (White banded cleaner shrimp)
Numerous Trochidae Snails (Turbos)
2 x Lysmata wurdemanni (Peppermint shrimp)
3 x Ophiotrichidae (Brittle Stars)s
1 x Lysmata debelius (Blood Shrimp)
15 Final Thoughts
We all strive to make the hobby enjoyable, rewarding and hopefully live up to our expectations.
The good things always take time in this hobby, we all know how quick things can and do sometimes go wrong and the stress this can bring with it. We have to battle through the bad days though, the positive ones far outweigh the negative ones and it is keeping this focus that is important.
For the hobby to continue, sustainability has to be at the top of everyone's list. Seeing first hand the small section of reef I visited recently it is quite apparent that we all need to pull together. Quite how we educate the perpetrators remains to be seen.
As previously mentioned in the introduction, I have made a great many friends through this hobby and more so through UltimateReef, too many to list here and I would no doubt forget someone!
The ones that do spring to mind for their input along the way are Tony, aka Reef Bloke, Christian, aka Hellski, Scott aka Scott!, my tank sitters Tim & Jordy.......
My wife for just being there and supporting me along the way and taking a keen interest in the hobby with all its 'off shoots'.
Last but not least, all the members who have voted for the tank or who have commented on my tank threads over the years.
Pumps: 3xMP40(2 on the r/h side, 1 on the l/h side) 1xPolario 7ML (behind the rock structure on the l/h side) 1xTunze 6105
Top up: GHL-optical sensor controlled
Heaters: 2x400w Visitherm
RO Unit: Osmotics 4 stage 300gpd
Chiller/Cooler: Hailea 500 plus a pair of GHL Breeze 5s over the tank
Ultra Violet: TMC 2x55w commercial unit
Phosphate reactor: 3x In line pods with AquaPhos Xtra
Calcium reactor: DaStaCo 2000 with Coarse Aquamedic Hydrocarbonate
Ozone: Aqua Digital controlled through GHL
Dosing Pump: GHL 4 channel
Tank Dimensions: 72x30x30 inches
Main Sump Dimensions: 48x24x24 (10'' water depth)
Frag tank dimensions: 36x24x15
Fuge dimensions: 30x12x13
Settlement tank dimensions: 24x24x18
Tank Volume: 218 gals (1000 litres)
System Volume: 363 gals (1650 litres)
Quick Fire Questions
1. Do you subscribe to any publications? UltraMarine.
2. Whose is your favourite tank? Ridgeway's for its beauty, Krzysztof Tryc's cos its just 'wow', Hellski's for its dimensions!
3. What books do you recommend? Aquarium Corals" by Eric Borneman.
4. Who has been your inspiration? My Father, he had a motto, 'live for today'.
5. Who do you turn to for advice? Anyone who will listen!
6. What's been the greatest purchase you've made? DaStaCo, closely followed by Mag Float scrape.
7. If you could change one thing on the tank, what would it be? SThe weir comb for a removable one for ease of cleaning it.
8. What do your family think of this? Love it!
9. What do you do for a living? Training manager for a car manufacturer.
10. What other hobbies do you have? Photography and now scuba!
11. What single piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of taking up reef keeping on this scale? Plan the tank/set up around the maintenance side that will be required, the easier it is the more you will enjoy the final result.
12. Chicken or egg? Sausage and egg McMuffin.
13. Dream fish? Napoleon fish, maybe not in this tank though!.
14. Anything, invented or otherwise, that you'd love to be able to get your hands on? Spectrophotometer!
15. What camera/kit do you use? Nikon D60 mainly with the stock 18-55 lens.
16. Which is your favourite forum on UR & why? Members tanks to gain ideas and observe systems develop into full blown reefs.
17. Favourite music A finely tuned skimmer, closely followed by a quiet weir!
18. What car do you drive? Volvo C30 R Design with a S60 R Design on order.....with Polestar!
Written by, and, photography by rattters (rattters).
Image copyright with photographer - if you wish to use an image please contact the photographer.
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Published on November 1st, 2012 at UltimateReef.com