Tank of the Month | UltimateReef.com | 10.12
Thiru's (trilobite) Malaysian Reef Tank
1 Introduction
Tank in roomTOTM October ....that's the title of the private message I received from Mark and my heart rate instantly increased...I just could not believe it...to the point of asking Mark if he got the correct tank and when he confirmed it...I was ecstatic.

I have to sincerely thank everyone for not only nominating my tank but also voting it as TOTM October 2012. Thanks!!!

I've been keeping aquariums for almost 30 years now (I'm 40), starting with various fresh water tanks housing ornamental fishes and the golden arowana. I finally decided I needed something more challenging and started my first salt water tank in 2004 which was eventually decommissioned late 2009 when I bought our new home.

I was house hunting for almost 6 months until I found the perfect house that fitted my plans for a new aquarium...which was a tank with 3 viewable sides. The tank was planned from scratch and everything required for the tank ie wiring, piping etc was done during renovation of the new home.

2 System Details
Build Shot The tank divides the living room and the dining area. The display tank measures 84" long, 36" wide and 30" high built with 12mm glass and double braced. A weir tank measuring 25" long, 6" wide and 17" high with two 3" holes is attached with silicone on the top right side of the display tank. The sump measures 60" long, 24" wide and 18" high. The weir side is covered with black background.

The whole system is clad in Merbau wood painted in white to match the theme in the dining and kitchen which was Indian black granite flooring and table tops with glossy white cabinets. Merbau wood is a durable and termite resistant wood found in Malaysia. The cabinet at the top is finished off with plaster ceiling. The whole tank system with cabinets measures 9 feet high, 8.5 feet long and 3.5 feet wide.

Water from the tank goes through the weir compartment via two 3" PVC pipes down to the sump. The sump has 4 compartments, one each for the skimmer, filter floss, refugium and finally the 3 Seio return pumps.

There is also a separate tank for auto top off measuring 12" long, 24" wide and 18" high.

Build Shot Build Shot

3 Lighting
The display tank is illuminated mainly by 3 x 400W Geisemann Megachrome Coral MH bulbs under CoralVue LumenBright Reflectors, fired with 400W IceCap Ballasts. To supplement the yellowish light of the MH's, I'm using 2 x UV T12 VHO Super Actinic 160W / 72 fired by IceCap 660 ballast and 8 x 24W Giesemann Actinic Plus T5HO bulbs. The Giesemann Actinic Plus has the deepest penetration for an actinic bulb compared to the ones I've used in the past, combined with the VHO Super Actinic, it balances out the slightly yellowish output from the MH's to give an overall crisp white lighting in the tank.

The whole lighting setup is installed on a DIY anodised aluminum frame which can be slid along the width of the tank with the option of adjusting the height as well. All the bulbs are changed out every year.
The refugium is lit by 2 x 24W Hagen T5's.

I've got a very simple lighting cycle setup :
12:00 - Giesemann Actinic Plus ON
13:00 - VHO Super Actinic ON
14:00 - Megachrome Coral MH ON
20:30 - Hagen T5 ON
21:00 - Megachrome Coral MH OFF
21:30 - VHO Super Actinic OFF
22:00 - Giesemann Actinic Plus OFF
07:30 - Hagen T5 OFF

4 Circulation
TunzeThe sump is fed by 2 x 50mm pipes from the display tank weir and the return pumps are Eheim 1264s. These 3 pumps are connected to 20mm pipes back to the display tank. Two of these are on the opposite side of the weir and the other is on the weir side. One of these Eheims is pushing water into a cooling drum which then returns into the display tank on the weir side. These 3 return pumps create a random flow that provides beautiful surface turbulence which in turn gives the tank a shimmering effect when the MH bulbs are on.

For the display tank, circulation is mainly handled by 2 Vortech MP40W's mounted on the weir side midway down the tank. The Vortechs are set to Lagoon Random mode. As the SPS grew I noticed flow was getting redirected or slowing down on the far end. To address this, I installed 2 Tunze 6055 pumps on the far end on either side.

As I did not like the magnets sticking out on the outside, I mounted these under the tank side bracings, so everything still looks clean from outside. One pump is pointed towards the front from the dining side while the other is pointed towards the center from the living room side.

There's also a Hydor Koralia 2 mounted on the weir side pointed towards the front from the dining side but I don't really like the strength of the flow on this one, a replacement Tunze is in the works. I wouldn't be surprised if I add more pumps in the future as the corals grow!

5 Heating/Cooling
Temperature controllerComing from a tropical country, it's either hot or hotter, so cooling is a must not only for people but the tank inhabitants as well. The tank is kept cool at a constant temperature of 25C by an air conditioning unit. The system consists of an outdoor 1hp York air conditioner connected to an indoor cooling drum. Water from one of the Eheim 1264s is pumped through this cooling drum and the water is chilled by the air conditioning unit and then sent back in to the display tank.
Water surface

A temperature controller connected to this cooling unit controls when the water needs to be cooled, currently set to kick in at 26.5C. For safety, in case the air conditioner fails, there's another temperature controller connected to the MH lighting power supply. This will cut the power to the MH bulbs when the temperature hits 28.5C.

I've also installed a 12" ventilation fan that sucks warm air out from the top of the tank, mainly heat generated by the MH bulbs. This warm air is circulated out to the exterior of the house.
6 Filtration
SumpI try to keep filtration as simple as possible in my tank. The sump is split into 4 major compartments.

Water from the display tank enters the sump in the first compartment via 2 x 50mm pipes. A Deltec SC2560 skimmer resides in this compartment after a baffle.The outlet of the skimmer is directed into this first compartment as well.

SkimmerWater from the first chamber then flows over to the 2nd one filled with filter floss and 3 bags of BioHome. Filter floss is changed every week. BioHome is a sintered glass filtration media which houses beneficial bacterias. I rinse these off from detritus every month during water change.

The 3rd chamber is a DSB around 7" deep with Chaetomorpha algae and some live rocks above. This refugium is lit by a twin bulb Hagen T5. In the beginning I used to harvest Chaeto every two weeks, but these days, probably once every 3 months or so.

The final chamber houses all the pumps, which includes the 3 return pumps, Phosphate Reactor pump and the Calcium Reactor pump.

CheatoThe Phosphate Reactor is a Reef Maniacs RFR-620 fluidized reactor fed by an Aquabee 100 pump with Rowaphos media. This media is changed out every 3 months, sometimes less, depending on the Phosphate levels.

I've also installed a Sander Certizon C100 ozonizer fed with dry air via a Red Sea air dryer. The ozonizer is connected to a Milwaukee ORP controller, and set to an ORP value of 380, running 24/7.

7 Supplementation Methods
For the first 2 years the only thing that was being added to the tank was Calcium via a Deltec PF-601 Calcium Reactor with Rowalith media. The rest of the supplementation requirements was taken care off by the salt I use, which is D-D H2Ocean.

Since May this year, I noticed Magnesium levels were always low, Calcium was hovering around 380 and Alkalinity levels were never stable. I tried dosing manually with different brands of Mg and Alk buffer but they were only good for a few days and this was taking too much of my time.

In the end I decided I needed a dosing pump. A Bubble Magus BM-T01 3 channel dosing pump was installed mid August. I now dose Mg (130ml), Ca (100ml) and Sodium Bicarbonate (100ml) daily using Fauna Marin dosing salts.

Dosing containers Reactors

8 Monitoring/control systems
OzoneI have 2 temperature controllers in the tank. One is for cooling connected to the split unit air conditioning system. The second one is connected to the lighting power supply. The 2nd one cuts the power off if the water temperature hits 28.5C in case the air conditioner fails.

There's also a Milwaukee ORP controller connected to the Certizon Ozonizer. This controller is set to a value of 380 and runs the ozone everyday which keeps the water clear.

A Milwaukee Ph controller is also connected to the Calcium Reactor to maintain a reactor Ph to 6.8, enough to dissolve the Rowalith media.

Evaporated water is topped up by a JBJ ATO. I've installed both the float sensors in the sump, one for low level and the other is reversed for high level to cut the pump off in case the first sensor is stuck or damaged, this is to prevent too much RO water from entering the system.
9 Feeding
Feeding timeMy tank is quite heavily stocked, so I feed quite a lot, both fishes and the inverts. I feed the fishes 3 times a day and try to vary the food with every feeding. I only use the Eheim Auto Feeder when I'm away from home for holidays.

I feed the fishes with the following, rotated every feeding daily :

Pellets :

  • Ocean Nutrition Formula 1
  • Ocean Nutrition Formula 2
  • New Life Spectrum Thera + A
  • Fauna Marin Ultra Marine Base Color
  • Kent Platinum with Zoecon
  • Dainichi Marine Reef Veggie FX

  • Flakes/Sheet :

  • Julian Sprung's Sea Veggies

  • The corals (and fishes) get fed every other day with the following :

  • Aqua Pharm 5 in 1 Coral Food (liquid)
  • H2Ocean SPS Food (fishes love this!)
  • Cyclopeeze

  • Sometimes I mix all 3 together and feed and I can see a feeding frenzy among the fishes while the corals polyps are wide open. I feed the corals when lights are on and the skimmer will have to be turned off for about an hour after this.

    There's also plenty of pods in the tank to keep the mandarin and wrasses happy.

    10 Maintenance and Husbandry
    Every 2 to 3 weeks I do about 250 litre water change. Every 3 months I change out about 500 litre of water. I use only RO water which is kept in three 200 litre tubs in the store room.

    I use only H2Ocean salt and mixing is done the day before with at least 24 hours of mixing before I do the water change. The water in the tub is mixed with a Rio HF pump. Water salinity is kept at 1.026.

    I replace the filter floss every week and also suck the detritus out of the sump at the same time. The skimmer gets a full clean up every water change, but the cup is emptied on a weekly basis, sometimes a good wash in case there's a lot of gunk stuck to the cup.

    The circulation pumps gets a full clean up every 6 months or so. I get a good exercise every other day when cleaning the glass, all 17 feet of it....a very good workout!

    I try to test for Ca, Mg on a weekly basis but sometimes skip this and depend on the corals to tell me if something is not right. Algae on the glass tells me if I need to change out the Rowaphos so PO4 is hardly tested. The only parameter I regularly test is KH, which is done every week or so.
    11 Problems
    I had 2 major problems with the current tank.

    The first one happened about a year after the tank was setup when I introduced a Powder Blue Tang...everything looked fine for the first 3 days and on the 4th day,an outbreak of ich was seen on various fishes, including all the other tangs, clowns and anthias.

    The only thing I could do was supplement their food with garlic and increase the dosage of ozone. After a week, I lost the PBT, a couple of clowns and about 5 bartletts anthias. I swore after this incident I will never keep another Powder tang, be it blue or brown.

    The 2nd problem was a bit more tricky. One fine day, while I was overseas, my wife sent me photos of the SPS's and I noticed most of them had tissues stripping from their tips and the bases started to recede. I could not do much since I was away.

    Once back home, I saw I've already lost several large colonies and immediately did a water change. I was testing water every day for all the parameters and noticed KH was swinging a lot while PO4 was slightly elevated.

    I had to cut all the dead tips off as they were covered in algae. It took several months before the corals started to recover. As a result of this I'm starting to dose Ca, Mg and KH and things a looking much better now.

    Besides the above 2 big ones, another one worth mentioning was when I saw the whole wet assembly spinning and eventually landed on the zoas below. I found a turbo snail inside which was still in 1 piece but the impeller was damaged beyond repair. This snail cost me a vortech wet assembly!
    12 Livestock
    From the beginning, I envisioned a tank packed with SPS and schooling fishes and the scaping of the tank reflects this. Three isolated islands where I can put SPS all around yet gives plenty of space for the fishes to swim.

    About 90% of the corals are SPS, but I've added some LPS as well, just to give some movement in the tank. You can say this is a mixed reef tank dominated by SPS!

    There are also schooling fishes to make the tank look as natural as possible. I also have a fascination for wrasses and I've been collecting wrasses all the time and will continue to do so. The best part is, I hardly see any aggression among the wrasses.

    The clowns and cardinal fishes regularly spawn in the tank although I never saw any free swimming fry in the tank, doubt if they have any chance in my tank anyway.

    Clown Fry Cardinal Eggs

    13 Fish
    I have a lot of fish in the tank and the big boss in the tank is definitely the Sohal Tang. The Sohal seldom shows any aggression to the other tangs but the rest know not to mess with it. The terrible twins, Yellow and Purple tang are the ones harassing the other fishes occasionally but I noticed the Sohal steps in and when this happens the harassment stops!!!

    The Yellow and Purple tang are the first 2 fish introduced to the tank and is my avatar on UR.

    The current fish stock :

    Sohal Tang Yellow Tang x 4 Purple Tang
    Blue Tang Fowleri Tang Magnificent Foxface
    Blue Green Chromis x 15 Spotted Cardinal x 10 Bartlett's Anthias x 6
    Talbots damsel x 10 True Percula Clowns x 3 Ocellaris Clown Pair
    Black Percula Clown Rose Skunk Clown Saddleback Clown
    Lawnmower Blennie Falco Hawk Fish Long Nose Hawk Fish
    Mystery Wrasse 6 Line Wrasse x 2 8 Line Wrasse
    Whip Fin Fairy Wrasse Leopard Wrasse x 2 Filamented Flasher Wrasse
    Secretive Wrasse Adorned Wrasse Lubbocks Wrasse
    Sea Grass Wrasse Yellow Candy Hogfish Golden Head Sleeper Goby
    Purple Firefish

    Filamented Flasher Wrasse Leopard Wrasse

    Anthias Golden Head Sleeper Goby Yellow Tang

    Regal Tang Eightline wrasse Secretive Wrasse

    Lubbocks Wrasse Sixline wrasse Long Nose Hawk Fish

    Magnificent Foxface Falco Hawk Fish Sohal Tang

    Purple Tang Fowleri Tang Skunk Clown

    Talbots damsel Percula Clowns Ocellaris Clown

    Blue Green Chromis Spotted Cardinal Lawnmower Blennie

    Yellow Candy Hogfish Mystery Wrasse

    14 Corals
    The tank has got a mix of soft corals, LPS and dominated mostly by SPS. I'm still trying to find out their names, most of them I still do not know of but am learning all the time.

    Soft Corals :
    Various Zoas Blue and Red Mushrooms Red Finger Gorgonian

    Zoas Red Finger Gorgonian

    Zoas Zoas Zoas

    Mushrooms Mushrooms

    Polyphyllia talpina Euphyllia ancora Euphyllia paradivisa

    Slipper Tongue

    Frogspawn Hammer

    Various Acros Montipora Capricornis Encrusting Montiporas
    Seriatoporas Stylophoras Pocilloporas

    Plating Montipora Plating Montipora

    Acro Acro Acro

    Acro Acro Acro

    Chalice Plating Montipora Stylo

    Acro Acro Acro

    Stylo Acro

    15 Invertebrates
    These are the ones that tirelessly work in the background cleaning left over food, algae and also turning over the display tank sand.The Squamosas have been with me from the beginning of this tank.
    Turbo snails Nassarius snails Banded Coral Shrimp pair
    Indian Starfish Orange Linckia Starfish (6 armed) Various Acro crabs
    Squamosa clams x 2 Crocea clam

    Starfish Starfish

    Nassarius Clam

    16 Final Thoughts
    Tank in roomThe main thing about marine tanks is things can go bad over night, be it chemistry problems, disease or even power cuts and I've experienced these first hand. The thing to remember is never expect recovery to be quick, there is no quick fix and all good things come to those who are patient.

    We are trying to replicate what mother nature has done successfully for millions of years, so its never going to be easy, there will be ups and downs...and key word here is never give up! Ask for help if you're not sure.

    17 Acknowledgments
    There's only one person I really like to acknowledge here...and she is my wife. Without her, the tank will be in tatters. She takes care of the tank to the best of her knowledge when ever I'm away from the country and she does everything I tell her to do remotely...well almost everything...she will never put her hands inside the tank.

    A big thank you to her for all the support and encouragement she has given me the past 8 years! Thank you dear!!

    I'd also like to thank my 8 year old son and 4 year old daughter for "helping" me during water tests, especially when identifying the end-color! They ask a lot of questions which sometimes make you realize that things can be improved.

    I would also like to mention the Malaysian Reef Club here whose members gave me good feedback, especially when I started my first tank back in 2004 and continuously encourage me on the current one.

    Click me!

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

    Fact File
    Water Parameters
    Temperature: 25.0C
    pH: 8.2 - 8.3
    Salinity: 1.026
    Ammonia: 0
    Nitrite: 0
    Nitrate: 0
    Phosphate: 0.01
    Calcium: 440
    KH: 8
    Magnesium: 1300 - 1400
    Iodine: N/A
    Potassium: N/A
    Strontium: N/A
    Redox: 380

    Skimmer: Deltec SC2560
    Control System: Milwaukee ORP and Ph controller, Elliwell Temperature Controller
    Lights Halides: Giesemann Megachrome Coral 400W
    Lights VHO's: UV Lighting VHO T12 Super Actinic, Giesemann Actnic Plus T5HO
    Pumps: Eheim 1264 x 3, Vortech MP40W x 2, Tunze 6055 x 2, Hydor Koralia 2
    Top up: JBJ ATO
    Heaters: N/A
    RO Unit: 3 stage unit with booster pump and dechlorinator
    Chiller/Cooler: 1hp York air conditioning outdoor unit with cooling drum
    Dosing Pump: Bubble Magus BM-T01 3 channel doser with BM containers
    Auto Feeder: Eheim 3581
    Ultra Violet: None
    Phosphate Reactor: Reef Maniacs Phospate Reactor
    Calcium Reactor: Deltec PF601
    Other equipment: Sander Certizon C100 ozonizer

    System Specifications
    Tank Dimensions: 84" x 36" x 30"
    Sump Dimensions: 60" x 24" x 18"
    Top Off Dimensions: 24" x 18" x 12"
    Tank Volume: 1486 Litres
    System Volume: 1910 Litres

    Quick Fire Questions
    1. Do you subscribe to any publications? No.
    2. Whose is your favourite tank? rattters, john&cam.
    3. What books do you recommend? Corals of the World by Veron.
    4. Who has been your inspiration? Living Reefs around the world.
    5. Who do you turn to for advice? Ultimate Reef & Malaysian Marine Club.
    6. What's been the greatest purchase you've made? Deltec Skimmer.
    7. If you could change one thing on the tank, what would it be? Would have made the tank wider and longer.
    8. What do your family think of this? Crazy....
    9. What do you do for a living? Petroleum Geologist.
    10. What other hobbies do you have? Photography.
    11. What single piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of taking up reef keeping on this scale? Be patient, reefs are not made over night.
    12. Chicken or egg? KFC.
    13. Dream fish? Achilles Tang.
    14. Anything, invented or otherwise, that you'd love to be able to get your hands on? Kh probe!!!
    15. What camera/kit do you use? Canon EOS 60D with Tamron 90mm, Tamron 70-300mm and Sigma 10-20mm wide angle, Canon 50mm lenses.
    16. Which is your favourite forum on UR & why? dentification...plenty of things to learn...there's always someone around to give a positive ID.
    17. Favourite music The sound of my car engine revving.
    18. What car do you drive? Audi Q5...waiting for my Audi TT.

    Written by, and, photography by Thiru (trilobite)
    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 October 1st, 2012 at UltimateReef.com

    Copyright 2012 UltimateReef.com