Feature Aquarium: The Aquarium of Frank Esser

by | Feb 15, 2006 | 0 comments

Note: Additional photos can be found in this article’s photo album.a.jpg

In early 2003 it occurred to me that my old 80 gallon (330l) freshwater tank might also do for a reef tank. When I studied the various ways and approaches of reefing, I got biased towards reducing technology in favour of an utmost “natural management” of nature.

Thus I decided not to use a skimmer and also do without any kind of conventional (mechanical) filtration. Since there were no drillings in the groundplate I also dropped a sump below the tank. Into the right corner at the backside I glued in an overflow consisting of a separate compartment from where the water is immediately transmitted back into the tank.

Among the different natural filtration systems the “Jaubert System” pleased me because of its simplicity and its advantages with respect to micro life. In July 2003 I covered one third of the ground at the backside with a 5 inch high Jaubert ground which consists of a 1 inch plenum constructed of eggcrate and covered with a common fibreglass window screen. A four-inch sandbed (grain size 3-4mm) was placed on this construction. A bent acrylic strip served as a barrier to the foreground. I used silicon glue to secure this barrier.EggcrateOverflow.jpg

For the lighting I confined myself to 4×54 Watt ATI T5 bulbs with good parabolic reflectors, and this turned out – contrary to common opinion- to be enough light for good SPS growth.

In the spring of 2004 the rich life and excellent coral growth motivated me to make some improvements:

  • Instead of manually adding Kh and Ca liquids into the tank every day, I installed a Grotech TEC III dosing station which now adds the solutions at set intervals (currently eight times per day).
  • To enhance coral colors, I changed the light spectrum more to the blue by using two ATI blue plus and two ATI aquablue special.
  • To raise the pH and oxygen at night, which could become problematic in my unskimmed system, I decided to connect a second, smaller tank (35 gallon) which is kept on a reverse illumination cycle (light at night, dark during the day). The extra tank, or refugium, consists of a frag and algae chamber on one side and a sedimentation chamber on the other.

From the beginning there was a very low concentration of nutrients (NO3=0mg/l; PO4= 0-0,024mg/l measured with Merck) due to the combined efficiency of the Jaubert System, the fair amount of corals, and the regular harvesting of (blue appearing) brown algae (Dictyota sp.). As it seems to me, to the low concentration of nutrients is an important ingredient for the rich variety of coral colours in the tank.AufbauRiffkeramik.jpg

Hopefully this has provided you a short insight on how my tank functions.



  • tunze Stream 6010 with multicontroller
  • Aquabee 1000 (circulation refugium)
  • Tetra 150W heater
  • Grotech TEC III dosing station
  • Zajac Pegel Plus (automatic evaporation refill)



  • 4x54W T5 (maintank)bangai.jpg
  • 2x24W T5 (refugium)
  • moonlight



  • Daily: dosing of trace elements (AquaConnect energy elements 1-3)
  • Daily: feeding various dry and frozen food
  • Every 10 days: measurements of Ca and KH (KH 6-8, Ca 400-420)
  • Every 5 weeks: water exchange (about 10 gallons)Chromis.jpg
  • Mg, PO4, Nitrate is measured
  • Once a month: top the 2.5 gallon KH and Ca canisters (with a German variation of the “Two-part additive system” called the “Balling Methode”)






  • About 60 different species
  • Acropora
  • Montipora
  • Pocillopora
  • Seriatopora
  • Anacropora
  • Porites
  • Caulastrea
  • Tubastreae.jpg
  • Platygyra
  • Euphyllia
  • Blastomussa



  • Jaubert System
  • Strong water circulation
  • Fishes should be kept in pairs
  • Kinds and swimming behaviour of fishes should fit to tank size
  • Occasional (e.g. every 6 months) major water changes (30-40%)
  • Good trace elements
  • Sediments should be siphoned out and algae be harvested


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