I would like to thank Advanced Aquarist for selecting my tank as a Featured Aquarium and for all of the fantastic information they provide in their on line magazine. I have found so much valuable information in the Advanced Aquarist articles.
I have been in the reef hobby for 10 years at the time of this article. From the start, I focused on keeping SPS corals and have experienced every mistake and failure an aquarist can think of. From tank fires to, basement flooding, to skimmate spills, to electrocution, I have done it all. I have killed every coral and fish in my tank multiple times. At this point, having learned everything the hard way, I have developed very simple systems that keep the tank running super stable with very little maintenance. It has been an adventure.
I read the following in Eric H Borneman’s Aquarium Corals Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History book. “Corals require an aquarium, seawater at the right temperature and salinity, water flow, light, food, bicarbonate/buffer, calcium and magnesium. Period. No other equipment, apparatus, magic potions, pills, voodoo, prayer, or other sacrifices are necessary.”
I have taken this advice to heart and made it my philosophy. From maintaining my water parameters to my auto top off, my system is as simple as possible. I think simple is best as I feel I have achieved a beautiful reef with lots of time to enjoy, and little time fussing over it. I do not run any sort of controller or other sophisticated equipment. All my lights are on old style timers and my medical grade dosing pumps run 24/7. I do have a battery backup on a couple of power heads and a generator in ready for power outages. I do not dose anything but calcium via kalkwasser, supplemented with a calcium reactor (what I call the Kalk/Calc combo method) and magnesium (Randy Holmes Farley recipe). I keep my water very clean with macro algae, a skimmer, ferric oxide, and carbon. I run 250 w Radium halides and supplement with ATI AB+ T5s .
My main interests in the hobby are for sure the hard corals. I just love the complexity of their symbiotic relationships, their beautiful color, and their super unique growth forms. Being a mechanical engineer, I strive to keep my favorite SPS corals alive in as simple and cheap a way as possible. With that in mind, I very much enjoy building and have built a lot of DIY equipment.
My reef life started with a little 30 gallon and with it so did my DIY life. Here are just a few of my DIY projects over the years:
Wave Action Valve (WAV)
Skimmer re-circ modification
Aquarium History & Progression
My aquarium history started June 2006 when my wife gave me a 30 gallon tank for our anniversary. It went fairly well for about 2 years, so I bumped to a 90. That tank was up for about 3 years before it caught fire and I lost it all. I cleaned up the mess and rebuilt into a 120. Well, after 3 months, the bottom pane on that tank cracked and I lost it all again. After a second clean up, I started over for a third time with the 150. It was up for about 2 years and was being overrun by purple shrooms. I tore it all apart in November 2013. I pressure washed every rock in the system and re-stacked. The current tank has been up about 28 months at the time of this article. You would think that after this many tank crashes my wife would have divorced me or strung me up. Although she likely regrets ever having given me that first tank, I think she appreciates the joy I get from the hobby. She has been very, very patient and considers the reef my mid-life crisis that kept me from buying a convertible (in the long run, the convertible would have been cheaper and easier).
My mixed reef is in a 150 gallon tank (48″w x 30″h x 24″d) with a 20 gallon refugium. It sits in the home office and has seagull/beach music playing from behind it 24 hours a day. It makes for a very soothing work environment. My focus is primarily on SPS, but I have some LPS in the tank. Oh, I also have some fish in there.
I have a Blue Line 55HD external pump (1,100 GPH) that returns water from the sump to the display. I have a Mag 9.5 (950 GPH) that drives a closed loop and then there are a couple of tunze 6065 power heads mounted to 1/2″ Sea Swirls (DIY) that swing back and forth across the corals.
I run two 250watt SE MH Radium 20,000K bulbs in Lumen Bright 3 Metal Halide Reflector (Large 19.5″ x 19.5″ x 9″) driven by two 250 watt Reeflex Cube magnetic ballasts for the main lighting. I supplement with two 54watt ATI AB+ T5 bulbs running on a 660 Icecap ballast. I also have a 5,500K compact florescent located in the center of the tank that adds a little yellow to the mix.
The water if filtered by three primary means. I have an ASM G-3 Counter Current skimmer equipped with a Sedra 5000 pump, a 20 gallon refugium filled with Chaetomorpha macro algae, and I do 10% water changes every week. I farm out a softball size wad of chaeto every Saturday morning to keep the stuff growing fast. I believe the real winner here is the macro. I also run carbon and a small amount of ferric oxide 24/7 in a couple of small reactors.
I keep my alkalinity, calcium, and magnesium parameters at the proper levels using a combination of kalkwasser, a calcium reactor, and some Randy Holmes Farley recipe magnesium as needed.
I feed 2 large pinches of Ocean Nutrition Formula Two or Prime Reef flakes once a day. I also add 3 frozen cubes of Piscine Energetics Frozen Freshwater Mysis Shrimp. Twice a week I put in a good size sheet of algae in a clip.
If we ever move from our current home, I would find a house where I could build a dedicated fish room where I could easily reach all of my equipment, the back of the tank, and the sump. Currently I have to fit through a 2 foot square door cut in the wall behind my tank to get to the back of it. My friends and family crack up when they see me squeezing my old self through this little door.