Introduction About 5 years ago I bought my first fish tank. It was a 46 gallon bow front that I kept fresh water fish in. Every time I would go to the store to buy supplies for it, I would spend time checking out the salt water aspects of the hobby. After keeping it going for about 2 years, one day I decided to switch it over to a FOWLR tank. I bought some life rock, salt, decent lighting and hang on skimmer, and a few fish. I was instantly hooked. Within 3 months, I needed a larger tank, a much larger tank. Even though I was still very much a newbie, I took the plunge and decided on the 150 gallon I still have today.
Current Tank This tank is 150 gallon (60x24x24). It has a single trap overflow with 1.5 inch drain and two 3/4 inch returns. It has been up and running for just over 3 years. That first year was quite the learning experience. Due to lack of knowledge, I went through plenty of hardships, from unfortunate instances of fish/coral deaths, algae outbreaks, parameter swings, etc. It was a bit discouraging, however, I continued to learn from others, and surely enough once things got dialed in...BAM! I used to keep the sump under the main in the stand. After a couple years of struggling to get access to the skimmer, I decided to remodel the closed under the stairs behind the main tank. I cut a large hole and re-plumed and moved the sump. I have also added a couple 20 gallon tanks in-line as a refugium & frag tank. With the main display, sump, frag & fuge tanks, I am ~200 gallons water volume.
System Profile Display Tank: 150 gallon (60"x 24"x24") Display Lighting: T5 retrofit Sump: 44 gallon 3 chamber (running ~22 gallons of water) Return Pump: Mag 18 Skimmer: Octopus Extreme 200 Controller: Reefkeep Lite (lights, dosing pumps, heaters, & fans) Other Equipment: UV Sterilizer, 4 stage RO/DI unit, kalkwasser pump
Filtration I have only a few inches of sand in the display, mainly for aesthetic purposes. I have about 100lbs of live rock in the main. I have quite a few fish, and am constantly working to keep algae growth to a minimum. My skimmer is in the sump, and I hang a filter sock on the drain into the sump. My refugium has some extra live rock and a rather large amount of Chaetomorpha. With all I do to try to eliminate algae growth, it is an ongoing war. Even though I test with no nitrates or phosphates, algae continues in certain spots (not enough flow probably). Sometimes I win the battles, and sometimes algae wins.
Water Circulation & Flow Good flow has been instrumental for me in keeping things well. In addition to the previously mentioned Mag 18 return pump, I have 2 Koralia 5s and 2 Koralia 4s in the main display. I have a Mag 5 in the sump feeding the UV, frag, & refugium.
Lighting I have always run a T5 lighting system. I use seven 48 inch bulbs in a retrofit kit run by 2 Icecap 660 ballasts. I have found that good bulbs are a very important key to good growth. The first year of running my current tank I used fairly inadequate bulbs (without knowing it of course), I soon switched to what I thought was a better brand (at the advice of a LFS). The newer bulbs yielded a bit better growth, but still not good enough. I finally discovered (through the experience of others on message boards) my current brand of bulbs and combination which has sent my coral growth through the roof. I am sure other factors that I finally got dialed in played into my good growth (e.g. flow, steady parameters, etc.), but the right bulbs definitely was a big contributor. I change bulbs out around every 10 months. My current bulb combination is (front to back):
ATI Blue Plus UVL 72/25 ATI Blue Plus GE 6500K ATI Blue Plus UVL Actinic White ATI Blue Plus
I have been very intrigued by the progress of LED lighting in our hobby. But with the early stages of its development and outrageous prices, I decided to wait and watch. Even though I don’t think LEDs have reached their full potential and appropriate pricing for commercial units, I do feel that DIY projects are well within reason. A few months ago I decided to try out building a small unit for my frag tank to determine if I wanted to do a complete switch out on the main display. I have had good results with my test unit and am currently in the process of building a custom canopy and rig that will house LEDs for the main display. Here are some pics of the test unit.
Maintenance, Feeding & Supplements Glass gets cleaned every day or so. I do weekly water changes of about 20-25 gallons. I use my 4 stage RO/DI unit for the water and Reef Crystals for my salt. I have used a few different brands of salt in the past (e.g. Instant Ocean, Red Sea Max, Tropic Marin), but was tired of trying to adjust the mix to the parameters of my tank. Reef Crystals has the closest parameters to my system, so no additives are need to the make-up water. And the price is fairly reasonable. The skimmer cup gets cleaned out a couple times a week, and the skimmer pump gets a good cleaning once a month. The skimmer pump is a Sicce with a Red Devil needle wheel. I change a filter sock once a week, and clean the Koralias every 3 months with a good scrub and vinegar soak.
I feed Mysis shrimp once every day (equivalent of about 2-3 cubes). I do throw in zooplankton almost every day as well. Every other day a clip of Nori gets in as well, about 2x3 inches. I don’t target feed any coral or add any phytoplankton or any other feeding supplements.
I dose Alkalinity, Calcium, and Kalkwasser using parasitic pumps every hour. Each dose is at separate times. Kalk is every hour, 24 hours a day for top-off water. Alk gets dosed on the even hours, and Cal is on the odd hours. So Alk and Cal are dosed 12 times a day each. My salt keeps my Magnesium at a decent level. However I will check and add Mag once in a while manually.
Livestock I have always wanted a mixed reef with lots of fish. Most advice I have gotten was that you have to choose one or the other. SPS, LPS, and about 22 fish seem to be working well. I have certainly had my hardships with fish with regards to choosing incompatible ones, or not so reef safe, or bullies, or the order of adding was wrong, etc. I don’t quarantine and have paid the price once with a Powder Blue that infected and wiped out 90 percent of fish once. I do have a sand sifter starfish and a couple snails (e.g. Nassarius, Astrea) and a couple of hermit crabs remaining as the Mystery Wrasse keeps snaking them. So clean-up crew is not really a major contributor. Current fish list is as follows (22 total):
Corals One of the things that I am very bad at is identifying corals. I am okay at getting the family, but the specific species are tough. So, that being said I basically have some Acropora, Millipora, Stylophora, Pocillopora, Digitata, Bird Nests, Zoanthids, Mushrooms, Torch, Hammer, Candy Cane, Aussie Acan, Open Brain.
Acknowledgements My wife and kids are the ones I would like to thank the most, as they understand all the effort that it takes to keep in a hobby as ours. They enjoy the reef as much as I do (well maybe not quite as much). All of the reefers out there on all the boards are the biggest contributors to my knowledge. I thank them for their tireless efforts in sharing. Thanks to SoCaliReefs for bestowing me this honor.