250 Gallon In-Wall Reef

Volume 250 Gallons
Dimensions 60'' x 36'' x 27''
Make Dallas Aquarium Product
Model DAP-250


Hello, the name is Mann. My salt water journey began in 2001 when I moved to central arkansas. The apartment I lived in had a local fish store nearby and it had become a hang out of mine as I liked to see the things they kept. Through making friends with them I eventually was able to get my own tank and before long was actually working at the store part time helping out set up tanks, tear them down, cleaning glass, running to the airport to pick up loads, water changes and learning everything there was about the hobby.

After graduating college and getting a "real" job I have owned multiple tanks but my prize possession is our 250 gallon in wall aquarium at our current residence. It has housed many things, has been through a few trial and errors along with a major loss of SPS after I battled cancer and had to put it on the back burner.

Now everything is good again and we are on our way to getting all the kinks ironed out.


This tank all started when I moved in with my {now} wife. We had multiple tanks; a 75, a 40 a 36 and a couple smaller tanks. Eventually (after the 75 overflowed) the time had come to make a strategic move to consolidate. There was only one problem, the wife really didn't want a large tank, or any other tank in the house, after that. So, after a few conversations and a lot of convincing, I drew a rectangle on the wall and that was the start of the whole design.

After months of planning, Google Sketch Up models, equipment buying, planning of the fish room or "Reef Cave", everything started. We spent a lot of cold nights in the garage building during December and January, but around March everything came together. 4 years later, we have noticed a few mistakes in the whole thing and corrected them, but it has been a fun journey.

The Tank used to be on a single 1hp chiller; however, the summer months here can be brutal and a large load was taken off of the chiller when we installed a split unit AC into the Fish Room. It is heated by two 400w finex titanium heaters during the winter and they have no issues.

The System itself is comprised of a 250 gallon DAP tank with a 75 gallon refugium, 40 gallon sump and a 20 gallon frag tank. All of the equipment is kept minimal. Biological filtration is the best filtration, but an over sized 400 gallon skimmer never hurts. Other than that, its mostly just water current and high lighting that has kept this tank on track. 2-400 watt metal halides and 2 MP-40s do the grunt work, while the 2 Jeabo WP-40s mix it up a bit.

Over all, it's a pretty well-rounded tank setup. Nothing extraordinary or over the top, but very manageable, and after what we have been through, the KISS method works wonders.


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Filtration is set up mainly as a nutrient export / berlin style, remove and recirculate. The tank drains directly into a 75 gallon tank set up with 2x4" filter socks and refugium for macro algae and other critters that is broken down itself into two baskets, one for just rocks and one for just cheato. They are lifted about an inch off the bottom to let the power heads in the tank blow as much detritus and other foreign debris out of the tank and not let it settle and become a nitrate sink. This tank is mainly to break down and to clean the water as well as it can before the rest is removed through the 40 gallon sump area housing the Aqua Euro 400 protein skimmer.

If it has made it as far as the skimmer, the skimmer's compartment is quite small and it takes up a large amount of water so I would say that 75% of that chamber is taken into the skimmer to finish polishing. The next is a bubble trap that used to house a foam filter until recently I took it out to try and cut back on any areas that could cause a nitrate problem.

Once through the bubble trap it is into the last chamber where the Blueline 70hdx pushes back into the main tank with a small "T" off going to the frag tank.


Main tank lighting is comprised of 2 Coralvue Lumen Bright reflectors housing 2 14k 400 watt Reeflux Metal Halides driven by 2 Coralvue 400 watt ballast and 270 watts of 30" T5 lights to supplement.

Frag tank lighting is comprised of 1 Coralvue Lumen Bright reflectors housing 1 double ended Pheonix bulb driven by a 250 watt Aqua Medic Reeflex Cube ballast.

Refugium is lit by a single 6500 flood lamp above the Cheato basket.


Flow is taken care of by MANY pumps and power heads. The main return is a Blueline 70hdx which takes things from the bottom to the top.

The frag tank has its own Koralia 3 that runs the 20 long as well as what little bit is taken off the main line to feed it.

The refugium is a medium flow tank. I houses numerous pumps that keep debris from settling and to keep water flowing through the rock basket.

The main display houses two Ecotech MP 40s on opposite ends as well as two Jeabo WP 40s for even more power. The MP 40s are set to just be on random as where the Jeabos are set to be on wave maker. It adds for some interesting water movement in the tank at times. I have been know to slosh water completely out of the tank if I mess with it too much.




As I have mentioned before this tank was once an all SPS tank. However that has all changed now and we have focused mostly on softies at this point. Devils Hands, Colts, Kenya Trees and Mushrooms now flutter in the currents. We have a very large colony of cabbage leather, a Sebae Anemone and a Flower Anemone too. I am always looking to add more to this tank, I kinda have this want for throwing every coral I can get my hands on into and just letting them do their thing.

As far as fish, you can see them listed below but we have four tangs that keep everything clean. A Hippo, Purple, Yellow, and Tomini that all seem to get along great together and basically school together at all times.

Others include a pair of mated Banggii Cardinals who if fed meaty diets will drop eggs left and right. A pair of mated Cleaner Shrimp, and a mated pair of Clown fish that are always grooming and keeping their corner clean.

There are two other fish that do their own thing and those would be the Melanurus Wrasse and the Royal Gramma. The wrasse is usually all over the place but wont do what I bought him for (imagine that) and the Gramma can be found hanging out under his ledge at any time just waiting for the food to hit the water.

The abundance of starfish, snails, hermits and other creatures that we collect round out the overall livestock category but they are normal everyday creatures that you can find anywhere. Maybe one day we will look into trying a variety of these just to see.

12 Fish

2 Banggai Cardinal Pterapogon kauderni
Black Ocellaris Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris var.
Blue Green Chromis Chromis atripectoralis
Lawnmower Blenny Salarias fasciatus
Melanurus Wrass Halichoeres melanurus
Regal Blue Tang Paracanthurus hepatus var.
Tangerine Clown Fish Amphiprion ocellaris var.
Tomini Tang (Flame Fin Tang) Ctenochaetus tominiensis
Yellow Tang Zebrasoma flavescens
Yellow Wrasse Halichoeres chrysus

7 Invertebrate

2 Red Line Cleaner Shrimp Lysmata amboinensis
Rock Flower Anemone Epicystis crucifer
Sea Cucumber Colochirus robustus
Sebae Anemone Heteractis crispa
Serpent Sea Star Ophioderma sp.
True Carpet Anemone Stichodactyla gigantea

1 Plant

Chaetomorpha Chaetomorpha sp.
Parameters are something that I have been playing with as we go along setting this tank back up for success. I have been working hard to get the salinity up. I have brought it from 1.023 to 1.026 over the past couple weeks. I have also switched to IO Reef Crystals and have noticed my Alk is hovering around 8 now which is good (I dont have to chase numbers). Calcium seems to always be at 400 but being that this tank has no SPS there is no alarm with this. Mag stays at about 1400-1480 and PH is about 8.5ish most of the time.

I dont really have much more that I test for other than Phosphates. Yes I would like them to be lower but in a softy tank it is another one of those numbers I will try and fix but it is no big deal when it doesnt come down to where I want it.

Over all the parameters are kept in places that they can be easily kept, no chasing numbers, no major dosing to keep alk high or crazy filtration that keeps anything low.

Like I mentioned above, I have tried to make this tank as easy as possible so that I can enjoy it without having to worry about it as much.


I have started trying to utilize vinegar to reach desired levels. I began on 6/1/2015 dosing 50 something milliliters based on Randy Holms' research on carbon dosing. I am hoping this brings down the nitrates to 0 and helps pull the phosphates down as well.

The other kicker to this is my PH is always super high with this tank being in the garage and getting lots of fresh air year round. I am hoping that along with Nitrate and Phosphate reduction this will help bring down the PH a tad as it is always around 8.6 which seems really high to me.


Feeding is done once a day, usually in the evening as soon as I get home. I like to feed a variety. Normally on the menu is a plethora of pellet foods and frozen cubes. I always keep San Francisco Bay brand cubes handy as they are easy to toss in and the fish seem to love them.

Their dry foods are usually a treat, while I am messing with tanks external parts or doing water test the fish are usually watching me like a hawk. This is when I will turn around and feed them a hand full of some different dry foods, They really are almost like dogs that cant get under your feet or they would.

There really is not set way but I usually keep the feedings to a minimum, smaller feedings during the week and then feed them well on weekends. One cube a day of different things maybe two depending on my mood but during the weekend I will really catch the tank looking hungry and feed the corals as well as the fish and make it a food snow storm for a minute to make sure that everything is getting its fair share.

My favorite thing to do though recently has not been to come home and feed my fish or the tank but rather the frags in the frag tank. I have multiple zoas and pallys and lots of other small corals that will grab and eat just about anything I puff in their direction.

I have been getting great results from target feeding them and look forward to doing it everyday.


Maintenance is minimal with this tank. Most of the maintenance is the every day chores, check or change the filter socks, check or clean the skimmer cup, clean the glass.... etc, all the typical things we do.

Water changes are done when we feel like it most of the times. They consist of anywhere from 30 to 60 gallons at a time. When water changes are done however the fuge is cleaned really well and rocks are blown off. We also clean all the sumps walls and have been known to take it down to empty to vacuum the bottoms of the sump and fuge.

On average you perform a 15.7% water change every 29 days.

0% total water change in 2023-05-29T08:41:00.033926Z[GMT].

0 activities in the last year

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Inspiration & Goals

My inspiration for this tank has and always be Steve Weast's Beast over at Oregonreef.com. While I was SPS heavy and ran this tank for 2 of its years as an SPS only, I have swapped back to softies as their ease of maintenance helps with the family cycle we live in.

Eventually I want to ease back into Birds nest and Montis and continue with some hardy acros to make this a mixed tank, right now I am happy with just having it healthy.

As long as I can look at it every day and smile, I have done my job as a reef keeper.

Words of Wisdom

I really have no Wisdom to share that you cant find anywhere else.

Go slow, take your time.

Always be prepared for the worst.

Research and do your homework.

But mostly, just enjoy the hobby. Dont get frustrated.

Most small things that you think are going to kill the tank are really just phases and things eventually line themselves out with water changes and a little husbandry.

Disasters & Regrets

I have had my share of regrets and disasters.

Cancer took be to the depths of hell and what was a great SPS tank went to nothing quick.

I have left the Alk dripping all night and nuked high end corals.

I have had jumpers and carpet surfers.

I have had times where I have overflowed the sump on more than one occasion.

We all make mistakes and I am sure that I will make some more however, just taking it slow, not rushing, not getting all crazy when your tank clouds up for no reason or trying to chase numbers around all day. Just basically what I do differently may not be different to a lot of people. I just watch my tank every evening. I try to spend about an hour with it a day. I love to frag, I love to watch everything, and most of all I just love the hobby.


My acknowledgements go something like this...

My wife: She has put up with this crazy hobby since she met me. I love her for actually getting into it and now she actually has an office tank of her own.

My long lost friend Bart: He is who taught me a lot about this and who I worked with for a long time and helped me set up my first tank.

Tim: for actually giving me a job doing this when I was younger.

The guys at Northside Aquatics: They were always helpful, it's such a shame that the store closed now.

The Razorback Reef Club members: They are always there when you need something in a pinch and have help from the start of this build to the present.

Thanks everyone for helping along the way and keeping me involved and interested in this awesome hobby.