I love this hobby because of the challenges it poses. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to what works for one might or might not work for another tank. Dealing with environmental influences, dedication, husbandry, and a hunger to learn and then a willingness to apply the knowledge are all requirements to become successful. Being humble enough to admit your shortcomings and to bend enough to make changes are paramount to attain your goals.
In December 2016 I started up my present system is a peninsula configuration consisting of a 90 gallon Marineland Corner-Flo main display on an oak cabinet with a cherry finish on one side and white on the other. My husband and I heavily customized it to fit our needs. The system also includes a Trigger Systems Crystal 30 gallon sump. It's actually my first plumbed set-up. (I'm a slow mover.) lol :) It's a mixed reef including several fish, a wide variety of corals & frags, including softies, LPS, a Carpet Anemone, shrimp, snails, crabs, a Derasa Clam and I'm slowly learning how to house my 1st SPS's and sticks.
I started in this hobby before I even started going to school when a little orange fellow named Jerome came into my life. With a single, lucky ping-pong ball landing in that small, but magical fish bowl at the local carnival, and taking Jerome home with me, I was bitten by the bug. I've gone through the various routes of freshwater tropicals, planted tanks, african cichlids, a mated pair of Oscars which broke my heart when I was unsuccessful at curing the female's hole-in-the-head disease and when I lost her, the male absolutely refused to eat. Watching him waste away was what almost forced me out of the hobby.
Living in a rural locale, there are no reef clubs, local saltwater fish stores, or for that matter, anyone I know that has a reef tank or has any knowledge on saltwater aquariums. Then I started reading, observing, asking questions at the closest fish store (which is an hour from home) and eventually joined forums and Facebook groups to see if salt water might be a more suitable fit for me. So, 20 years ago I started my first 30 gallon salt water tank and I believe I made every rookie mistake there was to be made.
Really, I only use a very simple filtration system that consists of a corner overflow from the 90 gallon display tank. It's controlled by a 1 1/4" adjustable bulkhead/gate valve and rigid PVC plumbing. This empties into a 30 gallon Trigger Systems Crystal 30 sump which houses in the 1st chamber, a felt filter sock and the system's LCD thermometer probe as well as the heater. I also placed some small reef rocks and rubble as well as a couple thousand amphipods and copepods in there a few times in order to help seed the system with live food. In the 2nd chamber there's an Octopus Classic 150SSS space saving protein skimmer. From there, the water leads through a two level, narrow channel that can have a variety of uses such as holding filter bags, bubble destroying sponges, probes, etc. I use it for charcoal filter bags, a bag of Seachem SeaGel and a grounding probe to help eliminate stray electrical current in the entire system. In the final chamber is where the (super quiet) Sicce Syncra 3.0 - 714 gph return pump is located. I have that attached to a very flexible, soft silicone hose and another easily adjustable 3/4" gate valve (which we attached to the inside wall of the cabinet to offer it some stability) leading through rigid PVC plumbing/bulkhead and back into the tank with a 'Y' that are independently directionally adjustable to point in almost any configuration I might want.
The lights I have are the one area I want to make improvements on. What I have are filling the bill, but just don't seem to be giving me the 'pop of color' I've seen in photos of others' set-ups. Currently I have a Coralife Aqualight HO T5 Dual Lamp set-up along with a Current USA LED system with a controller and remote. I really enjoy the different options available with the LED's. It's the color of the T5 bulbs I believe I'm going to play around with some when it comes time to replace them. I wish I had the option to have more than 2 tubes in the fixture, but I'll put up with it until come up with the funds for a new lighting system.
For flow and circulation I use 2 Hydor Koralia 3G Third Generation 1950 gph Circulation & Wave pumps and controller system. The only thing I wish I'd have done different is to go with the 2450 gph models for a little extra movement, but what I have is sufficient. I also added a Hydor Koralia EVO 750 pump independently simpy to hit a dead spot that the other two pumps couldn't reach. I have the wave pumps positioned at opposite ends of the tank, one aimed toward the upper front of the tank, the other shooting toward a lower area of the front, bouncing the current off the front glass. The independent pump is low on the back side aimed high toward the overflow.
I try to tune my water parameters within limits rather than to pinpoint each and every one to a specific number. Salinity, temperature & pH are the 3 I attempt to keep consistent. Naturally, Ammonia & Nitrites should be at zero and TDS & Phosphates should be held as low as possible in most circumstances. Alkalinity, Nitrates and Calcium are held within limits and dosed accordingly.
- Toadstool Mushroom Leather Coral
I use the Jebao Auto Dosing Pump DP-4 to dose Calcium and Alkalinity. In recent weeks I've started adding NO3:PO4-X daily to try to get a handle on the Nitrates and Phosphates that have been plaguing me for weeks and steadily climbing to levels that are genuinely alarming to me. When I do my regular water changes I use API Buffer 8.2 to bring my newly mixed water pH up to acceptable levels and it really helps to hold it up until the next water change, weeks down the line. At the same time, I add Instant Ocean Calcium Booster in order to bring the Calcium up to where it should be prior to adding it to the tank. I also add Seachem Prime to aid in the biological filtration when I change water.
Feeding See more
Coral Frenzy ·
Mysis Shrimp ·
Brine Shrimp ·
Reef Blend ·
Omega One First Flakes - Dry ·
Phyto Feast ·
Hikari Marine -A- ·
Reef Roids ·
Reef Bugs ·
San Francisco Bay frozen Plankton ·
Ocean Nutrition Frozen Spirulina Formula ·
Ocean Nutrition Formula One ·
Seachem Reef Phyto Plankton ·
Ocean Nutrition Frozen Formula One ·
Marc Weiss Reef Bugs ·
Ocean Nutrition Chopped Squid ·
Omega One Super Veggie ·
Polyp Labs Reef Roids ·
San Francisco Bay Brand Sally's Frozen Silversides ·
San Francisco Bay Frozen Marine Cuisine ·
Omega One Super Veggie Green & Red Seaweed ·
Omega One First Flakes ·
PE Pellets - Mysis ·
Piscine Energetics Pellets (2mm Pellets) ·
Piscine Energetics 2 mm pellets ·
Julian Sprung's PhytoPlan Formula ·
San Francisco Saltwater Multi-Pack - Emerald Entree ·
San Francisco Bay Formula One ·
San Francisco Bay Marine Cuisine ·
San Francisco Bay Frozen Formula One ·
0mega One Flake Food ·
San Francisco Bay Frozen Omega Brine Shrimp ·
San Francisco Bay Frozen Plankton cubes ·
Piscine Energetics Frozen Mysis Shrimp ·
San Francisco Bay Brand Frozen Angel & Butterfly Formula ·
San Francisco Bay Brand Frozen Plankton ·
San Francisco Bay Brand Frozen Brine Shrimp ·
San Francisco Bay Brand Angel & Butterfly Frozen Formula ·
San Francisco Bay Brand Saltwater Multi-Pack ·
San Francisco Bay Brand Saltwater Formula One
I'm in the midst of fighting an uphill battle against high nitrates, so the feeding plan is on the light side these days. Every other day they get Omega One First Flakes or Fluval Multi Protein Flakes.
On the other days they get a combination of Mysis & Brine Shrimp, and one of the following: Phyto-Plankton, Spirulina, Cyclops, Plankton, Squid, Reef Blend or Marine A Pellets.
The Carpet Anemone and Banded Shrimp each get a couple large frozen Krill.
Once a week I add in one of these: Coral Frenzy, PhytoChrom, Micro-Vert, Reef Bugs or Phyto Feast. It depends on the mood of the day and a flip of a coin sometimes.
The fish I house are a mated pair of Snowflake Clownfish, a red Firefish, 2 spotted Cardinalfish (PJ Cardinals), a Bangai Cardinal, a Flame Hawkfish, a Neon Dottyback, a Red Parrot Fairy Wrasse, a Yellow Tang, a Starry Blenny, a Coral Beauty Angelfish and a Potter's Angelfish.
Corals I presently have collected and attempting to grow are as follows: 5 various Acroporas, a Multicolored Symphyllia, a couple chalices, a tiny piece of a green Birdsnest, a Blasto Merletti, various Mushrooms, Blue Sympodium, a Red Tree Sponge, a green Branching Hammer as well as a green Wall Hammer, a Cabbage Leather, Toadstool Leather, Devil's Hand Leather, a long polyp Leather, Spaghetti Leather, Clove Polyps, Cinnamon Paly Grandis, a red Cluster Duster, a Crater Coral, a Green Bubble, a Dome Open Brain, a Duncan, a small Elegance, a pink as well as a tan Feather Duster, Branched Frogspawn, Green Aussie Litho, Green Alveopora, Green Candy Cane, Green Goniopora, Green Grande Paly, Metallic Green Aussie Open Brain, a red and a green Monti, Green Porites, Green Star Polyps, various Palys & Zoas, Acans, Micromussas, Neon Green Favia, Neon Maze, Galaxea, Orange Psammocora, an orange Scoly, green Pagoda Cup, Pavona, Pineapple Brain, Pipe Organs, Pulsing Xenia, Red Tooth, Red War, Orange Rainbow Ricordia, Brown Snake Polyps, Various Torches, Ultra Aussie Lobo, Yellow Polyps, Lightning-tip Leptastrea, Jason Fox Copperhead Cyphastrea, Favias, Miami Hurricane Chalice, UC Super Bright Rainbow Echinata, Orange eye Green Psammocora, etc.
Currently a few of the Invertebrates are a Derasa Clam, Coral Banded Shrimp (with one claw), Camel Shrimp, Peppermint Shrimp, a carpet anemone, a variety of crabs & snails and a pink and a tan feather duster.
My routine maintenance is kind of spread out, a little done each day so it's not so overwhelming to do all at once. Daily I swipe the magnetic glass cleaner along all 4 sides to prevent any coralline algae from forming on the glass. While I'm at it, I remove the protein skimmer cup, empty the scum out of it and clean the inside before placing it back on the skimmer. I track the water temperature at least once a day. It's a habit that I developed years ago on a freshwater tank when I had a heater 'stick' and almost boiled the water before I realized it had happened. So, after having been 'burned' once, I have become a bit OCD when it comes to keeping an eye on the temp. I guess a temperature monitor might be in store yet. While I'm doing water changes I spend all day processing RO/DI water into recycled juice, tea or milk jugs. Not having an auto top-off system means I always have to have on hand the top-off water and enough water to do a water change in case of an emergency. The TDS meter is used every week when I process RO/DI water. A mesh bag of SeaGel gets changed every 6 weeks to 2 months, dependant upon results of water parameter tests. I use a 200 micron felt filter sock in the sump that the overflow empties into. It helps polish the water considerably. Lately I've been changing it twice/week. My nitrates have been running on the high side, even after doing a water change, so getting to the root of the nitrate factory has been my mission of late. I use charcoal in a couple filter bags placed in the sump. Those get replaced every month. Every Thursday I remove the glass canopies and clean them in the kitchen sink with hot water. This is when I wipe off the lenses of the lights. Every 3 months I remove the power heads, their vented covers and impellers and soak everything in bowls of vinegar. It really helps extend the life of the pumps by removing the buildup of coralline algae from them and the impellers. And it allows you the opportunity to examine any wear that might be present on the impellers. And lastly I take an afternoon each week to run a thorough set of water parameter tests and then make adjustments according to the results of the tests.
Inspiration & Goals
First and foremost I want to be able to answer the hobby's newbies' questions and rest assured that I am helping someone avoid the same traps, mistakes and pitfalls that I've experienced. I love the beauty and grace of a sparkling aquarium that's well-lit, has plenty of flow and houses a variety of healthy, well cared for inhabitants. I take great pride in my accomplishment and fully appreciate all the cost, time, energy and work I've poured into it.
Words of Wisdom
If there is a single theme throughout this hobby it would be to encourage anyone just starting out to have patience and really think through the project or process thoroughly ahead of time to avoid pitfalls and possible disasters. You should learn as much as you can by any means available. Testing your water parameters and tracking them can help to fend off problems and to realize trends.
Paramount to success = Sit back and Enjoy your hard work, time & money well spent and energy applied.
You can do this! Have faith.
Disasters & Regrets
The main disaster I wish I could have avoided was when I set up a 50 gallon aquarium on my bar in the kitchen. It wasn't plumbed. It had a hang-on back overflow system that emptied into the sump below. I swear over the many years I had it, I had more water on my floor than I ever care to talk about. The tank overflowed time & time & time again.
But, long story short, I guess it really turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The entire kitchen floor had to be replaced. It was completely ruined after the years of repeated water damage. So my husband & I decided that if we were going to the trouble of tearing up the floor and replacing the plywood that the entire kitchen was getting a make-over. It had taken a lot of wear & tear over the 40 years that we've been here.
I wanted a new and larger aquarium & stand to set up as a peninsula with a new kitchen cabinet with a drawer beside the stand to house equipment and to serve as an electrical center to run all my cords to. I figured that way the water and electrical end of things would be in different environments. The peninsula/kitchen cabinet would divide the kitchen from the living room since the bar that was currently dividing the rooms was getting torn out as well. And, while we're at it, why not enlarge the size of the kitchen (shrinking the living room a tad) and get a new clawfoot kitchen table & chairs! Yes, we went for the entire ball of wax for the project.
So, October 2016 we ordered all new kitchen cupboards, new flooring, countertops, dishwasher, sink, faucet, lighting, paint and wall tiles. while we awaited delivery of the cabinets, we replaced the floor and rewired the electricity and installed new receptacles. We did a lot of homework as to the different dimensions & footprints of differing aquariums/stands and took a lot of measurements which basically determined all on its own what size tank we'd wind up with. I ordered the 90 gallon pre-drilled corner-flo tank and oak aquarium stand through a local pet shop I've dealt with for a long time. He always orders me what I ask for and only adds 5% on top of his cost. He also ordered the glass canopies and T-5 HO Dual Lamp fixture. (In retrospect I wish now that I had bought the 4 bulb system. Oh well, next time). Once we got all that we commenced on the customization of the stand by adding doors to the backside which had been originally designed to be totally open. Then we added wood trim and painted it white to match the kitchen cabinets. The other side (front side) that faced the living room was finished in cherry which matched the end tables perfectly. Then we installed the kitchen cabinet that the aquarium stand would butt up against, drilled holes in the adjoining ends to pass electrical cords through and then ran the aquarium plumbing and installed the sump.
December 13 we started to fill the tank and away we went. The rest as they say, "Is History!"
First & foremost I have to thank my husband for allowing me the freedom to do this my way and to call it mine. Without you this would be nothing more than a pipe dream. Oh, and for paying for the majority of it too. Haha, how could I forget that part!?
Forums like Reef2Reef and Reef Central,
Facebook groups like High Tide Coral Auctions,
Q&A, DIY, for the NEW and Seasoned Saltwater/Reef Hobbyist,
Saltwater Aquarium & Reefkeepers
Coral Reef Guide for Noobs to Experts
great suppliers like Bulk Reef Supply,
That Fish Place,
Drs. Foster & Smith,
Aquarium Water Filters,
Steckley's Pet Center,
I couldn't have done any of this without all the above. And the story lives on...