My Personal Experience
For as long as I can remember I've loved aquariums. My first aquarium was a 10 gallon freshwater tank that I setup in Junior High. I followed the hobby into high school where I also found myself working at a local fish store. It was during this time that I decided to make the jump from fresh to salt water. I would eventually grow my passion for the hobby into an aquarium maintenance business that helped to supplement my income through college. After graduating, I left the business and hobby while I worked to establish a family and career. I remained inactive from the hobby for the next 14 years but would never pass up the chance to visit a local fish store or sit and stare at a tank at the doctor's office.
Almost 6 years ago my brother called, raving about a tiny reef tank that he had seen at a customer's home. I spent the next 2 months researching nano reefs and the new techniques that had evolved in the 14 years I had been away from the hobby. I decided to reenter the hobby and try my hand at reefing with a 28 gallon Nano Cube. The tank provided me an inexpensive option to determine if my family and work schedule would support the demands of a reef tank. Long story made short, one year later my reef was featured as the Tank of the Month at Nano-Reef.com. In that 16 months that I had been back in the hobby, I realized how much I enjoy the hobby and the creative outlet that reefing provides.
Its been 3 years now since the Nano Cube was taken down and my current 112g Reef went up. I've used the current aquarium to learn and refine new husbandry skills. While I'm happy with the current tank, I do have regrets and anytime you have regrets, you have thoughts about starting a new tank.
- Sump: 30x18x16 Acrylic Sump with a built in ATO Reservoir
- Return Pump: Sicce Syncra 4.0, Rated at 951 GPH
- Skimmer: Bubble King Mini-180
- Circulation Pumps: (2) Vortechs - MP40W ES with Battery Backup
- Media Reactor - Two Little Fishes 150 with BRS GFO
- Media Reactor - Two Little Fishes 150 with BRS ROX Carbon
- Reef Dynamics BPR135 Bio Pellet Reactor with BRS Bio Pellets
My aquarium relies heavily on the large skimmer. In addition to the skimmer, I run GFO and Carbon in a reactor 24x7. The carbon is replaced every 2 weeks and the GFO is replaced every 5 weeks or when phosphates begin to read over .03. I also run Bio Pellets to help with the reduction of nitrates. Filtration is rounded out by weekly water changes that range between 10-15%.
- Lighting: 48'' Geisemann Infinity : 2x250Watt Metal Halides and 4x54Watt T5s
- Metal Halides -- XM 20K Double Ended
- T5 Bulbs include - 1 KZ Fiji Purple, 1 KZ Super Blue and 2 KZ New Generation
-11am - 2 T5 bulbs turn on
-12pm - 2 more T5 bulbs turn on
-1pm - Metal Halides turn on
-5pm - T5s turn off
-9pm - T5s turn back on, MHs turn off
-10pm - 2 T5s go off
-11pm - Last 2 T5s go off
When I purchased my light fixture, LEDs were just really taking off. Of all the equipment decisions, I made this was the most difficult one. To this day, I have no regrets. I'm very happy with the look and performance of the light. I read a lot of threads about LED users going back to their old fixtures, these help me to validate my decision. I'm still looking for a good 4 bulb T5 combo, I replace bulbs every 9-12 months and I've yet to use the same combo twice. My favorite way to view the aquarium is with my MH's only. I love the color and shimmer provided by the MHs.
Flow Equipment Details
- Return Pump : Sicce Syncra 4.0 , Rated at 951 GPH
- Circulation Pumps : (2) Vortechs - MP40W ES with Battery Backup
- Apex Controller with WMX controller for the Vortechs
I run my Vortechs on Reef Crest at 100% 18 out of 24 hours each day. I run the pumps on Nutrient Transport Mode for 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours at night also at 100%.
Flow is something I will do differntly in my next samarium. I plan to run a closed loop which will provide light flow inside of my rock work. I also plan to run MP40s on the sides and MP10s on the back but dial them down to the 50% range. I think this will provide more overall flow without the harsh blast that can be created by the MP40s at 100%.
- Blue Tang
- Chevron Tang
- Blue Chromis (x4)
- Bartlett's Anthias (x2)
- Melanurus Wrasse
- Black Cap Basslet
- Sailfin Blenny
- Candy Stripped Hogfish
- Scooter Blenny
- Percula Clownfish (x2)
- LeMark Angels (x2)
The tank is mostly SPS with a few LPS and a couple soft corals. When I first started the tank, I had hoped to keep SPS and Acans. To my disappointment, I can not keep Acans in this tank. The LeMark Angels nip at them all day long and they will never open. Rather than list all of the corals here, I will post photographs showing some of my favorite pieces.
- Target is 8.0 with an allowable range of 7.5 to 8.5
- I test alkalinity weekly and as long as my test comes back in the acceptable range, no actions are taken. If my Alkalinity reads below 7.5, I will dose the aquarium back to 8.0 and adjust my daily dosage to retarget the tank to 8.0. I find that I have to make an adjustment about once every 3 months.
- Target is 440 with an allowable range of 410 to 470
- Same testing applies to Calcium as I apply to Alkalinity, however, I let the Alkalinity dictate the daily dose and match calcium to the alkalinity dosage. I think one of the biggest issues people have in dosing 2 part is trying to dose a different value for alk and cal. My advice is to pick an alk target, figure out what you need to dose to hold that and match cal. This may result in a bit lower or higher cal number than you were after but learn to live with that.
- Target is 1320 with an allowable range of 1280 to 1360.
- Target is 1 with an acceptable range of 8.
- My opinion on nitrates has changed over the last year or so. I use to be crazy about keeping nitrates to zero but a few things have changed my opinion on that. First and foremost, I believe if your Nitrates are 0, you are missing an opportunity to nourish the corals. For that reason, if I can keep my tests coming back at 1ppm, I know that the Nitrates are low and that I'm feeding at my upper limit. The other thing that changed my opinion on Nitrates is the look of my corals. While my color drifts from good to great, I think it looks best when there is a touch of nitrates in the water column. Combine these two items with the fact, that I struggle to keep Nitrates below 2 or 3, I've learned to accept this value.
- Target 0 with an allowable range of .03
- I don't feel the same way about Phosphates as I do Nitrates. I have two corals in my tank that will tell me when my Phosphates are high. One is a Pavona, the other is my X-Factor Monti Cap. Both go from bright green to a pale green when phosphates get elevated. I test phosphates weekly and change my GFO at either the 5 week mark of when I get a reading above .03.
Target is 1.025
I keep my tank between 79.5 and 80 degrees. Optimally, I would prefer to keep my tank about 78 however the summer temperatures in Arizona don't really allow that. In the summer, we keep our house AC on 78, this combined with a celing fan maxes the tank out 80 degrees at the peak of my lighting period. For this reason, I keep the tank at 80 year round.
My pH ranges from 7.9 to 8.4 depending on the time of year. When the weather is nice here in Arizona, we keep the house opened up and the pH is on the high end. During the summer, when we have to keep the house shut, it will hover on the lower end. I use to worry about pH quite a bit and take measures to raise it. I've since determined that it's not needed.
Calcium, Alkalinity and Magnesium
I use a Bubble Magus dosing pump to dose Calcium, Alkalinity and Magnesium into the tank. I mix my own Calcium, Alkalinity and Magnesium solutions using the pre-partitioned packages from Bulk Reef Supply. My daily dosage of Alkalinity is divided by 12 and dosed every two hours (odd hours). The identical daily Calcium dose is also divided by 12 and dosed every 6 hours (even hours). The Magnesium dosage is divided into 4 dosages and dosed on even hours as well.
I've dosed a lot of different products over the years but the ones that have stood the test of time for me are the following:
KZ Bacteria - Dosed 2x per week per bottle instructions
KZ Pohl's Xtra Special - Dosed daily per bottle instructions
KZ Coral Vitalizer - Dosed daily per bottle instructions
KZ Amino Acid - Dosed daily per bottle instructions
Feeding See more
Coral Blend ·
Coral Blend - Thursday ·
Coral Blend - Monday ·
Sunday Frozen ·
Wednesday - Frozen Food ·
Friday - Frozen ·
Coral Blend - Sunday ·
Monday Nori ·
Wednesday Frozen ·
Thursday Nori ·
Sundy Frozen ·
12 Drops of Coral Vitalizer ·
Friday Frozen ·
Tuesday Frozen ·
Tuesday Reef Roids ·
Phyto/Oyster Blend ·
Frozen Blend ·
Nori Sheets ·
Reef Roids ·
Daily Pellets ·
I feed my fish at least 2 times per day. A typical feeding day includes one feeding of a mixed pellets and a second feeding of either frozen or nori. I like to feed Nori about 2x per week and frozen on the other days.
My favorite pellets are Spectrum and Dainihci. I have a large jar that I combine liked sizes of pellets in and just feed a good mix once per day.
For frozen foods, I feed Mysis Shrimp, Brine Shrimp, Plankton, Reef Caviar, Cyclopeeze and Nutramar Ova. When I get new frozen food, I cut the cubes into 1/4 size cubes and rebag the smaller pieces. When I go to feed, I chose 4 of the smaller cubes which is the amount that goes in the tank. This allows me to feed a better variety without having to use full cubes.
Every 3rd day, I feed Reef Roids per the instructions on the container. I'm a big believer in Reef Roids. I think of all the additives that goes into the tank, this as the biggest impact on my coral coloration. On the days that Reef Roids goes in the tank, I do not dose the KZ products that are listed in the Additive section.
- Inspect and feed live stock
- Clean glass if needed
- Lightly rake gravel if needed
- 10% to 15% water change
- I about 1/3 of my gravel with each water change and on the 4th water change I vacuum the sump and overflow.
- Clean skimmer cup
Every 2 weeks
- Replace Carbon
Every 5 weeks
- Replace GFO
Every 3 months
- Clean and maintenance pumps (Skimmer, Reactors and Returns)
- Vinegar soak MP40 Wetsides and Return Nozzle
Every 6 months
- Take Sump offline and clean
Every 9 months
- Replace bulbs
Every 12 months
- Replace probes, dosing pump wheels and heater
Inspiration & Goals
A Place for Everything and Everything in it's Place
One of my main goals for this tank was to ensure that the setup was clean and promoted easy maintenance. During the installation, I really took my time to get wiring and plumbing done long before I considered adding water. I've included several photos of the details that went into the setup.
AquaScaping was inspired by The Oregon Reef (http://www.oregonreef.com/) It's worth a look! I'm a big fan of tanks that are large from front to back. I believe that the more room you can get front to back the more realistic of a rock scape you can create. Often times, narrow tanks take on a pile of rock look. While my next tank is just a vague set of thoughts right now, the one thing I do know is that it will be at least 48" from front to back.
Words of Wisdom
Don't Be Afraid To Fail
At the end of the day, we really are running one big science experiment. There is bound to be some failure that come. The goal should be to limit the failure and make them as small as possible.
Do Regular Quick Maintenance Often vs. Longer Less Frequent Maintenance
I find that it's much easier to run the magnet cleaner over my glass every 2 days instead of scraping coral-line algae off once a month. Under that same thought process it's much easier to keep phosphates down with regular water changes and GFO changes instead of dealing with nuisance algae. If you see an issue with the tank, take care of it now. Don't let things linger.
Make Notes During the Week and Address with Water Change
When I watch the tank during the week, I always see little things that I want to change or adjust. As I find these things, I make a quick note that I then address when I complete my water change. In theory, this limits the amount I go into the tank. As an example, I may see a small circle of algae growing on the glass or a piece of bubble algae or perhaps a coral that is growing into another and needs fragged. I will note all of these as I see them, then at the end of the week, I have a list of items that I want to address with my water change.
Disasters & Regrets
Thankfully I have not had any disasters (Knock on Wood). With that said, I've had my share of painful learnings along with the unexplained STN on corals.
Regrets, I have many, I will list several of them here:
1) Adding Zoas to the aquarium. In a brief moment of weakness I accepted some free Zoas to add to the aquarium. They have since spread the crazy and grown over the top of and killed several pieces of SPS. Combine this with the fact that they are not that nice of colors, I really regret doing this.
2) Adding Clove Polps to the aquarium. I wanted to add some softness to the rear portion of the center trench. I founds some nice clove polyps that were on a rock that was about 2"x2". I mounted the rock towards the back of the trench. Over the next 2-3 months, they migrated to the top of the right island where they have continued to grow strong. Like the zoas, these have also grown over the top of several sps and are now taking up precious real estate where SPS could be. I list these as the 2nd regret because, they add more beauty to the tank than the zoas.
3) Adding encrusting Montipora to the aquarium. Two of the first corals I added to the tank were a Pokerstar Monti and a Superman Monti. Both of these corals are still very beautiful but like the zoas and polyps, they aggressively grow over the top of anything that gets in their way.
4) LeMark Angels - This is a difficult thing to write because, I really do like the Angels. They add a lot to the aquarium but limit my ability to keep Acans. In my next tank, I plan to keep nothing but premium SPS and Acans. This will mean, no more Angels.
5) No Quarantine Tank - I have managed to get Red Bugs in the aquarium on a couple of occasions. Even with dipping, the Red Bugs seem to find a way into the tank. I do wish, I had planned for and had room for a tank where I could keep corals for a few months prior to going into the display.
6) Sump Design - While I love having the built in ATO on my sump, the overall design is poor. The top of my sump is sealed across the baffles making it impossible to clean between the baffles. In addition, the input to the sump is small and makes it very difficult to use filter socks.
First and foremost I want to thank my family. My wife not only deals with but often helps fill buckets of RODI clean spills and everything else that goes with this hobby. My boys, help to maintain the tank on the rare occasions when I go out of town. In general, the family really understands that my reef is the one thing I really do for myself and they seem to embrace it, for that I'm thankful.
I also very much appreciate the knowledge sharing that takes place on the forums. The two I frequent are Reef Central and Nano-Reef. I always try to share what I know because so many have done the same for me.
I would like to also thank Dmitry for creating Aquaticlog. I've very much enjoyed the process of working with Dmitry on the configuration of the site and providing feedback for making the site more and more useful. This site has really grown into a tool for us hobbyist.