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WAMAS Tank of the Month

Justin Casp (ctenophore )

Congratulations Justin, on being selected tank of the month.

About the Tank

Favorite Fish
  • Swissguard basslet
  • Mandarin dragonet
  • Midas blenny
  • Royal gramma

Experience in hobby

How long have you been doing this?

Since 1988 or 89.

Who got you into the hobby?

My parents, they bought me a 45 gallon tank, complete with undergravel filter and 20 watt strip light, when I was about 12. My Dad had wanted a saltwater tank since I was a newborn, but decided that it was too much work. Having a son with a ton of free time and energy who loved everything aquatic solved that problem nicely.

Who in the hobby most influences you?

On the science side, people like Randy Holmes-Farley and Dana Riddle, I always learn something new when reading their articles. From an artistic and engineering standpoint, probably Steve Weast and similar hobbyists who have built elegant reef systems with great aesthetics.

Tank setup and equipment

This tank is about 550 gallons, roughly 66"x44"x44". It's made from fiberglass, with a plywood and foam core about 3" thick. The front is 1" laminated starphire glass. There is an external overflow along the back edge. The front glass weighs nearly as much as the rest of the tank, which is otherwise comparatively lightweight and durable.

What is your maintenance schedule like?

I try to clean out the skimmer cup about once a month. Carbon in mesh bags in between the sump baffles gets changed about the same time. I have to jump in the tank about every month or two to do general maintenance like move my clams, who like to walk around the sand bed, as well as glue down new frags to the lower rocks. Also I am trying to keep up with the majanos, I try to juice them when I am “diving". The Tunze pumps I use for water flow are higher maintenance than I had hoped, so I do spend a few hours a month keeping them running.

How much time do you spend weekly?

Maybe one or two hours a week on actual tank maintenance.

Favorite Corals
  • Purple sea fan
  • Rik's red table acro
  • Encrusting Montiporas
  • A. Milleporas

Where do you keep your water parameters?

Generally as close to natural sea water as possible. I do keep alkalinity a little higher, maybe 8-8.5 DKH, mostly because I've found that if it gets below 6.5 (NSW being 7), stony corals will start having problems. I like to have a 24-48 hour alkalinity buffer in case my calcium reactor has a problem.

What brand salt do you use?

Tropic Marin.

What do you feed your fish and or corals?

Pellets and freeze dried cyclopeeze. I have a freezer full of other stuff but I rarely feed it, the fish seem to be happy with pellets from the autofeeder.

How do you maintain calcium/alkalinity?

Right now, a korallin C-10002 reactor. I will be adding a second large reactor once my addition is ready.

Do you dose anything? If so, how much, how often?


What type of lighting do you have and what schedule do you have them on?

3x400w MH, I just switched from Ushio 10k to Ushio 14k. These run on Blueline ballasts. 6x5' T5, not sure of wattage. I just switched to these from VHO actinics. I have 4 ATI blue+, one KZ fiji purple, one Giesemann actinic. These are on Icecap 660s. The individual reflectors are an immense improvement over the VHO actinics with internal paint reflectors.

T5s run about 15h, now that summer is coming I run the MH about 6-8 hours daily. I reverse the photoperiod according to the season to be more energy efficient- longer MH hours in the winter for heating, less in the summer so the chiller doesn't have to work as much.

What kind of water flow do you have? How do you accomplish it?

I use 8x Tunze 6200. They are on a multicontroller (I just upgraded to the new USB computer programmable one) which allows me to constantly tinker with the flow patterns. This is probably why the clams walk so much, since the sandbed gets shifted around a lot.

What are your future plans for improvement/upgrade of the tank?

I am looking at installing a large ozone reactor, Dan @ GSA and I are still working on the design. Also I may add a UV system as well.

  • Blue linkia
  • Skunk cleaner shrimp

What makes your setup special or unique?

There aren't too many “deep" reef tanks out there, at least in the hobby side. I'm not aware of any others that are fiberglass, so I guess mine is unique in those combined respects. I am often asked whether I can get enough light to the bottom of such a deep tank; the answer to that is definitely yes, even enough for clams and high light sps on the bottom.

If you had to start from scratch, would you do anything different?

Yes, plenty. First, I probably wouldn't go with 6200 stream pumps. I love Tunze equipment, but these things are just a lot more maintenance than the weaker 6100 models. I would (and still may) redo the right side rock column. It didn't turn out as I hoped. Maybe I am just being impatient and should let it grow in for another year. I would either have made the tank a bit wider, or the viewing window smaller- so I could have a slightly larger non-viewable area to hide the flow pumps in the bottom front corners. Lastly, if I get a chance to build another large tank, I would design it to be primarily top-viewable, like a pond, but with side viewing windows too.

Do you have any advice for those folks whom are new to the hobby.

1) Don't forget to sit back and enjoy your aquarium every now and then, in between all the maintenance, hard work, and frustrations that accompany this hobby.

2) Plan for disaster and test your preparedness. The importance of this is directly proportional to the size of the tank.


Which fish is your most favorite?

My least favorite is my Naso tang. He is an obnoxious clam biter.

Which coral is your most favorite?

Purple sea fan.

What are your other hobbies?

Boardsports like surfing & snowboarding, Ultimate frisbee, reading, gardening, cooking, building things, computer & board games. I like to dive too, but I haven't gone much in the past few years. Maybe once my kids get old enough.

Who would you most like to meet past present or future?

I would like to meet someone from 1000 years in the future, just to see how much, if anything, I could recognize.

Why did you choose the screen name you did?

I stole it from my wife, who named her computer “ctenophore" after taking tropical marine biology in college. Alas, despite her earlier interest in marine science, she turned to molecular bio and then to law, and now only regards my “hobby" with a passing curiosity and respectable tolerance.

What is the last book you read?

Hot, Flat & Crowded by Tom Friedman. Working on Pillars of Earth by Ken Follet now. Also rereading Aquatic Systems Engineering by P.R. Escobal. I always reread that one when doing a big project.

Scotch or burbon?


Things I wish I knew 6 years ago:

Don't even know where to start.