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WAMAS Tank of the Month

Robert Billings (lanman)

Congratulations Bob, on being selected tank of the month.

About the Tank

Experience in hobby

  • Yellow Tang
  • Purple Tang
  • Hippo Tang
  • African Splendid Leopard Wrasse
  • Copper-banded Butterflyfish
  • Yashia Goby
  • Chromises
  • Pajama Cardinals
  • Yellow-Headed Sleeper Goby

How long have you been doing this?

2 years and 9 months.

Who got you into the hobby?

Someone I don't know. For a while he was posting on a bulletin board at work about the happenings in his saltwater tanks. He mentioned Marine Scene - and it turned out to be 2 minutes from work. So I went for a visit. Did you know you can grow a reef in your own living room? HOOKED!! A few weeks later, I purchased a 24-gallon tank and everything to go with it.

Who in the hobby most influences you?

The most influential person early on in the hobby was Phil (Grav) of Reef-Escape. He taught me to frag. And I guess everyone knows where THAT went (says the man with three frag tanks)! Beyond that is all of the WAMAS members who helped me out early on, like Dan (GSA) and Steve Outlaw. I think the person I am most in awe of is John Coppolino - he doesn't just do it, he lives it.

Tank setup and equipment

The tank is a 240-gallon 'mixed reef' coral garden with predominantly SPS in a custom-built tank that is 5' x 3'. It has a full-length 'Calfo overflow' on the back I have a small DSB, a 20-gallon refugium, Deltec skimmer, GSA kalk reactor, GSA media reactor, and a GSA Calcium reactor. GSA also built my 90-gallon sump. I built the stand myself, and it is probably my most ambitious woodworking project to date. I used 'wormy pine' to cover it - the boards were cut on a friend's sawmill over 20 years ago.

What is your maintenance schedule like?

20- to 30-gallon water changes every week, and everything else 'as necessary'; cleaning the skimmer, replacing media, etc. Largest 'regular' maintenance is blowing all of the sand off my corals that the gold-headed sleeper goby leaves all over the place.

How much time do you spend weekly?

You have to understand, I would RATHER be playing in my fish tanks than most other things. So I probably spend 20 hours a week cleaning, fragging, and just examining what's going on in my tanks.

  • Purple-Tipped Acropora Nana
  • Leishman's Red Tabling Acro
  • Gadget's Yellow Tabling Acro
  • Montipora Spongodes
  • GARF Bonsai
  • Heliopora
  • Blue Slimer
  • Lavender Favia
  • Green-Centered Trumpet Coral
  • watermelon Chalice

Where do you keep your water parameters?

I try to get my alkalinity up to 11dKh - but I fail. It always seems to be around 9dKh, no matter what I do. Temperature between 76.2 and 79. pH between 8.05 and 8.50. I measure CA and MG about 2-3 times per year, and they are always a bit low. I measure nitrates weekly - because they are always high; I keep them around 20ppm with weekly water changes. If I let it slide above 35, corals start looking 'flat' and losing color.

What brand salt do you use?

Instant Ocean

What do you feed your fish and or corals?

For the fish, mostly PE mysis. 2-3 times a week I add some 'Emerald cuisine' or Rod's food, or whatever I happen to have picked up recently. Several times a week I throw in some pellets for an afternoon snack, and about once a week I feed a few flakes (for the fun of having the fish come up and grab it out of my fingers). The corals get occasional small doses of 'Golden Pearls', and Reef Frenzy (until I ran out). How small? One jar of the golden pearls has lasted 2 years. I spot-feed my sun coral 2-3 times per week. Every week or two, I will also put in some cyclopeeze - which seems to please both the fish and the corals.

How do you maintain calcium/alkalinity?

Mostly with water changes; but I also have a CA reactor and Kalk reactor to keep the alkalinity up; I have a lot of corals, and they burn through it rapidly.

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

Kalk, Calcium - and when I think about it, I put in a squirt or two of Magnesium and Iodine.

What type of lighting do you have?

I have 10 assorted Geissemann 80W T5 bulbs in Sunlight Supply 'Ready-fit' fixtures with German reflectors. I see a lot of 'blue' tanks, using 14K and 20K MH bulbs. My tank is more like 10K. I think that helps with penetration, but I'm just guessing based on my experience.

What schedule do you have the lights on?

I start the actinics (actinic, actinic+, Aquablue+) at 1:00, and turn the rest of the lights on at 2:00. I shut off the main lights at 11:00, and the actinics at 12:00. 11 hours total, 9 hours with main lights on.

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

Not enough! Is there ever enough? I have two Eheim 1262 pumps through a WavySeas for return from the sump, three Vortech MP40's, and one Koralia-3 in a corner. I still have 'dead spots' that don't get enough flow.

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

I am thinking of getting some MP20's for the 'spots' that don't get enough flow. I am going to do some re-aquascaping soon, and I am considering a 40-gallon refugium in hopes that would help cut my nitrates.

  • Maxi-Mini Carpet Anemone
  • Snails
  • Hermits
  • Peppermint Shrimp
  • Pistol Shrimp
  • Cypraea Annulus
  • Limpets

What makes your setup special or unique?

I think the fact that all of my corals and fish were obtained locally - 90% from WAMAS members, or vendor members. The furthest I've ever had a coral shipped was from Baltimore. A lot of people recognize their corals in my display tank or frag tanks when they visit.

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

If I had to start from scratch - I'd probably do almost everything differently. Put my display on the other side of the room, get a 400-gallon tank instead of a 240, NOT purchase a gold-headed sleeper goby, use a completely different, more open aquascape, etc. I didn't start with a plan, I started with a tank.

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

Yes - just try it. It's probably NOT as hard as you think it is. And I mean almost everything in this hobby, but in particular things like cutting frags, or setting up a CA reactor. Ask for advice, but make your own decisions on what's right. Wear eye protection - especially when using power tools; I have sent chunks of rock flying clear across the room with my dremel. Wear a hat when fragging large chalices - that slime is yucky when you get it in your hair. Also - the BEST large corals are grown over the course of a couple of years from the smallest frags. They have better 'character' from having grown up in your tank. Especially monti caps.


What are your other hobbies?

Reading, Cooking, Making jam, Woodworking, Gardening, Sterling-cycle engines... I could go on for a long time - I am a serial hobbyist. Always have been.

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

Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I'd like to ask him to go explain to the current administration how to REALLY run a 'stimulus' program.

Why did you choose the screen name you did?

It was my very first userid on the internet - back around 1984. It was the nickname for 'Lan Manager' - a now archaic Network Operating System.

What is the last book you read?

I read about a book a week. I am currently reading 'Change of Heart' by Jodi Picoult.

Scotch or burbon?

Wild Cherry Pepsi!

Things I wish I knew 6 years ago:

That cholesterol really IS a bad thing!! That 60 isn't 'old' anymore. That it is actually possible to keep a living coral reef in your very own house!!