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WAMAS Tank of the Month

Greetings WAMASers, and thank you for the opportunity to share my story and let you take a little look into my reefing ventures. For those of you who I haven't had a chance to meet, here's a quick snapshot of how I entered into this awesome hobby and how it has led me here today with the great honor of WAMAS TOTM. I have always been inspired and astounded by aquatic life, starting with freshwater aquariums as a child, then moving on to my first saltwater tank nearly 12 years ago while working at a local pet shop. My interest greatly expanded throughout my college career (GO HOKIES), where I studied Biological Sciences, became SCUBA certified, and was an active member of the local reef club (South West Virginia Reef Club). The combination of my experience in the hobby and my formal education led me deeper into the hobby--no turning back now--where I became fascinated with SPS and sustainability through captive breeding. This led to my first "big" SPS tank (92g corner bow), which my corals quickly outgrew. I soon needed to build them a larger home, which landed me here with this 500g system.

The display tank is a 330g rimless Starphire (96" x 33" x 25.5"), plumbed directly to a 150g Rubbermaid sump and a 40g refugium/special clownfish grow-out tank. The system resides in the man cave, of course :), sitting atop a custom stand I fabricated, with stone veneer and a black walnut drink-rail. Behind the display tank is the sump room where all the plumbing and filtration is stored. The sump room also houses my breeder clownfish and grow-out systems.

The entire system runs off a single ReeFlo Dart, which provides water to various parts of the tank and equipment through a manifold. I believe in the theory of low turnover, allowing ample time for the filtration to do its job, so I dial down the main pump to produce minimal flow into the display via a WavySea. For water movement within the display, I run two Ecotech MP40wES and an MP60wES on max power in Reef Crest mode, providing serious flow for nutrient dispersion to all my SPS species.

I have three 400w metal halide fixtures atop the display tank, running on Coralvue e-ballasts and housed in large Lumenarc III reflectors. The halides are on for 9 hours, from 1100-2000. My goal with this tank was to keep things clean and simple, so reflectors and wiring were all I wanted visible for lighting, and I don't use any supplemental lighting. To get that actinic "pop" in the corals, I recently began using Plusrite 20K bulbs. These bulbs have produced significant growth rates and good color, but I find that the bulbs' color is inconsistent. Some look like 20k, others 14k, so I may switch back to my tried and true Reeflux 12k's or Radiums in the future. But at $10 a bulb and great growth rates, you can't really go too wrong.

I am a minimalist with filtration and try to keep things simple. I use a ReeFlo Orca 200 skimmer and a BRS dual carbon/GFO reactor, as well as natural filtration through a 40g refugium packed with various macro algae. I also have a 150g sump with a cryptic zone for non-photosynthetic microorganism and sponge growth. One thing that I have found with this system as my first bare-bottom, is that it much easier to maintain proper nutrient levels, despite heavy feeding, by keeping in-tank flow high. This helps keeps the waste and detritus in the water column until the filtration can remove it.

I run a Geo Calcium Reactor and an Avast kalk stirrer to support the aggressive Alkalinity and Calcium demands of the SPS species. The only other additive I check and maintain on a monthly basis is Magnesium, which I manually mix and add when needed.

My main goal with this SPS-dominant system is to keep things simple, promote sustainability, and let the livestock be the star. I have strived to accomplish this starting with a minimalist, low-lying approach to the rockscape, allowing the SPS to fill in the gaps and water column over time. To promote sustainability, nearly 95 percent of the 75+ various coral species in my tank are either maricultured or grown from fragged colonies from local reefers. I have also incorporated 19 of my own bred and reared Picasso and Platinum offspring, which host in my rose bubble tip anemones and a frogspawn colony. For those wondering, I reared all these clowns from a single batch, which allowed me to house them together without issue for nearly 1.5 years as they matured. I also introduced a shoal of 11 blue/green chromis and 9 dispar anthias for additional movement and color, and to provide contrast to the stationary SPS. My sailfin tang, blonde naso tang, and lemon-peel mimic tangs earn their keep as the cleaners of the tank.

My feeding regimen is a combination of flake, pellet, and frozen foods. I feed pellets via auto feeders four times a day, and feed frozen (Rods, cyclopeeze, brine, etc.) and flake at least once a day, to ensure that everyone is healthy and happy.

No current challenges, besides watching and waiting for all the SPS to navigate northwards and help populate the mid/upper water column.

No future plans besides adding a few other special fish. :)

Again, I want to thank WAMAS and all its members for your generosity and support over the years. Some pieces of advice that I would like to pass forward, especially to those just getting into the hobby, is to plan ahead, do your research, and remember everything takes time. This is a hobby where patience wins and a frag won't turn into a colony overnight. :)

  • Salinity: 1.026
  • Temperature: 78 - 82°F
  • Alkalinity: 8-10 dkH
  • Calcium: 450 ppm
  • Magnesium: 1350
  • Phosphate: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: 0ppm

  • Display - 330g rimless Starphire
  • Sump - 150g Rubbermaid
  • Skimmer - ReeFlo Orca 200
  • Lighting - Three 400w metal halides
  • Controller - Aquacontroller Apex
  • Return Pump - ReeFlo Dart
  • Circulation - Two Ecotech MP40wES & an MP60wES
  • Reactors - Geo 624 Calcium
  • - Avast kalk stirrer
  • - BRS dual carbon/GFO

  • 19 of my Platinum and Picasso clowns
  • 9 dispar anthias
  • 11 blue/green chromis
  • Sailfin tang
  • Blonde naso tang
  • Lemon-peel mimic tang
  • Sixline wrasse

  • A. tortusa
  • A. millepora - various
  • A. hoeksemai
  • A. delsawii
  • A. abrotanoides - various
  • A. humilis - various
  • A. austera - various
  • A. formosa
  • A. valida - various
  • M. digitata - various

  • Squamosa clam
  • Cleaner shrimp
  • Candy cane serpent star