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WAMAS Tank of the Month

In 1998 I became interested in reef aquaria. I had prior experience in freshwater and saltwater fish only systems, including a time as a teenager working in a LFS. So I started looking into resources and discovered the burgeoning internet after college. Shortly after, I was deeply involved in reefs.org as administrator and then a corporate owner. I ran the aquarium course website we established and worked to solicit and edit articles for Advanced Aquarist. Over the course of that time, I moved from my initial 55 gallon tank, to a 125 gallon, to a 150 gallon and finally into a 240 gallon tank I also bred and raised clownfish and seahorses for a time. And then I had to finish graduate school and start a post-doctoral position and ran out of time to keep up with the tank. I shifted it over to a planted tank and left the hobby. That was in 2007-8. When I considered rejoining the hobby, I had moved up here to the WAMAS area and Craig (Gatortailale) had provided me with a free one year membership to the club. That set the seed and provided the impetus for the current tank.

I set up the current tank, a standard 6 foot 180 gallon Glass Cages aquarium, in April-May 2013. I had the stand built an additional 6" higher than standard so that it is more on level when being viewed while standing. When planning this tank, my primary goals were to make it as energy efficient and quiet as possible while still providing the needed parameters for housing primarily sps corals, to reduce the possibility of leaks/catastrophic issues, and to have maximum control over all of the parameters for which it was possible to do so. The objective was foreign to some people, but after digging around I discovered the magic of LED lighting and DC pumps. This tank draws about one quarter of the energy of my prior tank (which had 4x400W MH as well as monster pumps). The tank is set up in my living room as a primary centerpiece.

I use 2x Ecotech Marine MP40s. This is in conjunction with a DC10000 pump as a return flowing through 2 x 3/4" Seaswirls. The total water movement is more than enough to keep the sps corals happy and the sandbed clear. The MP40s are on a schedule that I constantly play with, including long periods for thorough mixing and then a calmer period overnight.

The tank is lit by 3x Ecotech Marine Radions. These are run for 14 hours per day, ramping up from nothing to 100% during the day, and dropping off over the course of a couple of hours in the evening. The lamps run at 100% for approximately 3 hours. This, based on Dr Joshi’s measurements, provides enough radiation to maximize photosynthesis and induce great color.

Since I was limited in space with this tank, I had to use only the space available under the stand. To that end, I use a 40g breeder as the sump with a single acrylic divider (with a port in it that the skimmer effluent passes through). I have a Reef Octopus in-sump skimmer that is driven by a dc pump as well. Also in that space, I have an Avast! Marine calcium reactor.

The calcium reactor provides almost all of my calcium and alkalinity. I occasionally nudge levels up with B-ionic 2 part additive, but very rarely (usually when reactor media needs to be replaced or another issue arises). I measured alk and ca for the first year with this tank. I've probably measured levels maybe once or twice in the second year. I judge alkalinity levels by coral response. I have a highly sensitive Stylophora that often bleaches on its lower branches when alk levels fall too low!

I also use a Neptune Apex controller with temperature and pH probes. Included in the Apex system is 2x EB8s and 2x leak detectors. I have it set up on a wireless bridge so that I can access my tank conditions and controls remotely at any time. Topoff is handled using an Avast! topoff tied to a BRS 50ml/min dosing pump and draws from a 30g reservoir in the basement. My tank is very considerate and sends me a text daily at 9am letting me know what conditions are like. That and a few alarm states have kept things very stable.

My water change system consists of a 60g drum with attached mixing pump and pvc rig to switch to topoff strong enough to pump upstairs. I keep 50+ gallons of new saltwater available at all times as well as the 15-30 gallons of RODI water.

The tank is primarily an sps tank, with a few random LPS and a couple of soft corals in the mix.

I feed a homemade fresh seafood mixture as well as pellets every other day, or whenever I remember. Weekly I also add around 5ml of phytoplankton when feeding the fish. I do not spot feed any corals.

Early on I had a few challenges with my CO2 source shutting off due to a power failure (default state was off, but it didn’t let me know that!). That lead to alk dropping considerably at times. The other challenge was the DC pumps failing. Otherwise, the tank has been doing very well. I like to think it is mostly due to a great deal of pre-planning in establishing the system.

I have been extremely pleased with the growth and quality of the Ecotech lighting and pumps. I see amazing growth in most sps in my tank. The only gap appears to be yellow or red corals, which grow very slowly (including the supposedly fast growing red dragon acro!), most likely due to spectral deficiencies. The Reef Octopus skimmer works very well, although is very sensitive to changes in water level. Overall, I would use all of those products again. The DC pumps have been a challenge. I really like them when they perform as they should, but I’ve had three failures in only 2 years to date and my return is groaning like an old man trying to get out of his favorite chair right now, so I expect I might have to reconfigure my sump/pumps.

Overall, I have found it very easy to reduce the amount of electricity used in running a successful reef tank while retaining excellent growth results. If I had the chance to set up another such tank, I would do almost everything the same, although I would greatly enjoy having a separate room for sump and equipment! If you are newly engaged in the hobby, I would highly advise you to get to know your fellow WAMAS members. Go visit their successful tanks and use them as resources. There is no better teacher than the success (and potentially, the failures!) of others.

  • 9am blue at 5%
  • 12pm all lamps on, ramping to 100%
  • 4pm all lamps on 100%
  • 7pm set to 10kK color, which places all but blue on at 100%
  • 9pm begin to ramp down
  • 10:30pm blues only, 20%
  • 11pm royal blue only 5%
  • 12am all off

  • Salinity: 1.026 sg
  • Temperature: 77°F (76.9-77.8)
  • Alkalinity: unknown, usually 9-10
  • Calcium: unknown, usually 360-400
  • Magnesium: unknown
  • Phosphate: unknown
  • Nitrate: unmeasurable

  • Display: 180g aquarium
  • Sump: 40g
  • Skimmer: Reef octopus internal skimmer
  • Lighting: (3) Ecotech Radion (gen 2)
  • Return Pump: DC10000
  • Circulation: (2) Ecotech MP40, (2) 1" seaswirls
  • Heater: (2) 300W Jager
  • Controller: Neptune Apex Lite controller with pH, T, wireless and leak detector module

  • pair of flame wrasses
  • flame angel
  • yellow tang
  • gold midas blenny
  • hippo tang
  • squaretail bristletooth tang
  • pair flasher wrasses
  • mandarin dragonet
  • cleaner wrasse
  • dilectus dottyback
  • mystery wrasse
  • pair of longnose hawkfish
  • single occelaris clown

  • piles of sps
  • a mix of hammer/frogspawn
  • a few zoanthids and clove polyps

  • 3x sand dwelling filter feeding cucumbers
  • 3x cucumbers
  • short spine urchin
  • sand sifting starfish
  • 2x scarlet hermit crabs
  • assorted snails