This is an absolute surprise and honor to even be considered for the TOTM, let alone to have been selected to represent the TOTM for WAMAS for the month of December. I want to thank the TOTM committee, the Officers, and all the members of this unbelievably supportive community for honoring me with this vote of appreciation for my love of the hobby. I also could not have had this opportunity if I had not had the support of this forum through the ups and downs, and trials and tribulations. I am very fortunate that there are so many who are willing to assist and offer advice. That is the really great thing about this forum: no one wants to see anyone fail, and we share both our successes and failures so that others can learn from our experiences. I first dove into reefing and had my first tank in 1992. While we had no “forums” back then, it sure would have made life a lot easier. Times certainly have changed with our understanding of what it takes to keep a reef, and so many of the suppliers custom make the tanks so they are much more “operational”.
My current tank is a Red Sea Max S500 with no changes other than bulb color and additional pumps for flow. I chose this tank because I felt it would give me the best opportunity for success and take out the guesswork of what would and would not work. This tank is on the second floor of my home and we have a finished basement. One of the first posts I had on the forum was about load weight. It was determined that I needed to build a “structure” to distribute the weight across a couple more joists. So I built a platform that is 12” longer on both sides of my stand that distributed the load effectively. This is set up in what we call the family room, or homework room, whichever you prefer. It enables me to help my kids with homework while I look at my tank. I kept it 6 inches off the wall but wish I had about 4 more inches so that I could do more behind it vs. having to crawl over the top to do anything involving the rear of the tank. I keep all my supplies in my basement so I haul all water for changes from the basement up. I monitor and manage this tank with a Neptune Apex and have found the most important item on it has been the salinity probe for me.
The tank comes with 3 recirculation pumps that pull water in through positioned points and send back out through the top in three different areas all rated at 540 GPH. The return pump is plumbed direct and has a valve that feeds the flow to the skimmer and is rated at 2150 GPH. I have primarily all SPS in the tank. In order to keep the flow, I added 2 MP-40s with a battery back-up. The MPs ramp up to 80% during nutrient transport mode, and at least 45% in all other settings. I also added a Gyre 150 that I manually alternate between 70%- 80%.
The tank is lit with 540 W of T5 bulbs. The RSM comes with a “reef spec” set of bulbs and out of the box they were wonderful. Once it came time to change the bulbs and I started focusing on SPS, I decided to customize my color spectrum. I searched all over from the “grim reefer” to anyone who could help with the right spectrum of T5 bulbs. Ultimately, I met JKeim on MDRC and he really set me up with a schematic of bulbs I have been running now for 12 months that is really proving to be a good set up. The Red Sea comes with a control center that truly is a great addition; however, I wanted more control of my lights so I have them hooked up through my Apex. I have had great success with this lighting and find that the T5 is good for my application. I have 5 blue plus, 3 coral plus, 1 super purple, and 1 midday tropic.
The Red Sea has a cross tank overflow running full length in the back. It has a 16-gallon chambered sump. I added a filter sock to the main return line that I religiously change 2 times weekly. All the rock is Pukani or reef saver that was cycled by Hgrreefs for me in trash cans prior to me setting my tank. This tank has a C-Skim 1800 skimmer that boasts 210 gph airflow and 410 gph aspirator. I have caulerpa in the refugium and sand base in the tank. I add pods bi-monthly from Algae Barn. I have a 2-part reactor running GFO and carbon on a small pump that is fed from the dirty side of sump to the return side of sump. I have a duplication of heaters and have one small pump and heater on a battery back up in case of power outage.
I don’t chase numbers with my dosing. I dose B-Ionic 2 part and magnesium. I diligently test my alkalinity 5 times weekly and that is the only number I really test religiously. I check Magnesium and Calcium every two weeks, but as so many have told me the corals will tell you if it right. I keep my Alkalinity at 152 on the hanna as a target (8.5 dkh). I prefer to be on the low side if I am going to be anywhere. I tried accropower and other trace elements; I saw no changes so I quit. I use regular instant ocean salt and do a minimum of 20% water change per week as I break them up into 5 gallon changes 2 times a week and then a big 15 gallon change on Sunday.
My livestock has changed over time due to a horrible ich breakout. My favorite fish was a mated pair of Scott’s Fairy Wrasses. Unfortunately, shortly after getting them I had the ich breakout. By the time it was over, I lost all but 4 fish. I am primarily an SPS tank now with a bunch of “workers” for livestock. I only added fish after the last loss about a year ago that will help me keep SPS. My favorite is the Melanaurus Wrasse or my butterfly. I have a pair of mated Sanjay’s clowns that appear to be laying, but I never see anything at all. I also have a Mandarin, dart fish, wrasse, and foxface fish. The remainder of my livestock is all coral. My favorite coral is the Orange Passion. My second is the Battlecorals Angelina Rosaria. I have all kinds of SPS I have gotten over the last 18 months.
I am fortunate my mother in law lives with me and feeds my fish for me daily at 1 pm. They get fed the same time daily for the most part. I feed them mysis rinsed and dumped in tank out of the net. I feed out of a net because they are used to it and if anything major happens again, I feel I will be able to catch some of my fish. I also feed every evening Rods complete or Larry’s Reef Frenzy. I prefer to do small shots of food so they work the tank. I also twice weekly broadcast with pumps off Reef chili and some reef nutrition products.
Boy have I had challenges! But without challenges you will never appreciate success. My biggest challenge has been (and still is) consistency. I got lazy and was not dosing proper amounts. I added a dosing pump and that was the best thing I could have done to combat this. I also faced a horrible ich break-out. I should have quarantined my fish, but I was so excited that I rushed them to the tank. I paid a dear price and lost so many fish. I feel the silent killer for my SPS was a salinity swing when I forgot to fill my ATO. I only realized it after the return pump starting pumping air. This is when I added an Apex and a salinity probe. I have it send me an alarm if it goes 0.3 beyond my setting and I know my ATO is low.
The hardest part for me has been PATIENCE. Chris (Hgrreefs) really was a huge mentor for me on this and Surf and turf (Frank) who I met for the first time about 9 months ago was very supportive with any stupid question I had, no matter how dumb. They both told me “NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS FAST IN A REEF TANK”. That is very hard to accept but I will tell you it is the truth. If it happens quickly, there is probably nothing good about it.
I would love to get my clowns to breed and raise the fry. I’d also like my SPS to grow large enough that I can frag some out and share the wealth so to speak with reasonably priced frags of coral. I would like to set a main display tank like Eric (Epleeds) has – I saw his tank and I had tank envy.
I am grateful for the recognition of my efforts, but I could not have done it without an understanding wife, a group of friends that are supportive, and forums like WAMAS. Others paving the way have enabled me to find successes I never would have seen.
- 1 hour 2 center bulbs (blue+ & purple)
- 6 hours all 10 bulbs on
- 1 hours 2 center bulbs
- All night moonlight LED
- Grow light 12 hours on refugium
- Salinity: 1.025
- Temperature: 77.6
- Alkalinity: 8.51
- Calcium: 420
- Magnesium: 1320
- Display: Red Sea Max 250
- Circulation: 2 MP40 & Gyre 150
- Controller: APEX
- Reactor: Carbon & GFO
- ATO: 7g gravity feed
- Copperband butterfly
- Pair of Sanjay’s clowns
- Melanaurus wrasse
- Scooter blennie
- Possum wrasse
- RR Raven
- RR Limitless
- WD Acro
- SC Orange Passion
- BD Xmas
- BC Angelina Rosaria
- DCA Nuclear Fallout
- RR Wolverine
- SC Blue Steel
- BC pink Skeleton Bones