What an honour to be chosen as TOTM, I thank everyone who nominated me. To all the Administrators at MASA thank you very much.
My journey into aquatics started with a goldfish in a bowl at the young age of 6 which later progressed to tropical fish when I hit my teens. My first introduction to the marine hobby started in the beginning of 1993 when I started a fowlr tank which soon progressed to a soft coral and anemone tank. Those days it was impossible to get sps in the country and also thought almost impossible to keep alive. Forums for marine aquariums were unheard of in SA as it was the dawn of the internet in SA as well. What I did was to join a reef channel on MIRC (Message Internet Relay Chat) and learn from guys overseas, mostly from the US and Europe. It was difficult back then as they had protein skimmers, lighting, additives etc. we could only dream of here in SA at that time.
Fast forwarding to 1999 life happened and I had other priorities and sold the two softy tanks I had at that stage. This hobby is strange though it’s like an addiction you can never shake it. In 2012 I met my wife to be at that stage and she encouraged me to start again and on 21 June 2013 I got this reef tank wet.
DESCRIPTION AND SHORT HISTORY OF THE TANK:
I wanted a similar size tank as my last reef tank and I wanted it to be built using black silicone and the back of the tank had to be in black as I felt it gives the tank more depth when looking at it.
The tank is built using 10mm glass, it measures 1500l x 700w x 600h and is euro braced. It has a back left corner over flow with a 50mm durso standpipe. The water volume of the tank is around 520 litres after rock and sand displacement.
The sump measures 1200l x 600w x 400h. It’s very simple in design as I really don’t like to over complicate things.
The 1st stage of filtration is the mechanical part where the water from the display tank enters the sump through a filter sock. The water flows through to the second part of the sump where it is skimmed using a Reef Octopus Bubble Blaster 5000 skimmer (rated for 2000l).
The water then flows over into the final chamber where I have a Vertex RX-U 1.5L universal reactor where I occasionally either run GFO or Carbon when required but that does not happen often. I have run matrix in the reactor as well for extra biological filtration but prefer to keep the matrix in mesh bags in the sump, 2l of it. I also found putting carbon into a media bag and then into the filter sock does a great job.
I have around 68kg of Indo live rock as well as 50kg of Caribsea’s Fiji pink aragonite sand in the display tank.
CIRCULATION / WATERFLOW:
I run 2 x Jebao RW15 wave pumps on different settings. Through the month I sometimes set the one pump on “W1” and the second pump on “Else” mode. I find if I alternate them in different modes I get rid of the settling detritus more efficiently. I have a Reef Octopus 10500 DC return pump. It’s very much overkill as I only run it on speed setting 2. I have the Vertex Universal reactor plumbed in line with the return pump. That was my reasoning behind me getting such a overrated return pump for my volume of tank as I wanted to be able to run more equipment if I decided to add a chiller or UV sterilizer etc.
Lighting is very simple, utilising 3 x 90watt LED units controlled by its own controller. Lights come on at 6:00am and the intensity increases. Currently the highest intensity is kept between 10:00am and 16:00pm. Thereafter it decreases again until it switches off at 20:00pm. At peak between 10:00am and 16:00pm the strength is: Royal Blue @ 100% and White @ 75%. NB! It took me a year to reach this intensity. When I started I ran these lights at no more than 50% intensity as I saw how many friends were bleaching their corals under LED’s and not acclimating their corals to the LED’s.
In summer I have a single Jaeger Eheim 300watt heater running and by the middle of winter I have three of them running. For RO/DI, I use an Aquaria – SA 4 stage unit to which I added an inline TDS meter to check when to replace the filters and di/resin. In the summer I run a household fan over the sump for cooling on excessively hot days.
I have a triple head doser pump for DIY alkalinity, calcium and magnesium additives. One of the most important pieces of equipment you can have.
The skimmer is cleaned twice weekly. The filter sock is replaced with a new one once per week. The front and two side panels are cleaned every second week as I have minimal algae growth on the glass…or it might be a question of the snails keeping it clean.
I use Salifert test kits for Alkalinity, Calcium, Magnesium, NO₃ & PO₄. A Hanna electronic pen for pH. Lastly a Deltec refractometer for S.G.
Tests on Alkalinity, Calcium, Magnesium, pH, NO₃, PO₄ and S.G are done every Saturday morning.
The circulation pumps are given a vinegar soak and cleaning every second month.
The sump is cleaned out every 3 months using a battery operated vacuum pump (one of the best pieces of equipment I bought – makes cleaning out the sump a breeze.) And at the same time a small water change is performed.
ADDITIVES AND FEEDING:
I try to keep things as simple as possible. I dose bacteria once per week and have been doing so since this tank has been setup. I switch of my protein skimmer for 4 hours every Saturday morning when dosing the bacteria and at the same time I dose amino acids.
I feed my own cultured phytoplankton daily at a rate of 5ml/100litres as well as a weekly dose of 500ml live zooplankton, which I also culture.
My fish are fed daily with pellets and flake food and every second day they get fed a nice sheet of nori that is soaked overnight in garlic and Seachem’s Vitality.
Twice a week they also get a good feeding of frozen mysis and fish eggs.
Most of my corals were bought as frags so I don’t have any idea of half of their names; not to mention the scientific names.
Tri Colour – ( A. Valida)
Pink Milli – (A.Millipora)
Pink Hairy Acro
Purple tip Staghorn
Heaven & Hell Acro
Red Plating Montipora
Pink Birdsnest – (Seriatopora hystrix)
Green Bird of Paradise
Pink Polyp Undata – (Montipora Undata)
Hammer Coral – (Euphyllia ancora)
Golden Hammer Coral – (Euphyllia ancora)
Green tip Torch Coral – (Euphyllia glabrescens)
Candy Cane Coral – (Caulastrea curvata)
Soft Corals, Mushroom, Zoas/Palys and Other
Green Star Polyps
11 Different colours of Zoas
1 x Yellow Tang – (Zebrasoma flavescens)
1 x Purple Tang – (Zebrasoma xanthurum)
1 x Regal Tang – (Paracanthurus hepatus)
1 x Flame Angel – (Centropyge loricula)
1 x Royal Gramma – (Gramma loreto)
1 x Diamond Sand sifting Goby – (Valenciennea puellaris)
1 x Cleaner Wrasse – (Labroides dimidiatus)
2 x Green Mandarin (Spawning pair) – (Synchiropus splendidus)
2 x Clownfish – (Amphiprion ocellaris)
1 x Crocea Clam
2 x Black Brittle Starfish
30 plus Turban, Turbo and Mexican Turbo Snails (100 plus baby snails of the for-mentioned snails)
3 x Bumble bee Snails
2 x Cleaner Shrimps
2 x Blood Shrimps
6 x Peppermint Shrimps
4 x Emerald Crabs
TANK SPECIFICATIONS & WATER PARAMETERS:
* Temperature: 26
* pH: 8.38
* Salinity: 1.025
* Nitrate: 5
* Phosphate: 0.03
* Calcium: 450
* KH: 9.1
* Magnesium: 1320
If I can give any advice to someone starting out in this wonderful hobby of ours is take things slow and read up as much as you can. Keep things simple and don’t over complicate.
Lastly but definitely not least the most important person behind my tank is my wife René that I would like to thank for all her help and patience, not many of you know I am a paraplegic so obviously in a wheelchair therefore my wife does all the hard work i.e. cleaning the skimmer, feeding the fish, testing of water etc. she is my hands.
Don’t ever give up on this beautiful hobby of ours its only as hard as you make it. Patience is the no.1 rule.
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