Well you could have blown me down with a feather when I recieved the email saying that my tank has been selected for TOTM.
I know that votes for TOTM have been a bit thin on the ground recently, but I'm still not convinced that my tank is worthy of such an honour. However, if 10 people have taken the trouble to vote for my tank, then I'd like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you.....
Thank you.........Oh, who am I kidding, it was probably only 3 of you anyway.
We all know that there are better SPS tanks out there, some of which have already won TOTM and some of which are destined to become future TOTM winners. I'm not going to pretend that mine is even in the same league as a lot of those, but I do like the occasional piece of coral dotted around the tank to provide a decent background for my fish.
I suppose I should tell you a little bit about my journey so far.
I have been in this hobby for nearly 4 years and this is my third tank.
It all started with a trip to the local Maidenhead Aquatics (non sponsor) around my 40th birthday. I'd kept tropical and lake malawi fish previously but had not had an aquarium for a few years. I'd really wanted to try keeping a marine tank ever since my old boss had a marine set up in the very early 90's. On this trip to MA my wife made a comment that the oak aquariums looked nice. I seized my chance and 30 minutes later I was nearly £2000 poorer and the proud owner of a couple of pairs of of aquarays, an external filter, a tmc v2 300 skimmer, a single koralia powerhead, a 4 1/2 foot wooden side board with a glass box on top and a net.......I still have the net.
Within a week, I had joined UR and that's when the real obsession began.
I soon discovered that there was a group of guys in and around Worcester that had recently started the Worcester Reefers Club and so I met up with them and within 5 months I had ordered my upgrade to a Seabray 6 x 2 x 2 custom build via South West Marines.
I ran that tank for 18 months as a predominately LPS tank, until the opportunity to buy my current tank unexpectedly smashed me in the face, thanks to a customer of The Reef Shack who had closed down a nearly new system and was selling off his tank at a price that was too good to pass.
This was a chance to put into practice a few of the good ideas that I had thought about and developed over the previous 2 years such as a stacked sump system and water change tank to make maintenance much easier. This, quite coincidently, is very similar to the system that I had seen a few months earlier that was designed by rattters and Hellski. Strange thing coincindence isn't it?
This tank has been running now for nearly 18 months and it's been a real labour of love. I have thoroughly enjoyed driving all around the country visiting some great (and some not so great) shops and meeting some great (and some not so great) reefers and picking up some great stock and some great nuggets of information along the way. This hobby is great isn't it?
I will try to do my best to describe my system but when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it...........
The tank is a Seabray built system with opti-white front and sides. It has a single weir on the left hand side with 2 off 40mm drains.
The water drains down into a small fish room behind the tank which contains a 4 tank stacked sump system that houses all of the filtration and control units.
The first chamber in this tank contains a 150µ filter sock and the pump for my phosphate reactor and ozone reactor. This is also the same tank that the frag tank returns into.
The second chamber contains the skimmer, a Deltec SC2560 complete with a Vertex Vectra cleaner head. Water travels through the baffles and via the tank connectors into the second tank.
The second tank holds the macro algae bed. The algae is predominately Caulerpa Prolifera and along with the skimmer and regular water changes is the the primary method of nitrate removal. The Caulerpa is lit 24/7 by a TMC Aquaray 1500 tile. I chose Caulerpa Prolifera due to its resistance to the high flow that I have flowing through my sump.
The second chamber of this tank holds the return pump, a Laguna Maxflo 16000. This provides the heartbeat of the tank pushing water to all of the separate tanks and display tank. It also holds the pump for the chiller so that the tank can maintain the lower temperatures even on the 3 hot days that make up the British Summer. This is also chamber that holds all of my probes and where the water level is measured for the auto top up and where the dosing tubes go from and to.
This tank is above tank 2 and is the main water change tank. Water is pumped up into this tank and can be controlled by a ball valve. During water changes the ball valve can be closed and a ball valve to the drain can be opened. Once empty then fresh RO is fed directly from the RO unit on a plug in timer until it is full and then salt added to the water. Once the salt has mixed the valve from the return pump is opened and the fresh saltwater pours over the return pipe and slowly mixes with the rest of the water.
This tank also seconds as an observation tank if I want to inspect a fish or make sure it's feeding properly before adding to the main display tank. It can quickly turn into a spearate QT tank if I close the valves and drop in a spare heater.
Tank 4 sits above tank 1 and the first chamber contains fresh RO for the auto top up system. I use an aquamedic SP3000 peristaltic top up pump. It never misses a beat and runs silently. My system uses between 10-15L of top up water each day.
The second chamber is my frag tank. Flow is controlled via a ball valve and the return falls back into tank 1 below.
I am very proud to be only the second winner of TOTM that runs solely on Leds.
The display tank is lit by a 6 foot Vertex SR360 with 4 additional red modules and 3 additional UV modules.
I really like the controllability and light output from the Vertex. The light spread front to back is fine over the full 30 inches despite the light sitting just a couple of inches above the water line. This was important to me as the tank is located in our main living area of the house and the light spill on some other units would have made life intolerable for the rest of the family.
The lights provide a nice balance between what I as a reef keeper want to see with my own eyes and what the corals demand. There is a gentle sunrise and sunset throughout the tank.
Above is a snapshot of my lighting schedule.
The frag tank isn't quite so lucky.
Apart from the Laguna 16000 return pump, flow in the dsplay tank is provided by 2 x mp60s (one at either end) and 1 x mp40 on the back wall. The mp60s are offset from each other and create a gyre flow throughout most of the day, set on lagoon mode with a maximum of 200/255 on the mp60's and 125/55 on the mp40. Twice a day the pumps switch automatically (controlled via the GHL Vortech link) to Nutrient Transport Mode which create a lot of turbulence in the tank and a standing wave that sloshes the crud over the top of the weir. The fish seem to love this period of high flow, with the tangs lining up to swim against the flow. The LPS on the other hand, aren't quite so keen, although quite often their feeders come out after the Nutrient Transport Mode to feast on the crud that is disturbed.
I maintain the tank at a steady 25C. This is a little cooler than most but it is a conscious decision based upon the needs of my Centropyge Interruptus that prefers lower temperatures.
I used to have a 500W titanium heater but that packed up after a few months so I have gone back to using 2 visitherm 300W heaters controlled by the GHL.
Cooling is provided by 2 banks of 5 GHL fans and when they run out of puff the chiller kicks in. This combined with the LED lighting means that the chiller only needs to run for a handful of days each year. The chiller was originally installed outside in its own little shed but when I upgraded to this tank my wife refused to allow me to plumb the pipework along 3 walls of our lounge, so now it sits in my little sump room getting in the way, each day inviting me to trip over its hoses.
As described in System Details
I run ozone on the tank controlled via an ORP probe and fed into an Avast Mutiny Ozone Reactor with a carbon post filter. This is primarily used to keep the water looking clear. I have a lot of tangs and that means a lot of tang poo. The ozone helps keep the ORP levels around the 400 mark.
Calcium and Alkalinity is taken care of by my DaStaCo Calcium reactor. My previous mainly LPS tank's levels were maintained by The Balling Method, so called because of the Ball Ache of making up 1 litre of Alk mix every day.
I credit the DaStaCo with enabling me, a bear with very little brain, to maintain my levels and allow me to grow a few SPS corals.
My tank doesn't seem to require any Magnesium supplementation. I guess that is taken care of by my regular water changes.
The only chemical supplement that I add daily is Lugol's Iodine. I can really see the difference in my montipora if I allow my levels to drop too low and they perk up almost immediately once the dosing has resumed.
The tank is controlled via a GHL Profilux aquarium computer that reports on Salinity, Ph and temperature. It controls the dosers and cooling/heating systems and many of the timers and switches on the systems.
The primary montoring system that I use whilst I am at work is the QBO. This is a bespoke analogue system that I've had for nearly 30 years and I really couldn't maintain a tank like this without one. It has full function audio/visual monitoring and feedback and alarm systems. The version that I have now is quite old and probably needs updating. As with anything, I would like to think that the newer model would be cheaper, smaller and better performing but at least I know which buttons to press on the old model.
The fish get a variety of foods but their primary food is New Era Marine Flake. I get through a small bucket of the stuff (200g) every 4-5 weeks.
In addition, the wrasse appreciate a feed of RS Mysis and the anthias get frozen Calanus or Cyclopeeze and/or Nyos Goldpods.
I make a fresh cocktail every morning containing RS Mysis, Calanus, Frozen Rotifers, Chopped Cockle and this gets added throughout the day by the QBO auto-feed system. This is in addition to the flake food. I also occassionally use New Era Pellets.
As I have a few tangs then I also treat them to either a half sheet of dried nori or a New Era Marine Grazer ring most evenings.
I believe a fat fish is a healthy fish so I work on the principle of chuck it in and take out what's not consumed.
The Golden Dwarf Moray gets fed every 3-4 days depending upon when it's hungry, measured by its activity in the tank. Its food of choice at this moment appears to be slices of squid or scallop. I don't feed it fish for obvious reasons.
The corals get fish poo (hourly),frozen rotifers (every day), lobster eggs (weekly), reef paste (rarely) and nyos reefpepper (birthdays and anniversaries). I also dose fresh homegrown phyto daily straight from my reactor.
Twice a day my skimmer turns off for 1 hour whilst Red Sea Reef Energy A & B (aminos and carbon source) are dosed via the GHL.
I'm a lazy so and so by nature, therefore it was important to make this system as easy as possible to run and maintain. The water change process is effortless, so I have no excuse not to perform regular water changes. I change 125L of water (approx 8% of total system volume) per week.
The ATO chamber is filled up automatically by being directly plumbed into my RO machine. The RO system is fitted with a pump and solenoid and is on a plug in timer. When it first powers up it goes into automatic flushing mode before sending 0 TDS water straight into the top up tank until the float valve closes. The system detects the back pressure and shuts off automatically. The plug in timer then goes around until the next day when the whole process is repeated. Life really is too short (and I'm too old and weak) to carry water around.
The DaStaCo is very good at keping things stable so it is very easy to become complacent with the testing but a simple weekly test of Alk is enough to put your mind at rest. Nitrate and PO4 is tested monthly or more often if something sets off my spidey-senses.
The pay back for spending so much time on my tank is that I make sure that I take the family away for a decent summer holiday. This year before going on holiday, I scoured the country building up a fine collection of clams. Unfortunately, whilst I was away they succumbed to a disease which killed all 16 within a few days. I was first made aware of the problem by my tank sitter, whilst 5000 miles away, by a text with a picture of a dead and decaying clam with the question "Does this clam look ok to you?" followed by another text 4 hours later by "What's the best way to remove all of this brown stringy stuff hanging from the branches of your corals", followed the next day by a FaceTime conversation showing the devastaton of my clam collection and the loss of a couple of sps colonies.
Of course, it was my own fault for hastily collecting and not quarantining such delicate animals. I am therefore currently suffering in the middle of a self imposed clam curfew and for the first time in 3 years I do not have a single clam in my tank.
It was quite soon after my return from holiday and in the middle of a cyano outbreak due to the nutrients released by 16 large maxima clams, that I received the invitation from Ian to write up my article for TOTM. It has taken a few months for me to feel good about my tank again and to get it looking ok again, so I apologise for not writing this article sooner.
Right, are you still awake after all of that pseudo-technical mumbo jumbo?
Yes? Good. Because this is really what it's all about for me. Everything in the article before this section is simply the "how", this section is the "why".
|Blonde Naso Tang (Joan after Joan Rivers - ask your mum.)(Naso elegans)||Achilles Tang(Acanthurus achilles)||Yellow Tang (Bubbles)(Zebrasoma flavescens)|
|Yellow Scopas Tang(Zebrasoma scopas)||Black Tang(Zebrasoma rostratum)||Gem Tang (Dorothy or Gordon)(Zebrasoma gemmatum)|
|Carpenters Flasher Wrasse (also known as Gordon as in Flash Gordon) (Paracheilinus carpenteri )||3 Femininus Wrasse(Anampses femininus)||1 pair Hawaiian Red Tail Tamarin Wrasse(Anampses chrysocephalus)|
|1 pair Joculator Dwarf Angels (Audrey and Aubrey)(Centropyge joculator)||Tigerpyge Dwarf Angel (Tigger)(Hybrid Centropyge eilbli x Centropyge flavissimus)||Japanese Pygmy Interruptus Angel(Centropyge interruptus)|
|1 pair of Mandarin Dragonets(Synchiropus splendidus)||Chalk Goby(Valencienna Sexguttata)||Yellow Watchman Goby(Cryptocentrus cinctus)|
|Algae Blenny(Salarias fasciatus)||25 Blue/Green Chromis(Chromis viridis)||6 Black Bar Chromis(Chromis retrofasciata)|
|9 mixed anthias (evansi, tukas, red saddleback)(Pseudathias evansi, Pseudathias tuka, Pseudanthias flavoguttatus)||11 Threadfin Cardinals(Apogon leptacanthus)||1 pair of Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse(Labroides dimidiatus)|
|Swissguard Basslet(Liopropoma swalesi)||Scarus Quoyi Parrotfish(Scarus quoyi)||1 pair of Black and White Clownfish(Amphiprion ocellaris )|
|1 pair of Orange and White Clownfish(Amphiprion ocellaris )||Midas Blenny(Ecsenius midas)||Golden Dwarf Moray Eel (Alison)(Gymnothorax melatremus)|
Corals are nice aren't they? After all, this is a reefkeeping forum not a fish forum.
I do like a nice piece of LPS dotted around the tank and a little bit of SPS to give the reef some structure.
I have a mixture of acans, acanthrophyllia, bowerbankii and hillae together with a few torches, hammers, duncans, gonis, scollymia, lobos, bubble, favia, culestrea, 3 or 4 different echinophyllia, sun coral, cynarina and probably a few others that I've forgotten to list.
And some sticks.....pink ones, green ones, blue ones, purple ones and a few brown ones.
I have 3 RBTAs in the tank that are home to 1 pair of clownfish. The other pair have to make do with the furry mushrooms that are slowly taking over the bottom left hand side of my tank.
There are 2 sand sifting starfish that do a great job of keeping the sand bed clean assisted by a couple of strawberry lipped conch.
There are 2 cleaner shrimp that work tirelessly on my tangs and moray eel and a blood shrimp that is scared of its own shadow. I also have Rocky, the large boxing shrimp that spends all day hiding and all night prowling the tank.
We must all acknowledge our responsibilities to push for a sustainable future for our hobby.
It is a special privilege to be able to keep a little piece of the reef in your home. Each and every animal within the tank deserves to be treated with the greatest level of care and compassion that you can provide (except flippin' majanos and aiptasia, they are the spawn of satan and can burn in hell!).
First of all, I would like to thank my wife (The QBO for those that haven't already guessed) for the support and encouragment that she has given to me over the last 4 years. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise to my children for dragging them the length and breadth of this country whilst sourcing quality livestock.
Secondly, I would like to say a special thanks to all of the members who have contributed to my tank threads over the last few years. There really are too many to mention and I would be scared to miss anybody out, but I am sure you all know how I feel. I have learned a lot and laughed a lot more along the way and I would recommend everybody who is reading this to take the time to document your tank in a tank thread.
Thirdly, I would like to acknowledge the help and comarardarie of the fellow members of the Worcester Reefers Club. Sometimes it's easier to discuss your tank over a pint face to face than it is to type out on a forum.
Finally, I would like to thank the sponsors who have provided most of the livestock and equipment that I have in my tank. Matt at SWM for the inspiration, Jon at H2O for the perspiration, Ed at MA Windsor for the desperation and Mark at Cockfields for the best darn pork pies in the country. There are many others that I've visited up and down the country...I loves ya all..........except ********, you're rubbish!
And not forgetting Ian (l66) for the huge amount of time and effort that he put in to pull this article together.