Bring the Reef Home

There is no doubt that keeping a reef tank at home isn’t the cheapest hobby, nor is it effortless. However, a reef tank at home brings so many wonderful things to our lives. My name is Joseph Chi. In 2004, I owned my first marine tank in California. Now, after buying my first house in Taiwan, I’m maintaining my second SPS dominated tank. This tank has been up and running since January 2, 2015. This tank, like life, has had its many ups and downs.

System Profile
  • Display tank: 132cm x 90cm x 60xm, Rimless Open Top with 12mm tempered glass
  • Stand: Custom made wood stand, 170cm x 94cm
  • Sump: Custom made 5mm glass 160cm x 50cm x 45 cm with a 45cm x 50 cm x 45 cm refugium section
  • Protein skimmer: Bubble King Deluxe 300
  • Carbon/phosphate filtration: Custom made 0.5L carbon reactor
  • Return pump: Red Dragon RD3 80W x 2
  • Water circulation: Apex Wav x 4
  • Lighting (display): ATI Hybrid 4Food x1 + Kessil AP700 x 2
  • Lighting (refugium): AI 26
  • Calcium/alkalinity/magnesium dosing: Home made solution with Baking soda, CaCl2, MgCl2
  • Kalkwasser reactor: None
  • Auto top-off: Tunze ATO
  • Heating/cooling: 300 W x 2 and Chiller
  • System control: Apex Classic
  • Any other details: Electric winch for light move up and down



Water Circulation and Flow Summary and Objectives

I keep the return pump circulation going no more than 6 cycles per hour, and rely on my four Apex WaV pumps to create enough current and turbulence. Ideally, I try to keep the food in my display tank as long as possible before it goes down to my filter pad and skimmer. I feed my coral and turn the skimmer off for 2 hours after lights off.



Water Parameters
  • Temp: 76 ~ 78 F
  • pH: 8.2~8.6
  • Specific gravity: 1.025
  • NO3: 0.2 ~0.5ppm
  • Ca: 420~450 ppm
  • Alk: ~7.5 dKH
  • Mg: 1400~1450 ppm
  • PO4: 0.02 ppm to undetectable by Henna
  • Ammonia and nitrites: no set after one month tank run


Lighting Summary and Objectives

I did not spend much effort studying PAR vs Spectrum for coral growth and coloration. I simply followed the best tanks around the world and decided to go with T5, adding LEDs for shimmer effect. Two side Kessil LEDs also help to cover my oversized tank width that a 55cm ATI fixture would not cover.


  • Display tank:12:00 pm gradually to 100% at 2:00 pm both ATI T5/LED and Kessil, and 11:45 pm gradually off to 12:30 am complete off
  • Refugium: Full on at 12:30 am and off at 8:30 am



Filtration and Water Quality Summary and Objectives

Water change and mechanic filtration still play key roles in my tank. I am quite against the statement that 10% water change “only” improves 10% of the water quality and 10% correction. What I realized is that the tank owner should take the chance to siphon the bottom of the tank by blowing the tank’s dead corner with a small pump. Then they should try to target the removal of things such as debris and POM/DOM to maximize the effect of the 10% water change. It is also important to make sure new water parameters such as salinity, temperature, alkalinity, Ca, and Mg are close enough to the tank water to ensure water change activity is beneficial to your tank rather than hurting it.


For the mechanic filter, I gave up the filter sock due to many reasons, but I use both the filter pad and the bio filter mat. They won’t completely solve the issue of a snail growing inside a return pump, but should help to reduce the chance when the tank owner is out of town.


I love my 24/7 skimmer which improves water quality and provides adequate oxygen for tank residents. When I started this tank on Feb. 2nd, 2015, it ran a full Zeovit system, but after Sept. 2016, I changed to a mix of Zeovit and Aquaforest. I started to call this mixed system “Zeoforest” based on a friend’s idea.


Tank Supplements and Coral Food
  • Salt - Af Reef Salt 0.75 + KZ Reefer Best Coral Salt 0.25
  • Nutrient Control - KZ Bak, KZ Start3, KZ ZEOvit
  • Coral Nutrition - Af ABEV, KZ CV
  • Water Quality - KZ Sponge Power, KZ Snow, BrightWell Carbon
  • Major Elements - Home made Baking Soda, CaCl,MgCl, KCl
  • Cure and others - KZ Flatworm Stop, RedSea Aiptasia-X, Af Reef Mineral Salt
  • Trace Elements - Af Component ABC, Af Iron, Af Iodum, Af Strontium, Af Fluorine
  • Color Improvement - KZ Xtra, KZ B-Balance, KZ Coral Booster




Calcium/Alkalinity/Magnesium Summary and Objectives

Calcium, Alkalinity, and Magnesium are the three major elements that are the easiest to handle after dosing pumps became popular and reliable and KH monitor devices, like KHG, walked into our lives. I was an alpha tester for Dr.Bridge’s KHG, so since day one of running my tank, I was able to know exactly what my tank’s alkalinity was anywhere and anytime which helped me keep my alkalinity rock steady. I use baking soda, CaCl2, and MgCl2 to make my own solutions. It is not as economic as a calcium reactor, but the cost difference is insignificant for a 190-gallon tank.



Tank Inhabitants - Fish
  • Mauritian Clownfish x2
  • Sohal Tang x 1
  • Blue Tang x 1
  • Yellow Tang x 1
  • Six-line Wrasse x 1
  • Lyretail Anthias x 12
  • Algae Blenny x 1
  • Mandarin Goby x 2
  • Blue Chromis x 15



Other Invertebrates
  • Coral Banded Shrimp x 2
  • Holothuria leucospiolota x 3
  • Blue leg hermit Crab x 12
  • Red leg hermit Crab x 6
  • Saron marmoratus x15
  • Nassarius snail x10
  • Pyram / Green Top Snail x 20
  • Sea Urchin x 10



Tank Inhabitants - Corals
  • Acropora echinata x2
  • Acropora muricata 'Staghorn' x2
  • Acropora tortuosa 'Oregon' x2
  • Acropora milliepora x3
  • Acropora gomezi x2
  • Acropora rosaria x1
  • Acropora tenuis ‘Walt Disney’ x3
  • Acropora anthocercis x1
  • Acropora hyacinthus x1
  • Acropora azurea x1
  • Acropora ethereal x1
  • Acropora carduus 'Green eye dragon' x1
  • Acropora cerealis x1
  • Acropora nana x1
  • Acropora microclados 'Strawberry Shortcake' x3
  • Acropora sp. 'Purple Barney' x1
  • Acropora sp. 'RR Wolverine' x1
  • Monodactylus argenteus 'Purple Rim Cap' x1
  • Montipora sp. 'Sunset' x1
  • Montipora setosa x1
  • Seriatopora hystrix 'Birdnest' x2














Fish Feeding

I give dry pellet food doses three times a day during lights on by Apex FDS, mysis shrimp frozen cubes once a week, and seaweed every other day for the fish.

Who was responsible for getting you into the hobby?

After starting my first marine tank in 2004, I began to visit my local fish store, Aquatic Gallery in Milpitas, California. I often talked to the owner who had a beautiful coral tank. They had a small SPS tank with a few ORA frags displayed. I was surprised by the growth, shape, and coloration each time I visited. Since then I decided to give SPS tanks a shot and pursue my dream of “Bring the Reef Home”.


Who or what in the hobby most influences/inspires you?

I was very impressed by the way ORA coral farm breed and grow coral, their rich knowledge, and long term commitment to Earth. I admire the fact that they use less promotional language than their competitors, instead letting their results speak for themselves.


What are your future plans for improvement/upgrade of the tank?

Even though I am quite happy about my existing tank design, there are still a few details that I may shoot for with my next tank: an integrated sump like Red Dragon DreamBox, a better way to hide all pumps, a feeder in or on the display tank, an automatic monitor for KH, CA, MG, NO3, PO4, and a continuous coral food source instead of feeding once or twice a day, etc. All of the above are on-going projects and I will definitely share more details at later time.


Final thoughts...

With limited space at home for this hobby, you begin to think about how to integrate your design (e.g. full function sump w/ refugium underneath your tank, power winch for light fixture). When your tank is running in the living room, you start to study how to keep your overflow dead silent and your tank clean (e.g. bean animal overflow). When you travel a lot, you start to seek safety, control system, and water parameter monitoring (e.g. quality products, Apex, KHG, etc…). When a ORA frag on hand becomes a challenge, then you start to try your best to enrich your knowledge in order to keep it alive. I am grateful to have friends around that help me solve reef tank issues, utilizing innovative methods, such as most recent innovation of an improve version of Apex AFS with weight sensor and MQTT enable. I also feel very lucky that even while living in Taiwan, I can easily find advanced reefing knowledge in a timely manner from every corner of the world, especially through reef forums such as Reef2Reef. One friend told me he started to care about the earth and oceans after having a reef tank at home, so let’s work hard to bring more people into this hobby. Oh, and some final words… I plan to visit MACNA 2018. Since it is going to be in Las Vegas, let me know if you plan to visit too. I always love making more friends with the same hobby.