Drum Roll Please! We will be bringing back Reef of the Month starting right now.

It is with great pleasure and admiration that Reef2Reef awards Michael J. Cuttone from New York our Reef of the Month Award for January 2019. Mike's forum name is MJC, and his build thread can be found here.

Below you find out all kinds of information about Mike's tanks and overall system and some exquisite photos. You can read his comments and advice, and savor his humility. Congratulations, Mike.


Front of 140-gallon display tank.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Back of 140-gallon display tank.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Display tanks 1 and 2 tied together.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Corner view of display tank 1.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.


MikeC's 325-gallon soft coral dominant system: 140-gallon soft coral display with a 75-gallon SPS display tied into one.

Display tanks: 140 gallon & 75 gallon

Glass or Acrylic: Glass

Stand: :DDIY

Sump: 75-gallon glass

Refugium: 12-gallon Mr Aqua chaeto/pod home and a 35-gallon conical settling tank.

Protein skimmer: SRO-XP-5000 cone.

Carbon/phosphate filtration: See below.

Return pump: Iwaki 30 for return

Water circulation: Closed loop run by a ReeFlo Dart.

Lighting (140gal display): ATI 8 bulb Powermodule Hybrid with 2 Reef Brites.

Lighting (75gal display): ATI 6 bulb Powermodule with Reef Brites.

Lighting (refugium): Led Grow Lights Bulb 24W, MARS HYDRO Full Spectrum Grow Lights for indoor E27.

View of sump under display tank #1 on left. Water maintenance room ahead.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.


Carbon reactor: Next Reef MR1

Dosing: Kalkwasser at night

Calcium reactor: GEO618 w/Peristaltic Dosing Pump.

Auto top-off: TUNZE Osmolator

Heating/cooling: 3 Eheim heaters/fan

System control: APEX

Any other details: SpectraPure MaxCap RO/DI System

Water Circulation and Flow Summary and Objectives:

Drilled for closed loop through a 6-way flow diverter. Two holes in the bottom, two in the back mid level & two are over the top in the back. The objective is to keep detritus moving.

Refugium in front and conical tank behind.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Water Parameters:

* Temp: 78

* pH: 7.9-8.12

* Specific gravity: 1.026

* NO3: 0

* Ca: 450

* Alk: 9.5 DKH

* Mg: 1500

* PO4: 0.05

* Ammonia and nitrites: n/a

Papa clove polyps, blue sponge trumpets, and zoa cluster.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Lighting Summary and Objectives:


* 140-gallon soft coral tank: 10am-6pm ramp up and down one hour and Reef Brites for dusk and dawn.

* 75-gallon SPS tank: 1pm-8pm

* Refugium: 4pm-10am reverse cycle

Pink Pulsing Sinularia.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Filtration and Water Quality Summary and Objectives:

My maintenance consists of every 2-3 days glass cleaning (if my glass is cleaner for longer than that I know I need to feed more lol.) Every two weeks a 45-gallon (I don't like the term "Water Change") I prefer "detritus removal" which is IMO is a better goal to focus on than just replacing water.

I also have a conical settling tank that helps out a lot. This is where my main detritus settles and where I drain water from. The settling tank drains from the DT to this tank with a centrifugal flow so detritus settles to the bottom to be later drained. Detritus-free water rises to the top and overflows into the 75 gal sump to be skimmed, and then it goes back to the DT.

Two cups carbon also get replaced every two weeks. I use BRS PREMIUM ROX 0.8.

I also dose Kalk (Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime) at night to help with pH.

Starry Blenny hanging out on the Squamosa clam.
20181222_133912 (1).jpg

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Tank Inhabitants—Fish:

Between both display tanks:
Atlantic Blue Tang
Starry Blenny
Yellow Banded Possum Wrasse
File Fish
2-Lawnmower Blenny
2-Red-Lined Wrasse
2-One Spot Foxface
2-Six line Wrasse
9-Azure Damselfish

Red Pom Pom Xenia swaying in the current.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Tank Inhabitants— Corals:

Giant red mushrooms
6 different kinds of Gonipora
Giant pom pom red Xenia
Neon green cabbage coral
Turquoise green Kenya tree
Green Sinularia
Neon green Sinularia
Purple Nephthea
Papaya clove polyps
Pulsing pink Sinularia
Yellow, red, and green finger coral
Yellow Fiji coral
Tracy Morgan gorgonian
Trumpet coral
Various mushrooms
Various zoanthids
Squamosa and Maxima clams
Orange plate coral
Green hairy mushrooms
4 different kinds of toadstools
Blue photosynthetic sponge
Yellow polyps
Coco worms
Grandis polyps
Giant Orange Ricordea
2 flower anemone
Blasto Wellsi
Reverse Superman monti
Purple Monti
Sunset Monti

Blue-green toadstool.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Fish and Coral Feeding:

DIY Blender Mush: I blend these separately in a cuisinart for proper texture of each and use fresh not frozen. Shrimp, clams, silver sides, and some kind of fresh fish. I try to stay away from bottom feeding fish like flounder. I then mix this in with AmericanReef HPD food, PE mysis, Reef Chili, Reef Nutrition Oyster Feast, Reef Nutrition R.O.E., and Nori.

Put it in a few large zip lock bags and freeze it. Every 2 days When I'm ready to to feed i break off a small amount and put it in a hair-color-application bottle I got new from my wife (she's a beautician) with RO water and keep it in the refrigerator. I feed multiple small amounts throughout the day.

Clownfish in front of thick finger leather.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Who was responsible for getting you into the hobby?

My neighbor owned a local Reef store. My Dad had Angels when I was a kid.

How long have you been doing this?

7th year

How did you start?

You need to be good at what you do to be successful. Also the little not regularly seen things fascinate me.

When did you start this current (featured) tank?

2013. Entering its 5th year.

Any good or bad surprises?

Good surprises. My Clams spawn a few times a year. That's always fun to watch.

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

I would eventually like to go bigger but that would involve me moving to another house. I have always envisioned a 300-400 gal SOFTY TANK with great color and movement.

Any advice for others and especially beginners?

Yes, unfortunately, a lot of times it is not what they want to hear. IT TAKES TIME & PATIENCE and the time is a lot longer that some are willing to accept, until it passes. I was the same way.

Twelve-inch Squamosa clam.

Photo is courtesy of Michael J. Cuttone, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Final Thoughts?

When looking for direction/advice I would look for a mature tank you like or want to emulate. IMO, someone who has the same tank for five years or longer. This is what I would consider the beginnings of becoming a mature reef tank. It is always best, if possible, to see their reef in person and talk to them face to face.

Sometimes photos on the internet are? Well, let's just say IMO, some people tend to distort reality to make others envious of a false reality. By doing it this way you have a better chance of honesty and finding out their trials and tribulations. I do believe you will have better chances of becoming successful.

I don't claim at all to be an expert, but do be wary, There seems to be way too many reefers on the internet these days regurgitating information they heard. Do your research, and don't believe every anecdotal thing you read or hear.

Take everything with a grain of salt (no pun intended).

Water quality, Flow, Lighting,

"KISS" (Keep it Siphoned and Skimmed.)

Happy Reefing ;)


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About the Aquarist: Michael J. Cuttone

Mike has been a reef aquarist for seven years and a member of Reef2Reef since 2012. His forum name is MJC.

He has a high-tech, Apex-managed, 325-gallon system and is the recipient of the Reef2Reef Reef of the Month Award for January 2019.