Spotlight Profile of a Reef Aquarist (#4)

Most reef aquarists start out aiming for a mixed reef. They hope to have a few soft corals and then graduate to LPS and SPS corals. But not...

  1. "If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
    perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
    Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

    Henry David Thoreau

    We have among us, down in Arizona, a reef aquarist with a very different reef tank. @Exclusive Corals has a tank that's as bright and colorful as a new box of Crayola crayons. This aquarist isn't chasing an ultra low nutrient system (ULNS) but is instead chasing unusual and hard-to-find macroalgae and oddball invertebrates to go with them.

    Display tank, March 2019.
    r2rfts.jpeg Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    Sump and control room area.
    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    In his own words, you can hear what he has to say below. His build thread may be found here.


    I started getting into the reefing hobby during my college years back in 2008-2009, I believe. I took 2-3 years break here and there but have always tried to keep in touch with the hobby to see where it's going, and I have actually done a macroalgae tank before.

    When I went snorkeling out in the Bahamas, I saw some areas with just algae and gorgonians growing and I fell in love with how harmonious everything seemed. I also spent a lot of time researching other inverts / NPS [non-photosynthetic]/ algae biotopes in different parts of the ocean to see how they co-exist in nature and try to replicate that in my tank. Corals are nice and all, but they represent only one biotope in the ocean, and I really wanted to do something different.

    I think one of my favorite things with a tank like this is all the little critters that I am able to add to the tank, it's never a dull moment in there with all the livestock running around.

    I started this tank around the first week of December 2018, it was a rocky start-up with all sorts of delays. But since then it has been smooth sailing!

    December, 2018.
    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    So, tell me about this tank.

    This tank is a Waterbox 130.4, the display is around 100G (48"x24"x22") and the sump is another 30G (28"x18"x15").

    I use two types of sand for the tank, the foreground is about 1.5" sloping up to 3", I use Caribsea Fiji Pink sand due to how small the grains are. The other type I use is Caribsea Special Grade. This is for a little island that is supposed to house a garden eel in the near future. This section of the tank is about 10"x8" with a sandbed of 8-9" deep.

    Macroalgae "Dragon's Breath"
    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    My initial goal for this tank was to grow out unique macroalgae. But I realized why stop there? I could include a wide variety of livestock not commonly seen. This led me to include some gorgonians / carnation coral / NPS to the tank. I figured that the added nutrients will be beneficial to the macroalgae growth. I primarily use Reef Nutrition to feed this tank, and since I broadcast feed the tank, I determined that the more "mouths" there are in the tank then the less waste will be generated from uneaten food. So beside the NPS corals. there are a lot of filter feeders that I keep to feed on the excess food that's not consumed by the fishes and NPS.

    Protula bispiralis or Mopworm.
    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    Some of the filter feeders I have include Coco Worms / Xmas Worms / Feather Cluster Duster / Feather Dusters / Feather Starfish / Sponges / Tunicates (when I can find them) / Oysters & Clams / Sea Apple / Cucumber.

    A few other interesting inverts I keep are Sexy Shrimps / Pom Pom Crabs / Anemone Shrimps / Emperor's Shrimp (Host Sea Apple) / Crinoid Crab (Host Feather Starfish). I do plan to add more variety as I can find them, one such is the Leander plumosus [the Donald Duck shrimp].

    Glass or threadfin cardinalfish, Apogon leptacanthus or Zoramia leptacanthus.
    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    This combo has been working well so far in my system, and I have been able to keep the nutrients down to acceptable levels. My nitrate runs around 10ppm and Phosphate is around 0.15-0.20. Nuisance algae doesn't seem to be able to compete with the macroalgae even with all the excess nutrients. I clean the glass once every 6-9 days and it's only a light haze by the 9th day.

    Currently I'm still trying to find new algae to add to the tank, but the Indonesian ban has made it hard to find any new varieties. I've been trying to source some interesting pieces from Australia, but sadly wholesalers don't really care enough about algae to even collect them. This is a shame because I feel like there are some really interesting species out there that rival corals in term of beauty!

    Macroalgae, Botryocladia sp.
    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    I usually rinse the algae when they first arrive, but most of the time there's nothing bad that hitchhikes on them. From there I usually use fishing lines to attach them to a frag disk and then stick it somewhere in my tank to see how it grows (Algae can change how they grow base on flow / light / nutrients).

    I'm located in Arizona, and I usually find some random inverts or algae at LFS. The other stuff I order wholesale with a local vendor who lets me tag in on some of his orders.

    Flaming prawn goby, Discordipinna griessingeri
    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    Right now my goal is to find more Eviota / Trimma Sp. gobies, along with more Periclimenes / Urocaridella Shrimps.

    And of course whenever Indonesia opens back up, I'd love to find more tunicates such as the tunicate lollipop to add to the tank.

    Sea apple.
    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    Are you running a skimmer all the time?

    I currently run a Nyos 160 Skimmer on the system. It's on 24/7 unless I need to do a cleaning on the neck. I also keep some ROWAphos in the sump to help reduce phosphate below 0.20ppm.

    Even though this is a macroalgae tank, I have to feed a lot of food for all the inhabitants in there, and I feel that the algae can't keep up with it (especially after a pruning).

    What kind of salt are you using?

    I use Red Sea Salt (Blue Bucket), but I don't believe algae are too picky when it comes to salt.

    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    Any idea of your PAR levels in the tank?

    I use 2 Radion G4 Pro with the diffuser.

    I'm not sure on the PAR but the maximum it gets is about 40% with all blue / UV at 100% and warm white / cool white at around 30% and red and green at 50%).

    I run the light from 10AM to 10PM with the max being at 12PM-4PM

    It was a trial and error in the beginning with the light since the algae got shocked by the amount of light, and a good amount browned out or melted away. But this current schedule has been great for growth and colors.

    Carnation coral.
    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

    Tell me what your water parameters are?

    Salinty - 35ppt (1.026 SG)

    Temp - 76F - 78F

    PH - 8.37 during the day and 8.1 at night

    Nitrate - 5ppm - 10ppm

    Phosphate - 0.15 - 0.20 ppm

    Calcium - 420

    dKH - 7.5~

    Magnesium - 1400

    Macroalgae, Hypnea pannosa
    Photos are all courtesy of @Exclusive Corals, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.


    Note from the Editor: I, for one, love things that are *different*, and I am totally inspired by this tank. Choosing photos for this article was very difficult. I encourage readers to visit the aquarist's build thread for more terrific photos.


    Special Thanks: Reef2Reef thanks @Exclusive Corals for taking the time to tell us about his aquarium adventures. I also want to thank @Pbh-reef for drawing my attention to this unusual tank.


    We encourage all our readers to join the Reef2Reef forum. It’s easy to register, free, and reefkeeping is much easier and more fun in a community of fellow aquarists. We pride ourselves on a warm and family-friendly forum where everyone is welcome. You will also find lots of contests and giveaways with our sponsors.


    Author Profile: Cynthia White

    Cynthia received her BA in English from NYU a long long time ago. She has been a freelance writer and editor for over 20 years. Now she is a writer and editor on staff at R2R, where her forum nickname is Seawitch.

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