We have in our midst a reef aquarist who has had aquariums for the past 40 years and saltwater aquariums for 30 years. That's an enormous amount of reef experience by any measure.

He also does things a little differently than some of the others profiled recently. This gentleman in the southern US has taken frugality to a whole new level. He recently set up a new 93-gallon cube reef tank for under $1000. Pretty amazing stuff. And you can read about it in great detail in his build thread.

Of course, it helps that he builds and rebuilds plenty of things himself as you'll see in the photos. Everything he does is full steam ahead. But I'll let him speak for himself. Today we're talking to @dantimdad from the forum:


When did you set up your first tank?

I was five. 1973. My first tank was 2.5-gallon metaframe. My great aunt gave it to me with two guppies, two neon tetras and $5 for plants and such from the pet shop. Not knowing any better, I put dirt from the back yard in the tank a dechlorinator tablet and about 6 sprigs of corkscrew val. That tank sat in the window with no heater, filter or air pump and no light. Grew like a weed. I was HOOKED!

Flash forward 16 years and I saw a yellow tang in a HUGE tank (I realized later it was a 60-gallon cube tank LOL). I had to have one and sold a guitar and amp to get a 29-gallon tank, some dolomite, eight 5-gallon buckets of salt water, an air pump, under gravel filter and a power king filter with all the fixins. I used a gutted desk lamp for the light.

That tang was with me for 7 tanks after that over the next 9 years. Again, I was hooked.

The 93-gallon cube "before" shot.

This photo is courtesy of @dantimdad, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

The 93-gallon cube "after" shot.

This photo is used with permission from @dantimdad, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Tell me about your philosophy of reefkeeping.

Leave it the heck alone!

Nothing, and I mean, nothing comes quickly in life, especially with aquariums and relationships, but we won't go into the relationship thing here. ;)

You don't need to dose everything under the sun to get your nutrients, algae and growth in control.

Find a simple method, some patience and just wait it out.

Only dose chemicals as a last resort.

The 93-gallon tank is flourishing.

This photo is used with permission from @dantimdad, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Do you quarantine?

Nope. Not in the traditional sense.

I keep a tank setup with very little running it so I can hold fish in it for a month just to observe. No medicine no craziness.

Has served me well for a long, long time.

If I do get a disease then I run copper, usually. It depends on what the fish have. Sometimes it's as simple as going hypo-saline and jacking the temp up.

@dantimdad built his own ATO.

This photo is courtesy of @dantimdad, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.
Tell me about the ups and downs--any big mistakes or big problems or big happy surprises?

That first saltwater tank was a nightmare...except for Captain, the yellow tang. It grew black algae really well. LOL!

I have had nightmare crashes come out of nowhere. A 225 explode in my living room. And a massive unexplained Die off of clown fish when I was breeding. Send 6 of them to Auburn for testing and they found nothing. Never did figure it out and they were on separate filters too which made it even more strange.

The happiest surprise was the first time clowns spawned before I new what I was doing. That prompted me to get into breeding for the next 5 years.

The truly happiest moment in aquariums was when my fiancé agreed that I needed to open an LFS next year after we get everything settled from our wedding and remodeling my house. We will open in June or July 2020!


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.


Reef2Reef thanks @dantimdad for taking the time to talk to Reef2Reef and allowing us to use some of his photos to profile him. We wish him the best of everything in his new projects.