Hello reefers! First of all, I would like to thank everyone who has visited my build thread, and it’s a great honor to have it nominated for ROTM!

My name is Júnio Melo, and I am from Brazil. When I was a kid, I asked my mom for a puppy and she gave me a goldfish. She couldn’t imagine the monster she had awakened! In a short period, our apartment was housing 5 comunitary freshwater tanks. I had always dreamed of owning a saltwater tank, and that dream came true in 2005 after graduating and getting married. My wife is a sea lover as much as I am (we are both divers) and has always supported me in these 12 years of saltwater tank addiction (she named every fish).

My first saltwater aquarium was a 66-gallon glass tank. Before starting it, I tried to read as much as I could about reef tanks. Delbeek and Sprung’s The Reef Aquarium series and Fossa’s The Modern Reef Aquarium were my first guides.

I am now running my third saltwater tank and it’s a four-year-old shallow reef. I don’t like taller tanks and love to see my corals from a top down view. When I planned this tank, I imagined something that could survive during my absence and be monitored by distance. Corals were mostly grown from small frags (reefing in Brazil is quite expensive!!) and have almost outgrown the tank.

I am not a rare coral collector. What I seek is a mix of corals that resemble the beauty of a natural reef. Something that reminds me of what I see when I go diving. Coral colors were chosen keeping in mind that opposite colors make them more visible (blue, red and green corals next to each other).


at the beginning 4 years ago


the tank as it looks today

System Profile

Display tank:
  • Glass tank – 2.2m x 0.5m x 0.5m (roughly 86.6” x 19.7” x 19.7”)
  • Stand: wooden, custom made
  • Sump: glass sump – 1.8m x 0.6m x 0.5m (70.8” x 23.6” x 19.7”)
  • Protein skimmer: SRO 6000sss
  • Carbon/phosphate filtration: In-sump bag with TLF hydrocarbon II and GFO reactor with phosban or rowaphos
  • Other filtration: skimz biopellets reactor with TLF pellets, 2x filter bags and 50L siporax pond
  • Return pump: Eheim 1262
  • Water circulation: 2 x vortech MP40QD
  • Lighting (display): 4x aquaillumination hydra 52HD (I have purchased a 5th one to supply the areas shaded by SPS growth)
  • Lighting (refugium): I have recently added a DIY chaetomorpha reactor (TLF kalk reactor with RGB led stripe)
  • Calcium/alkalinity/magnesium dosing: BBM CR150 calcium reactor with reborn and magnesium media, 5L CO2 tank, apex controlled
  • Auto top-off: apex salinity module + mechanical float sensor
  • Heating/cooling: TECO TR20 chiller
  • System control: Apex + PM1 + PM2 + WXM + AFS
  • QT tank: 34-gallon quarantine tank

photo of QT setup

Water Circulation and Flow Summary and Objectives:

Apex programing changes circulation 5 times a day in order to prevent vicious flow patterns. Lagoon and nutrient export modes stay on for longer periods. LPS corals are placed in protected areas among rocks to prevent flesh damage when stronger flow is used to remove detritus from SPS corals.


Water Parameters:
  • Temp: 26 to 26.5 C (78,8 to 79,7 F)
  • pH: 8.2 to 8.4 (apex probe)
  • Specific gravity: 1.026 (35ppt) – milwalkee digital refractometer and apex salinity probe
  • NO3: 2 to 5 ppm – salifert test
  • Ca: 400 to 420 ppm – hanna checker
  • Alk: 7 to 8 dKH – hanna checker
  • Mg: 1150 t0 1250 ppm – redsea pro test
  • PO4: 0.02 to 0.05 ppm – hanna checker
  • Ammonia and nitrites: 0 – salifert and hanna checker

Lighting Summary and Objectives:

In my previous reef tanks I have used HQI and T5 bulbs. 6 years ago I decided to try LED fixtures to reduce energy consumption and the need for yearly bulb changes. I replaced my T5s for 5 maxspect mazarras and results were good. A few SPS corals were less colored and display looked a bit darker then I wanted, but no big deal. I used the same fixtures in the beginning of this tank and corals had a pretty decent growth rate. Last yeat I decided to upgrade my LEDs to the new AI hydra 52HD and what a difference!?! SPS colors improved a lot and experienced an accelerated growth rate. I must confess that I spent some time testing different color configurations until I found the one that pleases me (not so blue, nice coral colors).

before lighting upgrade.jpg

before lighting upgrade


after lighting upgrade

SPS corals have grown so much this last month that I bought a 5th AI module to illuminate some shaded areas and must trim them every month. Unfortunately the module color was white and I am waiting for the black one to arrive.

After 12 years of reefkeeping, I believe that any light fixture may work for coral growth.

Photoperiod on Display Tank: 14 hours (from 08:30 to 22:30)

Here are my lighting settings (I've made a few minor changes, but this is the basic setup):

light settings.jpg

Filtration and Water Quality Summary and Objectives:

When I started studying, I read that coral reefs were forests in the middle of nutrient desert oceans. These studies led me to a reef tank with zero nutrients theory, and I struggled to keep nitrates and phosphates undetectable. It is not as easy as it seems, and I tried everything from macroalgae refugium to probiotics and carbon dosing. However I couldn’t understand why there are so many creatures in the coral reefs where I dive and yet so few nutrients. Years went by and my understanding of coral reefs changed. They are not nutrient poor but the opposite. Corals are not starving in nature, so I can’t do that to my aquarium ones. They have lots of nutrients available, but there is an equilibrium between offer and consumption. In my aquarium, I use a protein skimmer, biopellets, GAC, GFO, vinegar (to reduce pellets and prevent cyanobacterias) and siporax to keep nutrients low (I do not aim a ULNS) so I can properly feed fishes and corals. 10% water changes are performed every 2 weeks with Ro/DI water and redsea coral pro salt. I recently added a chaetomorpha reactor in an attempt to keep phosphates low without GFO. Results are good but preliminary.


Calcium/Alkalinity/Magnesium Summary and Objectives:

I have tried Balling method, but when hard corals reached a critical size I decided to go back to calcium reactor. Alkalinity demand was too high and I found it easier to supply with a calcium reactor and pH control. Alk stability is, in my opinion, the critical point in keeping a healthy coral reef tank.

I don’t worry much about magnesium. I just don’t let it go way too low or too high as it can impact calcium carbonate precipitation and coral skeleton growth.



Tank Inhabitants

  1. Zebrassoma flavescens
  2. Zebrassoma veliferum
  3. Acanthurus achilles
  4. Zebrassoma xanthurum
  5. Paracanthurus hepatus
  6. Acanthurus sohal (tiny)
  7. Pseudanthias squaminipinis
  8. Pseudanthias bartlettorum
  9. Chromis viridis
  10. Cryptocentrus cinctus
  11. Amphiprion ocellaris (frostbite)
  12. Pseudochromis fridmani
  13. Synchiropus picturatus
  14. Gramma loretto
  15. Pterapogon kauderni
  16. Gobiodon histrio
  17. Acanthurus leucosternon
  18. Naso elegans
  19. Neocirrhitus armatus
  20. Macropharyngodon meleagris











Other Invertebrates:
  1. Lysmata amboinensis
  2. Periclimenes yucatanicus
  3. Lysmata wurdemanii
  4. Tridacna crocea
  5. Tridacna derasa
  6. Entacmaea quadricolor (red and orange)
  7. Cerithes sp.




  1. Acropora tenuis
  2. Acropora microcladus
  3. Acropora speciosa
  4. Acropora formosa
  5. Acropora hyacinthus
  6. Acropora gomezi
  7. Acropora tortuosa
  8. Acropora turaki
  9. Acropora nana
  10. Acropora austera
  11. Acropora hoeksemai
  12. Acropora desawlii
  13. Acropora loripes
  14. Acropora lokani
  15. Montipora digitata
  16. Montipora capricornis
  17. Montipora danae
  18. Montipora setosa
  19. Seriatopora hystrix
  20. Sarcophyton sp. Green polyps
  21. Nephtea sp. Green
  22. Catalaphyllia jardinei
  23. Caulastrea spp.
  24. Euphyllia spp.
  25. Favia spp.
  26. Goniopora minor
  27. Zoanthus spp.
  28. Lobophyllia spp.
  29. Cyphastrea spp.
  30. Echinophyllia spp.
  31. Blastomussa spp.

acro colony.jpg



td acro.jpg

td acro2.jpg







And here are a few macro pics:

macro sps.jpg






Fish and Coral Feeding:

Fishes are fed two times a day, mix of pellets and flakes. 3 times a week they are fed nyos chromis, artemys or gold pods or frozen brine shrimp or mysis.

Corals are fed Elos omega and proskimmer every other day. KZ stopflatworm every other day.


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

After four years running, this tank still amazes me every day, from coral growth and colors to fish, corals and clams spawning.

However, as my fish and corals are outgrowing the tank, I am slowly reducing the number of animals so I can keep the ones left in the best possible conditions.


Final Thoughts

I am very thankfull to all the aquarists who helped me in my long and passionate journey. Wish every one of you may sit in front of your tanks and spend hours and hours of pure delight!

I must thank Reef2Reef community for choosing my reef for ROTM! Thank you guys!

Finally, I must thank my wife Gnana for her support in all these years. I wrote “my aquarium” in this text, but it is our aquarium, in fact! Love you!

last fts.jpg