We are delighted to announce that the April, 2019, Reef of the Month belongs to @AlexandrFeist. Alex has an excellent build thread which you may want to read. As you'll see below in photos, Alex has an extraordinary reef tank. All of the photos shown below are courtesy of @AlexandrFeist, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

This Reef of the Month was a bit more challenging than usual to put together because the story of Alex's tank below has been translated from Russian to English. Since Alex doesn't speak English, and I don't speak Russian, we used online translators as much as possible and then polished the edges. I have done my best while editing to preserve the flavor and intent of Alex's original writings. We hope that you enjoy the finished product.


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My name is Alexander Feist. I live in Kazakhstan, in the city of Kostanay. For 10 years, I was very fond of freshwater aquariums.

I owe my friend, Alexander Parkhomenko, (nickname alex-pro63) from Russia (Krymsk), for convincing me to move to saltwater. For a long time he tried to persuade me to put up a marine aquarium. There are no reef aquariums in Kazakhstan that I'm aware of.

In January 2014, I decided to take this step with his help.

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Alexander remotely led the project to build an aquarium and led me step by step. He answered all my ongoing questions.

Initially, I wanted to make a small beautiful mixed reef with a lot of diverse and bright corals. My first mixed reef came to life, and it was 70x38x32 cm (about 20 gallons).

After 3.5 years, when I desired to make the aquarium a little larger, I designed and built a new tank. My mature reef was completely transferred to the new aquarium.

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Display: 90x60x40 cm, 216 liters (57 gallons).

Glass: Optiwhite 12 mm.

Cabinet/Stand: 90х60х95 cm. Metal frame with a polymer coating. The back and side walls are made of moisture-resistant plywood 18 mm thick. The joints are smeared with silicone to protect against moisture. Cabinet is open, without doors.

Sump: 56x40x40 cm, 90 liters (24 gallons). In the sump there are 2 compartments: compartment #1 (in which all the equipment is installed) and compartment #2 (with an adjustable return pump).

Skimmer: Coral Box D500 DC. Running at 100% power. Air is supplied from outside.

Carbon / Phosphate Filtration:

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There used to be an algal filter with Chaetomorpha. I had high nitrates in the aquarium at 20 mg/l and I could not lower it. Also, due to the algal filter lighting, there was fouling in the sump, and all this did not look very aesthetically pleasing.

So, I took away the Chaetomorpha, and went with a pellet recycle reactor. After its installation, the nitrate has dropped down to 5 mg/l and does not rise.

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N/P Reducing BioPellets 150 ml + N/P Reducing BioPellets All-in-One 100 ml are filled into the reactor.

Through a taped tee to the venturi skimmer, a water outlet hose from the recirculation reactor is connected.

I really do not like the new all-in-one pellets. From using them all skimmate is a bright red color. I liked the old brown pellets more. I plan to change away from the AIO pellets.

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Reverse pump: Jebao DCS 5000 l/h. Running on 100% power.

Flow: 2 Jebao SW-8 pumps with AQLink S1 WiFi controllers Jebao - stand on opposite walls and work in reef mode at 60% power.

1 Jebao WiFi Cross Flow Pump CP-25 pump - stands on the back wall, works at a power of 40% and blows the bottom.

Previously, all pumps worked at 100% power and the whole bottom was clean, without fouling. But the strong current did not really suit my LPS, so I turned down the intensity of the flow. After that some fouling appeared on the bottom.

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Lighting (display):

On the old aquarium there was an LED lamp. But I didn’t like harsh shadows, lots of highly distracting and disturbing glare and poor Acropora growth. At the same time, however, the colors of the corals were perfect, and very bright. After three years of using this lamp, the corals began to degrade and lose color.

I decided to make myself a hybrid lamp. I took for this the ATI T5 Sun Power 8x24 and instead of two lamps I installed LEDs with analog drivers and a controller. The same controller controls the inclusion of T5 lamps in 2 parts. The lamp hangs at a height of 16 centimeters from the surface of the water.

If you would like more detail about alteration of the lamp into a hybrid, I did write about it on the forum.

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After the reef was illuminated by a new lamp, the corals improved sharply and began to acquire bright and beautiful colors and shades again.

I believe that lighting has a huge role in reef life. It determines how corals will grow and color. Also, how we will see the reef depends on it.

I like the hybrid because, thanks to T5 lamps, the light is very soft, has no sharp shadows, smooths out the glare from the diodes and is practically invisible. Under T5 bulbs SPS corals grow well. Thanks to the LEDs, the corals look brighter and have more pronounced daytime fluorescence. While in the evenings, you can enjoy plenty of stunning views of the reef under the light of the diodes of royal blue and violet.

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From personal observations, I can say that the powerful light makes it possible to obtain striking colors and shades from corals. I, myself, have observed many times that the same corals as in my other aquariums look completely different, as if they are completely different corals. Some SPS change the colors and shades of the body itself, and some completely change the color of the polyps. But with a powerful light you need to be careful and raise its intensity very slowly and smoothly. Also not all SPSs like strong lighting.

I have tried to reduce the intensity of the light and found SPS who loved the powerful light became completely different colors (I saw many other aquarists have exactly these colors), and bright red polyps completely disappeared from one Acropora. Now I have begun to smoothly raise the power of the light and return the lost colors.

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Lighting schedule:

9:00 -10: 00 - Royal blue + Violet diodes

10:00 - 11:00 - Royal blue + Violet + Red diodes

11:00 - 12:00 - Royal blue + Violet + Red diodes, 2 T5 ATI Blue Plus lamps

12:00 - 13:00 - Royal blue + Violet + Red diodes, 4 T5 ATI Blue Plus lamps

13:00 - 19:00 - Royal blue + Violet + Red diodes, 4 T5 ATI Blue Plus lamps, 1 ATI Coral Plus lamp, 1 ATI Aquablue Special lamp

19:00 - 20:00 - Royal blue + Violet + Red diodes, 4 T5 ATI Blue Plus lamps

20:00 - 21:00 - Royal blue + Violet + Red diodes, 2 T5 ATI Blue Plus lamps

21:00 - 22:00 - Royal blue + Violet + Red diodes

22:00 - 23:00 - Royal blue + Violet diodes

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Calcium / Alkalinity / Magnesium Dosing:

Initially, the Bubble Magus CR-100WP a calcium reactor was installed in the aquarium, and the standard pump was replaced with a Jebao DCS pump of 2000 l/h. At that time, a significant disadvantage of the calcium reactor was a very low pH in the system: 7.7- 8.1. The air to the skimmer was supplied from the outside, and all topping up the evaporated water was carried out through a calcium stirrer. A peristaltic pump Etatron with a capacity of 2.2 l/h was installed to the calcium reactor. Carbonate hardness in the aquarium was regulated only by the amount of carbon dioxide supplied to the reactor. If it is necessary to increase KH, then more gas is supplied; if it is necessary to lower KH, then the corresponding gas supply is reduced. Everything is very simple and easy.

Due to the fact that the peristaltic pump often broke down and because of the low pH in the aquarium, instead of the calcium reactor, I began to use the classic DIY solution. I added the dispenser Jebao DP-4 with a flow rate of 160 ml of each solution (8 times a day, 20 ml.). The pH level rose and kept between 8.1 and 8.4, to which the corals reacted very, very positively.

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Kalkwasser Reactor: Deltec RM500.

I made the measurements, and how much does the calcium stirrer raise the PH in the aquarium? All topped up evaporated water goes through it and the pH has risen by 0.1 units.

Automatic water refill: capacity automatic water topping up 55h30h27 cm, 44 liters. Installed in the cabinet above the sump. Topping up is controlled by a float located in the return compartment of the sump. This automatic water refill has worked for 5 years so far and there has not been a single failure--and also the float itself is very cheap.

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Cooling / heating: there is no heater, as the house is hot all year round and the water has to be cooled. For this, there is a TECO TR10 aquarium refrigerator. It is connected to the bypass from the return pump.

Backup power source: inverter Energy PN-500N 12V + 70 Ah battery. A return pump, a skimmer, a pellet reactor and one pump in the display are connected to it.

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Mechanical filtration: nylon filter bag. It is placed once a week for a day, after water changes.

Water treatment and maintenance of the aquarium: reverse osmosis filter (SpectraPure Membrane Select 90gpd) and ion exchange resin.

Source water - tap water, very poor quality: from 500 to 750 tds. After cleaning with a reverse osmosis system, water has an index of 9-12 tds. Then it is purified by an ion exchange resin.

I have tried different salts. Best of all, I liked DIY salt, or rather, how corals looked when using it. But cadmium turned out to be in some of the elements in the admixture, and it was rather difficult to determine exactly how much was there. Therefore, I refused to continue using this salt.

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Looking at the experiences of maintaining a reef aquarium of Pavel Pro (nickname naecO.rM) from Ireland and Sergey Linnik (nickname SergeyL) from Russia, I also tried their methods. Using their methods of keeping a reef aquarium, I dosed out manganese, iodine, vanadium and iron. Huge help in dispensing DIY additives ...., how and what to do, and how to dose was explained by Sergey Linnik (nickname SergeyL).

I periodically sent water for testing ICP MS, which showed that there was a complete balance with water. All corals felt great and were as bright and beautiful as with the water changes. But I didn’t like that with the lack of water changes I don’t have anything to do in the aquarium. Therefore, for my own pleasure, I began to make water changes again, although I do not think this is critical. For this, I bought Fauna Marin Professional Sea Salt. I sent it to ICP MS testing, made sure that this salt has the correct proportions and does not contain harmful impurities, and began to use it.

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Maintenance of the aquarium takes almost no time and does not require any significant financial costs. I would say that maintaining an aquarium takes a minimum of time and money. Even as I wrote this, I did water changes in the aquarium only for my own pleasure: once a week at 10%. Together with the water change, the detritus is removed from the sump and the display. I am careful to remove any detritus from the live rock.

After a water change, a filter bag is put in for a day to clean the water from mechanical dirt. Glass is cleaned with a Tunze scraper as it gets dirty, about once every 4 days.

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Fish are fed once a day with minced shrimp.

Once a week Reef-Roids are brought in: pre-mixed with a small amount of water, it is poured directly into the display in an area of strong current.

Only occasionally iodine is added to the aquarium to maintain the blue color and potassium for a more intense red color.

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Water Parameters:

* Temp: 26-27 degrees Celsius.

* pH: at night 8.1, during the day 8.4

* Salinity: 35ppt.

* NO3: 5 ppm.

* Ca: 420 ppm.

* KH: 7.7

* Mg: 1320 ppm.

* K: 410 ppm.

* Sr: 8.6 ppm.

* PO4: 0.05 ppm.

* Ammonia and nitrites: not tested.

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Tank Inhabitants—Fish: My fish all came from one trustworthy source in Moscow, and I did not quarantine.

1. Amphiprion ocellaris – 2 of them

2. Pseudochromis paccagnellae

3. Pterapogon kauderni

4. Halichoeres chloropterus

5. Chromis caerulea – 3 of them

6. Chrysiptera parasema

7. Chromis dimidiata

8. Pseudocheilinus hexataenia

Other Invertebrates:

1. Colobocentrotus atratus

2. Dolabrifera dolabrifera

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Tank Inhabitants— Corals:

About 40 species of SPS, 20 species of LPS, 5 species of Zoanthus, 5 species of discos, 1 species of Rhodactis, 2 species of something else.

Sand: absent.

Earlier in the old aquarium there was sand and when I struggled with elevated nitrates I removed it. When I cleaned the sand, I was shocked by the huge amount of dirt in it. The absence of sand also made it possible to direct one pump along the bottom and now the reef has become better and detritus has not accumulated under the rocks.

Reef base:

There are only a few pieces of live rock at the base of the reef. It is a light, open structure assembled from pieces of live rock that are glued together. Almost every SPS sits on a separate pebble, which, if necessary, can be separated and transplanted to a new place. The design itself is very open and allows for excellent circulation.

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What are your future plans?

Throughout the life of an aquarium, there is always constant work to improve the appearance of the reef. Gradually, new, more interesting corals appear. The reef corals themselves are periodically placed in different places so that in the total mass everything looks more interesting and harmonious.

Recently, frags of very beautiful wild Acropora coral appeared in the aquarium, arriving from Australia. Now they are adapting and gaining color. As the corals grow, they will go through a selection process: which to stay and which to remove from the system. Selection is a necessary measure, since currently, there are a lot of corals, and not everything will have a place, but there are no plans to move to a larger aquarium.

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Any big problems?

It so happened that during the whole period of the life of the reef aquarium, there were practically no serious problems, except for the problem of bringing Acroporic planarians [Acropora eating flatworms--AEFW] and monoporiferous nudibranchia into the aquarium. Acroporic planarians were gradually eliminated due to bathing of Acropora in baths with potassium iodate (KIO3). But montree [sic] planarians have lived in my reef for about three years. There are very few of them, and they do not bring any significant damage; but I'm unable to get rid of them completely.

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Final thoughts?

In conclusion, I have this to say to those who are going to engage in a marine aquarium or have already begun: You do not need to be afraid of anything, you can build a beautiful and bright aquarium without expensive equipment and with minimal maintenance; only the right approach and desire is needed. If something does not work, then do not despair and do not give up. Think carefully about what you are doing wrong and everything will work out for you and the aquarium will delight you for a very long time !!!

I am hoping that I will continue to be happy with my aquarium and amazed with the conditions, growth, and color of the aquatic organisms. I, in turn, will be happy to share with you the story of the reef life at my house and all the background information, and spoil you with a large number of photos.


Note from the Editor: Special thanks are due today to forum members @ca1ore and @OllieNZ, who both helped me to edit Alex's heartfelt prose into something wonderful for everyone.


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Reef2Reef thanks @AlexandrFeist for sharing his tank with us, answering detailed questions, and allowing us to use his beautiful photos in order to make Reef of the Month a regular feature.