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R2R Username: @maxwell
Tank Thread:
Maxwells UK reef tank

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It's an honor to be asked to give the details of my tank. The tank has been running since 2015, and it's not always been easy, with several major setbacks and a learning curve that continues every day. The current system, like most, involves the trial and error of equipment, supplements, and lighting to achieve something that actually grows in nature, as I'm not a fragger—only when I damage something or there's wrong placement causing shading issues. I am now happy with most things and can settle and enjoy the reef growing.



System Profile:
  • Glass or Acrylic: Glass (54'' L x 30'' W x 30''D)
  • Stand: Powder Coated Steel
  • Sump: a four section sump , 1/ return via filter socks and heater . 2/ reef octopus skimmer elitte 150sss and a AF110 media reactor , 3/ Miracle Mud , 4/ 2l Torqz reactor return pump
  • Protein skimmer: Reef Octopus Elite 150sss
  • Carbon/phosphate filtration: Rowaphos
  • Return pump: Jecod DCP10000
  • Water circulation: 2 x MP40's , 2 XF350x , 1 x Tunze
  • Lighting (display): 2 x Orphek icons , 2 x quanta Miso Blues , 1 x Reef Factory blue , 1 x Vitamini actinic and another misc bar
  • Lighting (refugium): X15 radion
  • Calcium/alkalinity/magnesium dosing equipment: I run a Dastaco , A KHG test/doser , Kamoer X4 using MR KSR 7.7
  • Auto top-off: This is a DIY unit with a float in bay 4 of the sump it has a controller and a DD peri pump topping up from a 25L tub of RODI
  • Heating/cooling: 600w heater in bay 1 of sump controlled by a DD dual controller unit and cooling fans
  • Controller: No controller system; automation is the Dastaco and KH Guardian

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Water Circulation and Flow Summary and Objectives:

Due to the amount of coral and the rock structure in my tank, I need good flow around the tank to keep it clean. I use the following combination of pumps to accomplish this:
  • 2 x MP40's
  • 2 x 350 maxspect gyres
  • 1 x Tunze

Water Parameters:
  • Temp: 27C (80.6F)
  • pH: 8.2/3
  • Specific gravity: 1.025
  • NO3: 8
  • Ca: 440/450
  • Alk: 7.5
  • Mg: 1350/1400
  • PO4: 0.04

Do you measure any other parameters?

I use ICP testing every two months to check the condition of the reef water and RO and make adjustments according to the recommendations provided. I also do two 25L water changes each week, and I use Hanna checkers and Salifert kits randomly for monitoring during interims between ICP tests.

Results of a recent ICP test




What salt mix do you use?

I use Tropic Marin Bio-Actif. I've been using this salt since 2015, having tried several other brands. I found Tropic Marin to be the best as it mixes well and can be used in a reasonable time.

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What kind of rock did you start with?

I began with a combination of different types of rock. The base rock consisted of large plates and a ceramic structure on egg crate. Gradually, I added Marco rock to build a reef crest/face, sloping from the front to the back. This design allows me to build corals up from the base, creating a visually appealing full tank rather than a composition with a higher percentage of water to rock and coral. I prefer to see a tank that's fully used rather than one with 40% rock/coral and 60% water in a large setup. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, but to each their own. The plates are elevated off the sandbed (mushroom style) to provide ample room for fish to swim under and between the rocks, offering spaces to hide and sleep. I favored the reef crest look over the shallow bay appearance to accommodate more corals.



What is your substrate?

Caribsea aragonite live sand

Calcium/Alkalinity/Magnesium Summary and Objectives:

I use a Calx reactor with a KHG to monitor and dose, depending on the set point. Due to the growth and abundance of corals, I use a Kamoer X4 for dosing a mix of CE alk/trace and Modern Reefs KRS system. Recently, I've incorporated Oceamo ICP tests, which I've found to be the best in turnaround and detail. An added benefit is being able to email Christian Denk directly, who responds promptly. I've also experienced the same quick response from Christian, the owner of Coral Essentials, who provides immediate advice on any questions and guidance on problem resolution.



What and how do you dose for the big 3 (alk/cal/mag)?

I use the following equipment, which is monitored and fine-tuned by my KHG and a set point of 7.5KH (I have had this since 2015):
  • Dastaco
  • Kamoer X4
  • KHG monitor/dose

Are you dosing anything else for your reef health (carbon dosing, aminos, etc.)?

I dose Nitrate plus, Polypop, and weekly coral food.

I started off dosing the full range of CE products, including individual bottles and black labels. Over time, I progressed to using just KH and trace, along with the KRS large bottles for ease of use. This combination fulfills the ICP requirements, as per the test provided by Oceamo. I also add their Calcium and any strontium and fluoride that's available locally.

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Lighting Summary and Objectives:

It's taken me years to fine-tune my lighting to my liking for full coverage, dealing with challenges from tank dimensions and occasional unit failures. I recently completed a much-needed update. Over the years, I have tried numerous configurations of lighting—halides, T5/LED combos, and DIY units. However, I always had problems with shading and not getting full coverage. The latest upgrade to a canopy is the best yet. I'm ok with electronics and DIY, but I upgraded 2 Orpheks to the full Icon kits and added the Quantas, which, in my opinion, are the best bars I've used. Alongside the Reef Factory bar and 2 OR3's on the back as they are not as reliable and easy to remove and fix. The lighting period follows the Sango Pro schedule for the icons and bars on from 7 am to 10.30 pm.


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Lighting Photoperiod
  • Display tank:
    • 6:00 am: Blue/actinic bars
    • 9:00 am: Icons come on, peak at lunchtime, and turn off around 8:00 pm
    • 11:00 pm: Blue actinic bars until 11:00 pm
  • Refugium:
    • 9:00 am to 8:00 pm

Filtration and Water Quality Summary and Objectives:

I rely on ICP testing as stated above to monitor and maintain water quality.

For filtration, I use the following equipment:
  • 2 x socks
  • Reef Octopus Elite 150sss skimmer
  • AF110 media reactor
  • Nyos 2L torq reactor
  • Bay 3 sump filled with Miracle Mud
What is your export strategy?

As stated above, I use a variety of equipment including a protein skimmer and media reactors.


What is your maintenance routine?
  • Daily: I make sure to wipe the glass and check the equipment's functioning.
  • Weekly: I change the socks, clean the skimmer and Nyos unit, and perform two 25L water changes.
  • Other: I keep on top of pump head maintenance, typically cleaning them monthly.

Tank Inhabitants

  • Yellow tang
  • Chevron tang
  • Regal tang
  • Copper band
  • Coral beauty
  • Royal gamma
  • 6 line wrasse
  • Yellow wrasse
  • 2 clowns
  • I usually have several anthias as well.
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  • 10 Peppermint shrimp
  • 10 Bumblebee shrimp
  • 2 Harlequin shrimp
  • 10 Cerith snails
  • 2 Emerald crabs
  • Numerous others
  • Acroporas
  • Montiporas
  • Elegance coral
  • Goniopora
  • Grape coral (LPS)












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Fish and Coral Feeding:

  • Frozen food twice a day
  • Ocean Nutrition pellets once a week
  • Coral food once a week

How did you decide what to keep in your tank?

I wanted a full, natural-looking SPS tank—old school.


Any stocking regrets?

I've had regrets with stags and Montiporas. They got out of hand, and I had to strip them out twice.

I consider myself a novice/hobby aquarist, and I've made many mistakes with stocking and coral placement. My biggest one was having too many stags high up and FF Montipora, which grew extremely large. I had to strip them all out as much as I could and rescape due to the tank becoming top-heavy with corals and causing loads of shading issues. And yes, a couple are coming back strong, and the FF is growing like mad again, even up the weir wall, so that I need to keep it in check.

Any fish, invert, or coral you will NEVER keep?

Zoas. Been there done that.

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What do you love most about the hobby?

For me, it's a love-hate relationship with all the things that go wrong as they do, especially after facing setbacks. However, there's a sense of satisfaction in digging back in, trying to get things back on track, and witnessing the corals recover and grow.

How long have you been doing this?

I've been in the hobby since 2013, starting with my first tank. I initially got involved by accident in 2013 when my son, who had a tank, asked me to make him some lights. As I had just retired, I agreed and ended up purchasing a 30'' cube tank, marking the beginning of my journey. I've progressed to my current tank in 2015.


Who was responsible for getting you into the hobby?

My son got me into the hobby by getting me to make lights for his tank. I needed a tank to test the lights I was making for him, and the rest is history. LOL

Who or what in the hobby most influences/inspires you?

I'm influenced and inspired by reading as much as I can. I've followed Reef Builders and sought advice from Mike Paletta, Christian, the owner of Coral Essentials, and rely strongly on Oceamo ICP tests. I gain inspiration by reading forums, but take it slow as there are lots of opinions shared in the community about a variety of topics.


If you could have any tank, what size would it be and why?

I had originally planned for a 7' tank in its own room, but family circumstances meant I had to have a smaller tank. A local reefer was selling this tank along with some kit, and it was new. He was having problems, and it was too big for him, so I jumped in.

Favorite fish?

My favorite is the Copperband; a great fish. I also love the Achilles Tang. I had one at the start, and it was a lovely fish, but sadly lost a few years ago. Since I have other tangs, I was not able to replace him

Favorite coral?

I'm a sucker for most corals, but Microcladis are up there. I had a good selection before the tank crashed but managed to save several frags.

Favorite invert?

Must be a Harlequin shrimp for me, but sadly, once they have done their job, you have to move them on.


How do you typically get over setbacks?

After several crashes, I'm always left with a couple of fish and corals that I want to do my best to keep alive. I've faced setbacks with equipment failures, lighting burnouts, water supply company issues, and the tank crashing as a result. It's heartbreaking to see corals stripping en masse after being looked after for years when they were at their best. So, after adding some precautions such as RCD protectors, a new 7-stage RO unit, stripping as much out as I could, full water change, extra pumps, and renewed lighting, I tell myself it's the last time.

Have you faced any major challenges with this particular tank, and if so, how did you overcome?

Many times I have thought about packing it all up due to equipment, lighting, and crashes but wanted to save things, as above mentioned. I like the practical side of fixing things and lighting issues, which luckily I have been able to repair or update.


What's the best thing you ever bought for your tank?

The KHG monitor/doser has been a game-changer for me. I purchased it in 2015, and (touch wood) with regular attention, it's still going strong after paying 4 times what they are sold for today.


Any future plans for upgrading?

I have just added my last corals, speciosa's, and it's officially full. I have no tank plans for the future after what I think is updating the lighting rig, repairing the Dastaco, making it reliable, and just servicing what I can.


Any special tips for success or advice you'd like to share with other reefers?

I still consider myself a novice, and every tank is different. People have their own ideas on what they want and like, so I steer away from advice and leave it to the experts—just take it slow.

I think we are our worst enemies in chasing numbers instead of following the corals and tank inhabitants' looks. If the parameters are in range and things are good, just leave it—keep your hands out. There are many hobbyists/dealers with opinions and nice pictures of corals. Make sure, if possible, to see the full tanks in person or rely on your local reefers with nice healthy tanks. This may not be possible in the USA, but take it slow.

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Anything else you'd like to share with us about your hobby?

I have a 5000L koi pond, which I have had for 35 years, before being coaxed into marine tanks by my son, which is now my main hobby. Along with that, I have an interest in reef photography to diary log the growth of corals without the use of software, as I'm too old to get into that and hopefully just sit back and enjoy my tank in the evening.

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Final Thoughts?

I've been a koi pond keeper for over 40 years. Following retirement and considering the UK weather, I looked for an in-house hobby instead of DIY. In 2013, my son led me into the reef hobby, which has been a continuous challenge. I look forward to seeing the collector's type corals from the EU and USA in the UK, but that's highly unlikely due to restrictions etc, so I'll keep looking and fragging existing stock. This is my last tank, due to age and health, and I'm finally able to enjoy it as I consider it complete for now. It's been a pleasure sharing my tank with R2R, and I feel honored to be considered worthy, as i was surprised in being asked to do so with the many great tanks seen in the forum. Many thanks, R2R.

- Bill

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