Reef Spotlight - December 2010 - "ReefBum"

My father indirectly planted the reef keeping bug inside me when I was a youngster. He kept a couple of rather large saltwater tanks when I was a...

    REEF AQUARIUM of Keith Berkelhamer

    My father indirectly planted the reef keeping bug inside me when I was a youngster. He kept a couple of rather large saltwater tanks when I was a kid, and I fondly remember accompanying him on many trips to the fish store. He did get back into the hobby for a few years after my obsession took off but now is tank free, although he is always willing to join me every now and then on my jaunts to the fish store.

    I actually didn't have a tank to call my own until I graduated college and was working in the "real world". It all began so innocently at a New York City street fair called the San Genaro Festival, where I won a goldfish. It was amazing that I even got the fish home since my future bride and I had celebrated rather excessively that night. The tiny bowl that came with the fish made me feel sorry for the critter, so I decided to go out and buy him (or was it her?) a more suitable home: a one or two gallon tank. I believe that fish lasted two weeks or so.

    Despite the bad experience, I was hooked, and I guess you could say that it was all downhill from there. I went from owning a 29 gallon fresh water aquarium with many fish and live plants, to a 90 gallon acrylic tank. The 90, which replaced the 29, was my first reef tank. I eventually replaced the 90 with a 120 gallon reef that was wet for a few years. I broke the 120 down and took a 2½ year hiatus before setting up my current 225 gallon tank. I have now been a "ReefBum" for approximately 15 years.










    System Profile:

    · Main tank - Custom made 225 gallon starphire tank (72â€L X 30â€W X 24â€T) from Aquarium Obsessed with euro bracing and external overflows.
    · Stand - Custom made wood stand (74â€L X 32â€W X 33â€T) from Greenwich Aquaria
    · Sump - Custom made 90 gallon acrylic sump (36â€L X 24â€W X 24â€T) from Greenwich Aquaria
    · Frag Tank – Custom made 45 gallon acrylic tank (36â€L X 24â€W X 12â€T) from Greenwich Aquaria
    · Lighting - Main Tank has a 6' Sfiligoi light fixture with 3 SE 400W bulbs and 8 39W T5s. Halides (driven by Sunlight Supply Blue Wave 7 HQI ballasts) are 20K Radiums while T5s are Giesemann POWERCHROME Actinic Plus. Frag tank has one 20K Radium driven by a Sunlight Supply Blue Wave 7 HQI ballast.
    · Skimmer – 50†dual beckett protein skimmer from Marine Technical Concepts (HSA-3000).
    · Water Circulation – Return pumps: Two Blueline 70s; In tank circulation: Two Tunze 6200s with Tunze 7095 Multicontroler, One Ecotech Marine MP40
    · Reactors - Carbon Reactor: Precision Marine Substrate Reactor - SR35, Phosphate Reactor: Precision Marine Substrate Reactor - SR35
    · Ca/Alk Supplementation - Calcium Reactor: Marine Technical Concepts Dual Chamber PROCAL, Kalk Reactor: Precision Marine KR620
    · Auto Top-Off – LiterMeter 3
    · RO/DI - Spectrapure MAXCAP RO/DI 5 Stage unit
    · Chiller - Tradewind 1/2 HP
    · Heaters - Two 500-watt titanium heaters
    · Controllers – Neptune AC3, Two Ranco electronic controllers
    · Generator - Guardian 18kw Generator (full house backup)


    The biological bed consists of 200 lbs. of live rock (Tonga) and 100 lbs of live aragonite reef sand. Mechanical filtration consists of two filter bags, which catch the water before it enters the sump, and a large sponge wedged neatly into a baffle in the sump. Activated carbon in a Precision Marine substrate reactor keeps the water crystal clear and an identical unit is used as a phosphate reactor to keep nuisance algae at bay. The protein skimmer does a great job removing organic material.







    I have been running 400W 20K Radiums off of HQI ballasts for years and have achieved fantastic colors and incredible growth. These bulbs rock! The Actinic Plus T5s add a nice blue tint and really make the corals pop.
    Photo Period
    11:00 a.m.: T5s On
    12:30 p.m.: Metal Halides On
    9:30 p.m.: Metal Halides Off
    10:00 p.m.: T5s Off

    Water Circulation:

    Flow comes from two main sources: the return pumps and two Tunze 6200s with a Tunze 7095 multicontroller. Despite being downstairs, the return pumps are powerful so I use ball valves to throttle them back a bit. An Ocean Motions dual flex valve splits the stream for each return.

    The Tunze pumps are positioned in the back corners facing one another along the back panel. This was part of my design to have an open channel in the back of the tank to allow for more circulation. A controller has the Tunze pumps operating on different intervals to create a nice random surge within the tank.

    An Ecotech Marine MP40 was added a couple of years ago to compensate for the decline inflow due to coral growth.[I don’t know the turn-over rate for entire tank]


    I perform a 30-gallon water change every week using ESV salt. Additionally, each week the sponge in the sump is rinsed clean and the sump filter bags are cleaned in the washing machine (of course, no soap is used). Every week I clean the skimmer collection cup and empty the waste cup. The becketts on the skimmer are cleaned every three months.
    Every day I use magnets to clean algae from the front and sides of the tank and a scraper every other day to keep the back panel clean. All coralline algae that is missed from my regular scraping routine is removed every three months from the glass and back panel of the tank.

    I calibrate my pH monitor every month and I clean my Tunze pumps in hot water and vinegar every three months. The return and skimmer pumps are serviced on an annual basis. I test weekly for dKH using a Salifert test kit. Salifert Calcium, Magnesium, and Nitrate test kits are used on a monthly basis. Phosphate is tested on occasion.
    Kalkwasser is changed out every three weeks while the carbon is replaced every four weeks. Phosphate remover is switched out every six weeks.

    The fish are fed daily with two cubes of frozen Mysis shrimp and one Spirulina Brine cube. I put these into a cup of tank water along with some frozen Cyclopeeze and Tropic Marin Pro-Coral Zooplankton and feed it to the tank with a turkey baster. I also add in a teaspoon each of Reef Nutrition’s Roti Feast and Oyster Feast. Pellets are fed on occasion. Kent Marine Lugol’s solution is added once a week.







    Stony Corals:
    Acropora echinata "ORA Hawkins"
    Acropora granulosa
    Acropora hyacinthus (red)
    Acropora millepora (purple)
    Acropora sp. "Atlantis Tri-color Bonsai"
    Acropora sp. "Aqua Teal Stag"
    Acropora sp. "ORA Borealis"
    Acropora sp. "ORA Pearlberry"
    Acropora sp. "ORA Purple Plasma"
    Acropora sp. "ORA Red Planet"
    Acropora sp. "Purple Monster"
    Acropora sp. (lime green table)
    Acropora sp. “Lokaniâ€
    Acropora tortuosa "Oregon Blue Tort"
    Acropora tortuosa "Purple Cali Tort"
    Acropora tortuosa (yellow)
    Acropora Turaki (blue)
    Acropora Yongei "Green Bali Slimer"
    M. capricornis (green with purple rim)
    M. capricornis (orange)
    M. digitata (orange)
    M. setosa (orange encrusting)
    M. denae (rainbow encrusting)
    Pocillopora sp. (pink)
    Seriatopora sp. (pink)
    Stylophora sp. (green)
    Stylophora sp. (pink)​






    True Percula Clownfish (mated pair)
    Borbonius Anthias
    Lyretail Anthias (6)
    Bartlett Anthias
    Green Chromis (5)
    Leopard Wrasse (black spotted)
    African Leopard Wrasse
    Bellus Angelfish (female)
    Bangai Cardinal Fish (2)
    Regal Anglefish (yellow-belly)
    Multibarred Anglefish
    Flame Hawk
    Pyramid Butterflyfish (3)
    Black Tang

    Words of Wisdom:

    Proper Calcium and Alkalinity supplementation as well as strong lighting have always been key ingredients to my success. Additionally, I believe in high import/export of nutrients via large water changes, heavy skimming and heavy feeding of fish and corals.

    Every tank differs, so it does take time to find that balance between removing the right amount of waste and feeding the tank. I advocate keeping a slightly “dirty†tank (slightly detectable nitrates and phosphates) vs. one that is sterile (0 nitrates and phosphates) so being a bit heavier on the import side seems to work for me. Faded, less colorful corals can be an indication that corals are starving from too much nutrient export.

    I also believe that stability is another very important factor in keeping a successful reef. I personally have a hard time with change and corals are the same way. “Stable†is defined in the dictionary as “firmly established, fixed, steadfast, not changing or fluctuating, unvarying, permanent, enduringâ€. For reef keeping, this text book definition applies to such parameters as salinity, nitrate, magnesium, and calcium. And perhaps most important in my book for SPS is keeping alkalinity at a consistent level. My tank is happiest when alkalinity is in a certain range, but doing so on a consistent, stable basis is just as important. I do everything I can to keep this parameter rock solid and not let it swing significantly over a short period of time.

    Last but not least on my list is maintenance. I can’t stress how important it is to have a regular routine to keep on top of those water changes, check parameters, and perform any necessary maintenance on equipment. Keeping and maintaining SPS in a reef is a lot of work, but putting the necessary time in can reap substantial rewards.










    Congrats Keith!

    You can visit Keith's site dedicated to his incredible tank and setup @

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