Reef Spotlight - March 2012 - "Mike & Terry"

By the early 2000's, our son was graduating and we found ourselves empty-nesters looking for a new house and new reef tank! We upgraded to a 180g...
  1. EDITOR'S NOTE: The pics in this article were updated based on the member's build thread due to original photos posted in article being lost from server.

    REEF SPOTLIGHT – March 2012
    The Reef Aquarium of:
    Mike & Tery Lauderdale aka "Mike & Terry"

    You can also check out Mike & Terry’s tank build here on R2R:


    Terry and I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone here at Reef2Reef. We are enjoying making new friends on this site, sharing our experiences with other hobbyists, and growing our own knowledge. It is very gratifying for us to have our peers and fellow hobbyists acknowledge our work with your votes and it is an honor to have our tank featured.

    Terry and I both have a long love of keeping aquariums, going as far back as the 1970's with the family aquarium in the basement rec room. Over the years, even before we met, we were developing similar passions for the same things: creating an environment where our pets can thrive, and caring for all things great and small. After we first met in the 80's, we were keeping both marine and freshwater aquariums in our little rental house, and excited about the possibilities that the salt water hobby had in store. Back in those days, there wasn't much in the way of technology - both our Marine and Freshwater tanks were set up basically the same way with under-gravel filters and fluorescent lighting. Much has changed since then, but the fundamentals we were developing were important for how we run our systems today: caring for each animal in the best way we can, careful attention to maintenance and husbandry, trying to learn as much as we can to improve our skills, and finding others who share our interests. As time passed, our skills grew and we got into building bigger and better systems. By the 90's we decided to set up a reef aquarium, and this is where the internet really helped out! Being able to read and research helped us to avoid many of the costly mistakes that so often plague new hobbyists. That first 125g reef-ready sytem grew into a successful mixed-reef within a few years.

    By the early 2000's, our son was graduating and we found ourselves empty-nesters looking for a new house and new reef tank! We upgraded to a 180g system with a separate sump room and created a thriving SPS-dominated reef tank. This system really gave us the "big-tank experience". We learned much about the really interesting DIY aspects of the hobby: plumbing, electrical, mechanical, electronics, etc. Our husbandry continued to evolve as well, learning much about water quality, chemistry, dosing, coral propagation, QT, and caring for sick animals or new arrivals. All these skills and knowledge came in handy when we decided to upgrade to our current setup, the 300g deep dimension. With our latest build, we really had the luxury of taking our time to design a system that would be better in terms of maintenance, aesthetics, and captive care of our corals and fish.

    The journey hasn't been without its difficulties - way back with our first reef tank, we had a power outage that caused a flood because we had a poor design. Later with the 180g tank, we got lazy with coral QT and ended up with a horrible AEFW outbreak that almost wiped out the whole system. That was an especially painful mistake, since most of our tank was SPS. The coral losses were bad, and the time and energy it took to pull all the corals out, dip each one, scrape the flatworm eggs off, etc., was awful. We had never had a tank leak until 2010, when our new 300g we had just installed 5 months earlier popped a bottom seal. We were very lucky to be home at the time, and have friends and family help us with a quick recovery to save our livestock, however, the ensuing flood damaged our floors badly, and we had to replace 80% of the flooring. The next few months were difficult to put it mildly - we struggled with a dream come true that so quickly had turned into a nightmare - we just had a very unfulfilled feeling about it all, and there were times where we were ready to throw in the towel and sell everything off. It was during those dark days when our local club and online friends helped us persevere.

    It is the valleys that make you appreciate the peaks, they say. Sounds corny, but we really to try hard to learn from each mistake and problem, and find ways to improve our designs. Through the process of failure and re-work, we wind up with resilient systems that can endure our human errors and natural disasters! Our advice is to take your lemons and turn them into lemonade! Keep your chin up and be smart.


    System Summary
    Display tank:
    300g custom Marineland DD glass tank (72”x 36“x 27”)
    Back-center 28”overflow box (14” x 7” x 26”) with four 1” bottom-drilled bulkheads
    Bottom glass euro-bracing (3” wide x 0.5” thick)
    Bottom-drilled closed loop (2” intake bulkhead, four 1” outlet bulkheads)
    DIY 36” stand with 2x6 pine members
    Integrated hardwood cabinetry and matching canopy
    Quartz surround and countertops
    70g custom shallow acrylic sump (48" x 24" x 14")
    150g Rubbermaid stock vat sump with live rock
    Protein Skimmers:
    Super Reef Octopus 6000-SSS internal
    Deltec AP851
    Carbon/phosphate filtration:
    Phosban 550 RX running GAC
    Phosban 550 RX running GFO
    Drains / Return:
    Two 1” Herbie-style submerged full-siphon drains
    One 1.5” Durso-style emergency drain
    2” main drain line to remote fish room
    1.5” secondary drain line to remote fish room
    1” main return line to display tank
    Return Pump:
    Iwaki MD70RLT primary return pump
    Water circulation:
    Closed Loop: (1) 2” intake, (4) 1” outlets
    Ocean Motion 4-way
    Reeflo Dart (3600gph)
    Tunze 7095 Controller
    (4) Tunze 6095 Turbelle NanoStream pumps
    (1) Tunze 6105 Turbell Stream (Our Desjardini's personal endless pool)
    Custom slide-out aluminum light rack from eztube
    (3) Lumenmax Elite Reflectors
    (3) Lumatek 400w dimmable electronic ballasts running 400w 14,000k Ushio bulbs
    (2) VHO Super Actinics
    (6) 12.5" Ecoxotic Royal Blue Stunner Strips w/reflectors (for dawn/dusk)
    Calcium/alkalinity dosing:
    Geo 818 Calcium Reactor with PanWorld 40PX pump
    Geo Kalkwasser Reactor with Maxi-Jet 600
    Auto top-off:
    Reef Fanatic ATO level controller
    DIY mixing station with 100g freshwater & 100g saltwater mixing vats
    Air Water & Ice Typhoon 3 RO/DI unit
    (3) 300w Titanium heaters with external thermostats and probes
    1/2 hp Tradewind inline chiller with circulation provided by Panworld 50px-x pump
    System control / Automation:
    Neptune Systems Apex controller with (2) EB8’s, and temperature and pH probes

    fts - oct 2011.jpg
    FST - October 2011

    fts - dec 2011.jpg
    FTS Dec 2011

    Recent FTS

    Water Circulation and flow
    With an SPS-dominated display, adequate flow is hugely important. We conservatively estimate approximately 11,000 GPH of flow in the display, with most coming from the Tunze stream pumps. Our flow design principles are to balance targeted high flow with ease of maintenance, and electrical efficiency. Think of the flow in our SPS tank as you would think of lighting a stage; we want some general lighting across the entire stage (main returns and closed loop outlets), with accent spots on the key areas (Tunze stream pumps). We do not feel that high flow through the sump is important; rather we target just enough to carry nutrients down to the skimmers and achieve a good display turnover rate. We utilize the main return pump to drive many different subsystems (such as calcium reactor, U/V sterilizer, GAC and GFO reactors, refugium / prop tank, etc.), in addition to primary circulation between the display tank and remote sumps.


    Water Parameters
    74.9 - 76.5 via Apex
    *pH: 8.15 – 8.3 via Apex
    *Specific gravity: 1.025 via refractometer
    *NO3: undetectable via Salifert
    *Ca: 450 via Salifert
    *Alk: 9.5 via Salifert
    *Mg: 1350 via Salifert
    *PO4: 0.02 via HI photometer
    *Ammonia: Undetectable via Salifert
    *Nitrites: Undetectable via Salifert

    Despite the industry push towards LED technology, we are still using "legacy" lighting, consisting of VHO fluorescents, and metal halides. We do think that LEDs are starting to become effective for the SPS-dominated tank, but affordability is still a concern. For now, we are using LEDs for dawn/dusk only, but forsee an upgrade within the next few years.

    10:00 AM: LEDs ON
    11:00 AM: Actinics ON, LEDS OFF
    4:00 PM: Halide #1 ON
    4:15 PM: Halide #2 ON
    4:30 PM: Halide #3 ON, Actinics OFF
    10:00 PM: Actinics ON, Halide #1 OFF
    10:15 PM: Halide #2 OFF
    10:30 PM: Halide #3 OFF
    10:45 PM: LEDs ON
    11:00 PM: Actinics OFF
    11:30 PM: LEDs OFF


    Filtration and Water Quality
    Our experience in keeping reef tanks over the years is that stable water quality is the single most important key to success. Sensitive corals demand steady parameters that are close to natural salt water levels. We try to achieve this with the most simple, natural methods as possible; preferring to use a minimum of dosing or chemical additives. We employ heavy protein skimming with filter socks, a vat of live rock for increased water volume and biological filtration, and a refugium. We dose Kalkwasser and run a calcium carbonate reactor.

    A stable reef system that can endure power outages is critical for long-term success and protecting the significant investment that comes with large tank systems. We have a design that incorporates layers of fault tolerance and protection against electrical problems. The simple, low-cost step is our use of portable battery-backup air pumps. If you do nothing else, you should have these installed in your system - these alone can save your livestock in the case of brief (<8 hour) power outages. Secondly, we have a larger DIY battery backup system that protects our main return pump and primary skimmer, providing about 6 hours of run time in the case of a main utility outage. We also maintain a 7.5KW gasoline generator and prewired transfer circuit to power critical components of our reef tank for extended outages.


    Livestock: Fish
    Regal Angel - Pygoplites diacanthus
    (3) Masked Swallowtail Angelfish - Genicantus semifasciatus (1 male, 2 female)
    Bellus Angelfish - Genicanthus bellus (female)
    Flame Angelfish - centropyge loricula (male)
    Tinker's Butterflyfish - Chaetodon tinkeri
    Desjardini Tang - Zebrasoma desjardini
    Spotted Yellow Eye Tang - Ctenochaetus truncatus
    Tomini Tang - Ctenochaetus tominiensis
    Yellow Tang - Zebrasoma flavescens
    Lyretail Anthias - Pseudanthias squamipinnis (male)
    False Percula Clownfish - Amphiprion ocellaris
    Tomentosus Filefish - Acreichthys tomentosus
    Bangaii Cardinalfish - Pterapogon kauderni
    Red Velvet Fairy Wrasse - Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis
    Lineatus Wrasse - Cirrhilabrus lineatus
    Rhomboid Fairy Wrasse – Cirrhilabrus rhomboidalis (2 males)
    Earl's Fairy Wrasse - Cirrhilabrus earlei
    Hooded Fairy Wrasse - Cirrhilabrus bathyphilus
    Dwarf Pintail Fairy Wrasse - Cirrhilabrus cf lanceolatus
    Johnson's Fairy Wrasse - Cirrhilabrus johnsoni
    McCosker's Flasher Wrasse - Paracheilinus mccoskeri
    Carpenter's Flasher Wrasse - Paracheilinus carpenteri
    Royal Flasher Wrasse - Paracheilinus angulatus
    Eightline Flasher Wrasse - Paracheilinus octotaenia (male)
    Blue Star Leopard Wrasse - Macropharyngodon bipartitus (1 male, 1 female)
    Choat's Leopard Wrase – Macropharyngodon choati
    African Cleaner Wrasse - Labroides dimidiatus
    Neon Goby - Elacatinus oceanops
    Blue Green Chromis - Chromis viridis
    Black Axil Chromis - Chromis atripectoralis





    f5 (clown).jpg










    Livestock: Propagation Tank
    Bell’s Flasher Wrasse - Paracheilinus bellae
    False Percula Clownfish - Amphiprion ocellaris
    One Spot Foxface Rabbitfish - Siganus unimaculatus


    f prop.jpg

    f prop clown.jpg

    Livestock: Other Invertebrates

    Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp - Lysmata amboinensis
    Yellow Coral Banded Shrimp - Stenopus scutellatus
    Sea cucumber - Holothuria sp.
    Brittle stars - Ophiure protoreaster
    Assorted Nassarius, Cerith, Nerite, and Astrea snails
    Red legged hermits and emerald crabs


    Livestock: Corals
    Acropora granulosa
    Acropora hoeksemai
    Acropora hyacinthus
    Acropora macrostoma
    Acropora millipora
    Acropora nasuta
    Acropora prostrata
    Acropora rosaria
    Acropora sarmentosa
    Acropora secale
    Acropora solitaryensis
    Acropora spathulata
    Acropora tenuis
    Acropora tortuosa
    Acropora verweyi
    Acropora yongei
    Stylophora pistillata
    Montipora setosa
    Montipora undata
    Montipora sp.
    (various encrusting)
    Pocillopora damicornis
    Seriatopora hystrix
    Seriatopora guttatus
    Blastomussa wellsi
    Blastomussa merletti
    Acanthastrea lordhowensis
    Favia sp.
    Echinophylia sp.
    Lobophyllia sp.

    Palythoa, zoanthid, and ricordea colonies.














    Fish and Coral Feeding
    We feed our fish a mix of frozen Hikari foods (mysis, jumbo mysis, bloodworms, spirulina brine, and Mega Marine Angel), PE mysis, Rogger’s Reef, and Cyclopeeze, as well as NLS pellets (1mm and 3mm sizes), and a variety of algae sheets. Our fish are fed 3x per day. We also offer algae sheets on a Veggie-Mag clip every other day. We don’t add coral food as we do not find it necessary due to the number of fish and the amount of feedings.



    We love this hobby. It brings people together who have a respect for nature and all its wonderful diversity. It is hard work to build and grow a great resource such as Reef2Reef, and it is also many times a thankless job. Web sites like this one play an important part in bringing knowledge and connections to all of us, and it advances our understanding and enjoyment of reef keeping. We thank David and all of the R2R staff for their support of our community and this opportunity to spotlight our system. It would be a long list indeed of all the people who have both helped and influenced us over the years – and we appreciate every single one of them. Happy Reefing!

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