90 Gallon Mixed Reef


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Hello All, long-time viewer, first-time original content creator. I’ve had a couple of marine aquariums off-and-on since 2007. This build thread is about my current 90 gallon mixed reef. The never-finished product is intended to be a healthy mixed reef. My passion for the hobby started after I went scuba diving in Belize. Prior, I always had a freshwater aquarium with various cichlids. Upon return from our dive trip, I dipped my toe into the marine aquarium space with the conversion of a 29 gallon Eclipse System. When I started, you could still get a yellow tang for less than $25!

Despite my tenor, I consider myself to still be very new within the hobby and am always looking for more information to better my slice of the ocean for its inhabitants. I’ve had monumental failures with other tanks but reapply everything learned to the next set up. The one described here has been a culmination of that limited experience. I am happy to say it has gone better thus far. Despite that, there’s always room for improvement.

Aquarium Specs:
Make: Custom (Purchased Used)
The tank, stand, and hood were essentially free from someone who was moving that had it as a freshwater set up. It was not considered “RR” so I decided to go with a full LifeReef Setup. Jeff was great to work with!
Volume: ~90 Gallons
Length: 48”; Width: 18”; Height: 24”

Life Reef Systems’ CF1 Berlin System
Volume: ~20 Gallons
Length: 25”; Width: 14”; Height: 14”
Protein Skimmer: SVS3-24 Protein Skimmer with Mag Drive 9.5
Media Reactors: 3
Media Pump: MagDrive 9.5
Return Pump: MagDrive 18
Prefilter: Single Slim-line Prefilter Box

Volume: ~14 Gallons
Length: 12”; Width: 14”; Height: 20”

Life Reef ATO
Volume: ~8.5 Gallons
Length: 7”; Width: 14”; Height: 20”

Two Kessil AP700s positioned ~6” from the water line to fit within the hood. These are set to run ~11 hours a day and reach a maximum intensity of 35%. PAR measurements (taken with the Seneye) are various throughout the tank from 400+ to 95+.

Two BRS 300-Watt Titanium Heaters connected to separate Finnex HC-810M Digital Heater Controllers
One BRS 100-Watt Titanium Heater connected to a separate Finnex HC-810M Digital Heater Controller
One Baoshishan 79 Gallon Aquarium Chiller 1/3 HP connected to two Neptune Temperature Probes

Two AI Orbit 4 Cross Flow Pumps connected via the Neptune MXN Module
Two AI Nero 5 Powerheads connected via the same MXN Module

Aquatop 395 GPH Internal Filter with 13W UV Light
Poseidon 200 Ozone Generator with associated air dryer
Santa Monica SURF2X Floating Algae Scrubber with associated air pump
Avast Marine Plank Auto Feeder. The auto-feeder runs twice a day for a minute each cycle dispensing Marine Jerky.

Neptune A2 Apex Pro Controller
Two EB832s
Two EB8s
One EB4
Standard Set of Probes: 2 Temperature Probes, 1 Conductivity Probe, 1 ORP Probe and 1 pH Probe
PM1 Module
MXN Module
Four FMM Modules
Trident Aquarium Water Analyzer
Two DOS Dosing and Fluid Metering Systems
1 Dedicated to Auto-Matic Water Changes
1 Dedicated to RO Top of Water being pushed to the ATO and the other dosing B-Ionic Component No. 1
Various Optical Sensors
ATK V2 Auto Top Off Kit

Water Source
Fort Worth, TX Municipal Water
BRS 7 Stage PRO Plus 150 GPD RO/DI System
Salt: Instant Ocean Reef Crystals

Power Source
Dedicated 15 AMP circuit to the outlets the aquarium uses. I have a portable generator ready to use incase of a power outage capable of running the aquarium and window A/C unit for about 10 days. I’ll be miserable, but the fish will be alive!

Biological Filtration:
Start Date: 12/20/23
Components: Combination of Treated Dry Rock; ~ 40 pounds of Tropic Eden Morraca; 15 pounds of Tampa Bay Saltwater Premium Liverock; Two large pieces from 2 established systems. ~90 pounds of Aqua Forest Bio Sand. All of these pieces cooked for about 2 months prior to set up of the actual tank and were seeded with a combination of Frtiz-Zyme Turbo Start, Macro-Bactor 7 and Prodibo in conjunction with proper dosing of Dr. Tim’s Ammonium Chloride Solution.

Testing Measurements:
Salt: 35.5 PPTpH: 8.03ORP: 417Temp (Average): 77.8*
Nitrate: 5.00Phosphate: 0.07
ALK: 11.87CA: 468MG: 1386
As of 6/19/24

Current Inhabitants:
(Listed in Order of Introduction)
2 Orange Skunk Clownfish – Amphiprion sandaracinos
1 Orange Stripe Prawn Goby – Amblyeleotris randalli
2 True Percula Clownfish – Amphiprion percula
1 Regal Angelfish – Pygoplites diacanthus
2 Royal Gamma Basslets – Gramma loreto
1 Golden Assessor Basslet – Assessor flavissimus
*Other than the pair of Orange Skunks, (they went through a full 76 day QT) I have sourced all of my fish from Dr. Reef. I’d highly recommend using them for any upcoming fish orders.

Corals & Inverts**
Various Softies, LPS and a few easier SPS
Hardtube Coco Worm – Protula bispiralis
**Corals and Inverts are also subject to a 76 day QT. I now have a former Red Sea S-400 Max as my dedicated Coral QT Tank in another room.

Clean Up Crew**
2 Turbo Snails – Turbo fluctuosa
10 Trochus Snails – Trochus Sp.
10 Nassarius Snails – Nassarius Sp.
1 Sand Sifting Starfish – Astropecten polycanthus
1 Cleaner Shrimp – Lynmata amboinensis
10 Bumble Bee Snails – Engina Sp.
1 Halloween Urchin – Tripneustes gratilla
25 Blue Leg Hermit Crabs – Clibanarius tricolor
1 Peppermint Shrimp – Lysmata wurdemanni complex
3 Fighting Conchs – Strombus Spp.

Picture Timeline from Start to Today:
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Checking that everything fit.

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Extra Radion from Prior Set up for the Refugium Light.

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Unboxed and in position. The cleanest it will ever be.

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Placement of the DOS for the automatic water changes and additives.

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In the adjacent room; there was an empty closet. At the suggestion of another aquarium owner, I was able to figure out how to set up the DOS to perform automatic water changes. Currently, it pulls out about 3 gallons a day. The Yellow Brute has circulating R/O Fresh Water. The Red Brute holds the made saltwater and also circulates. The Gray Brute is where the waste water is emptied into. The FMMs and several optical level sensors provide the inputs and ensure nothing runs empty without acknowledgment.

Picture 6.jpg

Here is where the various lines that are in the sump come from. The closet on the other side of this wall is where the brute cans are.

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Where the various lines break and go into the sump from the DOS Closet.

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Attempting to deal and label all of the wires / cords.

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Back of tank before in place. The power strip was moved.

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It’s like a puzzle without a picture. Add temperamental equipment and saltwater, what could go wrong?

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Clearly, the cords need more work.

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Finally filled.

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Rock Scape Attempt #1 (too much).

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First Inhabitants aka the “White Stripes”. Were put in the refugium and have stayed there since then.

Picture 16.jpg

Cleaned Up with Apex installed to right. Repainted the stand and hood before it ended up in the house.

Picture 17.jpg

The Gang of Narcissus Snails.

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Cleaner Shrimp.

Picture 19.jpg

Rock Scape Attempt #2. Left & Center Side. For the most part, it has not changed.

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Rock Scape Attempt #2. Center & Right Side. For the most part, it has not changed.

Picture 21.jpg

Full Tank Shot with Rock Scape Attempt #2.

Picture 22.jpg

Orange Prawn Goby.

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Picture 24.jpg

Regal Angelfish.

Picture 25.jpg

True Perculas.

Picture 26.jpg

Some corals finally in the tank after a full 76 day QT. It was exhausting.

Picture 27.jpg

Hard Tube Coco Worm.

Picture 28.jpg

More Recent Full Tank Shot (apologies for the picture quality).

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Some Coral Close Ups. Some of the SPS in the last picture aren't doing great.

Full Tank Shot:
(As of 6/19/24)
Picture 33.jpg

Current Issues:
Lighting: Too much or not enough? Overall, the corals look healthy, but I am concerned there are places that are getting too much PAR.

Phosphates: I have had a little bit of a Phosphate issue at levels as high as 0.25. I started slowly dosing Phosphate-E and it has seemed to help. In conjunction, I have been slowly raising the magnesium levels with supplemental additions of Brightwell’s Magnesion. I am checking phosphate levels with the Hanna Phosphate Checker. I had a little bit of algae bloom about a month ago but the Fighting Conchs really took care of it.

Water Change Schedule: As stated, the DOS Auto W/C pulls out about 3 gallons of water a day. It usually ends up running 5 / 7 days a week. The other two days are used to make water and circulate the made saltwater. Is this enough? Roughly 13% of the total water is replaced each week. I am surprised to see that the nitrates / phosphates are, what they are.

Too Much Feeding: The Plank runs twice a day for a minute each time dispensing Marine Jerky. The Return Pump goes off in conjunction so I don’t simply feed the sump. About every other day, I feed a variation of frozen food that has been strained.

Future Inhabitants:
1 Yellowhead Jawfish – Opistognathus aurifrons
1 Geometric Pygmy Hawkfish – Plectranthias inermis
2 Orange Spotted Filefish – Oxymonacanthus longirostris*
*Realize these might not be fully reef-safe.

5 Lyretail Anthias – Pseudanthias squamipinnis**
** 1 Mature Male & 4 Females

1 Exquisite Wrasse – Cirrhilabrus exqisitus
3 Yellow Pyramid Butterfly Fish – Hemitaurichthys polylepis

Future Plans:
Start to use my Rebel Canon Camera and learn how to take some better pictures. I am afraid this might turn into another hobby!

If you have made it this far, I thank you for taking the time to read through this build thread. Please feel free to make any suggestions/critiques or share any experience you have. I have learned a lot through this forum and from the community of people who are apart of it.
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Looks like a nice setup! I am also using the DOS for my water changes but I change out 1.5 gallons a day 7 days a week for my 100 gallon tank which works out to about 10% per week or 20% biweekly. With a 40 gallon mixing tank (Rubbermaid garbage can) I can get about a month between mixing new batches of saltwater. I added another FMM module with a water level sensor for my mixing tank. My DOS is programmed to turn off if the mixing tank gets too low so it doesn’t pull out saltwater when there is no new water to replenish with. This prevents the situation where the auto topoff would replace all the removed saltwater with fresh water causing lower salinity. Good luck and happy reefing!


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The DOS Water Changes have been instrumental. Interesting to consider changing less but ensure it happens every day. What kind of salt are you mixing? Does your mixing station get "fuzzy"? I've noticed some of that using the Instant Ocean or it sitting too long.

Eventually, I'd like to run the RODI lines through the attic and connect a solenoid to control the flow from the RODI unit into the freshwater reservoir. However, I am a little worried about running lines through the attic and pressure building at the RODI unit.


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I use tropic Marin pro. It mixes really well but after a few batches I do get some brown stains that wipe off pretty easily. It’s pretty expensive and I would like to go with a cheaper salt but I’m hesitant to change to something else since it’s working for me. Changing out the same amount of water every day has made it easier for me to dial in my dosing and GFO reactor.

Unless you have really high water pressure I don’t think you’ll run into pressure build up with leaving the ro/di on. I don’t leave mine on all the time because my auto top off draws directly from my reservoir and would cause the ro/di to run in short bursts producing mostly dirty water. The ro/di needs to run for at least a minute before the water coming out reaches 0 or near 0 tds.


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After I saw that the Atlanta Aquarium uses Instant Ocean, I decided it had to work for me. Delivered via drop ship on recurring basis through Amazon seems to be the cheapest way.

We actually do have really high water pressure. The thing I haven't figured out is how to get a connected FMM module to run the solenoid near the source. It would have to be a really really long USB connection cord.


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