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- Nov 18, 2012
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- Ontario, California
I started this hobby in 1990. Back then I had a 60-gallon system with metal halide lighting and a down draft skimmer. It’s amazing how much technology has changed in the past 26 years! There is a lot more automation now then there use to be and a lot more availability of hardware and livestock. I’m glad to see the hobby has progressed so much over the years. My current system is a 312-gallon acrylic tank (5’x5’x20”) running the berlin method without a sand bed in the system. I went sandless to help keep the scratches down to a minimum in the tank. I have picked up a few minor scratches over the years, mostly from a small asterina starfish getting caught between the algae scraper and the acrylic.
I run a check valve on my hammerhead return pump in case of power failure so the tank won’t back siphon into the sump. If the check valve fails, the sump can handle the back flow from the main tank. All connections have unions and valves on them so it’s easy to swap a pump, valve, etc. out without having to redo the plumbing.
The system uses dual bean 1.5” overflow pipes. The back of the tank has teeth cut all the way across making a coast to coast overflow. This runs into an overflow box that is 55” long, 10” wide, 8” deep and is divided into two sections. Each section has a bean setup containing a primary, secondary, and emergency over flow.
For my chemical replacements I run a Korallin C3002 calcium reactor. I have to replenish media in this every 3 months or so. Also, to help with the calcium and pH I have a kalkwasser reactor setup on the system. This is tied to the auto top off unit. When my water level gets low, I pump in kalkwasser through the reactor to make up for the lost water. This helps keep my pH around 8.2 and gives the system a calcium boost also.
The system is controlled by a Neptune Apex. It controls the calcium reactor, auto top off and monitors the pH and temp of the tank as well as the pH of the calcium reactor effluent. I have it setup to send text messages if things go out of their set limits or if there is water on the floor (leak sensor).
- Display tank: Home built (in my garage with help of a friend) 5' x 5' x 20" 312-gallon acrylic tank
- Glass or acrylic? Acrylic
- Stand: Wooden stand with a custom made removable facade
- Sump: 115-gallon sump custom made with probe holders, heater holders, and one set of baffles. It has filter sock holders but I don’t use them due to the amount of flow going through the sump. (over 6000 gph)
- Protein Skimmer: Reef Octopus SRO 5000 with bubble blaster 5000 pump
- Carbon/phosphate filtration: BRS dual chamber reactor with carbon and phosphate remover
- Return Pump: Hammerhead pump rated at 6,000 gph
- Water Circulation: Two 1.5" Seaswirls for the main return pump and two EcoTech MP40's
- Lighting (main tank): Four EcoTech Radion gen 1 with TIR lens and one arctic revive t247; (grow-out): Two arctic revive T247; (refugium): One arctic revive T247
- Ca/Alk/Mg: Dosing a Korallin C3002 calcium reactor supplemented by a homemade kalkwasser reactor with circulation pump
- ATO: Running a homemade kalk reactor for the auto top off that helps provide calcium and buffering pH.
- RO/DI: I have a BRS 5 stage ro/di that produces 75 GPD. I run two 55 gallon storage drums one for freshwater one for saltwater
- Heating/cooling: Two Ebo Jager 500 watt heaters controlled by Apex. No cooling system.
- System controller: Apex controller that runs my calcium reactor, heaters, and ATO switches
- Grow-out tank: 60 gallon acrylic frag tank that is fed from the sump that then flows into a 40 gallon refugium that then flows back into the sump
Water Circulation & flow summary:
The system was designed to be a SPS tank from the beginning. I set it up to have a high flow rate (15,000 gph) over all. I have a hammerhead return pump that is plumbed through two 1.5” seaswirls for the returns and two EcoTech MP40s in the tank. So far this has provided excellent flow even with all the coral growth. The MP40s are located on the back wall about 2” above the bottom of the tank. They are set on opposing reef crest modes. The seaswirls are staggered in depth. The one of the left goes down 5” into the water and the one on the right goes down 8”.
When I setup the tank, I added a small amount of sand and turned on the pumps. Then, I arranged the rocks to make the sand all pool back corner of the tank. Sand was removed. With this setup, I get a very good flow across all levels of the reef and all detritus pools in that corner making for easy removal in this bare bottom system.
Water Parameters: I use Salifert and Hanna test kits/checkers. I test for nitrate, phosphate, alk, calcium, and magnesium
- Temp: 77 degrees
- pH: 8.1 - 8.2
- Specific gravity: 1.025
- Nitrate: 15 ppm
- PO4: Undetectable by test kits
- Calcium: 400 - 430
- Alkalinity: 8.5 - 9.5
- Magnesium: 1300
Lighting for the system is 4 EcoTech Radions gen 1 with TIR lenses and an ocean revive arctic t247 to help cover a dark zone between the Radions. The lights are laid out in a square pattern. The four Radions are at each corner and the Arctic revive is in the middle. This light combination has worked out very well and I have excellent color and growth in the system. The lights are hung from the ceiling leaving the top of the tank open to look down into.
- Photoperiod – The lights on the main tank run for 12 hours a day (11 am to 11pm cycle) and have a dusk to dawn feature. The lights at their peak produce close to a 20k look
- Grow-out tank: 5 pm to 2 am
- Refugium: 5 pm to 2 am
Filtration and Water Quality Summary and Objectives:
Filtration system is located in the garage so I don’t have to worry about overflows or noise caused by the filtration equipment. A Reef Octopus 5000 skimmer running a Bubble Blaster 5000 series pump is the main filtration unit. So far this has been a great skimmer and really pulls out the nutrients. It is setup to dump to a bucket and the skimmer is on a float switch so if the bucket overflows the skimmer is turned off.
I also run a Bulk Reef Supply GFO and carbon reactor on the system to help keep phosphates down and provide clear water clarity. With a 5’ x 5’ tank you can see turbidity if you don’t use carbon on the system.
I do a 55-gallon water change every 3 months using either Kent or Salinity salt mix to help maintain water quality. I also run a macro algae farm in the 40-gallon refugium to help with nitrate reduction. (The refugium is also where I keep a collection of zoanthids and tube anemones.)
The biggest goal is trying to keep a stable calcium alkalinity and magnesium level. I test weekly on the calcium and alkalinity and test magnesium once a month. With a calcium reactor, the levels tend to bounce up and down a little bit, but not a huge amount. You do need to keep on top of that if you don’t check in several weeks or months in a system with a heavy load of calcareous animals it can drop very quickly.
- Vlamingi Tang (12”)
- Purple tang
- Red Sea Sailfin tang
- Two Talbot damsels
- 6 Bartlet anthias
- Sunburst anthias
- Lyretail anthias
- 1 Threadfin cardinal (down from 15 originally 3 years ago)
- Christmas wrasse
- Ruby-headed wrasse
- Tassled filefish
- Three fire shrimp
- Numerous red banded trochus snails (they bred in tank)
- Two giant clams (maxima and squamosa)
- Brittle star (I’ve had for 10 years)
- Halloween urchin
Many species of corals, some are large colonies:
- Over 30 different species of Acropora and Montipora
- Favias and favites
- Clove polyps
- Rock anemone (thankfully has never moved from the spot I put him two years ago)
Fish & Coral feeding: I feed the fish every day a sheet of store bought nori (dried seaweed you would use for sushi) and mysis shrimp and some pellet food. The corals are not target fed.
Who was responsible for getting you into the hobby? I have always kept fish since I was little, starting out with freshwater system that my father helped me setup.
Who or what in the hobby most influences/inspires you? I think the most inspiring part is the coral farms in the wild. By doing this I believe it helps on keeping the loss of coral down to a minimum since they only take small pieces off colonies to grow out for commercial sale.
What are your future plans for improvement/upgrade of the tank? I am considering better nitrate reduction and want to setup a macro algae canister filter system. I am also very interested in the upcoming automation of calcium alkalinity and magnesium testing and replacement of said chemicals in the tank.
Closing Thoughts: Don’t give up! There are a lot of pit falls in this hobby and you must have perseverance to see your tank through the ups and downs. There is a huge amount of data out there and it can be overwhelming. Be sure to join your local fish club or forum board. There are a lot of knowledgeable people out there that are very helpful. Personally, I have always tended to stay toward the original berlin method of reef keeping and its worked out very well for me. I believe that style of system is simple to maintain and it works! I do like the ability to automate as much as I can. This makes the stress of keeping the tank down and limits the amount of daily tasks to do on the tank.
Thank you Reef 2 Reef for choosing my Reef tank system!
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