Greeting Reefers! My name is Leo, and I'm from New Mexico. I'm very humbled and honored to have my tank featured for R2R Reef of The Month. When I first started the hobby, I spend lots of time looking at all the Tanks of the Month. Seeing so many beautiful tanks gave me inspiration that one day my tank could be featured.
First, I'd like to say thanks to the R2R community and the R2R team. Secondly, all the wonderful local reefers in my city who are amazing people and true hobbyists. Of course, I have to mention the wife. She makes me say thanks to her in this summary, and that she has been amazing and supportive of my reef addiction all these years.
Long story short, I have been in this hobby for a little over 7 years. I started out with a nano Innovative Marine 24-gallon which was a nice size for the learning phase. I upgraded to a peninsula 108g after a year, and learned the ropes of sps. After 3 years, I decided to upgraded to my current 160g system. It wasn't a smooth journey, but my love for the hobby motivated me to get to where i am right now.
Here's a video from about 9 months ago:
- Display tank: custom 160g peninsula 60Lx30Wx21H" by Planet Aquarium
- Glass or Acrylic: 3/4" glass all around
- Stand: Custom DYI 61Lx32Wx38H
- Sump: DIY 40 gallon breed with 3 chambers
- Protein skimmer: Reef Octopus diablo 250ext skimmer with varios 6 pump
- Carbon/phosphate filtration: passive GFO in filter bag
- Return pump: Reef Octopus varios 6
- Water circulation: .3x Jebao OW-50 1x Jebao OW-40
- Lighting (display): 48" 8 bulbs dimable ATI T5(3 B+, 3 C+, 2 P+) 2x Reef Brite XHO actinic for supplements lighting and radion gen4 pro for 2hours dawn dust.
- Lighting (refugium): regular household florescent bulb
- Calcium/alkalinity/magnesium dosing equipment: Geo 618 calcium reactor for Cal/Alk and potasium+mag dose via Apex DOS.
- Auto top-off: 20g container with aqualifter pump. manually turn on/off
- Heating/cooling: Titanium heater/$15 walmart fan both with apex control
- System control: Apex
Water Circulation and Flow Summary and Objectives:
Water Circulation and flow has always been a challenge for my system. Considering a peninsula style and 5 foot long, it's difficult to get the ideal circulation throughout the tank due to all powerheads placed on one end. As corals grow, flow is restricted and thus require further adjustments. Coral placements is also a challenge to fit into flow. I have to arranged dense, short compact type sps/acropora on the powerheads side and staghorns and long branching sps/acropora on the opposite side. This ensure the sps/acropora aren't getting hit by direct flow that'll stunt growth.
- Temp: 76-79F
- pH: 7.9-8.4
- Specific gravity: 35ppt
- NO3: never tested
- Ca: 450
- Alk: 8
- Mg: never tested
- PO4: never tested
- Ammonia and nitrites: never tested
What salt mix do you use?
I tried many salt brands in the past (except for Tropic Marine) and narrowed down to Instant Ocean Reef Crystals. Honestly, I would try any salts that are cheap. I stick with IO Reef Crystals because they are accessible almost anywhere and cheaper than most brands.
What kind of rock did you start with?
The system has about 50-60lb of tonga branch rocks. I was lucky enough to find a reefer in Colorado who had the tonga he kept for his build but never got to it. He ended up selling me all the tonga and got them shipped. Amazingly, all the pieces were in good long shape when they arrived. Part of my practice with rocks is to soak them in hydrogen peroxide for 2 weeks and then sun dry for another 3 weeks before I work on my aquascape. This method is just a precaution to killing everything on the rocks.
Calcium/Alkalinity/Magnesium Summary and Objectives:
I was never a fan of chasing numbers for my tank. I only test Calcium and Alkalinity for the most part using API test kits. I'm not a religious tester either, I test at random when I see my corals aren't growing or there's a stunned growth. My focus is on keeping them as stable as I can. All the supplementation is made possible by my Geo618 calcium reactor with Reborn media, or dead coral skeletons that I can find laying around in the back yard.
What and how do you dose for the big 3 (alk/cal/mag)?
Alk and Calcium are supplemented through Geo 618 calcium reactor and mag are dosed by Apex DOS.
Are you dosing anything else for your reef health (carbon dosing, aminos, etc.)?
Mag and Potassium has been on the dosing agenda since day one. Since last year, I started the Aquaforest component ABC to play around with the coloration. Acropower is also part of the dosing agenda as coral food.
Lighting Summary and Objectives:
I'm a big fan of T5 lighting. I've been running T5s ever since I started my 108g. I run my lighting at a pretty daylight spectrum around 10-12k blasted for 7 hours. Eventually I will switch over to all LED once all my corals have taken up the space in the tank.
- Display tank:
T5 from 11:30am-6:30pm
ReefBrite XHO 9:00am-9:00pm
Radion 8am-11am and 9:00pm-11m in ramping mode.
Filtration and Water Quality Summary and Objectives:
In the early stage of my tank, I really pushed for bacteria growth. I feel that this is a crucial stage and foundation of my system. I introduced a lot of bacteria with bacteria sources such as Microbacter7 and vinegar carbon source to amplify. This was my main focus for the first year of the tank. The diversity of bacteria in the system really helps with the nutrients and water clarity.
I also rely on My oversized skimmer as the main source of filtration. It's actually the only mechanical filtration I have in my system. I run passive Carbon in a mesh bag, but it has been in the sump over a year now, so I don't know if it's still effective. I saw a bunch of pods living in the bag and feel bad if I take it out, so I just left it there for pod production. My skimmer is doing a fine job at exporting nutrients so I don't really bother using other methods.
What is your maintenance routine?
- Inspect corals/fishes
- Check water level for Top off.
- Fish feeding
- Quick equipment inspection
- Glass cleaning
- Fill ATO container
- Watchange at random, not consistent
- Alk/Cal testing at random
- Semi-anual powerhead cleaning
- Refill Calcium reactor media and Co2 yearly
20x damsel (yellow tail,blue damsel, tabot damsel, yellow staghorn)
1x yellow tang
1x yellow belly hipo
1x yellow eyes kohl tang
1x corris wrasse
4x clowns-different breed
1x coral beauty
1x six line
1x royal gramma
1x lawnmower blenny
probably a few more fishes that i missed
only a few astrea turbo snails
no other inverts
Tank Inhabitants— Corals:
Honestly its too long to list so I'll just keep it simple.
Fish and Coral Feeding:
I feed my fishes daily with 2 cubes of frozen brine shrimp. The only coral food source is from my acropower with 7ml daily dosage.
How did you decide what to keep in your tank?
My main focus was acropora and sps. Everything else is support roles for it. Fishes are mainly there to help with nutrients and feeding the acro/sps and algae control. Other LPS are used as filler at the base of the acro/sps and encrusting montipora is mainly to cover the bottom glass as a coraline deterrence. I'd also keep the invasive blue clove and let them grow wild on the main rock to prevent algae especially hair algae from growing. Coral placement was planned in order to maximize growth and surface area.
Any stocking regrets?
There are several chalices that were given to me by local reefers. I used them as space filler below my acro/sps. Boy it was a bad idea. They are fast growers and every time my hippo rear ended a frag or colony, and it fell on those chalices, it was a goner in a few hours. Chalices has a nasty sting and most of the time killed anything that fell on it.
Any fish, invert, or coral you will NEVER keep?
I love all fishes, coral and invert. That's why I love this hobby, and I love everything about it. One thing that I would never keep are eels. They have a strong resemblance to snakes, and snakes terrify me.
What do you love most about the hobby?
I love everything about this hobby. Reefing is not just a hobby; it's my stress reliever and my self-care. Everything about it is beautiful, seeing a piece of nature that grows in front of your eyes is priceless. It's always one of the best things to see the corals grow overtime, and the fishes have so much character that you get lost in time watching them.
Who was responsible for getting you into the hobby?
It was an old friend that I grew up with. One day back in 2014, he asked me to go with him to a local fish store to pick up some fish food for his fishes. Funny thing is, the local fish store owner was also an old high school friend. It was nice seeing his shop @reeflicious and all the corals and fishes selections. I fell in love with it right away. I bought my first nano the same day. Ever since, I love the hobby and continue to educate myself on every aspect of it.
I would say the Lawnmower blenny is my favorite fish out of all the saltwater fishes. The lawnmower blenny has so much character and is so lively. It's so much fun watching it graze all day.
My all time favorite coral is the acropora abrotanoides. Most people overlook this staghorn because it's mostly green. However, given the right condition, it can really brighten up with a variation of pink into the blend that will draw your eyes for a closer look. Another reason is because they are difficult to keep alive and retain the bright colors. It's rewarding when I see this coral bringing out all the colors it can give to the naked eyes.
How do you typically get over setbacks?
I've had plenty throughout my reefing years. I had a complete crashes from my 108g in the process of transferring to my 160g. Total lost was 100%. My current 160g had 3 crashes throughout the years that almost made me leave the hobby. It's always difficult to see all the investment in money and time put into the system to see it gone within a few days. Somehow, I managed to have a little of motivation left to move forward with the hobby. There are plenty of minor setbacks such as aptaisa, Crazy hair algae infestation, ich, dead equipment, stray currents, bad additives, light fell in water, you name it. It's a slippery road from the start, but through it is a good learning curved to get where I am now.
What's the best thing you ever bought for your tank?
The best and for most significant investment I ever bought is the T5 lighting, the RO 250xt skimmer, and my calcium reactor. These 3 are the heart of my system since day 1. I know there is the Apex system but it is just a luxury that was added due to my frequent travel in previous years.
What are your future plans for improvement/upgrade of the tank?
I actually reach my end game for my system. To be honest, I don't have a future plan for my current system. The last thing I would do is to replace the T5 with 3 radions and 2 kessils for color enhancement. It's still a debatable action, but that would be my last adjustment to be made for the system. I just want to leave the system as it is and watch it continue to grow.
Any special tips for success or advice you'd like to share with other reefers?
One thing I learned along the line is that every tank is different. We can't base on one tank to make determination for another. Reefing has come a long way with technology that makes reefing easy. Though leverage given, we tend to rely on them too much. There is a quote from Ja Rule from The Fast and The Furious "It's not how you stand by your car, it's how you race your car." This has always been my reefing philosophy. Best equipment doesn't always yield success in a reef aquarium, it's how we make use of it.
Reefing is beautiful and fun. It's meant to help you relax and enjoy a piece of the ocean in your living space. Reefing is not difficult either, just give it a little time and some attention is all it needs.