REEF OF THE MONTH - November 2022: Samsreef's 340-gallon Mixed Reef! Hobby, passion, obsession!

Reef of the month title.png

R2R Username: @SamsReef
Build Thread:
Sams 340 Gallon SPS dominated tank


(Special thanks to Kenny of @Pieces of the Ocean for taking pictures of my tank.)


I would like to start by thanking the R2R family for this esteem recognition and for R2R for being part of my life. I read and contribute to R2R threads and articles almost every day to destress. Sometimes it's just window shopping in the sale thread; other times, helping fellow reefers or reading TOTM articles or learning about the latest enhancements, or replying in my build thread. There has never been a dull moment in the last 11 years that I have been here on the forum.

R2R team, Thank you, and keep up the great work.

My name is Sumit Singh (aka Samsreef), and I have been in the saltwater hobby for 17 yrs, but the love for aquatic life goes back to my early childhood when my brother and I would keep our fresh water tank and visit numerous stores all by ourselves (8 and 10 yr olds). We would exchange our fish often with the store owners due to a tiny budget. I have to say the store owners were friendly about it.

Fast forward to 2005, I got my first saltwater tank from Craigslist. I was in Dallas, TX, at the time. It was a beautiful DAS 260-gallon aquarium. I jumped into the reefing world in the deep end and was overwhelmed with the upkeep. The tank was doing excellent, but after a month, the seam gave way, and I woke up to an empty tank in the morning. The following 36 hours were spent trying to salvage the fish, corals, and hardwood flooring. I came pretty close to winding off the hobby, but my wife and my brother were very supportive through the ordeal. I downsized the tank to a 150-gallon and a nano cube. One lesson I learned from this experience is never to buy a tank without knowing its history. Since then, I have always purchased a new tank or purchased from someone that I know.

The DFW community was very strong and supportive, and I had a thriving tank. In 2012, I moved to New Jersey, and the process started all over again. Luckily, we moved into a house with an unfinished basement. I did admit to my wife much later that I purposefully chose a house with an unfinished basement so I could finish the basement around the aquarium and a fish room. Learning from my experience, the fish room was built with a central drain in case of any leaks and an exhaust that runs 24X7. It also has a large sink for fragging and water changes. I have a 250-gallon RODI store tank, which was moved in place before closing the fish room (the width of the storage tank is larger than the door can accommodate).

Since the current aquarium has been up and running, my philosophy has been to try different lights, flow, salt mixes, trace elements, and husbandry regimes and see what is easy and results in thriving corals. I enjoy a mixed reef and not just stony corals. This includes corals with lots of movement (torches/Gonis) and chalices (they have some fantastic colors not common in other corals), a zoa garden, and nice Yumas.

I have also added a frag tank (plumbed to the main tank) and a quarantine tank. The quarantine tank is where any new fish goes and is observed for a long time before moving to the main tank. The quarantine tank is also my Zoa/Mushroom and anemone tank.

Below is the summary of my tank and my husbandry today. But before that a few teasers for the variety of the corals (Acros, Euphyllias, Zoas and Gonis):

Torches and Hammer colony nestled with Gonis

A Zoa garden in an area with low flow
zoa garden 2.jpg

Goni Garden. I have 15 different types of Gonis growing. There are seven football-sided colonies.

Last but not least. The top half of the tank is full of Acros
acro garden.jpg

System Profile:
  • Set up since: 2013
  • Display Tank: 340 Gallons, 6’ by 3’ deep and 30” high (Custom Miracle Aquariums)
  • Glass or Acrylic: Glass (Starfire on 3 sides)
  • Stand: Custom made
  • Sump: 150 Gallon (Miracle Aquariums)
  • Grow Out Tank: 75 Gallon Seapora. Plumbed with Display tank
  • Quarantine Tank: 75 Gallon Seapora. Serves as a quarantine for both Fish and corals
  • Return Pump: 2 DC pumps for redundancy
  • Protein Skimmer: Reef Octopus 10 inch neck. This is an awesome skimmer.
  • Carbon/Phosphate Filtration: no GFO. GAC as needed. I do, however, run a UV and MB7, which keeps the water clarity high.
  • Water Circulation: 2 Tunze on Sea Swirl
  • Lighting (Display): 3 Radion Gen 5 XR30 Blues and 4 XR30Gen 4 angled from the front
  • Lighting (Grow Out): ATI Straton
  • Lighting (Quarantine): ATI 36 inch powermodule
  • Calcium/Alkalinity/Magnesium: Calcium Reactor + Kalk Reactor
  • Auto Top Off: Tunze osmolator
  • Heating/Cooling: Fan and a heater controlled by Apex to keep temp between 77 and 79
  • System Control: Apex for controlling dosing Kalk, CaRx, temp and observing Ph
Water Parameters:
  • Temp: 77 to 80 F
  • pH: 8-8.25 (aiming to bring it higher)
  • Specific gravity: 1.026
  • NO3: 10-12 ppm
  • Ca: 450 ppm (would like it to be 400)
  • Alk: 8
  • Mg: 1450 (would like it to be 1350)
  • PO4: 0.04-0.1 ppm
Water Circulation and Flow Summary and Objectives:

The most crucial factor to the success of my tank is the flow pattern in the tank. There are two large Tunzes on either end of the tank running on Sea Swirls and they keep the tank moving 24/7. These Tunze powerheads are built to last and the sea swirl creates a random flow in the tank. The sea swirl is in its 5th year and going strong. Thank you, Eddie (from Sea Swirl) for making a fantastic product. Couple of cool things that you will notice with this flow pattern. 1) Most corals get random flow from multiple sides. Acros in particular tend to STN when they grow into colonies and the base is shaded. I feel the flow makes up for the lack of light and prevents the Acros from losing flesh. See the Picture below. 2) The sea swirl allows the powerheads to be placed pretty close to the corals as they get hit by a strong current for a small amount of time.


What salt mix do you use?

I have used several brands including ESV, Tropic Marine(the longest), Red Sea Coral Pro, Reef Crystals, and Instant Ocean. I believe they are all capable of sustaining a thriving reef ecosystem. I am most impressed by the good old Instant Ocean. They mix fast, are super cheap, are consistent, and compliments well with my Calcium reactor. Most importantly they come in bags of 50 gallons (42 gallons at 35 PPT). Red Sea Coral pro also has similar parameters, but I wish they also packaged the Red Sea in 4 bags of 50-gallon boxes... It is super convenient just to open the bag and drop it in a drum with 42-gallon water and not worry about salinity, trace elements separating, etc.

tangs 2.jpg

What kind of rock did you start with (live, dry, combination)?

This reef journey started with dry BRS Pukani rock and base rocks. The rocks were then cemented (using Marco cement) to create various large structures, and then the corals were glued on them to grow. A few lessons from there. First, it took much longer to get the aquarium to a mature state because I used only dry rocks. If I had to restart, I would use some live rocks from an established tank to speed up the journey. Second, using large rock structures and gluing corals on them limits flexibility in the future as they start to grow into each other. Also, Pukani rocks and large rock structures limit the flow around the corals.

Fast forward, I am in the process of changing out the current landscaping into modular tonga branch structures. I have used base rocks (which hide under the sand bed), sand and thin Cyanoacrylate adhesive, rubble rocks, and some artificial tonga branches(most of them are from Tropic Eden but they have stopped selling these now). These structures are super sturdy as the base is on the glass bed covered by sand, which holds them in place. And the combination of sand and Cyanoacrylate is super strong, more manageable, and flexible than using Marco cement… Changing out rock structure is a slow process to avoid shocking the system. So I am doing it in phases. The last phase is yet to complete. If anyone is interested, I can go into more detail. Below are some pictures showing the modular design.





What is your substrate?

Tropic Eden brings the best sand. Super clean and does not require a whole lot of rinsing. In my tanks, the sand is going strong after 5 yrs and has not clumped up, and most importantly the wrasses love them. I have tried bare bottom, but the bare bottom look is not for me. Also, regular cleaning is needed to remove detritus from a bare bottom.


Calcium/Alkalinity/Magnesium Summary and Objectives:

Calcium, Alkalinity, magnesium, other macro, and trace elements are necessary for a thriving coral reef. For a tank size like this, stable parameters can be achieved by 2 part dosing or through CaRx/Kalk combo. Also, 10-15% water changes every two weeks have proven to provide long-term stability.

Acid trip Mille.jpg

What and how do you dose for the big 3 (alk/cal/mag)?

I have been an avid advocate of 2 part dosing for a good part of my journey, and frankly, a lot of enhancements in the hobby have happened on this front. Case in point, enhancements with the dosers, various kinds of trace elements by reputed companies, triton method, etc. I have tried various 2 part-dosing regimes. After several experimentations, I have always gone back to ESV four-gallon packs of Bionic. its ease of just adding some RODI water and dosing equal parts is very appealing and easy to do. So anyone looking for a simple 2-part dosing, I would highly recommend trying Bionic from ESV, especially for the large tanks. It also has an added benefit of increasing the Ph in the tank. For my quarantine tank, I have used “All for Reef,” and it works fine.

Last year, I moved to a calcium reactor. The reason why I moved to a calcium reactor is to lower the amount of dosing (400 ml per day of each) my tank was using and to bring more colors in my Acros. With ESV, I was getting good growth, but some vivid colors were not that pronounced (especially in confetti). Since I have moved to CaRx, I have noticed a wider range of colors in the Acros. I use two different kinds of media. ARM media in the primary chamber and Caribsea in the secondary.

CaRx has its challenges, and the biggest one is keeping the tank's Ph above 8. For that, I am using a Kalkwasser reactor, which doses through ATO during the night time. The Ph in the tank is monitored by Apex and Kalkwasser and CaRx reactors are controlled to avoid any extreme fluctuations.

The most significant advancement in calcium reactors is the peristaltic feed pump to control the effluent rate. Several yrs back when I used a calcium reactor, the effluent rate (drip controller) was not very accurate. The peristaltic feed [ump has made controlling the effluent rate (and as such Ca/CO3) very easy.


Are you dosing anything else for your reef health (carbon dosing, aminos, etc.)?

I dose nitrates to keep my nitrates up at 10 PPM. I have noticed the health and coloration decline when Nitrates go below 5. I am pushing it up slowly and have not found my high ceiling yet. Currently, my ideal nitrate is 10+ PPM, but I might go higher if I see a benefit.

Apart from nitrate, I dose ⅓ the amount of recommended trace elements. I am currently using Tropic Marine A- and K+ but will try the Red Sea when the current bottles are over.

The calcium reactor doses plenty of potassium, mag, and strontium along with Ca and CO3. The mag is so high that in spite of dosing Kalk, the Mag stays high at around 1450 PPM.

Front view.jpeg

Lighting Summary and Objectives:

Everything in the tank is photosynthetic, so lights are essential. I aim to have 400-500 PAR on the top ⅓ of the tank (Millies, Tenuis, and other acros) and around 100 PAR on the bottom of the 30” tall tank. 7 Radion XR30 arranged in 2 rows does the trick. The back row has 3 fixtures at 8 inches above the water and the front row has 4 fixtures tilted at an angle. This helps with reducing shadowing and better coloration from all sides (not just the top). The lights follow the AB+ spectrum with a total of 10 hours of photoperiod (2 hours ramp up, 7 hours peak, and 1 hour ramp down). The lights come on at noon and go on till 10 AM. I enjoy the last 4 hours when I return home from work.

Filtration and Water Quality Summary and Objectives:

The system is cleaned by one oversized skimmer, which runs for 18 hours and shut down between the hours of 8 PM to 2 AM. This allows the corals to absorb any coral food that I put in the evening. Also, because the skimmer is off for a 6 hour window, the ATO turns off during this time as well. When the ATO kicks on at 2 AM, it also pushes a sizable amount of kalk water to boost the Ph in the middle of the night.

Other than the skimmer, the system also has a 57 Watt UV, and uses activated carbon as needed.


What is your export strategy?

Keep the water clean of any pollutants and chemical warfare. I believe reef keeping is all about maintaining good water chemistry. The pollutants and chemical warfare is kept at bay with skimmer, UV filter and activated carbon as needed.

Export is less for nutrient control as I have to dose nitrates to keep up with the growth of corals. By using the above regime, I have not had the need to use GFO in over a year now. Also, there is no need for bio pellets, refugium, scrubber, denitrator, etc.

acro red 2.jpg

What is your maintenance routine?

Feeding Half sheet of Nori and 5-6 cubes Piscine PE Mysis in two different feeding
Weekly: clean the tank glass, Empty skimmer cup, replace filter sock
Monthly: Deep clean the tank glass with a metal blade. Clean the UV sleeve; clean the powerhead fins (only the fins).
Biannually: Change out the filter blocks on the RO DI unit as needed.
Yearly: Clean the air intake of the skimmer. Change the RODI membrane. Every two years, clean the shaft of the pumps. Clean the fans on the radions. Change or calibrate the Ph and Temp probes.

actinic tank.jpg

Tank Inhabitants—Fish:
  • Lots of Tangs (as I have 0 cleanup crew) - Sailfin tang, Powder Brown Tang, Lipstick Tang, 2 Yellow Tangs, 1 Purple tang, Hippo tang, Mimic Tang,
  • Wrasses - 6 line and Melanurus
  • Other - Purple, Clown fish, Spotted Mandarin, 4 Green Chromis, Coral Beauty

tang 3.jpg

coral beauty.jpg




tang 8.jpg

naso 3.jpg


Other Invertebrates:

My cleanup crew is the fishes - wrasses and tangs, and I have zero spots of any algae anywhere….never needed Snails, Hermits, or any other CUC inverts. They mostly end up dead over time. Having said that, There are a lot of chitons and limpets that multiply based on the film algae present in the aquarium. I do not do anything to regulate them. There is also one harlequin shrimp which moves from one tank to another to keep the Asterina starfish under control.

Tank Inhabitants— Corals:

There are too many to list so I will list the coral types and pictures

Acros - Milles, Tenuis and different tabling Acros (over 90 different kinds)

full spectrum.gif


monster lava.gif

paletta pink.gif





Greg_s unicorn.jpg

Pink table.jpg

acro red.jpg

acro rainbow.jpg

acro superman.jpg



Goniopora (19 different kinds with 9 huge colonies)

56729185-22E6-4800-BCD8-A421E45BB31C (1).jpeg



Euphyllias (torches and hammers)


Other LPS


favia colony.jpg

Mushroom, Yuma, and other softies


zoa garden.jpg

Fish and Coral Feeding:

We (thanks to my wife) feed our fish twice a day by hand. They get Nori sheets and Piscine PE Mysis. They also get pellets once a day. It's amazing to watch the fishes recognize the feeding time by hand or the automated feeder. The squareback Anthias has been in the tank for 9 yrs now.


How did you decide what to keep in your tank?

Fishes - All fishes in the tank are functional and reef safe. I have one fish on my bucket list - a pair of Hawaiian flame wrasses. Some day!!!

Corals - if they look nice but do not grow like a weed, I want them. Real Estate is premium.

SPS 2.jpg

Inverts - No Invert has been purchased other than the harlequin shrimp. There are some really cool inverts but my Melanurus wrasse treats them as food

Any stocking regrets?

Atlantic Blue tang. He was a big bully. I had to take out my entire aquascape to get him out. But it was well worth the effort.

Any fish, invert, or coral you will NEVER keep?

Cleaner Wrasse, Hermit crabs, and snails (other than bumblebees). They are better left alone in the Ocean.

What do you love most about the hobby?

I love growing small frags, which might not look impressive, into large colonies. The real beauty really shows up when they are more than a few inches. Also, there are so many varieties of corals that it's not possible to run out of different shapes, colors, growth patterns, needs, etc.

mille 3.jpg

mille 2.jpg

How long have you been doing this?

My first saltwater tank was in 2005. So 17 yrs. I cannot imagine not having a reef tank at home in the future.

Who was responsible for getting you into the hobby?

As mentioned earlier, we have always had a fish tank at home growing up, but a reef tank was just love at first sight. The first time I saw a reef tank in a store in Dallas, I knew I wanted it; I needed it. I had caught a reef bug, and there was no cure for it.

Who or what in the hobby most influences/inspires you?

I love growing small frags, which might not look impressive, into large colonies. The real beauty really shows up when they are in their full glory. Also, there are so many varieties of corals that it's not possible to run out of different shapes, colors, growth patterns, needs, etc.

If you could have any tank, what size would it be and why?

A divider tank 10 feet long 4 feet wide and 24 inches high with an overflow on one end going into a fish room. It comes out to only 600 gallons, so it will still be easy to maintain, but with 24 feet of viewing, it would be heaven. Plus, it will be easy to work from either side. Talking about it makes me want it now…

Favorite fish?

My Regular Naso tang. She looks pretty, acts innocent, feeds from my hand, and works hard on the algae all day!!!



tang 2.jpg

Favorite coral?

These three are tied for the first spot

Dnov Iceman Tenuis

Rainbow Splice Millepora
SPS rainbow splice.jpg

PD Rainbow Blasto
PD Blasto.jpeg

Favorite invert?

Harlequin Shrimp. One invert that I can count on for sure if there is Asterina starfish infestation.

How do you typically get over setbacks?

Being in the hobby long enough has taught me to observe the corals to figure out if something is wrong and then confirm with testing or observing for parasites. Every six months, I also send for ICP testing. There was one time that I was unable to verify the root cause. The way I get over the setback is to go back to basics… lots of water change and run activated carbon along with poly filter. All of this, while keeping the nitrate, phosphate, and Ph/Kh stable in the process. It took a month to turn the tank around.

Have you faced any major challenges with this particular tank, and if so, how did you overcome?

3 yrs back, right before Covid, my acros started to decline very fast. I don’t know for sure but I believe rainwater had made its way from outside the house through the dirty pipes of the air exhaust, which used to be right over the tank. I had to make several 40%-50% water changes to get the tank back in order. Also, the exhaust was moved away from the tank so this will never happen in the future.

What's the best thing you ever bought for your tank?

I absolutely love these three pieces of equipment: My giant Diablo skimmer running since 2013, the two powerheads along with Sea Swirl and calcium reactor, which has been super stable. The CaRx is my new favorite.

What are your future plans for improvement/upgrade of the tank?

As I have said earlier in the aquascaping section, I am redoing my tank to create more open space for better flow and a natural look. Will post pictures in my build thread as it progresses. I am also taking this opportunity to add some new corals.

fish 2.jpg

Any special tips for success or advice you'd like to share with other reefers?

Apart from what I have already covered, successful reef requires proactive actions before something becomes an issue. Here are a few things that I would highly recommend:
  • Ongoing Maintenance (weekly/monthly). Stay on the maintenance like a routine.
  • Adding the right biodiversity/inhabitants in the tank at the right time. Plan for Aiptasia, Asterina, Algae, Flatworm, etc…it will happen. If you already have a fish that takes care of it, the pest will not become a major issue.
  • There are three prophylactic treatments that I do ongoing. Treating the tank with Interceptor every six months, Flatwork stop at half dosage ongoing, and Chemiclean every six months for any bacterial infections. I try to stagger the interceptor and Chemiclean.
  • Any changes take a minimum of a month to show results.
goni 2.jpg

Final Thoughts?

Reef tanks are very rewarding. It's easier said than done but it's worth mentioning that one should start the hobby at a time when you can afford to spend some time and money to enjoy the journey. Start slow, learning the initial steps before buying the expert-only corals or large setup. Even though a large setup will eventually be easy, it is hard to work on as the first tank. Finally, it's good to learn from your own mistakes but way better to learn from others. Reef2Reef is a great place to read and learn and seek help. Thank you for this opportunity to showcase my humble tank and good luck with this hobby, passion, and obsession.

Last edited:

Peace River

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Beautiful corals and a lot of great details in the article! Thanks for sharing!!!


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Thank you, Daniel and the reef2reef family, for this recognition. I really appreciate the kind words. Being a ROTM has always been an aspiration I have held since the beginning of the hobby. Please feel free to hit me with any questions that you might have about my humble setup.

Last but not least, apologies for the lengthy writeup :).



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Congrats Sam. Have had the pleasure to meet Sam and see his tank in person a couple of times as I’ve also gotten some frags from him-most notably some nice Gonis including a branching Goni. Well deserved!!


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Congrats Sam. Have had the pleasure to meet Sam and see his tank in person a couple of times as I’ve also gotten some frags from him-most notably some nice Gonis including a branching Goni. Well deserved!!
Thank you for the kind words. Hopefully the Gonis are doing well


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Thank you for your open and honest information. Beautiful system. I wish you continued success and enjoyment.
Thank you for your warm words. I am sure I missed a few more things, however, this is officially the longest I have written in a long time.



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WOW, what a tank! Thanks a ton for the (lengthy) write up. I only hope I have a tank half as nice as yours moving forward. Congratulations on this award, as its clearly deserved. Well done!
Ofcourse you will. You are already off to a great start from what I see in your build thread.


Have you bred fish in your tanks?

  • I have bred saltwater fish

    Votes: 37 13.4%
  • I have bred freshwater fish

    Votes: 119 43.1%
  • Not yet, but I am interested in breeding fish

    Votes: 65 23.6%
  • I think it is an interesting idea, but not my thing

    Votes: 62 22.5%
  • I am not interested in breeding fish

    Votes: 42 15.2%