REEF OF THE MONTH - October 2022: Joe's 400-gallon Majestic Sunlit Reef (A Living Memorial to Kelly)

BRS
Reef of the month title.jpg


R2R Username: @jdpiii3
Build Thread:
Our 400 Gallon In Wall Natural Sun-Lit Reef

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Introduction:

My name is Joseph Palermo and it is an honor to have been selected as Reef Tank of the Month. I am humbled to be in the company of so many accomplished aquarium hobbyists. I have been inspired by so many of the tanks over the years, and although these reef keepers don’t know me personally, they have been my mentors in this wonderful hobby. It is with great excitement I present Our Natural Sun-lit Reef for your review.

Where to begin... I've been an aquarium hobbyist for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the Bronx, New York early on I could remember my father's fish tanks. It was a joy being able to assist him with water changes and cleaning the tanks. Some of my great memories are when we would feed the Oscars live goldfish. We even had a saltwater tank with clownfish and some ornamental coral I was drawn to the coloring of the saltwater fish. Even back then. I thought to myself… someday I would have my own.

Jump forward many years, I am now married and have my own home and the itch started to have a fish tank. Like so many others, the first dive back into the aquarium hobby started small. I remember my first tank was a 38-gallon freshwater community tank with neon tetras, tiger barbs, a shark, and freshwater staple the plecostomus.

Quickly I grew tired of such a small tank and upgraded to a 155 bow front African Cichlid tank. The colors and activity were enjoyable, but I still wanted that saltwater tank. So I added a 150-gallon reef tank. Lighting and cooling we're always a major problem, and electricity costs to run three 250 watt metal halides, four 160 watt 6 ft VHO's, and a 1/2 horsepower chiller were breaking the bank.

I remember it like it was yesterday, waking up one Saturday morning, I greeted my beloved wife at the dining room table for coffee and I began my pitch. "I have an idea!" She looks at me with the "oh my God, here we go again" and says “okay… let's hear it..." I get up and walk to the entry wall and point and say, “I want to tear down this wall! Cut holes in the roof for sunlight to come in! Then build a 400 gallon fish tank that fills this whole wall!" She looks and is quiet for a moment. She asks one question, "Do you think you can build that?" I look back at her and say, “I know I can!” And her response (as we already know) was, "Let's do it!"

3.jpeg

When I was asked about featuring my tank as Reef of the month, I was worried about the emotional roller coaster that came into our lives just after the development of our natural Sun-lit Reef. I'm not going to lie. During portions of this write-up I've shed some tears with some of the memories.

Our family's struggle with my wife's battle with late stage 4 cancer could have been the end of the reef before it was even started. Kelly wouldn't hear of it. It became a testament of our love and commitment to each other and our passion for the reef hobby.

After Kelly's passing, I leaned on so many of my reefing friends around the world for strength and support. All I can say is "Thank you!" While I haven’t met so many of you, I think of you as friends.

In 2020 with COVID ravaging the world, not knowing how the everyday would turn, I fell into a deep battle with depression. Work was really the only thing that kept me going. The reef tank took a back seat, maintenance and husbandry really fell off a cliff. Towards the end of 2021, I had a pipe rupture in the foundation of my home and flooded portions of it. I really was ready to throw in the towel, break the tank down, sell the house, and find a new place to start over.

4.jpeg

After talking with several close friends and some of Kelly's dearest, they all made suggestions about reimagining the tank. Use that energy to reinvigorate yourself. And the lightbulb went off! I'm enjoying the hobby again! The reef tank is a testament of our love and commitment to her!

In the end, nothing is ever so lost that it cannot be found again, and no tears have ever been cried that weren't worth the joy that came before.

I'd like to present Our Natural Sunlit Reef in loving memory of my beloved wife Kelly.

5.jpeg

System Profile Questions:
  • Display tank: The display tank is 400 gallons dimensions are 72 by 36 by 36 constructed with 1-inch-thick acrylic and a coast to coast overflow.
  • Glass or Acrylic: The tank is 1 in thick acrylic
  • Stand: Where the fish tank stand sits used to be my laundry room the construction is 2x4s 2x6s ¾ in marine grade plywood for the to. The sides were reskinned with sheetrock, textured and painted to match the existing walls.
  • Sump: The sump is 5 ft x 2ft x2 ft I have two filter sock chambers and connection for two Reeflo Super Dart Gold pumps.
  • Protein skimmer: A My Reef Creations MR-6R recirculating protein skimmer powered by a Reeflo Hammerhead Gold
  • Return pump: Reeflo Super Dart Gold
  • Water circulation: 2 Ecotech MP60’s and Maxspect Gyre XF280
  • Lighting: The main lighting for the reef tank is natural sunlight! The Sun-dome lighting system used was built by a company in Miami, Florida The 21” domes give of the equivalent of over 3000 watts of metal halide lighting. One of the great features next to zero heat transfer to the tank of surrounding area.
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One thing that always bothered me was not being able to show the reef in the evening, during the tank refresh I added four Kessel a500's

12.jpeg


13.jpeg
  • Calcium/alkalinity/magnesium dosing equipment: Apex Trident & Bubble Magus Dosing Pump
  • Auto top-off: For auto top off I have two electronic float switches that control the reservoir output, to the sump one is set at water level and a failsafe just above incase the primary switch fails.
  • Heating/cooling: Heating and cooling are easily controlled by a fan mounted at the top of the tank with just the one fan the tank stays between 76-77 degrees all year.
  • System control: I use an Apex Neptune and Trident, these two systems were added this year as well. One thing I always loved was the simplicity of the system, less moving parts lass electronics less items to worry about failing.
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Water Parameters:
  • Temp: 76-77
  • pH: 8.06-8.26
  • Specific gravity: 1.025-.026 or 34.5-35 ppt
  • NO3: 5-10
  • Ca: 470-490
  • Alk: 9.5 -9.7
  • Mg: 1225-1250
  • PO4: .02-05
  • Ammonia and nitrites: 0
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What salt mix do you use?

LiveAquaria Professional Reef Salt

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

I used a combination of life rock from my established 150 reef and added an additional 400-500 lbs

What is your substrate?

400 lbs of Ocean Direct Live Sand Oolite

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

I currently use Tropic Marin All-For-Reef and Bulk Reef Supply’s Calcium chloride

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

Liquid carbon dosing 100ml of 6% vinegar dosing is spread throughout the day.

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blonde naso2.jpeg

Lighting Summary and Objectives:

Lighting changes all day, every day, from the first bit of light at sunrise to the last of the sun during sunset. The intensity is constantly changing, cloud cover, lightning moonlight all effect the look of the tank.

22.jpeg

What is your export strategy?

Ever changing constant flow with some very turbulent times where everyone better hold on to something. I believe with constantly changing water movement it allows the coast to coast overflow the ability to capture as much of the floating detritus not allowing it to settle on the rocks or sand bed.

What is your maintenance routine?

Daily:
With the addition of the Apex and Trident systems daily routines have been able to be cutback, dosing and water parameters are all checked many times a day
Weekly: Filter sock replacement, clean the acrylic, and do a small water change.
Other: About every 4-6 months I go on the roof and see if the sun-domes need to be cleaned if they do I’ll give them a quick buff with fine cut polish and they are good to go.

23.jpeg

Tank Inhabitants—Fish:
  • Gem Tang
  • Yellow Tang
  • Blonde Naso Tang
  • Regal Tang
  • White-Tailed Kole Tang
  • Copper Banded Butterfly
  • Blue Stripe Butterfly
  • Swallowtail Angelfish
  • Flame Angel
  • Coral Beauty
  • Flame Hawkfish
  • Diamond Watchman Goby
  • Mandarin Dragonet
  • Orange Back Fairy Wrasse
  • Melanurus Fairy Wrasse
  • Twin Spot Wrasse
  • Six Line Wrasse
  • Lyretail Anthias
  • Bartlett's Anthias
  • Ocellaris Clownfish
  • One Spot Foxface
  • Talbot's Damselfish
  • Yellowtail Damselfish
  • Blue Damselfish
  • Three Stripe Damselfish

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Other Invertebrates:
  • Hermits crabs
  • Astrea snails
  • Blue Knuckle hermit
  • Blue Leg Hermit Crab
  • Brittle Starfish
  • Cerith snails
Tank Inhabitants— Corals: Primarily LPS and Softies.

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Fish and Coral Feeding:

Nori, Rod’s Food, PE Mysis, blood worms, live brine shrimp, flake

49.jpeg


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How did you decide what to keep in your tank?

Research, talking to friends in the hobby.

Any stocking regrets?


Well…One time early on I did bring home a stingray I was new in the saltwater hobby and the LFS said it would be fine…Famous last words. I got him out right away.

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

The Sun-Dome system

51.jpeg


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

Since the refresh I’ve been thinking I might try SPS again, I was having good luck with it in the beginning.

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

Keep it simple, when something does happen make small changes and adjust accordingly.

53.jpeg

Final Thoughts?

So there you have it a little glimpse of our natural sunlit Reef. 11 years ago when I had the idea to try a natural sunlight lighting system I was in uncharted Territory there weren't many systems to fall back on for advice or suggestions. It was all developed by trial and error. Early on I had many pieces of coral die because of such intense lighting. I now have an acclamation mesh used for gardening that can be installed over the sun domes to reduce the intensity kind of like an acclamation dimming program you would use for an LED lighting system.

Controlling algae when lighting with sunlight can be a challenge and again a learning curve with where the sweet spot was for Po4 and No3 needed to be kept. It's gotten to the point where I don't even need to check those levels and I can tell just by looking at the Rock and Sand bed what they are.

Here's to the next 11 years let's see what our natural sunlit reef will look like then. I can't wait!



Thanks for letting me share a bit about our reef!



Happy Reefing, Joe

54.jpeg
 

ying yang

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Beautiful tank ,and yeah don't see many sun lit tanks,but glad you got it dialled in and happy you continued with your tank in memory off your wife and tough times you had.
Keep up the good work and keep yourself busy ^_^
 

Gardnaaa

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Congrats for being reef of the month! I actually just read through your build thread a couple days ago. It was heartbreaking the stuff you guys went through as a family. I’m sorry for your loss man, I’m happy you didn’t shut the tank down after everything though. Keep up the great work, the tank is beautiful.
 

Peace River

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Powerful story, beautiful tank, thanks for sharing!
 

revhtree

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So blessed to have you here brother! I’ve cried many times reading your updates throughout the years. Thank you for sharing with us!!!
 

kdx7214

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Introduction:

My name is Joseph Palermo and it is an honor to have been selected as Reef Tank of the Month. I am humbled to be in the company of so many accomplished aquarium hobbyists. I have been inspired by so many of the tanks over the years, and although these reef keepers don’t know me personally, they have been my mentors in this wonderful hobby. It is with great excitement I present Our Natural Sun-lit Reef for your review.

Where to begin... I've been an aquarium hobbyist for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the Bronx, New York early on I could remember my father's fish tanks. It was a joy being able to assist him with water changes and cleaning the tanks. Some of my great memories are when we would feed the Oscars live goldfish. We even had a saltwater tank with clownfish and some ornamental coral I was drawn to the coloring of the saltwater fish. Even back then. I thought to myself… someday I would have my own.

Jump forward many years, I am now married and have my own home and the itch started to have a fish tank. Like so many others, the first dive back into the aquarium hobby started small. I remember my first tank was a 38-gallon freshwater community tank with neon tetras, tiger barbs, a shark, and freshwater staple the plecostomus.

Quickly I grew tired of such a small tank and upgraded to a 155 bow front African Cichlid tank. The colors and activity were enjoyable, but I still wanted that saltwater tank. So I added a 150-gallon reef tank. Lighting and cooling we're always a major problem, and electricity costs to run three 250 watt metal halides, four 160 watt 6 ft VHO's, and a 1/2 horsepower chiller were breaking the bank.

I remember it like it was yesterday, waking up one Saturday morning, I greeted my beloved wife at the dining room table for coffee and I began my pitch. "I have an idea!" She looks at me with the "oh my God, here we go again" and says “okay… let's hear it..." I get up and walk to the entry wall and point and say, “I want to tear down this wall! Cut holes in the roof for sunlight to come in! Then build a 400 gallon fish tank that fills this whole wall!" She looks and is quiet for a moment. She asks one question, "Do you think you can build that?" I look back at her and say, “I know I can!” And her response (as we already know) was, "Let's do it!"

3.jpeg

When I was asked about featuring my tank as Reef of the month, I was worried about the emotional roller coaster that came into our lives just after the development of our natural Sun-lit Reef. I'm not going to lie. During portions of this write-up I've shed some tears with some of the memories.

Our family's struggle with my wife's battle with late stage 4 cancer could have been the end of the reef before it was even started. Kelly wouldn't hear of it. It became a testament of our love and commitment to each other and our passion for the reef hobby.

After Kelly's passing, I leaned on so many of my reefing friends around the world for strength and support. All I can say is "Thank you!" While I haven’t met so many of you, I think of you as friends.

In 2020 with COVID ravaging the world, not knowing how the everyday would turn, I fell into a deep battle with depression. Work was really the only thing that kept me going. The reef tank took a back seat, maintenance and husbandry really fell off a cliff. Towards the end of 2021, I had a pipe rupture in the foundation of my home and flooded portions of it. I really was ready to throw in the towel, break the tank down, sell the house, and find a new place to start over.

4.jpeg

After talking with several close friends and some of Kelly's dearest, they all made suggestions about reimagining the tank. Use that energy to reinvigorate yourself. And the lightbulb went off! I'm enjoying the hobby again! The reef tank is a testament of our love and commitment to her!

In the end, nothing is ever so lost that it cannot be found again, and no tears have ever been cried that weren't worth the joy that came before.

I'd like to present Our Natural Sunlit Reef in loving memory of my beloved wife Kelly.

5.jpeg

System Profile Questions:
  • Display tank: The display tank is 400 gallons dimensions are 72 by 36 by 36 constructed with 1-inch-thick acrylic and a coast to coast overflow.
  • Glass or Acrylic: The tank is 1 in thick acrylic
  • Stand: Where the fish tank stand sits used to be my laundry room the construction is 2x4s 2x6s ¾ in marine grade plywood for the to. The sides were reskinned with sheetrock, textured and painted to match the existing walls.
  • Sump: The sump is 5 ft x 2ft x2 ft I have two filter sock chambers and connection for two Reeflo Super Dart Gold pumps.
  • Protein skimmer: A My Reef Creations MR-6R recirculating protein skimmer powered by a Reeflo Hammerhead Gold
  • Return pump: Reeflo Super Dart Gold
  • Water circulation: 2 Ecotech MP60’s and Maxspect Gyre XF280
  • Lighting: The main lighting for the reef tank is natural sunlight! The Sun-dome lighting system used was built by a company in Miami, Florida The 21” domes give of the equivalent of over 3000 watts of metal halide lighting. One of the great features next to zero heat transfer to the tank of surrounding area.
6.jpeg


7.jpeg


8.jpeg


9.jpeg


10.jpeg


11.jpeg

One thing that always bothered me was not being able to show the reef in the evening, during the tank refresh I added four Kessel a500's

12.jpeg


13.jpeg
  • Calcium/alkalinity/magnesium dosing equipment: Apex Trident & Bubble Magus Dosing Pump
  • Auto top-off: For auto top off I have two electronic float switches that control the reservoir output, to the sump one is set at water level and a failsafe just above incase the primary switch fails.
  • Heating/cooling: Heating and cooling are easily controlled by a fan mounted at the top of the tank with just the one fan the tank stays between 76-77 degrees all year.
  • System control: I use an Apex Neptune and Trident, these two systems were added this year as well. One thing I always loved was the simplicity of the system, less moving parts lass electronics less items to worry about failing.
14.jpeg


15.jpeg

Water Parameters:
  • Temp: 76-77
  • pH: 8.06-8.26
  • Specific gravity: 1.025-.026 or 34.5-35 ppt
  • NO3: 5-10
  • Ca: 470-490
  • Alk: 9.5 -9.7
  • Mg: 1225-1250
  • PO4: .02-05
  • Ammonia and nitrites: 0
16.jpeg


17.jpeg

What salt mix do you use?

LiveAquaria Professional Reef Salt

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

I used a combination of life rock from my established 150 reef and added an additional 400-500 lbs

What is your substrate?

400 lbs of Ocean Direct Live Sand Oolite

18.jpeg


19.jpeg

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

I currently use Tropic Marin All-For-Reef and Bulk Reef Supply’s Calcium chloride

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

Liquid carbon dosing 100ml of 6% vinegar dosing is spread throughout the day.

20.jpeg


21.jpeg


blonde naso2.jpeg

Lighting Summary and Objectives:

Lighting changes all day, every day, from the first bit of light at sunrise to the last of the sun during sunset. The intensity is constantly changing, cloud cover, lightning moonlight all effect the look of the tank.

22.jpeg

What is your export strategy?

Ever changing constant flow with some very turbulent times where everyone better hold on to something. I believe with constantly changing water movement it allows the coast to coast overflow the ability to capture as much of the floating detritus not allowing it to settle on the rocks or sand bed.

What is your maintenance routine?

Daily:
With the addition of the Apex and Trident systems daily routines have been able to be cutback, dosing and water parameters are all checked many times a day
Weekly: Filter sock replacement, clean the acrylic, and do a small water change.
Other: About every 4-6 months I go on the roof and see if the sun-domes need to be cleaned if they do I’ll give them a quick buff with fine cut polish and they are good to go.

23.jpeg

Tank Inhabitants—Fish:
  • Gem Tang
  • Yellow Tang
  • Blonde Naso Tang
  • Regal Tang
  • White-Tailed Kole Tang
  • Copper Banded Butterfly
  • Blue Stripe Butterfly
  • Swallowtail Angelfish
  • Flame Angel
  • Coral Beauty
  • Flame Hawkfish
  • Diamond Watchman Goby
  • Mandarin Dragonet
  • Orange Back Fairy Wrasse
  • Melanurus Fairy Wrasse
  • Twin Spot Wrasse
  • Six Line Wrasse
  • Lyretail Anthias
  • Bartlett's Anthias
  • Ocellaris Clownfish
  • One Spot Foxface
  • Talbot's Damselfish
  • Yellowtail Damselfish
  • Blue Damselfish
  • Three Stripe Damselfish

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28.jpeg


29.jpeg


30.jpeg


31.jpeg


32.jpeg


33.jpeg


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35.jpeg


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39.jpeg

Other Invertebrates:
  • Hermits crabs
  • Astrea snails
  • Blue Knuckle hermit
  • Blue Leg Hermit Crab
  • Brittle Starfish
  • Cerith snails
Tank Inhabitants— Corals: Primarily LPS and Softies.

40.jpeg


41.jpeg


42.jpeg


43.jpeg


44.jpeg


45.jpeg


46.jpeg


47.jpeg


48.jpeg

Fish and Coral Feeding:

Nori, Rod’s Food, PE Mysis, blood worms, live brine shrimp, flake

49.jpeg


50.jpeg

How did you decide what to keep in your tank?

Research, talking to friends in the hobby.

Any stocking regrets?


Well…One time early on I did bring home a stingray I was new in the saltwater hobby and the LFS said it would be fine…Famous last words. I got him out right away.

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

The Sun-Dome system

51.jpeg


52.jpeg

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

Since the refresh I’ve been thinking I might try SPS again, I was having good luck with it in the beginning.

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

Keep it simple, when something does happen make small changes and adjust accordingly.

53.jpeg

Final Thoughts?

So there you have it a little glimpse of our natural sunlit Reef. 11 years ago when I had the idea to try a natural sunlight lighting system I was in uncharted Territory there weren't many systems to fall back on for advice or suggestions. It was all developed by trial and error. Early on I had many pieces of coral die because of such intense lighting. I now have an acclamation mesh used for gardening that can be installed over the sun domes to reduce the intensity kind of like an acclamation dimming program you would use for an LED lighting system.

Controlling algae when lighting with sunlight can be a challenge and again a learning curve with where the sweet spot was for Po4 and No3 needed to be kept. It's gotten to the point where I don't even need to check those levels and I can tell just by looking at the Rock and Sand bed what they are.

Here's to the next 11 years let's see what our natural sunlit reef will look like then. I can't wait!



Thanks for letting me share a bit about our reef!



Happy Reefing, Joe

54.jpeg

I'm so sorry for your loss. My wife has cancer and recently had surgery for it, so many many best wishes to you. Glad you're keeping up with the tank. It looks great!
 

maroun.c

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This was always a special tank with a very special story behind it. Always good to see tanks that end up making it despite the odds. Congrats on ROTM hope it adds to the motivation to keep the tank going!
 

Roli's Reef Ranch

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Hey Joe! Gorgeous tank. I love the natural colors that sunlight brings out in your tank. I was very moved by your story and know your wife is very proud of you for pulling through and keeping this masterpiece of living art alive and thriving. What's funny is that I first came across your build thread the day before you achieved TOTM and spent a good deal of time learning about how you did it; was truly amazed at your ingenuity and had no idea about the rest of the history. Thanks for sharing, well deserved!
 

One Fish

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Joseph
Incredible story, Incredible tank. I am going to have a tank built in to a new house. I am very interested in natural light. I think it will work well in Houston TX.

I know you have had yours for awhile. Is there a specific Sun Dome model that is better than others for a reef tank?

Is UV an issue? Does the Sun Dome filter it or is it necessary for the reef? I’m thinking it’s an important part of the spectrum.

Any advice on salt water corroding parts?

thank you for any advice.
 

KK's Reef

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Amazing tank, and an even more amazing story. I don't know you Joe, but your story is heartfelt, and truly sorry for your loss. I'm glad you got through it. Keep it movin' and keep on reefing.
 

Manny’s Reef

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Introduction:

My name is Joseph Palermo and it is an honor to have been selected as Reef Tank of the Month. I am humbled to be in the company of so many accomplished aquarium hobbyists. I have been inspired by so many of the tanks over the years, and although these reef keepers don’t know me personally, they have been my mentors in this wonderful hobby. It is with great excitement I present Our Natural Sun-lit Reef for your review.

Where to begin... I've been an aquarium hobbyist for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the Bronx, New York early on I could remember my father's fish tanks. It was a joy being able to assist him with water changes and cleaning the tanks. Some of my great memories are when we would feed the Oscars live goldfish. We even had a saltwater tank with clownfish and some ornamental coral I was drawn to the coloring of the saltwater fish. Even back then. I thought to myself… someday I would have my own.

Jump forward many years, I am now married and have my own home and the itch started to have a fish tank. Like so many others, the first dive back into the aquarium hobby started small. I remember my first tank was a 38-gallon freshwater community tank with neon tetras, tiger barbs, a shark, and freshwater staple the plecostomus.

Quickly I grew tired of such a small tank and upgraded to a 155 bow front African Cichlid tank. The colors and activity were enjoyable, but I still wanted that saltwater tank. So I added a 150-gallon reef tank. Lighting and cooling we're always a major problem, and electricity costs to run three 250 watt metal halides, four 160 watt 6 ft VHO's, and a 1/2 horsepower chiller were breaking the bank.

I remember it like it was yesterday, waking up one Saturday morning, I greeted my beloved wife at the dining room table for coffee and I began my pitch. "I have an idea!" She looks at me with the "oh my God, here we go again" and says “okay… let's hear it..." I get up and walk to the entry wall and point and say, “I want to tear down this wall! Cut holes in the roof for sunlight to come in! Then build a 400 gallon fish tank that fills this whole wall!" She looks and is quiet for a moment. She asks one question, "Do you think you can build that?" I look back at her and say, “I know I can!” And her response (as we already know) was, "Let's do it!"

3.jpeg

When I was asked about featuring my tank as Reef of the month, I was worried about the emotional roller coaster that came into our lives just after the development of our natural Sun-lit Reef. I'm not going to lie. During portions of this write-up I've shed some tears with some of the memories.

Our family's struggle with my wife's battle with late stage 4 cancer could have been the end of the reef before it was even started. Kelly wouldn't hear of it. It became a testament of our love and commitment to each other and our passion for the reef hobby.

After Kelly's passing, I leaned on so many of my reefing friends around the world for strength and support. All I can say is "Thank you!" While I haven’t met so many of you, I think of you as friends.

In 2020 with COVID ravaging the world, not knowing how the everyday would turn, I fell into a deep battle with depression. Work was really the only thing that kept me going. The reef tank took a back seat, maintenance and husbandry really fell off a cliff. Towards the end of 2021, I had a pipe rupture in the foundation of my home and flooded portions of it. I really was ready to throw in the towel, break the tank down, sell the house, and find a new place to start over.

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After talking with several close friends and some of Kelly's dearest, they all made suggestions about reimagining the tank. Use that energy to reinvigorate yourself. And the lightbulb went off! I'm enjoying the hobby again! The reef tank is a testament of our love and commitment to her!

In the end, nothing is ever so lost that it cannot be found again, and no tears have ever been cried that weren't worth the joy that came before.

I'd like to present Our Natural Sunlit Reef in loving memory of my beloved wife Kelly.

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System Profile Questions:
  • Display tank: The display tank is 400 gallons dimensions are 72 by 36 by 36 constructed with 1-inch-thick acrylic and a coast to coast overflow.
  • Glass or Acrylic: The tank is 1 in thick acrylic
  • Stand: Where the fish tank stand sits used to be my laundry room the construction is 2x4s 2x6s ¾ in marine grade plywood for the to. The sides were reskinned with sheetrock, textured and painted to match the existing walls.
  • Sump: The sump is 5 ft x 2ft x2 ft I have two filter sock chambers and connection for two Reeflo Super Dart Gold pumps.
  • Protein skimmer: A My Reef Creations MR-6R recirculating protein skimmer powered by a Reeflo Hammerhead Gold
  • Return pump: Reeflo Super Dart Gold
  • Water circulation: 2 Ecotech MP60’s and Maxspect Gyre XF280
  • Lighting: The main lighting for the reef tank is natural sunlight! The Sun-dome lighting system used was built by a company in Miami, Florida The 21” domes give of the equivalent of over 3000 watts of metal halide lighting. One of the great features next to zero heat transfer to the tank of surrounding area.
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One thing that always bothered me was not being able to show the reef in the evening, during the tank refresh I added four Kessel a500's

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  • Calcium/alkalinity/magnesium dosing equipment: Apex Trident & Bubble Magus Dosing Pump
  • Auto top-off: For auto top off I have two electronic float switches that control the reservoir output, to the sump one is set at water level and a failsafe just above incase the primary switch fails.
  • Heating/cooling: Heating and cooling are easily controlled by a fan mounted at the top of the tank with just the one fan the tank stays between 76-77 degrees all year.
  • System control: I use an Apex Neptune and Trident, these two systems were added this year as well. One thing I always loved was the simplicity of the system, less moving parts lass electronics less items to worry about failing.
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Water Parameters:
  • Temp: 76-77
  • pH: 8.06-8.26
  • Specific gravity: 1.025-.026 or 34.5-35 ppt
  • NO3: 5-10
  • Ca: 470-490
  • Alk: 9.5 -9.7
  • Mg: 1225-1250
  • PO4: .02-05
  • Ammonia and nitrites: 0
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What salt mix do you use?

LiveAquaria Professional Reef Salt

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

I used a combination of life rock from my established 150 reef and added an additional 400-500 lbs

What is your substrate?

400 lbs of Ocean Direct Live Sand Oolite

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

I currently use Tropic Marin All-For-Reef and Bulk Reef Supply’s Calcium chloride

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

Liquid carbon dosing 100ml of 6% vinegar dosing is spread throughout the day.

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Lighting Summary and Objectives:

Lighting changes all day, every day, from the first bit of light at sunrise to the last of the sun during sunset. The intensity is constantly changing, cloud cover, lightning moonlight all effect the look of the tank.

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What is your export strategy?

Ever changing constant flow with some very turbulent times where everyone better hold on to something. I believe with constantly changing water movement it allows the coast to coast overflow the ability to capture as much of the floating detritus not allowing it to settle on the rocks or sand bed.

What is your maintenance routine?

Daily:
With the addition of the Apex and Trident systems daily routines have been able to be cutback, dosing and water parameters are all checked many times a day
Weekly: Filter sock replacement, clean the acrylic, and do a small water change.
Other: About every 4-6 months I go on the roof and see if the sun-domes need to be cleaned if they do I’ll give them a quick buff with fine cut polish and they are good to go.

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Tank Inhabitants—Fish:
  • Gem Tang
  • Yellow Tang
  • Blonde Naso Tang
  • Regal Tang
  • White-Tailed Kole Tang
  • Copper Banded Butterfly
  • Blue Stripe Butterfly
  • Swallowtail Angelfish
  • Flame Angel
  • Coral Beauty
  • Flame Hawkfish
  • Diamond Watchman Goby
  • Mandarin Dragonet
  • Orange Back Fairy Wrasse
  • Melanurus Fairy Wrasse
  • Twin Spot Wrasse
  • Six Line Wrasse
  • Lyretail Anthias
  • Bartlett's Anthias
  • Ocellaris Clownfish
  • One Spot Foxface
  • Talbot's Damselfish
  • Yellowtail Damselfish
  • Blue Damselfish
  • Three Stripe Damselfish

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Other Invertebrates:
  • Hermits crabs
  • Astrea snails
  • Blue Knuckle hermit
  • Blue Leg Hermit Crab
  • Brittle Starfish
  • Cerith snails
Tank Inhabitants— Corals: Primarily LPS and Softies.

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Fish and Coral Feeding:

Nori, Rod’s Food, PE Mysis, blood worms, live brine shrimp, flake

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How did you decide what to keep in your tank?

Research, talking to friends in the hobby.

Any stocking regrets?


Well…One time early on I did bring home a stingray I was new in the saltwater hobby and the LFS said it would be fine…Famous last words. I got him out right away.

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

The Sun-Dome system

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

Since the refresh I’ve been thinking I might try SPS again, I was having good luck with it in the beginning.

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

Keep it simple, when something does happen make small changes and adjust accordingly.

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Final Thoughts?

So there you have it a little glimpse of our natural sunlit Reef. 11 years ago when I had the idea to try a natural sunlight lighting system I was in uncharted Territory there weren't many systems to fall back on for advice or suggestions. It was all developed by trial and error. Early on I had many pieces of coral die because of such intense lighting. I now have an acclamation mesh used for gardening that can be installed over the sun domes to reduce the intensity kind of like an acclamation dimming program you would use for an LED lighting system.

Controlling algae when lighting with sunlight can be a challenge and again a learning curve with where the sweet spot was for Po4 and No3 needed to be kept. It's gotten to the point where I don't even need to check those levels and I can tell just by looking at the Rock and Sand bed what they are.

Here's to the next 11 years let's see what our natural sunlit reef will look like then. I can't wait!



Thanks for letting me share a bit about our reef!



Happy Reefing, Joe

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Glad to see you featured here. I actually followed you years ago and remember when your wife became ill. I shared your story with my wife back then. I'm happy to see that you found one extra way to allow her memory to live on.
 

jdpiii3

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Joseph
Incredible story, Incredible tank. I am going to have a tank built in to a new house. I am very interested in natural light. I think it will work well in Houston TX.

I know you have had yours for awhile. Is there a specific Sun Dome model that is better than others for a reef tank?

Is UV an issue? Does the Sun Dome filter it or is it necessary for the reef? I’m thinking it’s an important part of the spectrum.

Any advice on salt water corroding parts?

thank you for any advice.
That's really awesome wish you lots of luck with the planning. I had really good luck with Sun Dome they are based out of West Palm Beach and are Miami-Dade certified against hurricanes and wind.

When they formulate the acrylic for the domes, the compound is mixed to filter out the harmful UV rays stopping heat transfer, but does allow full color spectrum to penetrate.

As far as corrosion over 11 years the tubes have remained nearly perfect a little bit of condensation residue and some dust is all that has accumulated over the years. Which is easily removed with a microfiber duster on a long pole. And if there is ever issue with the mirrored tubing they do come with a 25-year warranty.
 
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