I am really honoured and humbled for the selection of my tank as September’s Reef of the Month. Thank you so much Reef2Reef. Thanks to my wife for the support, and a big thank you to the Thai reefing community for all the help, assistance, advice and inspiration given to me throughout the years!
My name is Jorge Macedo and I am a 57 years young Portuguese reefer living in Bangkok, Thailand since 2006.
Living in a 10th floor apartment poses some challenges to the hobby, tank weight, the size of the lift (elevator) to fit a tank in, the electrical amperage limit on the circuit breakers, room size and the hope I will never arrive home and see water gushing from under the door. The tank is a custom made 180 US gallons tank and it is in my living room. I have no other tanks.
I started this tank in 2017. It is a small upgrade from my previous 150 US Gal. I upgraded because I hated to look at the scratches on the front panel of the old tank.
This system is quite simple. I rely on a carbon source and skimming to keep nutrients low, UV sterilizer to keep parasites under control, 10% weekly water changes, Balling, and I am the tank controller.
The cooling system consists of a 9000 BTU A/C compressor with a drop-in coil.
For the rockscape, I was inspired by the many beautiful Thai reef tanks. I am not as creative, but I tried at least to have the upper half of the tank for coral to grow and the lower half for the fish to swim.
As the tank is now five years old, and everything is relatively stable, I have removed probes. I used to check PH and ORP, but as I don’t like to experiment and make changes, I bet PH and ORP values are about the same as a couple of years ago. Less equipment, less things to clean, calibrate, and replace. I try my own KISS method (Keep It Simple and Stable).
- Display tank: 6’x2’x2’ – 182x60x60 cm – 180USgallons
- Glass or Acrylic: low iron glass (only front and sides)
- Stand: custom made wooden stand
- Sump: 30”x17”x15” glass tank
- Grow-out tank: none, but would love to have one.
- Protein skimmer: Tunze DOC 9430
- Carbon/phosphate filtration: 24 ml of RedSea NoPox daily via dosing pump and 1kg (two pounds) of GAC monthly in a mesh bag in the sump.
- Return pump: Ecotech Vectra M1
- Water circulation: Six Ecotech MP40
- Lighting: Five Hydra 52 non-HD, two Hydra 52HD, two Hydra 64HD (9 modules in total)
- Calcium/alkalinity/magnesium/dosing equipment: Fauna Marin Balling Method via dosing pumps.
- Auto top-off: DIY with components from Ebay.
- Cooling: 9000 BTU A/C compressor with drop-in coil
- System control: I am the controller.
- Any other details: Daily dose of 8 ml of Potassium, targeting 420ppm.
Water Circulation and Flow Summary and Objectives:
This has been a headache. I like to provide plenty of random flow to the SPS corals. In the past I used two Maxspect Gyres, one on each side and I love that combination but as corals grew reaching the water surface, that flow was directly hitting them and causing tissue loss, so I replaced them with three Ecotech MP40 on each side of the tank. Despite the changes I am still dealing with some lack of flow in some areas.
- Temp: 78.8F – 26ºc
- pH: I stopped measuring PH two years ago since I don’t change the way I do things. PH used to be between 7.9 and 8.2.
- Salinity/Specific gravity: 35ppt -1.026sg @ 26ºc
- Mg: 1380 ppm
- Ca: 420 ppm
- Alk: 8 dkh
- K: 400 ppm
- NO3: Undetectable (Salifert)
- PO4: Undetectable (Salifert)
What salt mix do you use?
I have been using Fauna Marin since 2016. I was using other brands and a Calcium Reactor while a friend of mine, Mr. Ekkachai Henkarnkrai, was using the Fauna Marin Balling Method. I saw his corals achieving massive growth and the most beautiful coloration I have ever seen under daylight settings. His tank was just beautiful and that totally convinced me to start using Fauna Marin salt and the Fauna Marin Balling Method and I am really happy with the results, the ease of use and the stability of water parameters.
What kind of rock did you start with?
I started with some local dry branches and Epoxy putty to secure said branches.
What is your substrate?
Cheap crushed coral from a local market and sold by the kilogram.
Calcium/Alkalinity/Magnesium Summary and Objectives:
Someone once said, “S-tability P-romotes S-uccess” and I totally agree. I try to keep the major elements of saltwater very stable and balanced in order to avoid precipitation of elements and the respective negative effects on coral.
What and how do you dose for the big 3 (alk/cal/mag)?
I dose Alk, Ca and Mg from the Fauna Marin Balling Light Method. Each element has to be added to RO water resulting in three separated solutions, and trace elements need to be added to the Ca and Alk solutions and dosed via dosing pumps.
Are you dosing anything else for your reef health (carbon dosing, aminos, etc.)?
As part of the Fauna Marin Balling Method, trace elements are added to the Ca and Alk solutions.
To keep low level of nutrients I dose 23 ml of RedSea NoPox daily, that increases the bacterial load and some of that bacteria is killed by the UV Steriliser and exported via skimmer, removing some nutrients and some Potassium consumed by the bacteria.
I have been using RedSea NoPox for at least eight years. I love the product, but one needs to be careful never to add any kind of bottled bacteria while dosing NoPox. That creates a mess of stringy pinkish bacteria in the sump. Don’t rush things. The bacteria already existent in the tank is enough for the product to work IMO.
I also dose 8 ml of Potassium daily (Fauna Marin Elementals K) via dosing pump to keep Potassium at 400 ppm.
I don’t dose anything else. I stopped dosing amino acids in November 2021. I used to, but never noticed any real positive effects on my corals. Only noticed an increase of algae and cyanobacteria.
Last year, I had a gorgeous and large acropora colony that started showing signs of STN, so I made 10 frags from it and started dosing just 5ml of aminos per week, way below the recommended dose for my tank (that would be 36 ml/week). Coincidentally, the day after dosing aminos there was some STN on those weak frags. That happened every single week. With only three frags of the coral left, I decided to stop dosing aminos for good and those frags are now growing and starting to show some nice colouration. So far, I haven’t noticed any negative effects from stopping the dose of amino acids.
It is possible the foods I use to feed my fish (a homemade blend of shrimp, fish, clams and nori) already contain some amino acids. I am not saying that my observation is universally true. In other people’s tanks, aminos could have a positive effect on acropora corals, but that does not seem the case with my tank.
Lighting Summary and Objectives:
I started this hobby mostly with fish and I love to see their beautiful colours, also I love to see solid colours on corals. I enter my home and I see colour from afar, personally I prefer a more whitish light setting for my tank, so I keep my LED whites at 70%.
- From 7 am to 8:20 am, UV, Violet, Royal Blue and Blue ramp up, and from 6:40 pm to 8 pm, they ramp down.
- From 8:20 am to 10 am, Green, Deep Red, and Cool White ramp up, and from 5 pm to 6:40 pm, they ramp down.
Filtration and Water Quality Summary and Objectives:
For the production of RO/DI water, I use a six stage system. I believe ORP gives a good indication of water quality. (I no longer measure ORP, but I did measure it until my routines were all very well established.) My corals are happier with an ORP between 400mV and 480mV. If ORP goes below 300mV, something is not right in my tank.
What is your export strategy?
A filter sock, a carbon source, a protein skimmer, a flocculant, and good husbandry are the only things I use for the bulk of exporting Nutrients. I do 10% weekly water changes mainly to take the edge of things.
What is your maintenance routine?
Daily: Empty the skimmer, change filter sock if needed, and test alkalinity.
Weekly: Clean back panel, do a water change, fill the ATO tank, test Mg, Ca, K and No3, dose a flocculant (Fauna Marin Coral Balance), and a quick clean of flow pumps.
Other: Clean front and side panels every other day and clean the sump and the protein skimmer every three months.
- Cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus)
- Pair of Yellow Coris Wrasses (Halichoeres chrysus)
- Red Coris Wrasse (Coris gaimard)
- Melanurus Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus)
- Blue Nose Pencil Wrasse (Pseudojuloides kaleidos)
- Female Leopard Wrasse (Macropharyngodon meleagris)
- Black Leopard Wrasse (Macropharyngodon negrosensis)
- Ornate Leopard Wrasse (Macropharyngodon ornatus)
- Yellow Tail Tamarin Wrasse (Anampses meleagrides)
- Black Backed Wrasse (Anampses neoguinaicus)
- Orange Back Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis)
- Pair of Yellow Fin Fairy Wrasses (Cirrhilabrus flavidorsalis)
- Female Pearly Wrasse (Halichoeres margaritaceus)
- Picasso Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus aculeatus)
- Blue Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus)
- Powder Blue Tang (Acanthurus leucosternon)
- Gemmatum Tang (Zebrasoma gemmatum)
- Chocolate Tang (Acanthurus pyroferus)
- Orange Shoulder Tang (Acanthurus olivaceus)
- Pair of Green Mandarins (Synchiropus splendidus)
- Yellow Belly Regal Angel
- Marginalis Butterflyfish (Chelmon marginalis)
- Hi Fin Coradion Butterflyfish (Coradion altivelis)
- Dusky Butterflyfish (Chaetodon flavirostris)
- Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus)
- Flame Hawkfish (Neocirrhites armatus)
- Spotted Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys Oxycephalus)
- Pair of Tomato Clownfish (Amphiprion frenatus)
- Two Blue Linckia Starfish ( Four years old and one year old)
- Sand Sifting Starfish (Seven years old)
- Three Tuxedo Sea Urchins
- Two Tridacna clams
- Christmas tree worms
Tank Inhabitants— Corals:
I would be lying if I said I know the majority of my coral’s names. I am not a collector. I go by their colours--how they will look and fit in my tank. I know some names but I would rather show some pics instead.
Fish and Coral Feeding:
Fish poop and whatever they can get from my home-made food blend that mainly consists of shrimp, fish, clams, mussels and nori.
How did you decide what to keep in your tank?
I am trying to have a tiny slice of an Acropora dominated reef in my home. Usually I know what fish or coral I want for my tank. If it is a fish, invert, or coral that I am not familiar with, I do some research and or ask for an opinion, and then I decide if I want to keep it or not.
Any stocking regrets?
Not really. Two months ago, I purchased a Dusky butterflyfish. I love the fish and have decided to take risks. My SPS corals endured a period of nipping. Alkalinity consumption went down about 150 ml a day, especially during the 10 days that it took the fish to start accepting live foods. Gradually, the fish is nipping less and the alkalinity consumption is going up again, so I am starting to think that I will be able to keep the fish.
Any fish, invert, or coral you will NEVER keep?
Sure! The ones that prove not to be reef compatible, too aggressive, too big, too small, or that I cannot afford.
What do you love most about the hobby?
I love being able to contemplate the beauty of my slice of the ocean. I eat only one a meal a day, so I grab a small table and a stool and have my meal right in front of the tank while enjoying the view up close. I really enjoy that time of the day.
Also, making new hobby related friends is another nice aspect of the hobby. I fondly remember having the pleasure of receiving the visit of @Lowell Lemon (a member of this forum) and his wife during their stay in Bangkok. That was December 2016 if I am not mistaken. There are always nice conversations and something to learn from other reefers' experiences.
How long have you been doing this?
Not really sure, but I believe 1991 was the year I stopped having freshwater tanks and jumped into the saltwater hobby. At that time, I was invited to a friend and colleague´s home and right in his living room there was a beautiful saltwater tank. It was a fish only tank with the most beautiful fish I ever had seen. It was love at first sight! I went back home looked at my freshwater tank and decided that I wanted a saltwater tank!
In a matter of weeks, I was the proud owner of a custom made 200 US gallons saltwater tank! At the time I only had fish, anemones, a couple of hermit crabs, and ornamental shrimp.
Fast forwarding to 2012, my wife and I bought this 10th floor apartment where we live, and in that same year, I resumed the hobby with a 150 US gallons tank.
Who or what in the hobby most influences/inspires you?
Any mature and beautiful reef tank inspires me, I confess I love the creativity and beauty of the rockscapes made by Thai reefers, I am not as creative but at least I learnt from them and stopped doing “rock walls”, Some Thai tanks from the past and present times are very inspiring.
If you could have any tank, what size would it be and why?
Living in a two bedroom apartment does not allow me to have those kind of wishes, but if I could I would love to have a 8’x32”x32” (243cm x 81cm x 81cm) 350 US Gallons.
I will never forget my Platax Teira Batfish. It was love at first sight. To be honest I had no idea what I was buying. It was the cutest 3" little fish I had seen during my first years in the hobby. I thought that little tiny creature couldn’t grow much! Oh boy, was I wrong!
The Platax Teira batfish is my favourite fish for sentimental reasons. It was one of my first fish and I loved it! Never had a fish that could eat so much! His favourite meal was 25 raw cockles! Sadly, I will never have a Teira batfish again as it needs a very large tank.
My Platax Teira batfish - 1996
Tri-Color Valida acropora! I had lost mine to a tank crash few years ago. I was so sad, then I remembered that I had given a frag to my friend, Ekkachai Henkarnkrai, so I took a frag from his colony and now there is growing to a large a beautiful colony in my tank.
Christmas tree worms, no doubt! I love them!
How do you typically get over setbacks?
I try to find the reasons behind such setbacks and improve on that. I am a happier person when I have a reef tank. Four and a half years ago I came home from hospital after a heart attack and stenting. I looked at my tank but couldn’t see well, everything was very blurry, I looked at the equipment and all the wires and my brain was so foggy that I couldn’t understand how my system works, I felt so sad I almost cried. Now that I feel better, the tank is starting to look sharp again.
Have you faced any major challenges with this particular tank, and if so, how did you overcome?
In December 2017, I thought I had everything ready to leave home on a few days holiday to the islands in the south of Thailand as I used to do in previous years.
Automatic feeders, IP video camera with app control, 120 AH batteries and a brand new UPS for the pumps and dosers. Tested everything, and everything looked ready! Off I went to the Islands.
On December the 22nd, I grabbed my mobile phone and was horrified when I realized there was no flow in the tank, the water level in the tank was lower than usual, no return pump working, no flow pumps working, the photoperiod totally shifted, lights were on during the night and off during day time! I booked a speed boat and an aeroplane to return to Bangkok next day.
With no flow and the usual temperature of Bangkok the tank crashed. All fish died. I fragged and saved a few frags from some acros. Christmas tree worms, starfish and clams survived...though I have no idea how! As a result of the crash I spent Christmas Eve removing dead coral!
So, what happened? The building had some electrical problems, and they restarted the power several times and the UPS fried! Since then, every time I need to be away, I have hired a paid tank sitter to feed the fish and empty the skimmer and also, I leave the apartment keys with my wife’s relatives. If something happens I can try to fix it over the phone or call a reefer friend to fix it.
I restarted the tank and things were alright until a heart attack happened in February 2018. I spent 8 months walking with the aid of crutches, and I was a mess. I couldn’t take proper care of the tank and algae took over.
I decided to stop taking all medication, changed lifestyle, changed what and how I used to eat, and I started to feel much better. Diabetes reverted, no more pain, can walk, can run, no more eyesight problems. So once again, I removed all coral, fish and inverts, came up with the actual rockscape, placed everything back in and the tank has been just fine since.
Another issue are the prolonged and frequent power outages; they last from minutes to hours. I remember once we had no power for eleven hours, and I kept filling the sump with bought bags of ice!
My friend Ekkachai Henkarnkrai suggested to me that I use an EPS (Emergency Power Supply) as he was using one to provide backup to his reef, and I decided to follow his example.
My main concern was not about only the pumps and dosers, but also the lack of cooling. So, I bought an EPS for the pumps that I connected to a single 100AH battery and a more powerful EPS with 4x100HA batteries exclusively to keep the 9000 BTU A/C compressor powered. Problem solved. My tank has enough power backup to last some sixteen hours using the A/C compressor, according to my calculations.
Before, I had a small generator on the balcony. I used it many times… and I was always hoping to not have a neighbour knocking at my door because of the terrible noise! Luckily no one ever complained.
AEFW was another challenge. this year I found two acropora colonies having AEFW. I dipped a few colonies and found hundreds of AEFW and at the same time I added a few more wrasses (a pair of Yellow wrasses, a Six Line wrasse, a Pearly wrasse and a Yellow Tamarin wrasse). I have not seen any AEFW or bite marks since then… knocking on wood here!
What's the best thing you ever bought for your tank?
Definitely the Emergency Power Supply units, in the past couple of weeks there were a few power outages...one lasting a few hours and there was no problem. I even left home, returned a couple of hours later and everything was just fine.
What are your future plans for improvement/upgrade of the tank?
In the next few days, I am going to install a new doser (already purchased) all four channels will be dosing Alk as I no longer trust just having one channel to deliver so much Alk daily. If that one channel fails, alkalinity will fall sharply. In the future I might replace the four channel doser with a four independent single dosing pumps if my budget allows.
Also in my plans is the installation of a second return pump to weekly switch return pumps and have a backup in case one return pump fails.
Any special tips for success or advice you'd like to share with other reefers?
Keep parameters stable. Don’t trust your test kits, electronic or not. Time to time test their readings against a new saltwater mix at the right salinity.
Power backup is a must! Please, provide power backup for your return pump and dosers at least in case of a power outage.
If you feel the urge to dose some extra something into the tank, count until a million and then count some more. If you still are convinced that you want to dose, cut the recommended dose by half.
If you dosed too much of a thing or there any negative effects, water changes are your best friend. Even if you don’t do water changes, keep some salt at hand.
This is an incredible and unique hobby, one that teaches, inspires and challenges us. The Reef2Reef community, all the friends we make, all the good and bad experiences we share, they all enrich ourselves and make us better reefers.
Thank you, everyone!