- Oct 15, 2009
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There has, without question, been something lost in the art and chase/desire for a fully satisfied SPS tank, filled with sprawling and mature small polyped colonies. A phenomenon I like to refer to as "nub tanks” - and whether a fad, or here to stay, has taken hold and has become somewhat of the new “norm” in reef keeping. There’s a couple obvious reasons I feel, one being impatience, and while I won’t put all the blame on greedy hobbyist that can’t seem to let their pricey sticks grow, there has to be some accounting for a selection that simply does not grow as fast as others. It’s a commitment for sure, and if your goal is to fill up a tank with mature colonies, then you’re in it for the long haul. It seems that this chase/desire and reward is no longer as coveted as perhaps it once was, but that chase is fully realized and exemplified beautifully here. It's an oldie, but I still drool in awe and envy over Menards' legendary 300, from back around 2004! This was the kind of tank I, along with many of you dreamed of one day having.
You see, we have in recent years, chosen form over function, opting to rather gaze endlessly at teeny, slow growing “nubs” with exhaustive amounts of color over those calcium slurping monochromatic clusters. Now I get it completely - and have subscribed to the same school of thought myself for many years. Why wouldn’t I put the most insane looking frags in my tank? I mean - this is that stuff dreams are made of - right? I mean, you mash your nose to the glass and drool out loud while you take in all those mind blowing color nuances! Right?
But what do we see when we take a few steps back? That couch on the other side of the room that you lay in and ogle at your nubs, envisioning one day, long from now, that you will finally have something more to enjoy than these. What happens to those radiant little wonders?
I’ll tell you - All that blinding, oozing, and irresistibly expensive color: those pink tips and orange polyps - they disappear completely. What you are left with, if you have been disciplined enough to let them grow large enough to see from across the room is…………..STRUCTURE - and base color at best! No polyps, no contrasts, and absolutely no nuance. From the other side of the room, what you can really see, are the negative spaces and the welcome crowding of these spaces by branches of your thriving Acros in an effort to fill them, as illustrated brilliantly in Michael Moyes' Epic 500.
Mikes' reef is a perfect example of careful attention to structure. I'd say this one passes the across the room test quite well. Realize that stag in the middle is nearly 24" across!
This is a concept that did not come to me quickly. In fact, I believe that until you’ve had and seen Acros grow up enough to fill a tank, does the consideration ever find you. While this is something I have thought about a lot in the past, I had never actually considered basing my own coral selections solely on structure, until I was forced to start over with my quaint, personal display, after a recent leak. Somewhere in the planning process I just had the thought - it was fast and obvious. This time I was going to abandon any consideration for fancy color in favor of structure and negative space respectively. I mean I’m not throwing big brown blobs in there, but I have focused primarily on how and where the coral is going to grow, and not what the color of the tips are or any other subtle nuance that would have in the past been the driving force behind my selective process. Now I was really studying some of the patterns of coral I’ve been looking at for years and have otherwise taken for granted. I was seeing things in them I had never seen before and possibilities I had never considered because originally I was way more interested in color than structure - as most of us are.
Hobby veteran Mike Palettas' amazing and albeit a little crowded, but well organized super-tank.
Being a vendor of lots of the same kinds of Acros, I am essentially now shunning myself, and throwing together a little write up about my escapades. This may seem counterproductive, and it is, without question. Or, perhaps I am really just using this as a debatably clever way to prop up some of the old forgotten bread and butter. You're thinking, “is he really telling us to buy “regular” looking coral?”, and to forget about all the hyped up super-color flavors of the day? Well yes and no. What I mean is, this is something that people need to think more about when considering what they intend to put in their tanks. Think less about the radiating colors of the frag you’re about to drop 1k on, and much more about what it’s going to look like as a mature colony among other mature colonies from across the room. See the coral as a small but essential part of a bigger grander picture. Of course personal taste will win in the end and I completely understand the desire to buy the prettiest coral you can find. But planning for and selecting coral that will complement and build on, and accentuate the space they will eventually take up, is truly an art, and one I feel that has either all but vanished, or perhaps never really even established itself as a whole, but I have a feeling Dogboy Dave Turner would disagree with me on that one, as his reef has been the envy of many for years now, and is another exquisite example of proper attention to future potential at its finest.
In the end, keeping a mature SPS reef tank is not an easy thing to accomplish. It takes a lot of time and effort, and the kind of patience reserved only for “Saints” as they say. Maybe the majority of frags out there, never even hit the 2 year mark, let alone the 5, or 10 even. Whether they are fraged again and again, or enthusiasm fades and tanks come down, or maybe they just don’t thrive for reasons we never do figure out. Having a tank full of matures colonies, is without a doubt, one of the most rewarding and fulfilling aspects of this hobby. And when careful attention to details yet to be realized is imagined, the final reward will be the most gratifying and spellbinding of all, as you can clearly see in one of my favorite reef tanks ever. Observe Peter Eichlers' 156 gallon beauty! A true testament to the accomplishments of structural selectivity, that completely validates the entire idea of this write up! Just look at how each colony complements the next effortlessly as your eyes bounce from one to the next.
And, I had to amend the thread to include another one of my favorite reefs. Reefbum has also demonstrated with this landmark tank, how articulate attention to detail will pay off tremendously once your colonies mature. Think about how far apart the individual frags actually were when you look at this one. And I'll leave you with that.
Quick thanks to the pros that let me showcase their reefs for this one, and DL for the polish. You guy's are the creme of the crop!
And if you've got a tank that you're are proud of and want to show off here, please do so. I tapped my good friends for pics that I knew would suit the article, but I have no doubt we can fill this thread up with lots more so don't be shy. Let's see those tanks of yours from across the room. And no close ups allowed!