Tank Of The Month
Aquaman68 was selected as the Boston Reefers Society 2009 Tank Of The Month
First & Foremost I would like to take this opportunity to thank the powers that be for the recognition. Through the years I can’t say how many times I’ve been inspired by either a “reef tank”
publication or by a past TOTM feature at any given online reef community. It is these very types of features that I feel are responsible for the evolution & progression in this hobby of reef keeping. It has been
a big part of my driving force to excel in this hobby. Inner space has been a fascination of mine dating all the way back to “Mr. Limpet” I first became interested in the conventional “fish tank” When I was
11 years old. My Dad had a 30 gal set up in our home with the common tetras, guppies, & cardinals. (Unfortunately that tank crashed after he allowed me to put in a baby turtle in the tank) That was about
the time I went on my own! I was given an area in the basement to continue my hobby. (Which consisted of two 10 gal tanks & one 5 gal) I began riding my bike to the local pet store & would purchase
“feeder guppies” with hopes the ugly ducklings would turn into swans. (10 for 1.00) I would end up with a few show caliber adults from a pack of 10…I got good as time went on…I could actually pick out the
ones that had the best chance to be “show quality” That was about the time that I was handed the net to pick out the fish I wanted on my own. By the time I got closer to the driving license age my
interests took a turn from the aquarium hobby. In my late 20’s I decided to set up one of those 10gal tanks, from my childhood, in my 3 floor apartment. I set it up like I had it as a child…tetras,
guppies, cardinals & a single catfish….. After 3 months the 10 gal fresh, turned into a 55gal SW & 4 months after that it turned to my very first 6 footer. ( 125 gal show)
I kept that SWFO tank set up for over 8 years.(& in between I became scuba certified so I could dive & swim with the fish I housed in my tank) Most of the fish I had were all non reef safe
fish but they were some of the most sought after fish of that era. (Queen Angel, Emperor Angel, French Angel, Clown trigger, many different tangs & a few different wrasses (including
my favorite….Dragon Wrasse) Part of my reasoning to switch to a reef tank (besides the fact that it was breathtaking) I was looking for a more natural house to keep my fish in. By the time
I converted my tank to a reef (teardown & rebuild) my interests leaned more & more towards keeping corals first & fish second…(I actually remember the very first time I saw a live coral at one
of the fish stores I would frequent.) It was an ugly brown stick & it was encrusting on a rock….The owner said…that is alive…( I was floored).. Soft corals & zoos were the first for me.
(I recommend that for any beginner I may add) I can remember how I felt with just the live rock just teaming with life. That part of the hobby was
short lived, as my interests got heavy into the “stoneys” That was when I found myself falling deeper & deeper into the sps side…
155 Gal All Glass Bowfront:
Dimensions 72 x 24 x 25
Production Reef Ready
Custom Built Stand:
MDF/ 2x6 construction bowed face & doors (2 X 12 frame in front for the Radius)
Max Depth 30”
Side depth 23”
Cabinet Height 32”
Custom Designed & Built Aluminum Canopy:
Front Folding complete access
Max Depth 30”
Side Depth 23”
Canopy Height 14”
Overall Height (Tank Stand & Canopy) 71”
Canopy Construction materials:
Square Aluminum Tube frame
1/8 aluminum plate (Canopy door & sides)
Aluminum sheeting on rear fixed top & back tig welded to frame.
4 Ice cap variable speed 4” fans (two on each side)
Areas of consideration in this custom build:
1) Lightweight & water friendly
2) Complete access via the front of Canopy
3) Enough space to house 6 MH & 4 VHO lights
4) Complete system enclosed in one footprint without the need for a basement sump.
5) Rear shelf on cabinet to house MH & VHO ballasts
6) Energy Efficient.
7) Aesthetic appearance of furniture (within a living eco system)
Flow & Layout
This tank build was done in the fall of 2002(most reefers at the time weren’t all that concerned with energy consumption) My design & choice
of tank was designed around being cheap to run per month. So a basement sump was not to be considered in this build. (Pump head loss = added
electric costs) I started out with one single Blueline 1100 with a 1140GPH rating at zero head. (Pressure rated & only uses 70 watts) I needed
a pump that was pressure rated to handle the pressure behind a Hayward Actuated Ball Valve. (Which was connected in between the pump return
& the tank returns) This Hayward 3 Way actuated Ball Valve is connected to a Tsunami Wave maker & is dialed in to switch from one return to
the other every 3 mins. (So essentially I had upwards of close to 1000 gph flowing thru one return at a time) This actually was adequate enough
for flow in the beginning. I pointed the returns toward the bowfront & I would get random cross currents
As my SPS colonies began to grow & fill out I was left with issues in regards to inadequate flow… I added Penductors to the return ends & that
worked but it was short lived. The next change that took place was the arrival of my first born son to the household. (This was the best feeling
I ever experienced outside the hobby.) With that it left me with a dilemma in the tank temp department. (the summer months). I could no longer
keep the a/c cranking in the summer to help cool me & the tank.
Next addition came a 1/3 hp Aqua Logic “Trimline” Flow thru Chiller It is thin & tall (only 9” thick) & is designed to put inside a cabinet. I chose
to mount it in the basement but I hung it right under the tank up high in the basement. This was done to cut down the head loss while keeping the
chiller from heating the room. (This would have been the case if I kept the chiller in the same room as the tank) The unit has a thin tall design. I
felt this would be optimal to cool the unit if I mounted a regular fan in front of it to flow thru it. (Disperse the heat from the condenser.)
I added a second Blueline 1100 to be independent & just pump thru the chiller. (The pump connected to sump in stand & was plumbed & returned
thru holes drilled in the floor to & from the chiller. I used this opportunity to add a couple extra returns to the tank & plumbed both to flow simultaneously
thru penductor ends on the returns. (I considered using a second Hayward Actuated ball valve…decided against it due to the temp of the water coming
back from the chiller) Splitting them up to run simultaneously I was able to eliminate thermo clines in the tank.
Adding the second pump helped in a few different areas. It added flow & more cross currents & I was now able to keep the tank temp more
stable in the summer months. (All external pumps were plumbed with the least amount of 90 degree elbows when physically possible…The use
of Spa flex helped with that measure) So at this point I’m running upwards of 2000gph for a turnover rate…
I felt after the addition of the second Blueline 1100 I would be set with flow for good. (not a chance) The SPS continued to grow & left me
with the dilemma of inadequate flow & dead spots. I weighed numerous ideas out for this challenge. (even as far as purchasing a Sequence
SW 3200 to add more flow) When the pump arrived I realized by the size that I would have to use this in a basement sump setup. I didn’t want the
sump in the basement for various reasons.
1) A basement in most cases is already damp I did not want to add to that.
2) The added electric consumption from the pumps with the higher head the water would have to be moved
3) The use of heaters in the winter due to the basement not being heated.
So basement sump was not even considered & the Sequence was now a spare cause it would no way be able to be housed in the cabinet.
I weighed out many options for flow (with many purchases of different items which never felt water) In the end I decided to go with two tunzie
6000 & a multi controller (the multi controller was key cause it came with a moon light that could be dialed in to mimic the lunar cycle) I always
wanted a moonlight on my system dialed in on the lunar cycle to see if it would promote coral spawning or even fish & invert spawning. (The
6000’s can move up to 1800gph & only use 12 watts & are fully controllable!!!) I added an extra two 6000’s to the mix shortly after the initial
setup because I liked the type of flow they created so much.
Due to the limits of the sump being housed in the cabinet I chose a production made sump. I decided on an ETSS High Flow Sump 30” x 14” x 16” 3/8 inch
acrylic. (A tad small) This sump is designed to be used in a high flow application. It is baffled in such a way it allows the use of a larger skimmer than any
other sump produced in this water volume. I was able to offset the size of the sump with a larger than normal skimmer for the tank volume. (ETSS 800 pro
with a rating of 180 to 400 gals) The skimmer is plumbed into an auto shutoff made by the same company. There is no site of any bubbles returned to the
tank & I don’t use any filter socks with this setup. The skimmer is driven by an Iwaki md 55 (which has an energy consumption rating of 185 watts…A bit
high…I was able to plumb it with the least amount of 90 degree elbows & when tested with a “kilowatt” meter the pump draws 145 watts… (Much more than
I would like but at the time this was set up….That was mid range for efficiency) The return side of the sump which is over the baffles is split in half & has
cheato on the baffle end. (Egg crate is used for the split) This area or mini fuge is lit by an 18 watt PC fuge light which is switched on opposite of the tank lighting.
Housed in my custom canopy are 6 MH moguls (single ended) Kelvin rating & wattage as follows:
3- 175 watt 15K
2- 250 watt 10K
1- 400 watt 10K
These bulbs are staggered throughout the hood & are all fired by the latest generation Icecap Ballasts (potted version)
I also have supplemental VHO lighting by URI as follows:
2- 4 ft 03 actinics
2- 4 ft 50/50 super actinics
These Bulbs are also staggered throughout the rear part of the hood & are fired by an Icecap 660 VHO ballast
(Photo courtesy of Mauro Dibenedetto)
The individual MH & VHO’s are turned on & off gradually throughout the day to simulate dawn & dusk… (The VHO Ballast & the 400 watt
ballast are on independent icecap timers. The remainder of the MH are turned on & off via x-10 thru my Octopus 3000 Controller) All lighting
in the hood is fired simultaneously for a period of 3 hours. (To simulate peak daylight as in nature from 11:00 to 2:00)
When the hood was built it was fitted with 4, 4 inch ice cap temp controlled fans. Two on one side force the air in while the other two on the
opposite side pull the air out to circulate the air throughout the canopy. These fans are very durable & quiet. They have three speeds & the
fan speed is controlled by a sensor that is attached to each fan. (The hotter the inside canopy gets the higher the fans will spin!!) I’ve actually
had the same fans for close to 8 years & they have never failed me.
For the reflective area of the canopy I was challenged somewhat. I was not able to use any of the fancy production reflectors that are so
popular on larger systems. (The bow front design prevented me from using them unless I wanted to go with just three MH) Going with just
3 MH wasn’t an option so I purchased high polished, mirror finish aluminum. (With a reflective rating of 94%) This reflective material is
used in the build of high end optical flash fixtures for photo & film… I lined the inside of the canopy with a curved pattern under the Mogul
sockets & VHO Bulbs.
The canopy is also fitted with two computer receptacle strips on the inner backside of the hood. One receptacle is continuously powered
& the other is split in half & is powered independently on ea side via X-10 (this aids in having extra timers & switching equipment)
One side of the split receptacle fires two fans on one side & also 1 MH (thru an additional X-10 module) & the other side does the same on the opposite side of the canopy.
Monitors & controllers:
Octopus 3000 Controller
(Photo courtesy of Brian Poirier)
Lab Grade Orp, Temp, Ph, & Conductivity Probes.
Capabilities for 7 day data log. (via PC)
This unit monitors all parameters above. I use
the X-10 interface which has the following capabilities:
Built in wavemaker circuit (via X-10)
Heating & Chilling controller. (via X-10) (can be controlled down to 1/10 of a degree)
32 programs for lighting. (via X-10)
This unit also has pager support in case a parameter goes out of wack…You can be called. (additional modem required)
I also have a 200 Mg Red Sea aquazone ozonizer with controller.(this also has a orp monitor feature) This is a redundant backup in case there
is a need to purify the tank of nasty organics. (when you struggle with lower orp readings this unit can help to break up larger organics that the
skimmer can’t remove.) Not recommended for continued use…use as a routine maintenance every 4 to 6 months for 1-2 weeks…
Redundant monitors as follows:
Two Pinpoint Ph monitors. (one mounted in overflow & an additional one mounted in the sump with the octopus 3000 probes)
One Pinpoint Orp Monitor with lab grade probe.
There is a 40 watt UV sterilizer hooked into the pump that flows thru the chiller…( This is not recommended for continued use…)This unit is for
emergencies but has never actually been used more than one incident almost 3 years ago.
There are two storage containers for top off & water changes which are stored in the basement. (Two 55 gal drums)
Custom 8 Stage ro/di unit with the following:
Two Pre Filter Canisters (two 1 micron)
Two Carbon Canisters ( 2 refillable catalyzed carbon canisters)
Two piggy backed 60GPD spectrapure high rejection Ro membranes.
Two DI Cartridges (which house a blend of anion & cation resins to aid in chloramines removal
Dual TDS Meter. (One probe tests TDS of tap & the other pre RO)
Ro Membrane flush Kit. (extends the life of membranes by back flushing)
Additional hand held Millwakee TDS Smart Meter. (redundant
For auto top off & also to add a little supplementation throughout the night. (When lighting is off) I installed & use a Precision Marine Kalkwasser Reactor.
This unit stirs the contents in the reactor via a maxi jet 400 power head. (which is on a timer to run for 15 mins every 6 hours)
This unit is plumbed in between one 55 Gal barrel & a Reef Filler-1000 7GPD Dosing pump. I don’t use conventional Kalk in this reactor…It is a blend which has
strontium & magnesium traces as well. I’ve had this dosing pump active for over 5 years & have never had a problem. (This product boasts it can pump up to 200
ft away in any direction) My previous research claimed that dripping any amount of Kalkwasser throughout the night (when the skimmer is more active) will help
to precipitate phosphates out via the skimmer. Not sure how much a role this unit plays in that department, but whenever tested, my phosphate levels are undetectable.
I also use a Geo 618 Reverse Flow Ca reactor for Akalinity/Calcium balance. This unit is fed with a maxi jet 1200 powerhead & the whole unit is housed inside the tank stand. This
unit is filled with Shuran Media the Co2 is delivered thru a 5 lb aluminum cyl also housed in the stand.
I use frozen cubes. Mysis Shrimp, Bloodworms, Brine, Veggie, Shrimp. These cubes are alternated ea day. I usually feed three cubes per day. I don’t use any flake food due to
the amount of crude protein it has in it.
Calcium: 420 ppm
Alkalinity: 3.09 (KH 8.6)
PH fluctuates between 8.00 - 8.25 (in the summer) & 7.85 – 8.00 in the winter.
(due to the amount of C02 present in a closed area)
Temp Range: 76.5 – 77.5
Sandbed Depth: 4 inches
I replace 20% of my water volume, per month.
Salt Used: Tropic Marin (since the start of my reef tank)
Soft corals & Polyps
Biggest Challenge Since I started reefing? I can’t say one particular thing was the biggest challenge. (Other than trying to find exotic colorful corals in the beginning)
I’ve had many challenges thru my hobby experience of reefing. Each day brings a new challenge. (& sometimes an old one) It is nice to keep a log of your hobby
experiences. (Which I find it becoming more difficult to do) This helps you to remember things you may have forgotten. (Due to the lack of time between that has lapsed
since you experienced this particular issue) This will also act as a “Reef Diary” that you can flip thru at your leisure. (Kind of helps to put into perspective how
you’ve grown in the hobby as time goes on!!!)
One recent challenge I have found to arise over the last few years is having the time to balance family & reef. As we all know this hobby can be consuming at times.
I really have to thank my wife from the bottom of my heart for her patience with me, while being involved (& sometimes consumed) in this hobby.
Over the past 6 months I’ve been getting my two small boys which are 3 & 5 years old interested in my reef tank. I have also been educating them to the reef animals
& corals in my tank. (Sometimes I ponder the impact I’m making on them as my dad made with me early on) I want my children to learn the success & failures of my
hobby. Who knows where it may take them & other small children being exposed to this hobby early on. They are the future that lies for this hobby!!
© Greg Thevenin, Heather Thevenin, Mauro Dibenedetto, Brian Poirier.