John Susbilla's (aka Tubs) Reef Tank

Surge On Into My Slice of the Ocean...

It's certainly an honor to be featured here at Reef Central - the most popular site for reefkeepers on the net, IMO. Thanks to all that have made this such a happening place. Gosh, it's also special for my reef to be featured in the first issue of Reef Central's new online magazine - "Reefkeeping."

My 100 gallon reef has been set up since November 1999. It certainly has been amazing to see how large some of the corals have gotten, as well as occasionally seeing a newly acquired drab brown SPS turn solid blue, pink, or some other nice color combination. For example, I recently picked up a drab brown Echinopora species, which is shown in the picture below, and in less than a month it was a solid pink! The adjacent bright green Acropora millepora is one of the fastest growing acros that I have seen and has exhibited significant changes in pigmentation over time. It developed intense pink radial corallites, which it lost after being moved, and is now beginning to recover that nice pink. The dynamic nature of these animals is one of the things that makes SPS corals so much fun. The first picture below is this coral and comes really close to capturing all its true vibrance. It did suffer recession during acclimation but is making a comeback. Really though this Echinopora is probably not classified as an SPS because of its large polyps but what the heck. The bright green hairy Acropora millepora below is one of the fastest growing acros you can find out there. This one can develop intense pink radial corallites which it once had before I moved it to a new location in which it then lost this coloration. It is however beginning to recover that nice pink.

Aquarium Profile

  • System name is John's Reef Flat
  • Website:
  • 100 gallon acrylic aquarium with 30 gallon refugium/sump
  • Dimensions of the tank are 48"L x 20"H x 24"D
  • DIY stand and canopy
  • Stand height is 36"and canopy height is 12" for a total height of about 5.5'

So far I've also have had success keeping a very nice yellow/green giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) that is generally considered to be difficult to keep alive. It is about a foot in diameter and at least two years old, and it still looks very strong! It is host to two A. ocellaris clowns who never stray away from it more than a couple of inches. The solid blue Acropora staghorn shown below came from Steve Tyree's reef farmer network.


Lighting Profile

  • 2 x 400 watt Iwasaki metal halide bulbs on PFO ballasts. Photoperiod is 10 hours.
  • 2 x 110 watt URI actinic VHO bulbs on an Icecap 660 ballast. Photoperiod is 12 hours.
  • 1 x 175 watt 4.5KK metal halide bulb for the sump on a PFO ballast. Photoperiod is 12 hours on a reverse daylight schedule.
  • Bulb height from water surface is 7-8 inches.

The growth rates of many SPS corals is really amazing. Quite a lot of my SPS colonies started out as coral fragments; in fact, the largest ones were once quite itty bitty frags. The branching staghorns seem to take up space the fastest - the A. formosa, A. yongei, and A. micropthalma are all excellent examples. The A. formosa started out as a 3" frag and had to be fragged in less than a year to keep its growth under control. The two pictures below really illustrate just how tremendous their growth rates can be - these two pictures span a period of about 19 months, and as you can see, it has taken over much of the left end of the tank.


Circulation Profile

  • Sen 900 for return pump
  • 1 Maxijet powerhead run continuously
  • Super Wavestrip wavemaker
  • 3 Maxijet poweheads on this wavemaker

Most of my fragments came from my local marine club here in the San Francisco Bay Area (SEABay) and especially from co-member Curt Pansegrau, the developer behind the Neptune Systems Aquacontroller and owner of an awesome 300 gallon SPS tank. Most of the other fragments came from other local reefers, as well as across the country such as from Sue Truett of Texas.


Filtration Profile

  • Refugium type 30 gallon sump using caulerpa and believe it or not xenia as nutrient export
  • AquaC Urchin in-sump protein skimmer
  • 100 lbs. Marshall Island live rock, 20 lbs. Monano live rock
  • 2-3" aragonite DSB
  • Occasional use of activated carbon

Maintenance is typical. My monthly routine includes a 10% water change, equipment check, and water chemistry adjustment. My weekly schedule includes cleaning of the skimmer and tank glass. Maintaining steady high concentrations of buffering compounds and calcium is achieved through the use of a calcium reactor.


Temperature Control

  • Medusa dual-stage temperature controller
  • 1/4 Aqualogic drop-in chiller
  • 300 watt Visitherm heater
  • Five 4.5" axial fans for the canopy
  • Clip-on fan over the sump for those really hot days

I've derived a lot of satisfaction raising SPS corals and in fact have accumulated quite a collection. The 100 gallon tank has reached a point that a good fraction of them need constant pruning, so I recently set up another 180 gallon SPS tank and will transfer many of the smaller SPS to grow out there.

Feel free to ask questions or post comments about my tank in the discussion forum.

If you'd like to know more of my system, and especially if you want to see a ton more of these pictures, please visit my website.



Acropora aculeus
Acropora echinata
Acropora formosa
Acropora horrida
Acropora humilis (solid sky blue)

Acropora humilis (solid green)

Acropora hyacinthus
Acropora loripes
Acropora millepora (pink)
Acropora millepora (green/pink)
Acropora millepora (green)
Acropora millepora (blue radials)
Acropora robusta
Acropora rudis
Acropora sarmentosa
Acropora tenuis
Acropora yongeii
Solid blue Acropora staghorn
Several other unidentified acros
Hydnopora species
Montipora aquituberculata
Several color morphs of Montipora capricornis
Montipora foliosa
Montipora danae
Several color morphs of Montipora digitata
Montipora efflorescens
Montipora sp.
Stylophora pistillata


2 Tridacna crocea
1 Tridacna squamosa
1 Tridacna derasa


Blastomussa merletti
Favia sp.
Echinopora sp.


Soft Corals
Colt Coral Alcyonium sp.
Lobophyton sp.
Green Nepthea sp.
Toadstool Sarcophyton sp.
Sarcophyton elegans
Xenia elongata
Pompom Xenia
Various mushrooms
Various polyps including blue polyps.


3 Green Chromis
Royal Blue Tang
Red Sea Purple Tang
Lawnmower Blenny
Royal Gramma
Sixline Wrasse
Purple Firefish
Fiji Damsel


2 Sally litefoot crabs
Misc. hermit crabs
Misc. snails
Fire Shrimp
Peppermint shrimps


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