Ryan Baker's (rbaker) Reef Aquarium
want to thank everyone at Reef Central; I owe most of my success
to all of you. It’s been roughly two years and two months
since my previous “Tank
of the Month” article. I’ve made many small
changes, but no major ones. As you’ll see, I’ve
really tried hard to leave the tank alone and let nature take
its course with minimal intervention.
All Glass aquarium
74" x 24" x 24"
stand and canopy
SPS propagation tank
to setting up the tank, I spent several months designing the
system. It's a standard 180-gallon All-Glass tank measuring
72" x 24" x 24". I was using the Berlin method
(bare bottom), but have since added approximately 1”
of sand strictly for aesthetic reasons. It contains roughly
350 lbs. of Fiji and Marshall Island live rock. Recently,
I added a 30-gallon Oceanic cube tank (20.5
x 18.5 x 21.5) to the system, which I will use to grow out
coral fragments. A Coralife pendant housing an AB 175-watt
single-ended metal halide bulb provides the lighting to the
cube. I’m still running a 150-gallon refugium to take
advantage of the benefits of a deep sand bed, and it contains
450 lbs. of live sand, which brings the sand bed’s depth
to around 5". I also have a 150-gallon sump, making the
system’s total volume approximately 450 gallons. As
you may recall, this tank replaced a former 75-gallon
reef that was running for about five years.
Nothing has really changed as far as the stand and canopy
go. I built the stand and canopy out of Jatoba (Brazilian
Cherry wood). The stand is 38" tall and the canopy is
15" tall, making the system’s total height 76".
I used a natural Danish oil finish and three coats of marine
grade spar varnish both inside and out to protect the wood
from the salt water. Due to the tank’s weight (approx.
2500 lbs.), and the fact that the tank sits parallel to the
floor joists, I had to reinforce the floor with extra joists
and support posts in the basement directly under the tank.
Plumbing and Circulation:
I have changed the
plumbing and circulation system very little. The reef is in
the dining room on the second floor with all of the equipment
located in my basement fish room. A large overflow box on
the main display has two 1 ¼" drains that pass
through the floor, then span 40 feet across the house and
into the fish room. Overflow from the tank enters the 150-gallon
refugium via a do-it-yourself baffle
box to minimize salt spray. The refugium overflows into
a 150-gallon sump where the protein skimmers process the water,
and then an Iwaki MD70RLT pump sends it back up to the main
tank. Approximately 1100gph run through the system. For additional
circulation within the main tank, I employ a closed-loop recirculating
system powered by a Little Giant 4-MDQX-SC that pushes 1325gph.
A Supreme Mag 7 buried behind the reef (700gph) and four Maxi-Jet
1200 powerheads, which are controlled by a Tsunami
wavemaker, provide additional in-tank circulation. The
net effect of all of this is a total turnover
of approximately 4300gph in the system.
To some extent, the
lighting on the tank has changed. Two of the ballasts burned
out in the original AB
Aquaspacelight. AB replaced the unit under warranty and
gave me a newer unit that included four 24-watt actinic power
compact bulbs. It still has the three 250-watt 13K double-ended
HQI metal halide bulbs, but I added an additional 160-watt
actinic VHO bulb to the two existing 160-watt actinic bulbs.
An Icecap 660 ballast powers all three 160-watt VHO super
actinic 03's. I also upgraded the fans from 65 CFM to models
pushing 110 CFM. They are mounted in the canopy and are wired
to turn on when the halides power up so heat build-up in the
hood doesn't become a problem. I also changed the lighting
on the refugium, removing the NO fluorescent fixtures and
adding a metal halide fixture, which consists of two 150-watt
single-ended 6500K metal halide bulbs. Since making this change,
I have noted a huge improvement in the growth of the macroalgae,
Xenia and soft coral fragments housed in the refugium.
The only change I
have made to my water top-off system is an upgrade to my RO
unit from 60GPD to 100 GPD. All make-up water runs through
the multi-stage RO/DI unit. The system’s evaporation
rate is approximately five gallons per day. A RainBird digital
controller automatically adds approximately 10 gallons
of RO/DI water every other day to a 20-gallon acrylic vat.
The water is then pumped out of the vat via a "Reef Filler"
pump running continuously to maintain a consistent water level
in the sump.
Left side view.
Right side view.
is a 150-gallon Rubbermaid stock tank. It has 450 lbs. of
Southdown sand reaching a total depth of about 5". I
seeded the sand bed from an established sand bed in my old
refugium from the previous 75-gallon system. It is very mature
now and is teeming with life, including serpent stars, sand-sifting
cucumbers, a fighting conch, a queen conch, Nassarius
sp., Cerith, and Nerite snails, as well as thousands
of amphipods, copepods and worms. I’ve been growing
some coral fragments in the refugium for the past year or
so. The addition of the metal halide lighting has really increased
the growth rate of both the fragments and the macroalgae.
Nothing has changed
with my skimmers. I’m still running two ETSS-1000 skimmer
clones that run continuously. An Iwaki MD70RLT powers one,
and a Little Giant 4-MDQX-SC the other. Future plans include
having Geo make me a large, custom needle-wheel skimmer to
help reduce my system’s electrical costs.
I have made a few
changes in this area. I mounted two powerful fans over the
refugium. A Ranco digital dual temperature controller turns
these fans on when the temperature reaches 82º. Since
such a large amount of water is in the basement that stays
cool all year long, I really don't have any problems with
heat. I think the fans turned on only once or twice over this
past summer. Because the fans work so well when needed, I
removed the chiller from my system as there was no need for
it. I’ve removed the two 350-watt Won
titanium heaters, and replaced them with three 150-watt
Ebo-Jager heaters located in the sump. The temperature controller
turns them on at 80º and shuts
them off at 81º.
In an effort to increase
the system’s level of automation, I added two Flexiflo3
peristaltic IV pumps to administer the B-ionic two-part system.
These have been a great addition and have afforded me the
ability to ignore my system for a week to ten days without
any human intervention. I clean the skimmer cups once a week,
and perform a 50-gallon water change monthly. A 60-gallon
acrylic storage tank that is located over the sump is used
to make and store fresh saltwater. I mix the RO/DI water with
salt several days before each water change. To perform a water
change all I have to do is open a valve on my return pump
and the water flows into the stationary tub. When the water
reaches a mark I've made in the sump, the valve on the pump
is closed and I open the valve from the storage tank, allowing
50 gallons of fresh saltwater to flow into the sump. All of
this takes only about five minutes, and the best part is that
I don't even get my hands wet!
I’m still feeding
the tank once a day, and I continue to make my own food from
recipes gathered from books and from Reef Central. Typically,
I use Eric Borneman's recipe as a base. Shrimp, clams, oysters,
mussels, squid, brine shrimp, bloodworms, Spirulina,
nori and Selcon™ are the primary ingredients. I place
these items into a blender and pulse them until they have
been broken down into small, bite-sized pieces. I then place
this into several small freezer bags, which I lay flat in
the freezer. When it's time to feed, I just break off a small
piece and soak it in tank water enriched with Selcon™.
Additionally, I’ve been adding Cyclop-eeze twice a week
to the food. The corals and fish love it. I also feed a half
sheet of nori two or three times a week using an acrylic lettuce
clip. The tangs love it.
I have made quite
a few changes in this area. I’ve sold off quite a few
of the soft corals and added several SPS corals along the
way. The SPS corals have really grown fast. You can see how
much in the pictures below. This has caused an increase in
“chemical warfare,” the biggest casualties of
which seem to be a few of the LPS corals. I’ve notice
that the Caulastrea really don’t expand the way
they used to. The branching torch and hammer coral, however,
seem unaffected. For some reason, I lost a couple of pieces
of green Nephthea to what I suspect was a strange,
fast-moving infection. The coral would literally turn black
and die overnight. Another problem I encountered is that I
inherited a hitchhiker crab somewhere along the way that has
a taste for zoanthids. He has literally eaten almost every
zoanthid in the tank. It was kind of a blessing in disguise,
because they were overrunning the tank. I’ve tried several
times, unsuccessfully, to catch the crab using a trap. I’ve
also added a Tridacna derasa and a T. crocea
clam. Over the next year I’m going to remove all of
the SPS corals and go back to a soft coral, LPS tank. In addition
to housing some in the 30-gallon cube, I’ll set up a
separate tank just for SPS corals. I’m thinking maybe
a 30” x 30” x 24” cube tank is what I’ll
end up with.
As you can see from the pictures, I’ve really tried
to let the tank develop naturally with minimal interference
by me. I’ve let the Xenia run wild on the right
side of the tank. My goal is to get the right side glass completely
covered by the Xenia. I also have been selling the
Xenia to my local fish store. Soon, I’ll be removing
the Xenia from the rocks in an effort to contain it
to the glass only.
I’ve made a few changes to the fish population as well.
The purple tang became very dominant and aggressive toward
the other fish, so I removed him and sold him to the local
fish store. I brought in a yellow tang from another tank and
added a Naso tang at the same time. They get along very well.
I also removed the coral beauty and replaced him with a juvenile
flame angel. He’s been a model citizen so far. All of
the other fish are doing well.
Feel free to comment or
ask questions about my tank in the Tank of the Month thread
on Reef Central.