Joseph Weatherson's (weatherson)
Introduction and Background:
I greatly appreciate
the honor bestowed upon my relatively young tank. I'd like
to thank Reef Central and especially all those individuals
who submitted a nomination in this regard. Reef Central is
a great community and has become my "go-to" site
for needed information. I feel the success of this tank is,
in great part, due to all who participate, graciously and
freely sharing their experiences and knowledge toward the
betterment of the hobby.
I became interested in reefkeeping more than 10 years ago
when my wife and I visited a local fish store with a reef
tank display that greatly impressed us. It was from this that
we decided to get into the hobby with a 65-gallon Oceanic
reef-ready glass tank. Like many others, I experienced minor
issues but continued to read and absorb as much information
as was available at the time. Much of this was found on CompuServe's
Fishnet, with the likes of Larry Jackson, Charles Delbeek,
Richard Harker and many other extremely knowledgeable individuals
always willing to offer assistance. Being a "newbie"
there myself, I greatly appreciated all the information provided
and always kept in my mind that if I ever reached a point
where I could share as they did for me, I surely would. I've
attempted to do this both on Reef Central and in our local
reef club, Central
Valley Reefers here in California.
The desire to create my current tank began with an aquascaping
concept consisting of two rock structures flanking a centrally
located and diagonally positioned sand bed valley. This vision
demanded a larger and longer tank than my 65. Enter the 240-gallon
tank and its eight-foot length and two-foot height and depth.
We debated the final location, but an in-wall design with
designated fish room won out. I've been pleased
with this decision ever since for its noise, temperature and
humidity isolation, as well as the overall space it provides
for ancillary equipment. The room was previously an extra
bedroom that was easily sacrificed for the good of our hobby.
It also has an outside window, as well as a bathroom behind
one of its walls, which I tapped into for the water supply
and sewer drain. This allowed me to install a washbasin for
cleaning parts, as well as draining old tank water and RO/DI
Main Tank Info:
My current tank is an upgrade from
the 65-gallon I started with. It, too, is an Oceanic, but
of 240-gallons, reef-ready and special ordered with two holes
drilled into its back panel for the two closed-loop inlets.
I've since altered the stock prefilter boxes by removing the
weirs and installing perforated pipe in their place to increase
flow. I converted the in-prefilter box returns to drains to
allow for the greater flow, so there are now two drains per
box. In retrospect, I should have requested Oceanic drill
larger holes to accommodate larger bulkheads and plumbing,
but that will have to wait until the next tank.
The returns from the 55-gallon sump are now over-the-top
type. The first via a single pipe at the left end of the tank
whose output is directed behind the rock structure. This return
line passes its water through the Ocean Clear 25-micron canister
filter. The second return passes through the sinusoidal valve
I created which is located at the tank's center back and rotates
its flow between three individual outputs.
I've created prefilter box lids out of acrylic that prevent
light from entering. I had done this on my old tank as well,
and decided to carry it over to the new one. One advantage
of this is that the boxes become their own little ecosystems
with plenty of critters as well as water filtering sponge
I wanted the tank's back glass left clear to help see inside
the tank during maintenance and such. For normal viewing,
though, I needed a means to block the view through the tank
and into the fish room. I accomplished this by creating a
panel of black acrylic that fits between the two closed loop
bulkheads. There's an anti-drip guard at the top and a slotted
channel at the bottom, both to keep this panel in place. It
is removed by simply sliding it outward toward the tank's
end. Rather than having the background remain black, I decided
to paint the front viewing side of this acrylic panel. Instead
of the typical single shade of blue, I attempted to use black
and three shades of blue to create a gradual transition of
color to better simulate a distant ocean view. With a little
finesse and color shading, I had what I felt looked best.
Prior to the addition of the five metal halide lights, the
background had what was a very realistic look. Unfortunately,
with the greater amount of light from the halides, this effect
was diminished slightly. I may try repainting it some time,
but for now, it's adequate as is.
My refugium is a 20-gallon tank I
made myself (photo right). It is fed by the main circulation
pump, and drains back to the sump via a built-in prefilter
box. It is lit by an IceCap electronic ballast driving an
Iwasaki 5600 Kelvin, 150-watt metal halide bulb in a custom-built
pendant on a reverse photoperiod lighting cycle. I originally
used this tank as a fragment grow-out tank, so it has an Oceans
Motion's 4-way Squirt with four individual outlets at each
corner. I left this device installed even after converting
the tank to a refugium. Specimens of a Chaetomorpha
species of macroalga are grown within. I fabricated this tank's
stand and the light's wall bracket from aluminum. The light
bracket pivots to move the pendant to the side for easy access
to the refugium.
The refugium and
sump/grow-out tank are both lit by lights powered by IceCap
electronic ballasts. The refugium uses a single-ended Iwasaki
6500 Kelvin bulb in a custom built pendant. The sump utilizes
the IceCap pendant and a 150-watt 6500 Kelvin Iwasaki metal
The main tank is also lit with IceCap electronic ballasts
powering both VHO and metal halide bulbs. Eight 110-watt Super
Actinic VHO bulbs run on two different circuits. The first,
driven by a dedicated IceCap 660 ballast, drives four bulbs
that span the length of the lightbox. This ballast is controlled
by a dimmer device originally from Niche Engineering (now
Solar) and controls these bulbs to simulate dawn and dusk
lighting. The second set of VHO bulbs are also driven by a
dedicated 660 ballast, but are driven straight in either an
"on or off" mode. Five 250-watt double-ended metal
halide lights in PFO mini-pendants provide the remainder of
the daytime lighting. These are driven by
it, five IceCap electronic ballasts. I started with XM 10K
Kelvin bulbs, then replaced those with Hamilton 14K Kelvin
and currently run Phoenix 14K Kelvin. The latter have proven
to produce a slightly bluer coloration than the Hamiltons,
which I hope will improve the colors of the SPS corals. Time
will tell, but the initial results look promising. Last of
all, I use four 25-watt incandescent blue bulbs to simulate
moonlight. These are lit with daily varying intensities that
follow the lunar cycle.
The Neptune AquaController controls all these lights, as
well as other electrical devices. Its start/stop timing is
based on the seasonal changes according to my geographic location
and season. The moon lights do the same but follow the lunar
cycle of the same location. The tank's daytime lighting sequence
starts with the set of four dimmable VHO bulbs. This process
takes one hour from off to full intensity. Next, the second
set of four VHO bulbs fires, followed by the center metal
halide bulb thirty minutes later. The two metal halide bulbs
on either side of the center bulb fire together thirty minutes
later followed by the two end metal halides, again, thirty
minutes later. The end of daylight cycle is just the reverse,
ending with the last set of VHO bulbs dimming down to completely
I built the all-aluminum lightbox that is suspended from
the ceiling by chains, rope and pulleys (see photo above),
thereby allowing it to be raised for tank maintenance and
lowered to the tank for maximum lighting. This lightbox is
completely enclosed and has exhaust fans at both ends that
force heated air out through insulated tubes. During the summer
months, this air is routed to the house's attic and outside.
During winter months, the air is routed to the main living
area to help heat the home in an attempt to recycle some of
I find the tank room, often referred
to as being on the "ugly side," just as interesting
as the front, or "pretty," side of the tank. Having
a strong mechanical background has led me to have several,
somewhat daunting to some, equipment-intense walls of gadgets.
I was always the kid who had to take things apart to understand
how they worked and peer into the mind of the people or person
who designed them originally. While some aquarists may find
my setup elaborate, I don't believe there is any piece of
equipment I would be willing to eliminate from my system.
Each has a specific purpose in my quest to provide the best
possible environment for the living things I keep in this
"box of reef." The fact that I am able to design
and create much of this equipment myself only adds to the
overall entertainment and therapy this tank provides me.
Rear of tank. For a labeled photo, click here.
The tank room itself was previously a bedroom. I removed
the carpet, exposing the cement foundation floor, which I
prepared and painted with epoxy garage floor paint. I also
installed new, taller baseboards and created a water barrier
with a bead of silicone at the floor and wall contact points
to keep any potential water leaks from escaping to the adjoining
rooms. I painted the walls with several coats of enamel paint.
The rear, left hand wall has a bathroom on its opposite side
that allowed me to tap into the plumbing for the installation
of the very handy tank room sink. Finally, I installed an
outdoor ceiling fan to keep the air constantly moving within
Since I recently removed an exercise weight machine from
the room, I now have much more space. I'm therefore kicking
around the idea of adding a hexagon or octagon shaped tank
with a center overflow to the middle of the room. If I do
this, I'll most likely plumb it into the main system to benefit
from an increase in overall tank water volume. I'm envisioning
a lookdown, low profile tank for overhead viewing of clams
and SPS corals. I believe I can do this with little or no
additional energy required, by utilizing the current equipment.
I'll have to give this some more thought, though.
Left rear of tank
Right rear of tank
The sump is a 55-gallon acrylic tank
that I altered by adding baffles to prevent micro-bubbles
from making their way to the main return pump. Water from
the tank's prefilter boxes is routed to, and enters, the sump
at the right side through a 100-micron filter sock. In this
same chamber of the sump, the skimmer's pump inlet pulls in
this "dirty" water and returns the skimmed water
just beyond the first baffle. The chiller's coil is also located
here in the high current flow to maximize its efficiency.
In addition, the effluent return from the calcium reactor
drips into an acrylic cup that I made, which houses the pH
probe for monitoring. I added an acrylic tube to this cup
that sends the overflow of effluent water down to the skimmer's
pump inlet. This aids in the removal of some excess CO2
and prevents the overall system's pH from dropping.
Diagram of the sump.
Just after this area of the sump is an over-under-over baffle
system, followed by the fragment grow-out area where I grow
mostly SPS fragments under a 150-watt metal halide lamp. I
keep a few pieces of live rock here, and it contains a three-inch
deep sand bed. Finally, two 250-watt heaters are located in
the return-pump inlet chamber at the far left.
A Knop HD calcium reactor with a do-it-yourself
second chamber as well as a Kalk-reactor I created (right)
provide calcium and trace element additions. I also dose ESV
magnesium as required. The calcium reactor's second chamber
was added to help scrub off some CO2
and keep it from driving the tank's pH too low, as well as
to add more calcium. The Kalk-reactor is fed RO/DI water from
the reservoir and added to the tank to replace evaporated
water through a Kent float valve. This is driven by gravity
as the reservoir is located near the room's ceiling. All water
added to the tank for evaporation make-up or by saltwater
water changes is filtered through a SpectraPure reverse osmosis
system with dual stage deionizer filters. A 20-gallon reservoir
is mounted to the wall directly above the water filter system
and houses a mechanical device I devised to reduce TDS creep.
This is the process in which impurities (dissolved
solids) are passed through the filters during the RO/DI startup
time just after having been in an "off" state. If
a RO/DI filter cycles on and off many times in a short period,
these impurities can accumulate to undesirable levels. This
RO/DI filter anti-cycling device allows the reservoir to fill
completely in one cycle and then completely empty prior to
the RO/DI starting up again.
To mix fresh, water-change saltwater,
I use a 50-gallon Rubbermaid trash (photo left) can
with a heater mounted inside and an Iwaki pump with a venturi
on its output. This simultaneously circulates the water within
the container, injects air and heats the water to the tank's
temperature. I use a second trash container to measure the
proper amount of tank water to be removed. With plumbing installed
between the two containers, I can mix fresh saltwater, remove
the proper amount of water from the tank, then pump the freshly
made saltwater into the tank to replace what was removed,
and finally pump the old water out of the second container
into the sink drain (see photos below). The whole process
takes approximately 15 minutes once the new saltwater is properly
mixed and ready for use.
The tank's water temperature is monitored
and controlled by a Neptune AquaController. The temperature
is based on a seasonal table that varies daily. Winter months
are lowest at 78°F and summer peaks run as high as 81°F.
I run an Aqua Logic 1/3 HP drop-in coil chiller for cooling
and four 250-watt EboJager heaters, two in the sump and one
in each of the prefilter boxes for heating.
Cowry (species unknown).
The water flow in the tank is provided
by two different systems. The first is two independent closed-loop
systems driven by Iwaki 55 pumps on opposing six-hour rotations.
From 6 AM to noon, the left closed-loop is on, which pulls
water from the right side of the tank and fires back into
the tank through a Penductor at the left side of the tank.
Then from 11:45 AM to 6 PM, the right closed-loop comes on
and pulls from the left side of the tank and returns through
a Penductor at the right side. Finally, from 5:45 PM to midnight,
the left closed-loop is turned on once again. They are both
off from midnight to 6 AM, so there is calm within the tank,
allowing the fish to rest peacefully. I set up this system
in an attempt to simulate tides with cross-tank flows.
The second system is the sinusoidal valve I built (right)
to provide random currents, that works in conjunction with
the flows provided by the closed-loops. This valve is fed
by the main circulation pump, a Sequence 4300, and alternates
its output through three separate returns located at the center
of the tank's back. Of these outputs, one fires left, one
right and the third fires in both right and left directions
along the tank's back panel. A one-half RPM motor rotates
the diverter drum of the sinusoidal valve.
The water from the tank's returns
flows into the sump through a 100 micron filter sock. The
skimmer pump's inlet pulls this "dirty" water and
processes it through the skimmer, which is of my own design
and build. The skimmer is a dual Beckett injector unit with
a ten-inch cylinder in the main contact area. The overall
height of this skimmer is approximately four feet. Ozone,
created by an Ozotech ozone generator, is injected through
one of the Beckett injectors. Both of the injector's air inlets
are connected to a carbon filter I designed and built to remove
impurities. A 5-gallon waste container exhausts its air through
another carbon filter to remove any unpleasant odors.
I also built a carbon/phosphate canister filter that receives
tank water from the main circulation pump. This then returns
the processed water to the sump. A 40-watt Lifegard ultraviolet
filter is also located on this same closed-loop that I run
The return at the left side of the tank passes its water
through a 25-micron Ocean Clear, in-line canister filter.
I have this in place to help clarify the tank water and eliminate
almost all of the small particulate matter. I have two pleated
filters on hand so that I can quickly switch them when need
be and not have any down time while I clean the replaced one.
I do this approximately every two weeks.
- Sailfin Tang
- Purple Tang
- Yellow Tang
- Heniochus Butterflyfish
- Coral Beauty
- Dragonface Pipefish
- Pajama Cardinals
- Blue/Green Chromis
2 - Blue Damselfish
- False Percula Clownfish
- True Percula Clownfish
- Clown Gobies
I have a relatively large assortment of corals, too many
to list them all individually. In general, I have a few soft
corals including Finger Leathers, Toadstools, Mushrooms, Zoanthids,
Gorgonians and a Brain coral. I also have a Rose Bubble Tip
anemone which hosts the two juvenile True Percula Clownfish
and a Purple Tip Sebae anemone which hosts the two False Percula
Clownfish. As far as LPS corals, there is a large Frogspawn,
a Torch coral and some Blastomussa spp. and Acanthastrea
spp. Finally, at last count, there were 80 different specimens
of SPS corals, mostly of the Acropora species. There
are also four varieties of foliose Montipora.
- Cleaner Shrimp
- Peppermint Shrimp
- Pistol Shrimp
- Green Serpent Star
- Tiger Striped Serpent Star
- Linckia Sea Stars
(Orange, Burgundy & Blue Patterned)
- Tiger Tail Cucumbers
- Fighting Conchs
9 - Tridacna crocea clams
- Tridacna maxima clams
Assorted Hermit Crabs
2 - Spiny Oysters
I rotate daily between frozen foods
and Nori (seaweed). On the days when frozen foods are fed,
I use the following:
2 cubes Mysis shrimp
2 cubes Life Line®
2 cubes Prime Reef
2 cubes Brine Shrimp Plus
DT's Oyster Eggs and Phytoplankton
Soaked in Selcon
In addition, I spot feed both the anemones and serpent stars
some frozen prawns once a week.
When designing my system, I attempted
to keep the design as clean and organized as possible, and
to create one that I felt would provide the best environment
for the animals I keep. I also tried to design the whole system
to be as automated and self-sufficient as possible, so that
time spent behind the tank didn't exceed the time enjoying
the tank from the front. As the tank matures, it becomes more
balanced every day and requires less input from me so that
I can enjoy it more and reap the rewards of all the work I
put into it.
My ultimate goal is to provide the best possible habitat
for all the living creatures I am responsible for keeping.
I don't take this lightly and toward this end, I am willing
to spend as much time and effort as is required for achieving
this. Neglect is definitely incompatible with reefkeeping.
If a day should come when I am no longer bothered by any death
or misfortune that occurs while under my care, it will surely
be time to find a new hobby. However, I don't see this happening
any time in the near future. This "hobby" is a great
passion of mine and always will be. Nevertheless, for now,
I will be just watching corals grow to maturity. Not a bad
way to spend time, in my humble opinion.
Visit Joseph's website for more information:
Feel free to comment or
ask questions about my tank in the Tank of the Month thread
on Reef Central.
If you'd like
to nominate a tank for Tank of the Month, click here
or use the button to the right.