Ron Shively’s (Ron S.) Reef Aquarium


First and most importantly, I would like to thank my wife for her support in my endeavor you see here. Secondly, I would like to thank the Reef Central committee for choosing my tank for the much sought-after honor of being Tank of the Month. Many thanks to the members of Reef Central and the members of Michigan Reefers, my local forum, for sharing their knowledge and experience from which all of us have used to make our tanks thrive. Many thanks to Mike LaPorte (Enterprise) for helping with the photos you will see here.


My current tank is a glass 180-gallon located in my basement, upgraded from my one-year old 55-gallon. The tank was purchase used from a local reefer and the journey began. The tank flows into a 100-gallon stock tank that holds heaters, a skimmer, extra live rock, and miscellaneous items. From there, it flows to a 55-gallon tank used as a refugium, lit 24/7, under the stand and back to the tank.

System Profile

System Water Volume: ~205 gallons
Main Tank: 180 gallons - estimate 110-gallons volume
Sump: 100 gallons - estimate 70-gallons volume
Refugium: 55 gallons - estimate 25-gallons volume
Skimmer: ASM G-5
Return Pump: Mag 18
Water Movement: Two Tunze 6060, one Tunze 6100 and one modded maxi-jet
Lighting (display): Two 175 watt 15,000K Iwasaki, Two 175 watt Ushio 10,000K, three 60" VHO Actintic, and two 60" T-5 ATI Blue Plus on Icecap 660
Lighting (refugium):Two Lights of Americia 65 watt Flood lights.(rated at 500 watt output)
Cooling:Rancho Dual temp controller with 2-500 watt titanium heaters with 20 inch box fan on the cooling circut.(Fan never runs) Room temperture controled with portable AC/Dehumidifier vented out basement window.
Calcium Reactor: DIY, holds est. 25 lbs of coarse media.
Misc: DIY Kalk Reactor, pH monitor, Ozone fed into skimmer controlled with Milwaukee controller
Water: RO/DI water, dual 75 membranes and dual DI. Water stored in Brute trash can. Waste water stored in dual trash cans used for laundry

Heating and Cooling

I use a Ranco dual temperature controller running 2-500 watt titanium heating elements and only a fan on the cooling side. The biggest cooling item I use is a portable AC/dehumidifier, vented out a window. The AC controls room temperature and humidity perfectly. Before the addition, I tried venting with fans thru a basement window, but I could never control heat and humidity.


As many people have learned, finding the right lighting for their tank is a time consuming decision. I have always liked the looks of VHO actinics; the glow from the corals just isnít the same with any other lights. So, when I set up this tank, I loaded the canopy with two 175 watt Ushio halides run on an electronic ballast from my previous tank, two 72" VHOs, and five 48" VHOs (all super actinic). This allowed good growth due to the fact I only had lower light corals at the time.

I later swapped out the Ushios for 15,000K XM bulbs. I liked the color from the XMs, but the growth seemed too slow. The tank ran well for a long time, until I was able to pick up an identical used metal halide set-up. I then switched out my lights to four 175 watt 15,000K XMs with three 60" VHO super actinic bulbs. As you may imagine, this gave the tank a nice blue tone with lots of fluorescent colors.

Finally after two plus years, I had a halide bulb burn out and decided to try something different. I had added a few SPS (small polyped stony corals) over the years and wanted to give them some extra light. After much research, I added two new Iwasaki 14,000K bulbs and put my old Ushio 10,000K bulbs back in. Consequently, this gave my lighting a white tone that was not exactly what I wanted. My solution was to add an Icecap 660 ballast with two 60" T5 ATI Blue Plus bulbs. I had seen them and liked the colors they showed. I then adjusted my light timers so that the halides were off by the time I came home from work to see the tank. So far growth is great and Iím happy with the colors.


Filtration on this tank is not very fancy. I use an ASM G-5 skimmer. The skimmer does a decent job, but could be better. I run both the overflow and skimmerís output thru 25 micron filter socks. I feel the amount of crud that they remove helps greatly. There is some degree of extra work involved to change and clean the socks, but far less effort than dealing with the algae from high nutrients. I swap socks every couple of days and remove them when I go out of town (one less thing to plug up when Iím not there). I also installed a 55-gallon tank under the stand that is lit 24/7 to grow various macro algae for nutrient export. I also feel this supplies food that is pumped back to the tank thru the return pump. The biggest improvement I did for water quality was the addition of an ozone generator. Before the addition, I would have to clean the glass daily, however after installing it, maybe once a week.


As with lighting, circulation is a balancing act that takes time and consideration. Having a sand bed, large polyped stony (LPS) corals and softies, flow needs to be planned accordingly. Too much flow and corals donít open, too little and detritus settles on the rocks. Currently, I have one modified maxi-jet and a Tunze 6100 behind the rocks, two Tunze 6060ís at the front corners pointed in, as well as a Mag 18 return pump pushing water through two SCWDs. My estimate is about 35 times (per hour) turn over in the tank.


Over the years I have feed many types of food to my tank. Currently, I feed the fish nori (dried algae sheet) about three times a week and Mysis shrimp twice a week. I feed the corals daily with a mixture of different sized Golden Pearls Diet from Brine Shrimp Direct. I also feed a homemade mixture of mysis, squid, mussels, various other seafood, flake, and pellet food blended together, and then frozen. I feed this once a week. I mix all food with Selcon and turn the return pump off for a couple of hours while I feed. The pump is controlled with a timer so I donít forget to turn it back on.

Miscellaneous Equipment and Additives

Tank supplements are fairly limited. I add about five drops of Lugolís Solution per day, and magnesium as needed. Calcium and alkalinity are kept under control with a DIY (do it yourself) calcium reactor. I have an ATO (automatic top off system) that mixes top-off water with kalkwasser in a DIY reactor to balance pH from the calcium reactor.


Most of the fish in my tank have been with me since the beginning. My Powder Brown tang has been such a bully that it is hard to add any other fish. I was able to add a Naso tang to help with a bad outbreak of Lobophora variegata, a nasty brown algae that about drove me out of the hobby. I also recently added a school of small Chromis. Watching these fish swim in a school is a very cool thing.

2 Yellow tangs
Powder Brown tang
Bi-color Blenny
Blue Devil damsel
Naso tang
Tomato clownfish
Lemon Peel angel
2 Pajama cardinals
11 Green Chromis


I have added very few invertebrates to the tank. I have a Brittle starfish that has been there from the start, and couple of Peppermint shrimp I only see if searching for them. Mostly, the tankís clean-up crew comes from various starfish and snails that have hitchhiked into the tank.


The corals are far too many to list. I started with the usual easy-to-keep corals and over the years as my experience grew, I have added some SPS to the mix. The corals were placed the best I could to allow their needs to be met. Beyond that, I have just let the tank grow as you see it today. The most recent additions have been several Lemnalias. Being purple and pink, they give a nice contrast to the usual tans and greens in the tank.

Water Parameters
 Specific gravity: 1.025 sg
 pH: 8.01
 Calcium: 475 ppm
 Alkalinity: 9 dKH
 Magnesium: 1300 ppm
 Nitrate: undetectable
 Phosphate: < .03ppm
 Temperature: 78° F
 ORP: 415


I currently have three tanks, so each tank receives a 32 gallon water change every third week. As stated above, I change filter socks every couple of days, as well as cleaning the skimmer cup. I do not use carbon nor phosphate media that require changing. Macro algae is pruned, kalkwasser powder is topped off, and the calcium reactor media is topped off as needed. Testing is done once a month, or more often if warranted.

Final Thoughts

I have been very fortunate that other than one algae outbreak, and the tank overflows causing floods, the tank has never had any serious issues. This tank was started with all the newbie mistakes from which I learned. There are a few things I would do differently if setting up another tank. The first would be a drilled tank, the second, a moveable light rack to allow access to the tank, and finally, open rockwork and a peninsula-style tank. I would love have both long sides viewable. To me, it would be like having a tank twice as long. Thank you for this honor.

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.

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Tank of the Month - September 2008 -