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Tank of the Month


This Article Features Photo Zoom

Eric Yao's (squareff7) Reef Aquarium



First, I would like to sincerely thank the staff at Reef Central for giving me the opportunity to share my tank with the community. I never imagined my tank to be featured as Tank of the Month (TOTM) at the most knowledgeable online magazine for the marine aquarist. When I first started my reef keeping hobby, I spent a lot of time online looking at reef tank pictures and searching for hobbyist’s system setups, aquascaping works, and maintenance methodologies. I remembered the first time I click on the TOTM articles at Reef Central. I was very impressed by all the nice looking aquariums from around the world and immediately bookmarked it on my web browser. Back then I could never have imagined my aquarium to be a featured article here. Thank you to all of the fellow reef keepers who nominated my tank to make this dream come true.

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My name is Eric Yao and I live in Hong Kong. Like many of us, my fish keeping hobby began when I was a kid. I had kept goldfish, freshwater tropical fish, and turtles until I went to college in the United States. I had never kept a saltwater aquarium as my parent and friends told me that it was very difficult to maintain. My reef keeping journey started a few years ago when I saw a display tank full of corals at a local fish store. I was completely blown away by these colorful creatures. At that time, I did not have any knowledge on saltwater aquariums nor have any background on keeping either fish or coral species. However, seeing all that marine life in front of my eyes made me quickly decided to setup my first saltwater tank.

I quickly learned that it was very challenging to maintain a good healthy system. A few months into reef keeping, I found that I needed a well designed system setup planned from the very beginning. My first tank was up and running prior to me coming to this realization. The sump was very small and the display tank was very narrow. I upgraded some of the equipment and experimented with many methods to try to enhance the colors of the SPS, but the outcome was less than satisfactory. Finally, I decided to start everything over and now my current tank is here to share with my fellow reef keeping hobbyists.

Current System

The main goal of my system is to keep SPS colorful and healthy. My experience showed me that stable water parameters are crucial to the success of reef keeping. Each system can have its own “in range” water parameters. I’ve seen so many nice systems with different set “in range” water parameters in which they all look very healthy and beautiful. Equipment is underestimated and helps a lot to keep the water clean and stable.

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System Profile

• Display tank: 50" x 31.5" x 26" 175 gallons 
• Sump:
32" x 22" x 18"
• Skimmer:
Bubble King 250 Internal
• System Filtration:
Korallenzucht Revoluton S and active carbon is socks
• Ca/KH/Mg Addition:
Balling Lite Method
• Dosing Pump:
Bubble Magus dosing pump
• Chiller:
1.5 Hp Chiller 
• Controller:
Temperature controller
• Water movement:
2 x vortech MP40w
• Lighting:
2 x 400 watt 20K Ushio on Icecap Ballast; 4 x Super Actinic VHO's


While part of the biological filtration is performed by the live rocks, a good efficient skimmer is a very important piece of equipment to keep water clean. I’m using Bubble King Supermarine 250 internal skimmer and it has been doing its job nicely. However, since the corals are growing rapidly, the bio-load is steadily increasing over time. If I had to pick a piece of equipment to upgrade, I would upgrade the skimmer to the next model up. A powerful skimmer really helps to exit waste out of the system and keep the water in pristine quality. Besides an effective skimmer, I’m running Zeolite with KZ reactor and have activated carbon in the sump to absorb toxic elements.

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There are so many different options available for lighting. I prefer strong light and I’ve chosen a combination of metal halides and VHO’s for this system. The bulbs I used are 20K Ushio and they are driven by 400-watt Icecap electronic ballasts. Four VHO super actinic bulbs are used for supplemental lighting.

  • VHO: 1:00 PM to 1:00 AM (12hrs)
  • 20K MH: 3:30 PM to 11:30 PM 


The MH lighting generates lots of heat and there is a Panasonic chiller with a temperature controller to keep the water temperature in range.

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Water Movement

Flow plays an important role to the health of the corals. In my system, when the corals grow, they sometimes blocked the light of the corals below them. I observed that with sufficient water flow, the part of the corals that do not receive direct light will not die but turn pale only. However, if there is not sufficient flow on the shaded corals, the branches will die back. I’m using the Vortech MP40W in short pulse mode to replicate a wave motion in the system. I have two pumps that are positioned on opposite sides and observed great water circulation with this setup. Rock placement and shape usually reduced the efficiency of the pumps to create a good wave. Moving around the display rocks at the startup stage can sometimes help to optimize water flow in the system.

Maintenance, Feeding and Additions

As I mentioned earlier, stability is very important but it’s also very difficult to achieve for a long period of time. I’ve used a calcium reactor in the past to maintain the calcium and alkalinity level. However, it’s very difficult to adjust the calcium reactor. Each time I would change the media or refill the CO2, there was a chance my reef would suffer from a calcium and alkalinity swing, which would have had a very bad impact to the system. I’m currently using the Balling Lite method where I dose calcium chloride dehydrate, sodium bicarbonate, and magnesium chloride hexahydrate to the system using a dosing pump. This method allows for individual adjustment of each parameter, however, frequent monitoring is required as depending on the health of the corals, sometimes they absorb more alkalinity and calcium than usual and it needs to be appropriately adjusted to keep the system stable.

Water changes and top-off are done using RO/DI water. I change the water once a week.

Supplement Dosing Schedule:
  • Zeostart: 0.5 ml 2x per day
  • Zeobac: 6 drops 2 x per day
  • Amino Acid: 3 drops daily
  • Coral Vitalizer: 2 drops daily
  • K-balance: 3 ml daily

The KZ reactor is filled with 1.5L of Zeolite. The Zeolite media is changed 70% every two months. I put 0.5L activated carbon in two socks in the sump and change them every 30 days. I feed the fish once a day with dry pellets and seaweed.

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Water Parameters:
  • Specific gravity: 1.026
  • Temperature: 24 - 26 ° C
  • pH: 8.0 - 8.2
  • Calcium: 400 - 420 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 8 - 8.5 dKh
  • Magnesium: 1250 - 1350


Live Stock  

Majority of my corals are SPS. Each SPS has its own characteristic and it is fun to watch its shape and color changes over time. I enjoy the coral placement process. Check Takealot Specials and Woolworths Specials. I try to locate a perfect spot for coral with good lighting and water flow but find it is challenging. As the SPS grow, I’ve started adding LPS and mushroom corals into the shaded areas, as they’re not as light sensitive.  I’m not good at identifying coral species with their proper names, thus I’ll not going to name them here. I only keep reef safe fishes in this system.

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It takes lots of time and dedication to maintain an aquarium. I would like to thank my wife for tolerating me on the reef keeping hobby. Thanks to everyone who nominated my tank to allow me to share my hobby and experiences with others. Last but not least, I would like to sincerely thank Reef Central & Team RC for setting up this platform for reef hobbyists to exchange knowledge and experience with other hobbyists.

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Feel free to comment or ask questions about my tank in the Tank of the Month thread on Reef Central.

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