Kevin Pockell's (kevinpo) Reef Aquarium

Click here for larger image

Introduction and Background:

I started keeping freshwater fish as a child, and raised African cichlids and Discus as a young adult in the mid-'70's. I would see the beautiful saltwater fish at the local fish stores and think that someday I would give it a try. I bought a 100-gallon tank in 1977 and told myself I would set it up only for saltwater. I kept it through several moves, hauling it in and out of several homes before finally setting it up in 1985. After nearly 20 years and several more tanks I must admit, I'm definitely hooked for life

I don't believe there is any one right way to assemble a reef tank. I have been successful with several methods. The tank featured here has been running since June of 2001 and has dimensions of 96"x 44"x 33.5" with a volume of 557 gallons. A sump/refugium holds an additional 95 gallons. The majority of my corals have come from other hobbyists, starting as small 1-3" frags. It's my belief that captive propagation is the future of the coral collection hobby.

System Design:

The system was designed to be as maintenance-free as possible because I would typically travel for roughly three weeks each month. The tank was originally designed to be a room divider viewable from both sides, but due to problems with removing the wall it was placed in the corner. That is why the two overflow towers are located in the center rather than on the back wall. The overflows are 3.5" square (inside dimension). They were supposed to be 4" to accommodate a 2" bulkhead but due to a manufacturer's error I had to use 1.5" bulkheads. This resulted in the water level running quite high. In retrospect a closed loop system would have been a great feature. I can always add that on my next tank when I upgrade.

Click here for larger image
Top middle section of the tank.


I have about 800 lbs. of live rock placed in the center of the tank resulting in a double-sided reef. There are several locations where large fish can swim through the rockwork. I believe this design has helped reduce aggression between the fish as it allows them to be out of sight of each other. It also provides twice the grazing space and unobstructed flow behind the rocks.

Click here for larger image
Bottom left section of the tank.

Click here for larger image
Click here for larger image
Top left section of the tank.
Top right section of the tank.

Click here for larger image
Side view of the tank.


I made the stand from 2 x 4's, 4 x 4's, deck screws, and galvanized brackets purchased at the local Home Depot. The reason I chose this method is that it allows me to completely disassemble and move the stand. Since it needed to be very sturdy, it became too heavy and bulky to move in one piece.

  • The pump on the left (above) is a Dolphin Aqua Sea 4500. It is the main circulation device. It feeds four 3/4" Sea Swirls and can deliver 3600 GPH @ 5' head.

  • The next pump to the right is an Iwaki MD55RLT to power the Gemini ETSS 800 skimmer.

  • The pump on the far right (barely noticeable between the skimmer and right side of the sump) is an Iwaki MD100RLT, which returns water from the sump through the end of the tank at the water's surface to provide surface gas exchange. It delivers 2000 GPH @ 4' head.

  • This is the Korallin C3002 calcium reactor (above left). My system's calcium level runs 380-420 ppm. I would recommend using a reactor to anyone keeping a large amount of SPS corals. I added a second chamber built by Geo because the single chamber could not keep up with the demand for calcium. Additionally, I run a kalkwasser reactor (seen on the right).

  • This is the new sump/refugium (above) that I installed on 8-24-02. It has a 112 gallon capacity, measures 40" x 36" x 19" and is lit by two 110 watt VHO 50/50 bulbs. It was custom-made by Barr Aquatics.

  • The skimmer (above) is a Barr Aquatic SK4200 powered by an Iwaki MD100RLT (I run both skimmers simultaneously). The other picture is a Barr Aquatic kalk reactor that treats my 12-14 gal a day of RO/DI make-up water.

  • The lighting consists of five 400-watt metal halide bulbs, three Ushio 10,000K and two Radium 20,000K bulbs driven by PFO brand HQI type ballasts. For the dawn/dusk effect there are eight 95 watt and two 160 watt URI VHO actinic bulbs driven by IceCap and URI electronic ballasts. So I have 1080 watts of actinics and 2000 watts of halides for 3080 total watts. The 10,000K halide bulbs are placed on the outsides and one in the center with the 20,000K's positioned in between. The halides are on for nine hours. The 160-watt actinic bulbs run for 14 hours and the 95-watt actinics run for 12 hours.

Click here for larger image
Click here for larger image
Acropora microphthalma - my biggest coral.

Husbandry & Maintenance:

I change 150 gallons of water every 3-4 weeks using RO/DI water. Some of the challenges as the tank has aged have been:

    • Keeping the corals from overgrowing and fighting with each other (see below).

    • Providing enough flow as the corals grow and begin to block and change the flow patterns.

    • Keeping algae at manageable levels.

    • Keeping up with coralline algae removal on the front and end panels.

Click here for larger image
Corals at war!


I make a chopped preparation that I keep in an old Cool Whip container stored in the freezer that consists of:

    • Formula 1 frozen cubes

    • Raw shrimp (41-50 count size)

    • Dried seaweed

    • Freeze-dried plankton

    • Crushed garlic

The first four ingredients are of equal proportions with one-teaspoon of garlic added to them.

Click here for larger image

Water Chemistry/Water Parameters:

I test only specific gravity, calcium and alkalinity levels with average results of:

Water Parameters:
· Calcium: 397 ppm
· Alkalinity: 2.94 meq/L
· Specific Gravity: 1.025


For the first 18 months I did not have to add anything but as the calcium consuming corals grew large I began to dose calcium chloride and buffer.

Click here for larger image
Click here for larger image
Click here for larger image
Growth of the reef as seen in a series of photos beginning with 2002 at the top
and ending with 2004 in the bottom shot.


I use protein skimming and live plants in the refugium for filtration. I also run ozone and carbon.

Click here for larger image
Click here for larger image

Click here for larger image
Click here for larger image


The Mandarinfish, Anthias, Chromis, Clownfish, and Triggers have all spawned. No attempts were made to collect the eggs or raise the fry.

Click here for larger image
Click here for larger image

10 Lyretail Anthias
(Pseudanthias squamipinnis) 9/7/02
Sixline Wrasse
(Pseudocheilinus hexataenia) 7/7/01
Sailfin Tang
(Zebrasoma desjardinii) 11/12/01
Purple Tang
(Zebrasoma xanthurum) 3/6/99
Mated pair of Bluejaw Triggers
(Xanthichthys auromarginatus) 1/5/03
Two Green Chromis
(Chromis atripectorails) 7/7/01
Naso Tang
(Naso lituratus) 7/17/01
Lawnmower Blenny
(Salarias fasciatus) 7/18/02
Blueface Angel
(Pomacanthus xanthometopon) 8/3/02
Copperband Butterflyfish
(Chelmon rostratus) 8/16/02
Chalk Bass
(Serranus tortugarum) 9/25/02
Royal Gramma
(Gramma loreto) 2/17/96
Mated pair of Green Mandarinfish
(Synchiropus splendidus) 8/8/01
Pinkspotted Shrimp Goby
(Cryptocentrus leptocephalus) 11/20/98
Two Scissortail Dartfish
(Ptereleotris evides) 11/29/02
False Percula Clownfish
(Amphiprion ocellaris) 2/1/96

Click here for larger image
Click here for larger image

Click here for larger image

Acropora abrolhosensis, A. aculeus, A. austere, A. cerealis, A. chesterfieldensis, A. cytherea, A. formosa, A. gemmifera, A. grandis, A. humilis, A. loisetteae, A. loripes, A. lovelli, A. microphthalma, A. millepora, A. nana, A. nobilis, A. prostrata, A. pulchra, A. robusta, A. sarmentosa, A. secale, A. solitaryensis, A. tenuis, A. tortuosa, A. valida, A. yongei
Leptoseris hawaiiensis
Stylophora pistillata
Heliopora coerulea
Hydnophora grandis
Favites sp.
Nemenzophyllia turbida
Porites cylindrical, P. porites
Pocillopora damicornis, P. verrucosa
Euphyllia ancora, E. glabrescens
Seriatopora caliendrum, S. hystrix
Galaxea fascicularis
Turbinaria reniformis
Platygyra acuta
Gorgonia mariae
Montipora capricornis, M. digitata, M. confusa, M. spongodes
Xenia umbellata

Click here for larger image Click here for larger image

Click here for larger image

Click here for larger image Click here for larger image
Pink Table Coral (Acropora hyacinthus) - Growth over a year.

Click here for larger image Click here for larger image
Acropora loripes - Growth over four years.

Growth Sequence

Click here for larger image


Click here for larger image


Click here for larger image


Click here for larger image

Click here for larger image Click here for larger image

Growth Sequence

Click here for larger image


Click here for larger image


Click here for larger image


Three cleaner shrimp
Tonga conch
Blue Linckia starfish
Various snails
Heteractis crispa
Tridacna derasa, T. gigas, T. maxima, T. squamosa
Lettuce slug (Elysia crispata)
Hermit crabs (hitchhikers)

Click here for larger image


I want to thank Reef Central and the people there who have helped and inspired me over the years. What a wonderful resource for the beginner or experienced hobbyists.

Thank you very much,

Click here for larger image

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

Reefkeeping Magazine™ Reef Central, LLC-Copyright © 2008

Tank of the Month - November 2004 -