Hello! It's a great honor to have been selected as "Tank of the Month" by the Captive Reefs team. Thank you so very much for the recognition. It's been a long road to develop such a system, one that I have enjoyed despite a few trips down Frustration Lane from time to time. The tank has been a great bonding experience for my daughters and me, as well as a great source of peace, relation and pride.
The local reef community has been such a great asset. There are many friends I have met through this hobby. It would be impossible to name them all! I have so many people to thank for their support. I will place some kind words to a few of the businesses that have provided insight and resources, specifically the Fish Doctors (hardware and livestock) and Tropicorium. Mucho appreciated guys!
My tank has been running continuously since February 2005. It's a 6 foot wide 135g tank made by All Glass. It has dual corner overflows with standpipes from the famous Richard Durso. The stand and canopy is a Mission style built by a local carpenter sourced through the Fish Doctors. When moving out of my Novi home in August 2004, I broke down a 20 month old 100 gallon display with a 4 inch sand bed. It was a memorable experience: the Southdown sand was, in a word, nasty! This substrate had quickly become a nutrient sink; I was determined not to replicate that experience.
As we would be living in a condo for 6 months, I used that time to experiment with different processes. I became influenced by Bomber from Reef Central, who pioneered the concept of a high flow, no sand bed environment for SPS tanks, accompanied with a starboard (cutting board) bottom. My tank started down this path; restaurant-grade cutting board was ordered from US Plastics in Ohio. The tank was aqua-scaped with islands on the left and right, with the center serving as an area for lower light creatures.
Although the system worked well for the first few years, the tank had a stark feeling due to the bare white bottom. I then took advice from JimsFlies, who used various LPS corals to add layers and texture to his beautiful bare bottom tank. As a result, the front bottom became more colorful and exciting. The stark feeling disappeared, especially as the rest of the bottom became coralline encrusted.
The current lighting system is very unique. The tank initially ran with 2x250 halides; a 3rd MH was added in late 2008. Although the color and growth was good, I frequently battled heat fluctuation, and, in the summer, struggled to keep the system cool.
In June of 2009 I made a major conversion from the metal halide lighting to a LED system by Sunbrite lighting. The Sunbrite "bulbs" appear to be fluorescent bulbs, but are actually tubes with LEDs mounted to circuit boards inside. The ballasts are also inside the tubes; just plug on the clips and insert the plug into the wall, and away you go!
Currently seven bulbs are in place:
I have dropped from 8 bulbs to seven with the implementation of the Hi Power Gen 2 bulbs. Why? A few weeks ago, while running 8 bulbs, I replaced a standard Gen 2 12k and 16k with a Hi Power 12k and 16k. Mistake! I burned a number of chalices and some SPS frags as well. Going from 1 to 3 High Powers was too much! As a result, I pulled out the Hi Power 16k. In the coming week, I'll put it back in, but pull out both a 16k and probably the 12k 1st Gen as well.
. "Hi Power 2nd Gen" - 470 nm and 12k
. "2nd Gen" - 440 nm, 22k x2, and 16k
. "1st Gen" in 12k
The picture below demonstrate the color temps in the early bulbs. Initially the cases were white plastic tubes. There were 90 LEDs per foot in these bulbs!
The Gen 2 bulbs converted to aluminum cases. In December, Sunbrite introduced the "Hi-Power Gen 2" bulbs to the US market only. These bulbs employ a Cree-based solution with higher output LEDs - only about 6 per foot, vs. 90 per foot in the prior designs.
The Sunbrite Timer Pack turns the bulbs on and off. It is a very effective tool for creating a dawn effect. I've set it to turn on a bulb about 20 minutes starting at 9 am. In the evening, I reverse the process starting at 8 pm to simulate dusk.
Behind the scenes
For flow, a Tunze 6100 controllable pump is in place, using the Tunze 7091 Single Controller alternating between 30% and 100% to create a wave. I have been experimenting with a Tunze 6101 (slightly updated version of the 6100) and a Vortech MP 40. There's also a Korilia Nano at the bottom to keep detritus off the
The system is controlled with a Reefkeeper 2. Its web server functionality (providing access to data via any browser) and alert capability keeps me informed if issues arise. but, to be frank, without the halide-driven temp peaks and valleys, I don't have such panic. However, I plan to test another Profilux in the coming weeks.
A larger sump was added in November 2009. It replaced a smaller Pro-Clear which had been used since the tank's 2005 start up. Skimmer is a Tunze 9010.... compact, energy efficient, easy to clean, and quiet. Heater also rests in the sump.
The thin white tube feeds topoff water from the basement. The flex tube pumps up fresh salt water from the basement for water changes. no more lugging of buckets from the basement!
Return pump is an Iwaki MD-30. The smaller Iwaki pumps are quiet (no fan), cool, reliable, and use relatively low energy. I explored placing the sump in the basement, but that would require a much larger pump, significantly increasing energy costs.
Topoff water comes from an old 15 gallon tank in the basement sitting on a used aquarium stand. I manually fill the tank every week or so with RO; it's mixed with a sodium carbonate and/or sodium bicarbonate to maintain the tank's alkalinity and PH. A SpectraPure "Liter Meter" doses the water upstairs to the sump.
Finally, the RO system. An electronic valve (upper left) is turned on for 2 hours daily by an electronic timer (at right). The valve feeds water to the RO system (middle left), which flows to the Rubbermaid container. This water is used for making up water for topoff and weekly changes. A 10% water change is done every Sunday morning.
The system is dominated by large montipora capricornis, specifically the Idaho Grape, Green, and Orange. All were grown from small frags. The Orange and Green colonies have been fragged many times over. You can see from the white band on the front glass that the orange cap is now growing up the front glass.
The tank also houses other shelf-type corals: a large Tyree Blue Chalice, a Hollywood Stunner chalice, and a pair of yellow turbanaria (scroll), all members of the LPS family. The chalices were growth from tiny frags.
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