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Zachtos' SPS Forest

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  1. #1
    zachtos - Reefkeeper CR Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Mount Pleasant, Michigan
    First Name
    Awards Tank of the Month - February 2012 Tank of the Month

    Default Zachtos' SPS Forest

    My saltwater addiction began with pulsing pink xenia of all things. I graduated from college as an engineer with too much time on my hands so I began to study reefkeeping. This is not a good hobby for a perfectionist. You will never be FULLY satisfied but it is quite rewarding to grow beautiful colonies of corals from tiny fragments. The system is 5 years old but the coral is only 3 years old due to a plumbing mishap a while back. I am a self-proclaimed equipment junkie and a do-it-yourselfer to boot so this write up includes a lot of specs.

    System Details

    Tank Specs
    -240 gallons, acrylic, 7'L x 24"T x 28"W (not a fan of acrylic)
    -450 gallons total water volume w/ sumps
    -DIY foam background coated w/ concrete
    -PVC skeleton for liverock
    -drilled for returns, drains and closed loop pump

    Water Parameters
    (I test very rarely nowadays)
    Specific Gravity: 35ppt
    Temperature: 79F
    Alk: 8-10dkh
    Calc: 425-475ppm
    Mag: 1200-1500ppm
    No3: 1ppm
    PO4: 0ppm

    Water Quality
    -500lbs of liverock (started w/ mostly base rock)
    -6" diameter custom skimmer w/ bubble blaster HY-5000 pump (40-50 scfh)
    -50 gallon refugium w/ 75W High Pressure Sodium bulb (great results)
    -100 micron nylon filter sock changed 3x/week
    -8 cups of carbon monthly (55lb bags from a water company)
    -8ml vodka/sugar/vinegar daily (nitrate reduction)
    -2 cups of granular ferric oxide monthly (as needed)
    -5 gallon remote deep sand bed (no tangible results)

    -spectrum pellets 5 days/week
    -frozen foods (DIY blend) 2 days/week
    -(1) 8"x7" nori sheet daily (noridirect)
    -golden pearls, 50nm (for corals - no tangible results)

    -12.5% water changes bi-weekly.
    -water changes via valves tied to main drain line and gravity fed re-fill
    -90 gallon of water stored in 30 gallon trash cans w/ valves to divide them up
    -RO/DI water purification unit, dual membrane, w/ booster pump

    -(3) 400W XM10K Metal Halide, electronic coralvue ballasts, lumen-brite mini reflectors, 14" mount height
    -8 hours MH, 4 hours LED moonlight (Cree XPG royal blue x 12 at 350mA)
    -auto-top off unit-No actinic supplementation is used currently. I used reeflux 12k previously, but prefer the high PAR of XM10K.
    -PAR: 900 to 400 in coral zones

    -24,000gph to 30,000gph closed loop peak flow
    -custom designed 3 phase motor with controller to give chaotic flow patterns
    -3200gph return pump (1500gph w/ head loss)

    -calcium reactor, custom dual chamber unit
    -Baking Soda (alkalinity+)
    -DowFlake (calcium+)
    -MagFlake & Epsom Salt (magnesium+)
    -Iron chelate (for macro algae, not required)

    -50 gallon trash can w/ 200lbs of liverock
    -150 gallon return sump w/ 100lbs of liverock and closed loop natural gas heating coil
    -50 gallon refugium
    -50 gallon tank for equipment
    -attached 75G anemone tank


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    Fish and Inverts

    I keep my bioload relatively low and focus on tangs/surgeon fish.
    -adult Emperor Angel
    -Sailfin Tang
    -Purple Tang
    -Hippo Tang
    -Achilles Tang (my fave)
    -mandarin dragonette
    -3 chromis
    -2 clarki clownfish
    -watchman goby
    -leopard wrasse -flame angel
    -2 pistol shrimp
    -2 cleaner shrimp.


    I mostly collect SPS corals (millipore in particular). Most are fairly common corals that I consider staples of the SPS collections. Most colonies are about 3 years old.

    -nathan's green
    -palmer blue
    -ORA blue
    -Dark red

    -blue tip stag
    -tri color acro
    -purple digi
    -orange digi
    -orange monti cap
    -grape monti cap
    -chili pepper monti cap
    -strawberry field monti cap
    -tyree flower petal monti cap
    -blue chalice
    -cactus spongedes?
    -Green star polyps
    -hairy green mushrooms
    -unknown LPS encrusters

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    I have tried zeovit system, sulfur denitrator, remote deep sand beds, phytoplankton, ozone, wavemakers and every type of light you can think of. 400 watt metal halide is still the best bang for the buck. I'm currently experimenting with LED lighting and Algal turf scrubbing in my office tank. I would like to eventually build a 500G DIY plywood/epoxy display tank and build it in wall with a low iron glass front panel. Light with LEDs, clean with turf scrubber or skimmer, and water movement with two 3 phase motors on variable frequency drives.

    I would like to thank the entire coral reefkeeping community. There has been a number of people that helped me design and troubleshoot over the years but none of this would not have been possible if it were not for online reefkeeping forums. I will continue to build new systems in the future and hope to continue to inspire future reefkeepers as the hobby becomes mainstream.

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    Additional Information

    I keep acrylic covers over the tank to prevent the large fish from splashing the bulbs and to combat humidity/evaporation. All tanks have covers and this reduced typical evaporation from 60 gallons/week to 30 gallons/week. I should have built the system with humidity controls in mind, but I haven't had any problems since covering the tanks and using the air conditioner during the hot/humid days. Dual dehumidifiers are rarely used to combat cool, humid days.

    Storm Drive
    I built my 'storm drive' a few years ago because I wanted high intensity, chaotic flow with low energy consumption and minimal maintenance. The 3 phase motor with variable frequency drive allows me to increase my maximum flow rate as my tank fills in with corals. The eductor attachments give higher flow by creating a suction effect with high pressure streams, boosting my max flow output by four times. I achieve 6500gph x 4 = 26,000gph, or more if I push past 60hz. I throttle the motor up and down slowly across 60 seconds which causes a 'surge' motion across the tank. It ramps up to 'storm mode' daily to clean the detritus out of the tank, and throttles back at night. I average 180 watts for flow and achieve over 100X turnover rate in the display.

    Natural Gas Heat
    -Natural gas water heater with recirculation pump and closed loop coil in sump. This saves approximately $200 per year in electricity and keeps the tank at the perfect temperature. I idle at 79F 9 months a year. I air condition the house to 78F to keep the tank at 80-82F during the summer months.

    My personal rule of thumb for reefkeeping budget. Monthly maintenance cost (averaged over a year) = Display tank gallons x $1.00. New build cost = Display size x $50 (add 50% if you are not DIY). I find this to be a great tool to help you find a tank that you can afford to sustain.

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    Attached Images Attached Images                      
    Last edited by jimsflies; 04-02-2012 at 11:14 PM.
    Likes MizTanks liked this post

  2. #2
    jimsflies - Reefkeeper

    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    First Name


    Awesome reef Zach! Great job on the article too!

  3. #3
    Captain - Reefkeeper CR Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    West bloomfield, MI
    First Name


    Coral real big
    Fish real big
    Tank real big
    Everything real big

  4. #4
    CR Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    First Name


    Awesome tank! Congratulations.

  5. #5
    larryandlaura - Reefkeeper
    Team CR

    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Houghton Lake
    First Name
    Awards Monthly Giveaway Winner Fantasy Football Champion Referral Award Monthly Giveaway Winner


    Amazing tank!
    Hi my name is Larry and I'm a coral addict!

  6. #6
    CR Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2011


    Looks AWESOME! Congratulations.

  7. #7
    MizTanks - Reefkeeper
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    U.P. of Michigan.
    First Name
    Awards Photo of the Month - October 2012 Photo of the Month Post and Reply Award - Winner of the first PAR Contest. Monthly Giveaway Winner


    There's nothing like being a Reefer! www.upmmas.com

  8. #8
    zachtos - Reefkeeper CR Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Mount Pleasant, Michigan
    First Name
    Awards Tank of the Month - February 2012 Tank of the Month


    Thanks everyone. I hope it inspires future hobbyist and helps you save some money so you can go BIG! In the next 5 years I plan to move to a bigger house and bigger tank.
    240G SPS reef w/ 75G anemone tank & 300G sump. 25,000gph custom storm drive for flow, tank heated by natural gas loop on water heater, 400W MH x 3 (10K XM on coralvue e-ballast and lumenbrite mins), custom built skimmer and Ca Reactor, 50G refugium w/ 70W HPS, DIY zeolite clinoptilolite system w/ bacteria and carbon dosing.

  9. #9
    bluwc - Reefkeeper CR Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Clio, MI


    Very nice tank, congrats!

  10. #10
    Heidi - Reefkeeper
    Queen of Chat

    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    First Name
    Awards Fishbowl Drawing Winner


    Zach the tank looks good!! I was wondering when you would win. The frags I got from you at the swap are super happy and of beautiful color, thanks again. I hope my tank will someday be as beautiful and grown out as yours!

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