Advanced Aquarist July 2004 - click here for the complete article and
I began reefing in the 80's when algae covered rocks were thought to
look good and bio balls were the end-all of water quality control. After
working in several LFS in LA for 5 years, I moved to the SF Bay Area
and took a hiatus from the hobby. When my wife and I were lucky enough
to buy our first house I jumped back in with a 50
gallon and labored to catch up with all the new information that
had become available. I was very happy with the tank, but always thought
about doing something bigger and better.
My chance came in 2002. My wife was pregnant and we decided to move
a whopping 5 blocks to a bigger home that would better suit our growing
family. And, of course moving meant NEW TANK. The situation worked out
perfectly because we had two months to prepare for the move, and I was
able to use that time to design and collect the components for the new
system. Best of all, beneath the new house was a 40 inch crawl space
with great access, so a remote sump was high on the list.
Being on a budget, I searched the Internet for used equipment, and based
my system around what I found. I knew I wanted a bigger tank, and soon
I found a 150, 5x2x2, drilled with overflows and perimeter bracing (I
love perimeter bracing because it allows you can put all kinds on stuff
right by the tank where you need it). I also got a used Euro Reef CS-3,
some used 250 watt DE pendants, a used Ampmaster 3000, and a used 180
acrylic tank for the sump. All these were significantly less money than
the same items new, so if you have the time, searching for used equipment
is the way to go.
A custom-made stand and canopy were a must because the old tank was
rigged with temporary solutions that seemed to always become permanent,
and the room it was in was slowly taken over by the kudzu-like growth
of reef equipment…it drove my wife crazy. The stand and canopy were
the single most expensive purchase for the new system: red oak, 30 inch
high stand, 16 inch high front opening matching canopy - mmmm pretty.
I now completely believe that a good looking stand and canopy are a
must because they make your tank look like showpiece rather than a cobbled
I wanted to locate the tank in our living room because that's where
I spend most of my relaxing time, but there really wasn't a good place
for it. I considered another room, but knew I wouldn't be happy with
it there. I posted diagrams of the house on RDO and asked for input.
There was a perfect wall for the tank, but in that wall was a door to
a bathroom. Someone suggested I move the bathroom door, an idea I never
considered. This strategy had the added benefit of allowing me to access
the back of the tank from inside the bathroom. So a contractor friend
and I moved the door, reinforced the floor under the tank, and began
Set up for this system officially began in August of 2002. The first
order of business was moving the old tank to the new house (the move
actually went very well, only needing 2 friends and 20 containers for
livestock…and the result was almost no losses). The livestock stayed
in the 50 gallon until the new system was up and stable, which was pretty
quick because almost all the live rock came from the old system and
any new rock had been curing for months at the LFS. In the third week
of August I moved a couple of LPS and softie frags over and they did
well, so over the next two weeks I moved everything over.
Two years later, the system is flourishing, (knock on wood, we all know
how quickly that can change!) allowing me a constant stream of frags
for sale or trade to other hobbyists.
My idea about how the system should work was based largely on the idea
of 'a little bit of everything'. In building this system, I have tried
to incorporate the best techniques from the reefing world. In my opinion,
• The biggest show tank possible.
• A big, remote sump for macros and coral farming. I think the benefits
of a big sump are huge: stable temperature, stable water quality, hidden
mess (which, from the pictures, you can tell is important) and no noise
in the living room. I am currently thinking about adding a 300 gallon
tub to the sump as cheap additional water quality insurance because
I have the room under the house.
• An over tank refugium to keep the in-tank supply of pods stable for
the fickle fish.
• A medium sand bed mainly because I like the look of it, and I like
the stability it provides. I also regularly 'storm' the sand with a
power head to help remove detritus build up.
• A big skimmer running wet to take out the nasties quick.
• A calcium reactor for the stability and peace of mind.
• Good lighting that will allow the keeping of practically anything.
• High water turnover rate and strong, random circulation.
Automate everything possible - timers for lights, temp controllers for
fans, auto top off, auto skimmer shut off - because it is more fun to
look at your tank than to spend time doing menial tasks.