Mark [markitekt]
120 g Stony Reef

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Taking it from the top.

After finishing college, my girlfriend and I moved in together. Starting a new job brought in some decent money. Knowing myself, Iím not the saving type, so I decided to toss it into a new hobby. Iíve run freshwater tanks when I was in grade school, but that was the only run-in with the aquarium hobby until after college graduation. Iíve always admired saltwater tanks for obvious reasons, and now I finally had the time and means to get started.
My first tank was a 72 gallon bow-front. I bought everything off Craigslist posts. I found one that fit my, then current living space and took the trip out to buy it. It had an overflow box, came with a 15 gallon acrylic sump, with a built in ďskimmerĒ, a return pump and a PC light fixture with one busted ballast. Having absolutely no clue what to do with the equipment, I started the research. I mean, I didnít even know how the overflow box worked. Given that, there was a lot of research to get done.
After gaining some knowledge and realizing most of the equipment I had was crap, I started to upgrade piece by piece. Adding some Koralia circulation pumps was the first step. Buying a t-5 fixture soon followed. After adding some more livestock, I knew I needed a better skimmer. I got a small Reef Octopus. Everything was going great, so I started focusing more on coral. I eventually upgraded to 2x250MH and had to add a chiller. Everything was going great, until we found a nicer place to live and decided to move.

The Upgrade.

Not even a year has passed since I started my first tank. As soon as it was written in stone that we were moving, I started looking for a bigger tank. Since the 72g was a four foot tank, and I had a nice four foot light fixture, it was a logical decision to get another four foot tank. I found one on Craigslist at a good price and went to pick it up. The sump was next on the list. Found an awesome deal on a 60g, acrylic sump. This put me in an interesting position because the sump was too big to fit in the stand I got with the tank. At this point I had some experience with battling in the tight spaces of my previous tank stand, so I decided to build my own. I designed an oversized stand that would comfortably house my new sump and have ample room for future expansion. The main feature is that there is no center brace in front of the stand. This allows me pull out the sump in less than 5 minutes if I have to. Itís also great to have room for general maintenance. I setup the 120g in the new condo, and we did the whole, crazy move. It was an absolutely horrific experience, hauling the contents of my tank to the new place. It was 50 degrees out and everything was driven in the back of a pickup truck in Rubbermaid tubs. The temp. dropped to mid 60ís by the time I got everything moved. Luckily nothing died and I was happy. I spent the better part of a week adding rock and organizing my new tank. Over the span of the first year at our new place, Iíve been learning my own way, finding out what works and doesnít work for me. Additions of equipment are a given in this hobby, however I believe that keeping it simple has led to my success.

Hereís a rundown of my current setup:

-120g Clarity Plus, RR, acrylic display tank
-Home-made stand
-60g acrylic sump w/refugium
-20g ATO system
-Skimmer - Super Reef Octopus 3000
-Return pump- Iwaki
-Circulation - Vortech MP40 + Koralia Evo 1400

-2 x 400w MH (PFO HQI Ballasts, Reeflux 12k lamps)
-2 x 110w VHO Actinics
-Lumenarc III Large Reflectors
-Home built MH canopy

-Supplements + misscelanous:

-Two-Part dosing
-BRS doser pumps for Alk + Ca
-Reefkeeper Lite 3 Controller
-Carbon reactor

Water Quality

One of the most important factors of keeping our hobby alive are the water parameters. After keeping a 72g tank with halides, I learned about high water temperature. I didnít want to have to use a chiller again, so I thought of ways to keep the water as cool as possible without one. Using an external return pump is one way to chill out. I also keep my tank open top, with the canopy hung from the ceiling. My canopy is sealed, with two 5Ē fans blowing in, and I installed a 5Ē dryer vent the opposite side, so that I will have the possibility to vent the heat out the window in the summer. This keeps my tank in the low 80ís, without a chiller.

Nitrate / Phosphate:

A healthy tank should never have any amount of ammonia or nitrites, however nitrates and phosphate can be detected if the water isnít properly filtered. The first step to keeping water quality good, starts with an RO/DI filter, that is a given, but I believe a good skimmer and some water changes are all that is needed to keep it clean after that point. Getting the biggest skimmer I could fit in my sump for a reasonable price is the Super Reef Octopus 3000. I love my fish and I love them fat and healthy, so I feed a lot. A good skimmer keeps my nitrates at 0 at all times. I find that having a refugium packed with chaetomorpha, is all I need to keep my phosphate level at 0. I have run GFO reactors in the past, but as the chaeto grew, the GFO became obsolete. The reactor is now used for tumbling carbon. The carbon does a great job keeping the water clear. I find the old tank water to be clear when doing water changes, even if they are bi-monthly.

Healthy Bones

Increasing my coral population, especially SPS, has taken a toll on the calcium and alkalinity levels. I find that these two are the only parameters that I need to supplement in order to keep everyone happy. After using kalkwasser for my auto top-off for a year, I switched over to a two-part system. I use calcium chloride for my calcium supplement and soda ash (baked baking soda) for alkalinity. I have used the extra space in the stand, to conveniently place (2) five gallon jugs with the supplement solutions. The solutions are dripped using BRS dosing pumps. The pumps are controlled by a Reefkeeper Lite controller. It enables me to dial in the exact amount needed to keep the levels from falling. As the growth rate of corals isnít linear, I check the levels every few weeks. With an auto top-off system and two-part dosing, the tank is maintenance-free, for almost a month.

And then there was light.
After making sure that the water was acceptable, I decided to venture into keeping more SPS coral. Seeing how well it responded to MH lighting in terms of growth, I decided to step it up from 2x250w to 2x400w HQI MH. I obtained a PFO, dual 400 watt HQI ballast setup at a killer price. I also picked up some Lumenarc III reflectors. I built the canopy to house the reflectors and later added an Icecap 660 ballast with 2 VHO lamps for actinic supplementation. I use Reeflux 12k MH single ended lamps and they are absolutely amazing, especially at their price point. Combined with the UVL 454 and Super Actinic VHO lamps, this MH setup is a powerhouse over my tank. I have kept SPS frags for almost a full year under the old 2x250w setup with zero growth. A month after I installed my current setup, those frags exploded with growth! The light cycle is actinics on for 12 hours, MH is on 8 hours along with actinics. Power consumption? I donít really care, itís worth it. If I sell a few frags per month, it pays for itself.


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