Steve Schafer's (sschafer) Reef
Introduction and Background:
I was utterly dumbstruck when I was asked
to have my tank featured as Tank of the Month. I have always
looked up to the reefkeepers who have been given such an honor,
and it seems as though I learn something new from each of
those featured tanks.
My father taught high school Chemistry, Photography (never
would have guessed that from looking at my pictures), and
Biology so I was raised with a great respect for the natural
sciences. I remember looking through all the Biology textbooks
in awe when I was little. I've had aquariums pretty much as
long as I can remember. I started out with a small freshwater
community tank when I was four or five. I then moved into
African Cichlids, and progressed to Discus from there. I set
up my first saltwater tank in my early teens; I remember it
quite well. It was a 29-gallon tank with an undergravel filter
in which I kept a small Lunare Wrasse, Picasso Trigger and
In my Junior year of high school I took a Marine Biology
course which finished with a trip to San Salvador Island in
the Bahamas. Snorkeling there was utterly amazing. I had never
seen anything so incredible. Upon my return I set up my first
"reef" tank. It was a 55-gallon tank with a hang-on-the-back
overflow that drained into a wet/dry filter . At that time,
I knew of only one reef shop, and it was a 30-minute drive
away. I had to tear down this tank when I went away to college.
Then a few years passed during which I did not maintain an
aquarium at all. I actually raised numerous geckos from around
the world, as well as chameleons from Africa and Madagascar,
but that's an entirely different story. Upon returning to
my hometown I set up a 29-gallon reef. This quickly became
a 54-gallon reef and then, after I purchased a house, evolved
into the 120-gallon tank I now maintain. Those of us in the
Rochester area are very fortunate to have three excellent
reef shops nearby, and three others within an hour's drive.
The "big tub of water," as my wife likes to refer
to it, is in our foyer. Since I am 6' 2" tall and the
foyer has no seating area, I decided to make the stand quite
a bit taller than the average stand typically seen for sale.
I do need a step ladder to get anywhere near the bottom of
the tank, but I don't have to lean over to view what I have
spent so much time and money on. If I had to do it all over
again, and I will, I would certainly keep the tank at this
height. The aquarium's overflows drain about 13' into the
basement. I was lucky enough to have an existing 10' x 10'
room in the basement that is perfect for all my aquarium gear.
All Glass reef-ready aquarium
48" x 24" x 24"
9:30 am: Actinics on
11:00 am: Metal halides on
9:00 pm: Metal halides off
9:30 pm: Refugium lights on
10:00 pm: Actinics off
9:00 am: Refugium lights off
I used a set of four 55-watt power compacts over my two previous
reef tanks. After seeing a number of very successful local
reef tanks, I was pretty much set on adding metal halides
to the mix. I managed to keep a number of SPS under the power
compacts, but I really wanted to expand my SPS selection.
Currently, I am running two 250-watt Hamilton 14K metal halide
bulbs on old style IceCap ballasts. Accompanying these are
two 110-watt URI Actinic VHO bulbs running on an IceCap 660.
I feel this gives the tank quite an appealing look. The canopy
is cooled with a single IceCap variable speed fan. Before
switching to the Hamilton 14K bulbs I used Aqualine Buske
10K's. Some of the corals looked much nicer under the AB's
while others look better under the Hamiltons. I'm considering
upgrading the metal halides to 400-watt double-ended HQI bulbs
on the new style IceCap ballasts. I'm going to wait, however,
until I read a little more feedback and see them running in
person. The refugium is lit by four 110-watt URI VHO bulbs
(two actinic and two daylight).
Filtration and Circulation:
I have quite a high bioload in the tank so live rock and
skimming are key to maintaining happy and healthy occupants.
The main tank has approximately 150 lbs. of Fiji live rock.
Initially, I included a 2" to 3" deep sandbed consisting
entirely of Southdown play sand. What a mistake that was!
I have been trying to get rid of all that sand for quite some
time now. While it may have served a purpose for the first
year or so, all it has done lately is cause lots of headaches.
I've found that the Southdown sand kills the edges on many
of my Echinophyllia and significantly retards their
growth. The next tank will have a bare bottom with a faux
sandbed (using Starboard on the bottom). Until then I'll continue
to try to remove the Southdown and replace it with a thin
layer of crushed coral.
Water from the tank is filtered through a 100 micron Pure
Flo filter pad as it enters the 50-gallon sump. I run approximately
8 oz. of Seachem MatrixCarbon in the system, replacing it
once a week. Skimming is done by a EuroReef CS8-3, which I've
found to be an exceptional skimmer.
A Mag-Drive 7 feeds water to the refugium, which started
out as a 100-gallon algae scrubbing system. It was originally
filled with live rock and Chaetomorpha algae, but I
found that the algae trapped tons of detritus. In an effort
to try to keep the tank a little cleaner, I've decided that
the algae have outlasted their welcome. The refugium now contains
about 130 lbs. of live rock and whatever corals from the main
tank will grow under VHO lighting.
A single Iwaki MD70RLT has provided water circulation since
I originally set the tank up two-and-a-half years ago. This
pump has approximately 13 feet of head pressure on it, so
I estimate its return at approximately 1000 GPH. Water is
retuned to the tank via the two AGA overflow returns. I did
use a ½" Sea Swirl for approximately one year,
but unfortunately its drive mechanism broke. I've recently
added a Tunze Wavebox 6212. While it doesn't fit into this
tank very well, its performance is quite impressive, and I
actually I like it so much that my next tank will be designed
around integrating one in an inconspicuous location. I seem
to get much better polyp extension with the Wavebox, and my
Mustard tang and a couple of wrasses love to surf the 5000