Hugo Zuniga's (snipersps) Reef Aquarium

Introduction & Background:

My name is Hugo Zuniga and I am originally from Mexico City. I now live in Westminster, CA. My screen name on Reef Central is snipersps, but in reality my son, Bryan (right), is the real snipersps, since he is the one who does most of the hard work, including answering all my private messages and e-mails, and helping me post pictures, because I have very little knowledge of computers.

I started in the aquarium hobby about five years ago. Our first tank was a 5-gallon that my son purchased at a swap meet one day. We started with goldfish that, for some unknown reason, always died the day after we got them. Because we knew very little about keeping fish, we always changed the entire tank's water and even washed it with soap! But as time went by we started to read and learn how to keep fish. From there, our next tank was a 40-gallon long tank which contained cichlids. As the fish started to grow, our next upgrade was to a 60-gallon, and then on to a 100-gallon tank. After that I purchased a used 135-gallon tank, which is when I first started a reef tank. It was at this point that my addiction began.

My Addiction:

My addiction started with the 135-gallon tank housing only soft corals. That lasted only about four months as I began to introduce small-polyped stony corals. At first I was not so thrilled with these types of corals since I told myself that they were not as interesting as soft corals moving with the current. Two-and-a-half years passed and I soon upgraded to my current 300-gallon system.

System Profile:
300-gallon Lee Mar euro-braced, 96"L x 30"W x 24"H
200-gallon sump w/40-gallon in-sump refugium
100-gallon fragment tank
Custom-built stand and canopy

Joining Reef Central only made my addiction worse. As I met more and more people online, I started to buy and trade with them - from San Francisco to New York, from one coast to the other. One of the most influential people who really helped with my small-polyped stony coral addiction was Carlos (pucci). Every weekend I went to his house and admired his tank, wishing that mine looked only half as good as his, and every week he sent me home with my hands full of coral fragments. All of my small-polyped stony coral colonies started as 1-1.5" fragments. I also went through some rough times when I introduced a Montipora that had pest nudibranchs. At first, I thought they where some kind of fish food, but as time went on I noticed that a lot of my corals were dying. Then one day someone told me that the nudibranchs were the cause of all of my headaches. I was able to save some corals, but lost most of them. Then, a few months later I noticed that my corals were losing their colors and some were even dying. It was then that I realized that I had RED BUGS! After four treatments I was finally rid of them, but I did lose all of my shrimp, copepods and hermit crabs. Now my system is the way you see it here.

Side views.

The Tank:

The tank is a 300-gallon (96" x 30"x 24") reef-ready manufactured by Lee Mar with a custom-built stand and canopy of cherry-stained solid oak and oak plywood. It has been up and running for two-and-a-half years. There is also a 100-gallon fragment tank connected to the main display that's used for growing and propagating Acanthastrea and Micromussa as well as various other stony corals.


Filtration is provided by a My Reef Creations MRC-4 dual Beckett injector skimmer powered by an Iwaki 70 pump. Biofiltration is accomplished with about 500 lbs. of live rock and a 3" sand bed. A 200-gallon sump is also used for filtration with about 100 lbs. of live rock, and also contains mixed macroalgae ranging from Caulerpa to Chaetomorpha, which help with nutrient export.

Water Parameters:
Calcium: ~400 ppm
Alkalinity: 9-10 dKH
pH 8.0 - 8.2
Nitrate: 0
Phosphate: 0
Temperature: 76 - 77.5° F


Water is returned to the display tank by a Sweetwater external pump pushing 3500gph to the fragment tank and three returns to the main display that exit through 1" Sea Swirls. For additional flow I use a Tunze 6080 and a Seio 820.

Photos courtesy of Mario Chavarria.

Photos courtesy of Mario Chavarria.


Main Tank Photoperiod:
9:00 am - actinics on
10:30 am - halides on
9:30 pm - halides off
10:00 pm - actinics off

The system is lit by four 400-watt 20K metal halides under Luminarc III reflectors and one 250-watt double-ended 14K metal halide. The two end bulbs are 20K XM and the others are 20K Radium. The XM bulbs are driven by a Bluewave 7 dual ballast; the Radiums are powered by a dual PFO HQI ballast. The 250-watt is a 14K Phoenix bulb on a Bluewave HQI ballast. I also use four T5 HO Superblue+ for supplemental lighting.

Other Equipment:

In order to maintain a stable temperature I use a ½ hp Aqualogic chiller plumbed to a Little Giant pump. The chiller is plumbed to the main display tank and is controlled by an Aqualogic temperature controller. Heat is provided by two 300-watt heaters. Calcium levels are maintained by using a My Reef Creations CR-6 dual-chamber calcium reactor connected to a Pinpoint pH controller. Alkalinity is maintained by a My Reef Creations Neilson reactor connected to a Reef Sentry dosing pump used for freshwater top-off. A 40-watt UV sterilizer is also connected to the system.

Photos courtesy of Mario Chavarria.

Photos courtesy of Mario Chavarria.

Photos courtesy of Mario Chavarria.

Photos courtesy of Mario Chavarria.

Photos courtesy of Mario Chavarria.


A 50-gallon weekly water change is used to keep the nutrients down. The RO/DI water is mixed with Tropic Marine salt. The skimmer's neck is cleaned weekly so that it performs at its best, and its Beckett injectors are cleaned every other week.


The tank is fed daily with a variety of foods including frozen brine shrimp, Mysis and Cyclops-Eeze. Every third day I also mix in some Liquid Life BioPlankton® with the Cyclops-Eeze to feed the clams. I typically feed only once a day in the late afternoon prior to the lights tuning off.

Photos courtesy of Mario Chavarria.


The display tank has a variety of corals and fishes. Small-polyped stony corals dominate the tank, but there are still a few soft corals such as Ricordea, leather corals and various mushrooms. It also houses quite a few large-polyped stony corals, e.g., Blastomussa spp., chalice, Echinophyllia, Cyphastrea and Acanthastrea.

2 Cirrhilabrus rhomboidalis - Golden Rainbow wrasses
1 Cirrhilabrus lineatus wrasse
2 Wetmprella sp. - Possum wrasses
1 Cirrhilabrus jordani - Flame wrasse
1 Pseudocheilinus ocellatus- Mystery wrasse
1 Centropyge aurantia - Golden angel
1 Genicanthus melanospilos - Japanese Swallowtail angel
1 Zebrasoma flavescens - Yellow tang
1 Zebrasoma xanthurus - Purple tang
10 Apogon compressus - Blue eyed cardinals
4 Dunckerocampus pessuliferus pipefish
1 Corythoichthys sp. - Dragon pipefish

Acropora sp. - Red staghorn
Acropora sp. - Green w/pink tips
Acropora tenuis
Acropora yongei w/blue tips
Acropora navini
Acropora sp. - Purple, unknown
Acropora valida
Acropora sp. - Tri-color staghorn
Acropora sp. - Loisatae staghorn
Acropora sp. - Blue staghorn
Acropora sp. - California tort
Acropora sp. - Oregon deep blue tort
Acropora sp. - Yellow tort
Acropora sp. - Miyagi tort
Acropora yongei - blue
Acropora sp. - O.R.A. blue stag
Acropora solitaryensis
Acropora efflorescens
Acropora millepora - pink
Acropora millepora - red
Acropora millepora - blue
Acropora millepora - lime green
Acropora sp. - O.R.A. chips (blue-tipped)
Acropora sp. - rainbow
Acropora tricolor - Bali
Acropora sp. - Purple bonsai (GARF)
Acropora lokani - blue
Acropora sp. - Purple monster
Acropora sp. - Purple staghorn
Cyphastrea sp. - three different varieties
Montipora danai
Sunset Montipora sp.
Rainbow Montipora sp.
Montipora confusa
Green Montipora sp. w/purple rim
Green Montipora sp. w/pink polyps
Montipora hispida
Ricordea florida
Trachyphyllia sp. - Red green brain coral
Goniopora sp.
Various Acanthastrea spp.
Various Micromussa spp.
Blastomussa spp.
Favites pentagona - War coral
Echinophyllia sp. - watermelon
Red Echinophyllia sp.
Blue Echinophyllia sp.
Pink blue Echinophyllia sp.
Pink green Echinophyllia sp.
Echinophyllia maliformis
Note: all corals are believed to be these species.


I would like to thank everyone at Reef Central for helping to make my dream come true. It's an honor to have been chosen for Tank of the Month. I would also like to thank my family for all the support they have given me, especially my son Bryan. It's because of him that I started into this hobby. Additionally, I'd like to thank Greg Rothschild (gregr) and Mario Chavarria (mchava) for their wonderful photography.

For more information visit Hugo's website:

Unless otherwise noted photos courtesy of Greg Rothschild.

Feel free to comment or ask questions about my tank in the Tank of the Month thread on Reef Central.

If you'd like to nominate a tank for Tank of the Month, click here or use the button to the right.

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