Dessy Dietrich's Reef Aquarium


My husband and I started this aquarium on September 11, 2001. To this day it is our way of remembering that day’s terrible events, and we try to think of our reef escape as a positive monument to a horrible time. Along with the help of my husband, Larry (he provides the manual labor), and some friends, we have spent the last five years building this reef. Now we spend almost as much time pruning it as viewing it. It has truly been an adventure collecting and placing all the wonderful corals the ocean has to offer. Through this hobby we have made a multitude of friends and been to many new and interesting places.


The aquarium is a 120-gallon tall All Glass tank. Its dimensions are 60” x 20” x 24.” We have equipped it with a CPR continuous siphon overflow. The stand is a standard black laminate with various modifications to keep our three young children out, and this has turned out to be a much harder project than we originally thought.


For our primary circulation pump we chose a Mag Drive 2400. This pump is supplemented with a variety of Seios by TAAM, and some standard powerheads. We have found the powerheads, while not very durable, to be a great way to provide flow to the corals.


    Water Parameters:
Ca: 400 - 450 ppm
Alk: 8 - 9dKH
Mg:1300 - 1350ppm
Temp: 82 - 84°F
pH:8.0 - 8.4

The tank’s filtration is provided by a 20-gallon refugium that our friend, Mark Vera at Aqua-Tech, built for us. We faced many space constraints, so it had to be custom made to fit our very small center cabinet. The refugium is run on a reverse daylight cycle with a power compact Quad Retro. For the first three years we used a simple Rubbermaid tub as our sump. The addition of the Aqua-Tech custom refugium, combined with the calcium rector, really helped the corals proliferate.

We use a model EV-180 in-line AquaC protein skimmer powered by a Mag drive 500. Due to space constraints this is uniquely plumbed off the refugium’s side using a fourth chamber.


The tank's lighting is provided by two Champion Lighting 250-watt 14K metal halide bulbs. We like the electronic ballasts because the bulbs burn bluer than when run on magnetic ballasts. The actinic lighting is provided by two 110-watt actinic VHO bulbs. They are timed on a progressive light cycle, simulating sunrise and sunset.

Temperature Control:

We do not use a chiller and our aquarium stays around 82-85˚F. The tank has an open top, with only the lighting covering it, so we turn on a small fan, which we procured at the local Walgreens, intermittently as needed in the summer.


The only supplements we add, and in very small doses, are Reef Solution and Phyto2 Phytoplankton. The system’s calcium and alkalinity are maintained by an MRC calcium reactor. We take the “less is more” approach. We have been very fortunate and feel if it isn’t broken, why fix it?


Our maintenance regime consists of weekly water changes of approximately 5-8%, cleaning the glass and tweaking minor problems primarily with the powerheads. The system’s pH is monitored via an American Marine Pinpoint pH monitor and probe. The bulbs are changed yearly and are always replaced with bulbs of the same color temperature.


We currently feed a daily regimen of enriched Mysis shrimp, Formula 2 and nori seaweed. We dose the recommended dosage of Phyto2 Phytoplankton in two species, and Cyclop-Eeze.


When we began our journey into the reef aquarium realm we had no idea what we were getting into, so we made no specific plans other than we wanted beautiful inhabitants. Through much education, hard work, help and many little miracles, we were fortunate enough to achieve our goal.

Here is a list of some of our corals:
  • Acropora tortousa
  • Acropora tenuis
  • Acropora granulosa
  • Acropora millipora
  • Acropora prostata
  • Acropora echinata
  • Montipora confusa
  • Montipora capricornis
  • Montipora digitata
  • Porites sp.

Other Corals:

  • Welsophyllia
  • A multitude of colored Zooanthus
  • Trachephyllia
  • Many types of Gorgonia
  • Blastomussa welsi
  • Blastomussa merletti
  • Frogspawn
  • Torch coral
  • Acanthastrea
  • Seriatopora sp. (green, pink and tricolor)
  • Pocillopora sp.
  • Echinophyllia spp.
  • Echinophora spp.
  • Favia sp.
  • Pavona sp.


  • 1 Blue tang (grown from a juvenile)
  • 1 Yellow tang
  • 1 ♂ Squamipinnis Anthias
  • 4 ♀ Squamipinnis Anthias
  • 1 ♂ Melanarus wrasse
  • 9 Green chromis
  • 1 ♂ Japanese Swallowtail angelfish
  • 1 Mandarin goby
  • 1 pair of Black clownfish
  • 1 Fridman’s dottyback
  • 1 Arc-eyed hawkfish


  • 2 Tridacna maxima clams
  • 75 assorted hermit crabs
  • 75 assorted snails
  • 24 Nassarius sp. snails
  • 2 Turbo sp. snails
  • 1 Harlequin shrimp
  • 1 Coral banded shrimp
  • 2 Emerald crabs


I would like to thank my husband, who fixes things, carries all the water and listens to my complaints; I wouldn’t be able to have this aquarium without him… literally. I would also like to thank Mark Vera, Aqua-Tech and their products; they have made upgrading so much easier and kept us well supplied. A generous thanks also goes to Menard at the now missed Reef Dwellers. I also owe Carlos Chacon and Reefkeeping Magazine a big thanks for bestowing this honor upon my aquarium.

Photography by Carlos Chacon.

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

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Tank of the Month - February 2007 -