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November 2012 Tank of the Month

By Michael Panganiban


This Article Features Photo Zoom

Michael Panganiban (solitude127) SPS Dominated Reef Aquarium






Having been blown away by so many incredible reef systems on Reef Central, I am very happy to share my aquarium and experiences with the reef hobbyists. I hope that this inspires readers to continue advancing both the art and science involved in reefkeeping.


The Beginning

Since I was a little boy, I've always been around fish tanks. When going to the fish store with my dad, I always wandered into the saltwater section. I always bugged my dad to get one of those fish, but he always told me that those were saltwater fish and we have a freshwater tank. In 2004, I was able to start my own saltwater tank and that is where the addiction began. My first saltwater tank was a regular 90 gallon (48in x 18in x 24in) acrylic aquarium. Not knowing very much about the hobby, I thought that volume was most important. With a tank that was only 18" inches front to back and 24 inches tall, it was very difficult to aquascape and my only option was a rockwall. Initially the tank was mostly LPS and softies, but eventually I would get bit by the SPS bug. So began the equipment swap-out. I changed out everything including the lights, skimmer, pumps, sump etc. The only thing that stayed was the tank, rock and fish. This is where my SPS addiction began.







In 2009, we decide to move to a new house and instead of setting up my old 90, my loving wife suggested I start over with a bigger tank. I had been wanting to upgrade for a while and with her go ahead, I started my journey. For this tank, I wanted something with more front to back depth and something not as tall so that I would not need a stool to get into the tank. It is amazing the difference 4 inches makes. In the end I decided on a 60in x 30in x 20in Eurobrace for my dimensions and LeeMar as my manufacturer. After researching several companies, LeeMar had the best reputation and they did not let me down. I would have like to gone bigger, but I only had so much wall space to use. Overall I am happy with what I have got. I also decided to go glass because I scratched my old acrylic tank way too many times. Starphire is a little more scratch prone than regular glass, but I decided to sacrifice that for the clarity. I also decided on a clear back and a corner overflow box. This actually works out really well so that I can mount my controllers on the side of my tank.

System Profile

• Display tank: 150 US gallon Lee Mar Starphire aquarium 
• Sump: Custom built sump with refugium and built in ATO reservoir
• Skimmer: ATB Elegance 200
• Lighting: ATI 8 x54W Powermodule
• Circulation: Ecotech MP40W x2, Tunze 6045 and Eheim 1262 for return pump
• Other: Digital Aquatic ReefKeeper Elite, 2 Drews Dosers, WM EcoBak pellets


Initially with this build, I went with the WM K2 Skimmer powered by Sicce 2500. This skimmer pulled out a lot of gunk but was a little too loud for my wife’s liking and mine. With the bioload on the high side and the need for a quieter pump, I was able to upgrade to the ATB Elegance 200. This skimmer is powered by an Airstar1300 which is much quieter and more powerful than my old skimmer. Myself, my wife and my tank inhabitants are very happy with this upgrade. A couple of features that I really like about this skimmer are the ability to take the whole skimmer apart for cleaning, and that it has a float switch attached to the lid. If the skimmer cup were to ever come close to overflowing, the float switch will shut off the skimmer pump via the controller.

I'm also running 750mL of WM EcoBak pellets. I was initially dosing vodka, but tired of the everyday routine of dosing. I have been using these pellets for 24 months and I am happy with the results. I feel I am getting the same results as using vodka, but thankfully I do not have to dose every day. I recently switched to a JNS reactor, from a Two Little Fishies 550 reactor, and am pleased. The tornado type current seems to keep the pellets suspended with very little flow.


Water Parameters:
  • Salinity: 1.025
  • Temperature: 78.5 °F
  • pH: 7.9 - 8.25
  • Calcium: 420 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 7.9 dKh
  • Magnesium: 1400
  • Phosphate: 0.00-0.01 ppm
  • Nitrate: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm




Knowing I was going to upgrade this piece of equipment, I initially started out with a basic 40 gallon breeder for my sump. Eventually I was going to have a custom sump built. When designing the sump I debated if I wanted to add a refugium. I have read many threads that if you are dosing some type of carbon source that your macro algae growth would seize, but I figured that if the refugium became useless in the future I could always make it a frag tank. When I started the fuge, I used a spiral CFL bulb from my local hardware store, I pruned my chaeto every 6 months or so and figured that the skimmer and pellets were doing its job in keeping my nitrates and phosphates in check. My refugium is now lit by 3w DIY LED x12. Since I upgraded to the LEDs, I have to prune my chaeto every 3 weeks. I also integrated an ATO reservoir in the back of the sump. This section holds about 15 gallons of fresh RO/DI, which will last about 2 weeks depending on the weather.







For lighting, I didn't want metal halides because I was trying to avoid using a chiller. I decided on T5s. After researching fixtures, ATI PM was the best solution for my needs. I contemplated going with a 10 bulb fixture but decided on an 8 bulb because of my aquascaping. I was able to keep all my rock 3 – 4 inches off the glass all the way around so essentially I only needed to light a 52"x22" area. I also decided on going with a 48" fixture on my 60" tank to keep the light spillage to a minimum. This allows me to keep my low light critters off to the sides. I recently cut my full light photoperiod from 8 hours to 6 hours to help cut on my electricity bill and so far none of my corals seem to be bothered by this change. The only downfall with this fixture is that it did not allow me to have moonlights. After modifying the acrylic shield, I was able use the Digital Aquatics MLC. I do not know if moonlights are a necessity, but I also enjoy viewing the tank while the main lights are off. For my bulb selection I'm using Aquatic Life’s new German Made bulbs which give me about a 15k look.

From front to back:


Aquatic Life 420/460nm
Aquatic Life 460/420nm
Aquatic Life 420/460nm
Aquatic Life 10k
Aquatic Life 420/460nm
Aquatic Life 14k
Aquatic Life 420/460nm
Aquatic Life 420/460nm


I decided on 2 MP40s for my main flow because of its low profile in the tank and because of its broad flow pattern. I also incorporated the Ecotech Vortech Battery Backup for my MP40s. This is a small price to pay to ensure the health of the livestock during a power outage. I also have a Tunze 6045 dedicated to keep the flow up on the backside of my rockwork.

To help with more random flow, I attached a Vertex MOcean to my return. I went with this solution because of the ability to control the travel of the nozzle and the speed it travels.

  • Dusk / Dawn:1200 - 2100
  • Full Light: 1400 - 2000
  • Moonlights: 2100 - 1200


I started out with a ReefKeeper Lite, but soon used up all the modules (RKL has a limit of 4 modules). I then upgraded to the ReefKeeper Elite. The RKE does all that I need to do and am very happy with its performance. I believe having a controller saved my inhabitants from an overheated tank during one winter day. I will explain. One day in January when the outside temp was in the 50s my wife and I left for work like normal and we turned off the heater like normal, or so we thought. I guess she flipped the switch up to turn the heater off and then not knowing, I flip the switch the switch to turn the heater off again, but actually put the heater in the "on" position. As I pulled into the driveway upon returning from work, I notice the lights were off on the tank. Usually could see the glow from the outside of the front window and I was thinking to myself, "hmm…, maybe we had a power outage". As soon as I open the door, I got a rush of hot air coming out the door. The heater had been running nonstop for the entire time we were gone. When I got to the thermostat the house was at 93 degrees, but thanks to my controller, the lights turned off and the fans were running to try and keep the tank cool. Thankfully my tank only got up to 81 degrees and all the livestock made it through. Because of this, I would never run a tank without some type of controller.






A fellow reefer has a saying that SPS stands for, Stability Promotes Success. I truly believe in this motto. Having my RKE control the Drews Dosers helps me accomplish this. Throughout the day, I drip 200ml of CA and 190ml of Alk. I also manually dose 100ml Mg every other week (opposite of my water change schedule). I've been using Bulk Reef Supply's recipe #1 since I started dosing. I use their 2.5 gallon jugs as my reservoir for the supplements. This keeps my Calcium at 400 and my alk at 8. I refill my supplement reservoirs every 2 – 3 months.

Heating and Cooling

Temperature control is managed by my ReefKeeper Elite. For heating, I depend on two Eheim Jager heaters, a 200 watt and 250 watt. Each one is placed on a different outlet on a PC4 for redundancy. I would much rather have some heating rather than no heating. For cooling, I use just a normal fan over the sump controlled by my RKE when the water temperature gets above 80.5. Thankfully, I live in an area that rarely gets over 85.


Maintenance is a part of this hobby that nobody loves to do, but does it to make sure the inhabitants are healthy and happy. I do a 30 gallon water change every two weeks using Instant Ocean Salt. I have tried Reef Crystals before but did not like how high the Alk was on a fresh batch. Also during my water change, I use a gravel cleaning tube, commonly found in the freshwater trade, to vacuum my sand. My sandbed is only a little more than an inch and only used for aesthetics.


Feeding my fish is one of my joys of this hobby. I have an Eheim auto feeder that feed NLS Pellets once a day. It is also nice to have an autofeeder if I happen to be busy and do not get to feed in the evenings. In the evening, I also feed a cube of Hikari Misys or Rods food. I also feed my tangs and angels a 1in x 4in piece of red or green Nori every other day. I like to feed my corals once or twice a week using Reef Nutrition Oyster Fest.









  • Zebrasoma xanthurum (Purple Tang)
  • Acanthurus leucosternon (Powder Blue Tang)
  • Centropyge multicolor (Multicolored Angelfish)l
  • Centropyge potteri (Potter's Angelfish)
  • Odontanthias borbonius (Blotched Anthias)
  • Pseudanthias squamipinnis (Lyretail Anthias; male x1, female x2)
  • Pseudanthias pulcherrimus (Tierra Anthias; pair)
  • Amphiprion percul (Percula Clown; pair)
  • Ecsenius midas (Midas Blenny)
  • Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis (Red Velvet Fairy Wrasse; pair)
  • Synchiropus splendidus (Mandarin Dragonet)
  • Cirrhilabrus exquisitus (Exquisite Wrasse)
  • Cirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis (Orange Back Fairy Wrasse)
  • Elacatinus oceanops (Neon Goby)



  • Acropora yongei (Green Slimer)
  • Acropora sp (Pink Jade)
  • Acropora sp (ORA Bellina)
  • Acropora sp (ORA Red Planet)
  • Seriatopora hystrix (Pink Birdsnest)
  • Acropora sp (Pink Lemonade)
  • Acropora sp (Green-Blue Stag)
  • Montipora digitata (Forest Fire Digi)
  • Acropora nasuta (ATL Shade of the Fall)
  • Acropora sp (ORA Hawkins)
  • Acropora echinata (Deep water Echinata)
  • Acropora Solitaryensis (ORA Frogskin)
  • Acropora sp (Green Acro)
  • Acropora sp (Purple-tipped Acro)
  • Seriatopora hystrix (Ponape Birdsnest)
  • Acropora millepora (Pink Millepora)
  • Acropora sp (Miami Orchid)
  • Acropora kimbeensis (Sapphire Acro)
  • Seriatopora sp (ORA Bird of Paradise)
  • Acropora tortuosa (Bennett's Tort)
  • Acropora tortuosa (Becker's Tort)
  • Acropora tortuosa (Huckleberry Tort)
  • Acropora loripes
  • stylophora pistillata (ORA Purple Stylo)
  • Pocillopora Damicornis (Green Pocillopora)
  • Acropora sp (ORA PearlBerry)
  • Acropora millepora (Sapphire Millepora)
  • Pocilopora sp (Rainbow Pocillopora)
  • Acropora gomezi (Gomezi)
  • Acropora Abrotanoides
  • Acropora sp (Lime in the Sky)
  • Acropora millepora (Sunset Millepora)



  • Favia sp (War Favia)
  • Favia sp (Mystic Grape Favia)
  • Favia sp (Baby Breathe Favia)
  • Blastomussa wellsi (Blasto)
  • Acanthastrea sps (Acans)
  • Acanthastrea sp (XL Acan)
  • Euphyllia paradivisa (Frogspawn)
  • Scolymia vitiensis (Green Scolymia)
  • Scolymia vitiensis (Light Blue Scolymia)
  • Dendrophyllia fistula (Dendros)
  • Favia sp (Sponge Bob Favia)
  • Lobophyllia hemprichii (Orange Lobo)
  • Echinophyllia sp (Miami Hurricane)
  • Favia sp (Little Princess Favia)
  • Favia sp (Sapphire War Favia)
  • Echinophyllia sp (Bubble Gum Monster)
  • Favia sp (Gobbstopper Favia)


Soft Corals:

  • Zoanthus sp (Rastas)
  • Zoanthus sp (Blue Hornets)
  • Zoanthus sp (Red Hornets)
  • Zoanthus sp (Darth Maul Zoa)
  • Zoanthus sp (Tyree Space Monster)
  • Sarcophyton elegance (Neon Green Toadstool)
  • Ricordea florida (Blue Ricordea)
  • Ricordea florida (Orange Ricordea)



If I were to do it again...

There would be a few things I would have changed in both my design of my tank and my coral selection.  First, in my design, I would have had more holes drilled in my Euro-bracing just in case I wanted to use a different type of powerhead that required a power cord such as Tunze. As much as I like my Vortechs, part of me always wonders what it would be like if I used a different type of powerhead. Second, for my choice of corals, I would not have as many encrusting Montipora species. Currently, I have two montiporas that are encrusting so much that they are encroaching on my other SPS and even overtaking the base of one encrusted SPS. Third, coral placement, when the tank was still young and I purchased SPS fragments, I had the tendency to place them up front so that I can see them.  After the tank matured a bit, I found myself placing my new SPS fragments towards the back because all of the older SPS were encrusted onto the rock in front and I could no longer move them.  In hindsight, I would have started placing my corals toward the back and work my way forward.  Fourth, don’t go cheap on equipment. I have learned in the past when buying equipment that barely met the requirements, I ended up replacing it.  Since learning that, I try to buy the higher end equipment that also yields a higher resale value.



I would like to thank the staff of Reef Central and Reefkeeping Magazine for picking my tank as the Tank of the Month. I would also like to thank my fellow reefers at Southern California ReefKeepers (SCRK) for their help and knowledge, especially Ramon (MrSandMan) for taking these amazing pictures. I would also like to express my gratitude towards the folks at ReefGeek for steering me in the right direction with my equipment choices and the folks at my Local Fish Store (Pacific Reef) for making my fish wish list come true. Finally, I would like to thank my family for putting up with my saltwater obsession. Happy Reefing everyone.





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

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