December 2012 Tank of the Month
Written by Darryl Vanacker
Darryl Vanacker's 200 US-gallon SPS Dominated Reef Aquarium
Firstly, I have to thank ReefCentral for giving me this great opportunity. I have always admired the Tank of the Month Awards over the years and never imagined my tank would someday be in the same league as the legends that have traversed the reefkeeping blog. I still go back and read some of my favourite Tank of the Month articles from the past. I also have to thank the RC forum and it's members because if it was not for great online resources, such as this site, I would not be close to where I am today.
Much like some of you, this hobby started out quite simply as an urge to keep the more colourful and vibrant saltwater fish I was seeing at the local fish store. When I first started keeping saltwater fish in 2005 I had no idea that a colourful reef tank was even possible, having never seen one. Well my online research took me farther and deeper into this fascinating hobby than I ever realized possible. That FOWLR (fish only without liverock) would soon be turned into a reef, but what really caught my attention at the time was seeing a local reefers mature and colourful SPS tank. I was mesmerized by the colours and shapes of his SPS. I found I was even drawn in by the complexity and challenge to keep such organisms thriving. So with less than a year into the hobby I knew my goal was now to have a mature, colourful SPS tank.
My current is system is a 200 gallon SPS dominant reef. Taking the knowledge I have gained over my previous systems this tank has been, for all intents and purposes, a complete success to date. As you may be able to tell by photography or my aquarium I would classify myself as a “coral guy”. Fish are secondary to the system and many of them have a function. Certain tangs are definitely employed for their algae eating abilities, but I have also admired the aesthetics of larger tangs since my early days in the hobby. However, over the years I have come to be fascinated by small fish as well.
In terms of corals, I have been very active in obtaining a collection of rare and/or strikingly beautiful corals. Over the years I have learned to appreciate captive grown corals as they provide me with the most likely chance for success. That does not mean from time to time I do not take a chance on an amazing wild piece, but for the most part I like the fact that we can culture our own corals without taking from the ocean.
As my want list for SPS shortened, I have gotten drawn into collecting other beautiful corals such as chalices and zoanthids. Although SPS is still my first love, I have grown to appreciate the beauty in these other corals as well. The diversity in my collection has lead me to setup a new 60 gallon mixed reef, which I set up only a few months ago. Generally, I do not advise a mixed reef, but this is more a LPS / softie aquarium with only a few select SPS that I am testing at the top. The way the lighting has been setup I have a hot spot on top which so far is allowing me to do this. Since this tank is tied into my relatively clean SPS system I feel that I could be getting better growth out of my LPS though. Perhaps one day in the future I could implement completely separate systems for varies types of corals but that is only a dream at this point and not an under taking I have planned for the near future.
• Display tank: 200 US-gallon Eurobrace Starphire glass aquarium (54in x 36in x 24in)
• Sump: 3x 40 gallon containers
• Protein Skimmer: Modified SWC250 Extreme
• Biofilter: 11 BRS biopellets, 200 pounds liverock, 4 inch DSB in display
• Carbon/Phosphate Filtration: Small amount of BRS carbon and GFO in BRS dual reactor
• Return Pump: GEN-X MAK 4
• Water Circulation: Tunze 6100 x2 and Tunze Wavebox
• Lighting: 400W 20K XM metal halide x2, 110W Super Actinic VHO x2, and 3W Cree Royal Blue x20
• Calcium / Alk / Magnesium Dosing: BRS dry product on BRS dosing pumps
• Auto Top-Off: DIY float valves with slenoid and timer
• Heating / Cooling: 250W Ebo Jager heater x3 on a Ranco temperature controller
• System Controller: None
Filtration and Lighting
I believe my personal method and philosophy in keeping difficult SPS corals to be quite simple yet still consists of a few very important factors.
- Strong lighting with lots of light in the blue and actinic spectrum.
- Turbulent, random and high flow.
- Stable parameters, most importantly alkalinity which will affect pH and has the most impact on coral health in my experience.
I believe in high import of good quality foods as well as strong organic waste, phosphate and nitrate removal methods. Experience and logic has shown me that our captive reef aquariums are a small closed system and there is a nutrient balancing act that is taking place. It is easy for this nutrient balance to get skewed, mostly in the direction of nutrient rich but also can be turned nutrient poor. In order to allow a good amount of food to enter the system I make sure I have a large skimmer, a religious water change routine, and subsequently use biopellets as a biological means of processing nutrients. I also incorporated the use of 1 cup GFO and 2 cups ROX carbon that is changed monthly.
As for food, the tank gets Omega One flake by an autofeeder once per day. In addition, the fish get one more feeding of either PE mysis, NLS spectrum pellets, or nori. At night I feed the corals various things I have at the time, such as, Reef Nutrition Tiger Pods, Cyclopeeze, and Reef Chili.
In terms of additives, other than major elements (Ca, alk, Mg) the tank gets very little. The only thing I dose regularly is Warner Marine Coral Snow. I do this to rid my tank of cyano and its seems to work. My method is to blow the rocks and stir the top portion of sand and than dose this product once per week.
Most of my automation is done with simple timers. And for disaster avoidance I have a large UPS and a small generator on standby.
Of course I have to thank the team at Reef Central for providing such a world class resource to us aquarists. If it was not for the support and information websites, such as this one provides, the hobby surely would not have advanced to the point we are at today. Also, a big thanks to my friends and fellow aquarists that have helped and encouraged me along the way. Together we surely have a better chance of success. And finally I have to thank my understanding wife and family. Times are busy but she has always allowed me to pursue my interests.
Feel free to comment or ask questions about my tank in the Tank of the Month thread on Reef Central.