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May 2014 Tank of the Month



This Article Features Photo Zoom

Nicholas Le's (stonecold) 180 US-gallon Reef Aquarium






It is truly an honor and I am humble that my tank has been selected as Tank of the Month (TOTM). The recognition would not be possible if it weren’t for the following contributors: Reef Central, Reefkeeping Magazine and the hobbyists. I sincerely would like to thank Reef Central and Reefkeeping Magazine for allowing me to share my tank and to all of the hobbyists that have voted and supported me throughout the years.








My fascination for reef keeping started when I witnessed a Clarkii clown hosting a Long Tentacle Anemone while buying fish food for my freshwater tank. I started out with a 30 gallons fish only tank. Without any reefing experience, I had failed miserably. Every fish that I bought would perish. I was advised that I needed this and that. Doesn’t matter what equipment, test kits that I have bought and what upgrades I have done (30G to 55G to 75G and 300G) my failure continues. One day, thru a newspaper ad “Saltwater Fish and Corals For Sale”, I met a local whom imported LPS and Heteractis Magnifica anemone from Bali. In addition to selling me a tank (60x36x24), fishes and corals he also shared with me the essentials to setup and how to maintain a reef aquarium. With his help, my “husbandry” did improved a bit.

During the same year, my brother gave me a computer. While browsing on the internet I came across Reef Central. This was the turning moment for me. With the wealth of information that is freely shared among the great reefers throughout the world and with a little tweaking on my system I was able to keep fishes, corals (mainly LPS and Softies) and anemones alive. In 2006, we sold our single home and moved into a small townhome so I sold the tank. In the new townhome, I had a 90gallons for a while but missed having a “big” tank so I ended up with my current tank.






System Profile

• Display Aquarium: 180 gallon acrylic (48” x 36” x 24”) with external overflow.
• Stand & Canopy: DIY
• Sump: 30 Gallon Breeder. Divided into 2 sections (Skimmer and Return) and a Bubble Trap which holds rubble.
• Skimmer: ATB 840 V2.0 with an extended neck and a PSK1000.
• Return Pump: Panworld 40xp which is T’d into 2 – ¾” Sea Swirl.
• Internal Flow: x2 Tunzes 6105 controlled by a 7095.
• Main Lighting: x2 400watts Radium driven by a PFO HQI Dual Ballast.
• Supplement Lighting: Reefgeek Retrofit Kit – 2 T5’s.
• Reactors: Geo 612 Calcium Reactor, 2 Little Fishies Reactors – 1 for Carbon and 1 for GFO, and Avast Kalk.
• ATO: Tsunami A1.
• RO/DI: SpectraPure 4 Stage with a Booster pump.
• Temperature Control: Medusa which controls 4 Computer Fans and 1 – 300Watts Heater.
• Frag Tank: 15 gallon


Current Display

The current display was set up in 2008 as a mix reef. As time progressed, I had good success with SPS so I got rid of all of the softies, zoanthids, palythoas, most of my LPS.

Aquascaping. One of the important aspects that I’ve learned from keeping SPS is flow. They need adequate flow throughout the entire frags/colonies. I took this into consideration when I aquascape my tank. With all of the different aquascapes that I have had, most of them are open and are “suspended” from the sandbed, about 1”- 2”. By doing so, I believe that there will be amble flow throughout the tank.

Mounting SPS. I look at my aquascape as a canvas when I mount my corals. Prior to mounting them, I take the following into consideration: their growth pattern and the coloration of each SPS that I have to work with. To the best of my ability, I tried to mesh them well so I can achieve multiple colors in each respective area without shading and colliding into one another. I’ve learned that no matter how far apart I may mount each SPS, the shading and collision will eventually occur as each SPS colonizes. The only prevention is by pruning.









A few things that I’ve learned based on my personal experience and hoping that they will be beneficial to some:

  • We’re humans and are always intrigue with new technologies. We also like to mimic our successors. However, we must keep in mind that what works for others may not work for us and vice versa. Don’t rush out and buy everything that is being offered in our ever evolving hobby. If possible, try to keep everything simple. By doing so, we will have less issues. Should any issues do arise, we can troubleshoot them easily.

  • To truly fine tune our tank(s), we need to understand our own system(s) first. Research and ask as many questions as needed. It will be a difficult task, but prior to proceeding we need to limit our sources. Every setup is different and has its own uniqueness. As a result, all hobbyists have his/her own perspectives of doing things. If we ask 100 hobbyists, we will most likely get 50 different answers. By limiting our source, we will have 1 clear path.

  • When making adjustments, only adjust 1 thing at a time. If we make more than 1 adjustment at a time, we will not know which adjustment has actually helped us. With each adjustment, make sure to give it ample time for results.

  • In an ideal world, we would love to setup and have a stock tank overnight. This wishful thinking does not apply to our hobby. Be patience and try to be consistent with our husbandry. We will soon be rewarded.



Filtration, Maintenance and Feeding


Feed the fishes before leaving for work and before going to bed. Morning feedings depend whether I have time. Clean the viewable panels as needed.


Blast each coral thoroughly with a MJ, vacuum the sand bed, and change 20gallons of water. Once the DT’s lights are off, I shine a bright flashlight at each SPS looking for pests. Replenish Kalk if needed.


Replace carbon and GFO. Clean the skimmer, vacuum the detritus from the frag tank and sump. Test my parameters if needed. Throughout the month, if the weather forecast calls for a cloudy day, I turn off all of my lights on this day.

Semi Annual

Clean all powerheads and pH Probe in a vinegar bath. Calibrate the pH Probe and Refractometer. Change the media in the calcium reactor if needed.


Replace bulbs.




Water Parameters (I only measure three):
  • Specific Gravity: 1.025
  • Alkalinity: 7 dKH
  • Phosphate: 0.21












With personal challenges that were presented in 2010, I wanted to break down the tank on several occasions. However, with the encouragement from a friend and I quote “Nick, you should keep the tank as it will keep your sanity in check”. For this reason, I started a thread on Reef Central under the SPS Forum “A Few of my SPS”. I am so glad that I did because I have sincerely enjoyed the camaraderie from everyone that have so eloquently posted on my thread. More importantly, my recognition would not be possible.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely would like to thank: Reef Central and Reefkeeping Magazine for allowing me the opportunity to share my tank with the community. All of the hobbyists that have nominated, followed my thread, and supported me throughout the years. My friend, MarinaP, (Rick, Marina, and Julia). Thank you for the friendship. My true companion, Mahni. Thank you for being there when I can’t. You will always be in my heart! Last but not least my family and supporting wife, Jackie (Go Pink!).









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

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