July 2015 Tank of the Month
Bryn Roberts' (Dustyuk) 360 US-gallon Reef Aquarium
Hi, I'm Bryn Roberts from the UK and it’s my pleasure to share my tank with Reef Central. As we say here in Blighty I was chuffed to be asked to do a write up on what is simultaneously my pride and joy and the bane of my existence!
I've been a little disproportionately obsessed with all things piscine since the age of 14 when I took up angling. As those close to me know, I struggle to do anything by half so every spare minute was spent fishing or planning my next trip. Whilst I always admired aquariums, aside from the two goldfish (Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush) that my brothers and I kept as kids I didn't actually have my own tank until my early twenties. It was however one of my very first purchases when I bought my own house. Then things started to get silly...... It wasn't long before I had a wall mounted freshwater tropical tank in the dining room, a fish only marine tank in the lounge and a large koi pond in the garden. If my girlfriend had had any sense she'd have recognised the warning signs and jumped ship while the going was good! We moved house a few years later which meant selling up my tanks but in short order I bought a friends reef set up and decided to cut my teeth on some soft corals. It was a short lived and ultimately doomed experiment and the tank became riddled with aiptasia and colonial hydroids however the die was now cast, I was hooked deeper than any trout I'd banked in my angling days. A house extension followed and with it came a bigger tank and my first attempt at sps corals. I made every possible mistake with that tank, pests, parasites, over tinkering and under maintaining until in the end I found the right formula for me. It ran well for a while and I actually achieved a pretty nice result. This as all reefers know meant only one thing, time to tear it down and go bigger! And so my current tank came to fruition, I tried to apply everything I learned from my early attempts though critically there was still an important lesson that I foolishly refused to learn (more on that later).
The tank is approximately 360 US gallons with low iron side and front viewing panels. It sits on a custom made steel frame with white acrylic panels I had made to size. These stick to the frame by way of self-adhesive magnetic strips, this was one of the best ideas I had, they look great and are so easy to pop on or off.
• Main Display: 360 US Gallon (64in x 42in x 30in)
• Skimmer: Deltec SC2560
• Powerheads: Tunze 6205 x2, Tunze 6100 x2
• Calcium Reactor: Schuran Jetstream 1
• Metal Halides: Electronic Ballasts, 400W Radium 20k x2
• T5: Variety of blue, pink, purple, and white, 54W x8
I love this side of the hobby, I'm technical by nature and my inner nerd was excited by all the toys I got to play with. During its life it’s had skimmers, calcium reactors, kalkstirrers, ozonisers, UV filters, GFO reactors, lanthanum chloride reactors, auto dosers for two part and for carbon dosing. Ultimately though , through all of these fun experiments I have learned that what works for me is far more basic. I now only employ a calcium reactor and a skimmer to compliment my live rock and DSB with Cheato. I don't carbon dose nor do I add any trace elements. I stopped using any phosphate media and activated carbon around 12 months ago.
I have to supplement some 2 part periodically these days as my calcium reactor is woefully undersized. I also add a squirt of lugols iodine every day as I found as my SPS grew larger they would suffer without it. Water movement is provided by multiple power heads.
Lighting is provided by 2 metal halide pendants sporting Radium bulbs and supplemented with a very dodgy 8 tube DIY T5 fixture, cobbled together with bits of timber!
These days this is minimal, I empty the skimmer cup every couple of weeks, refill the auto feeders every month or so and clean the glass every couple of days. I used to change 90 odd litres of water every week religiously though nowadays I probably do it about once a month. I rarely test my water for anything other than KH unless I suspect something is awry. I believe there is a trend in the hobby these days for chasing magic numbers sometimes at the expense of the tank and its inhabitants. I try to keep my hands out of the tank as much as possible and just let things take their natural course. I'm fairly relaxed about nutrient levels also , you'll always see small patches of nuisance algae in my tank though as long as my corals are growing well and it’s not getting out of hand then I don't try to remedy it. For the purposes of this article here are my current levels.
I've suffered with most of the usual minor reefing afflictions from cyano through parasitic infections, coral necrosis and bacterial issues and on the most part have battled through it. Around two years ago however I had a parasitic outbreak that ripped through my collection of angels and butterflies in a week taking out some really special fish in the process. This was a hard lesson to learn and entirely my own fault. I had never quarantined anything preferring instead to control outbreaks using UV and Ozone. Since this experience, you couldn't pay me to risk my collection so after a 3 month fallow period every new addition has gone through prophylactic treatments of copper, praziquintel and metronidazole at a minimum. It’s taken two years to re-stock but I now have a parasite free and healthy bunch of fish.
This is ultimately why we are all in the hobby, it never ceases to amaze me the incredible diversity of marine animals so easily available to us.
I have loved SPS corals since the first time I came on these forums and was astounded by the array of colours and growth forms. My foray into soft corals was brief, my interest in SPS will endure. I have a particular thing for Monti's , to me their solid colours really make them stand out from the crowd and so the tank is probably 70% dominated by corals from this family. There is also a mix of Acropora, Stylophora, and Pocillopra along with a few LPS and some soft corals.
This is where my strongest passion lies. I have taken great pleasure in putting together a blend of fish that is both visually appealing and perhaps not the usual mix you see. I have always loved Angels and Butterflies, to me they are the iconic reef fish and no tank of mine will ever be without them. Over the years I have had many fish from both families in my aquariums and have yet to see tangible damage to my corals. Yes they do peck but if you spend time watching this behaviour it doesn't take too long to realise that no harm is being done. This is especially true of some of the butterflies, I honestly believe their detrimental reputation is overstated. That being said I have yet to try anything I would consider truly risky, I most definitely will in the future though!
Currently I have 4 angels in the tank though at one stage before my disaster I had eight. I have an Emperor Angel that I have grown from a 1" individual into a beastly 8" adult, my father has developed a real affection for this fish whilst babysitting the tank, naming him Mr Big and even singing to him on occasions! I also have a Regal Angel from the Red Sea , a Bandit Angel representing Hawaii and a baby Brazilian Queen Angel.
There are six butterflies in my reef. My trio of C.Tinkeri are the centrepiece, I love these fish, they are beautiful, hardy and have a great temperament. I also keep another of their Hawaiian compatriot’s C.Fremblii which has proved a real character. Complimenting these I have a pair of C. Paucifasciatus from the Red Sea. These have their faces in my coral all day though due to the lack of damage I can only speculate they are taking slime. It matters not to me, I have wanted these fish for a number of years however they were very scarce in the UK trade. In 2014 they started turning up again in high numbers and I didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
I keep approximately 20 Carberryi which co-exist happily with 8 Borbonius dominated by a brute 5" male. I selected these two species for their willingness to adapt to prepared foods and the ability to compete with their boisterous tank mates. I have been particularly pleasantly surprised by the Borbonius, the way they are built I was concerned they may become predatory though thankfully this has proved unfounded.
In the miscellaneous category I have a pair of Royal Grammas that remain from what was once a group of six and a pair of Red Tail Tamarins , these Wrasse are possibly my favourite inhabitants, the markings of the male are simply unreal.
These are the real attention grabbers for my family and friends. Nobody notices the deep water Hawaiian fish but they certainly all coo over the hermit crab dangling precariously from the side of a large Montipora. I always planned on extending the number and variety of my crabs, snails and shrimps however I don't have a tank to set up an invert QT system so it’s not going to happen for this tank.
As you can imagine, with my fish list comes the requirement to feed heavy. I'm a big believer in a large and varied diet for my animals and also try to choose fish which I know have a good chance if converting to pellet food. I have two auto feeders both holding ocean nutrition pellets in different sizes and each dropping 4 times each daily. I also feed frozen food, a mix of RS Mysis, Krill, Lobster eggs, Brine shrimp and 5 in 1 marine mix. This is more heavily fed Friday to Monday probably about 6 or 7 times a day, Tuesday to Thursday its more like 2-3 times a day. I also like to feed a large pinch of generic marine flake a couple of times a day.
My tank has finally matured into something I am truly happy with so the natural thing to do is to upgrade! At the time of writing I have moved house again (not just so I can build a bigger tank.....honest) and am part way through putting together a new system which I’ll document on this forum. The focus of my new venture will be to experiment with a range of butterflies to see first-hand which can be kept with SPS and which cannot. Wish me luck!
I have to thank my wife and son for tolerating my fishy insanity. Not all families would be so understanding when I tell them I’m knocking two massive holes in the wall of our new lounge! I'd also like to thank my folks for babysitting my livestock while I put together my new reef. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Nate and the team at Reefkeeping magazine for giving me the opportunity to create a lasting legacy for my aquarium before its broken down. All of my stock has come from Burscough Aquatics and The Abyss, both great shops. If you’re in the UK they are must visits!
Feel free to comment or ask questions about my tank in the Tank of the Month thread on Reef Central.