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January 2016 Tank of the Month






This Article Features Photo Zoom

Michael Cuttone's (MikeC120) 140 US-gallon Reef Aquarium





I must admit I always thought it was a little corny and seemingly rehearsed how these things always start out with the nominee saying" I am truly honored". Now that it has become me and my tank of the month (TOTM) I honestly understand what it means and I must say I am truly honored! Thank you Reef Central, Reefkeeping Magazine, and the hobbyist for your love and contributions to the hobby.







Like most, I have been involved with fish tanks my whole life. My dad had a 55 gallon with some angelfish in it. I am told that one day when I was very young I did not want him to go to work so I threw the car keys into the tank. I don't imagine he handled it too well, but I'm still around so?

I had mainly freshwater but the last five years have been devoted to saltwater. I was lucky enough to meet some great local reefers and joined my local club. I started out with a 120 gallon that was mainly small polyp stonies (SPS). Unfortunately, I lost most of that tank to flatworms and what I believe to be a system that was too nutrient deficient. I starved my pastel SPS. During my upgrade and re-start my initial intent was to go with SPS. But the more I thought about it, the stress and disappointment that came with my first sps tank, I decided to go with a soft coral aquarium.

I came to realize that I truly did appreciate the movement of soft corals and gorgonians. I love all the colors of Zooanthids. I came to another sad realization that I was letting myself succumb to what I believe to be a bad stigma that came attached to the word softies. Softies were for beginners, easy, and not worth the respect from real reefers, like the SPS gurus. In the end I asked myself "who am I trying to impress?" I wanted a tank that was colorful with movement, that was more forgiving than my sps tank was, and that I got to enjoy more than a few months at a time when everything was going the right way. I like Softies and I'm proud of it!!!






System Profile

• Main Display: 140 US-gallon custom made starfire glass on three sides peninsula from Reefomania with external overflow 48" x 30" x 22" (L x W x H)
• Stand: The stand was custom made by me
• Sump: 75 US-gallon with a skimmer and heater
• Settling Tank: 30 US-gallon fully drainable inductor tank from Plastic-Mart
• Lighting: ATI T5 / LED eight bulb Powermodule & x2 Reefbrites
• Skimmer: SRO-XP-5000sss cone
• Return Pump: Iwaki MD-30RT-115NL Max flow 600 GPH
• Closed Loop Pump: Reeflo Dart / Snapper Hybrid Pump 
• Water Circulation: Six Outlet Darkroon FWX Digital Flow Diverter 
• Carbon Reactor: Next Reef MR1
• Dosers: BRS 2-Part Dosers (1.1mL per minute and 50mL per minute for kalk)
• Auto-top-off System: Tunze Osmolator Universal 3155
• Heating: Eheim





Current Systems

I must say I could not be happier with my decision to convert to softies. After having my SPS dominant tank for two years ,and then losing it to flatworms, I was pretty bummed out. I made my mind to start over with an upgrade, because that was the excuse I needed. I set it up with some wonderful help from my fellow reefers. They provided me with great frags to get me back on my feet. Thank you all, you know who you are! Unfortunately one night RTN set in. I also had some LPS and zooanthids that had successfully made the transfer.

Everyone that had seen the tank mentioned what wonderful movement my gonipora had, but few seemed to notice the SPS with new growth. I would say that I enjoy the coral movement and personally never thought one could have a spectacular colorful tank composed of soft corals. Now don’t get me wrong. I love and respect a well maintained mature sps tank, but there seems to be a lot of SPS tanks that do well for a few months and then start to decline.

I am not embarrassed to say I am proud of my non-stressful Softy aquarium. During my upgrade I was fortunate enough to be able to make this a peninsula tank, viewable from all three sides with the filtration behind the tank in a separate room.

My tank is bare bottom with 3/4” HDPE cutting board on the bottom. I dislike not knowing what could be hiding underneath my sand. This probably comes from the days when I used to siphon sand out the tank or the detritus that accumulates under my rocks. For that reason I chose a minimalist rock scape with a lot of branch rock to keep everything up off the ground as much as possible. This makes it easier for the flow to drive the detritus up and out of the tank. I have never had someone come into my home look at my tank and say “nice tank but it would look better if you had sand”. Hope you enjoy the photos and my work in progress.







I use an ATI LED Powermodule with two 48” Reefbrite Tech Blue strips, one on each side. My blue LEDs on the power module start ramping up at 5 AM to noon (30% maximum). The outer channel on the T-5s start ramping up between 7 AM to 8 AM. At that point the inner channel starts ramping from 9 AM to 10 AM. The T-5s are at full power from 11 AM to 4:30 PM. The inner channel ramps down until 6 PM, outer channel to 7 PM, and the blue LEDs ramp down until 9 PM. Reefbrites are on from 4:30 PM to 10 PM. I use both ATI & Fauna Marin bulbs.



My skimmer handles 600 gallons per hour. For that reason I do not drive anymore flow through the sump than that. From the display a 1" drain flows into a 30 gallon conical settling tank before going to a 75 gallon sump and skimmer. The settling tank is set up so the water enters into the tank at a lower level and set to create a circular motion with little flow in the center. The settling tank acts as a whirlpool. Using eggcrate as a flow break allows the detritus to settle in the bottom of the tank. I also have a drain valve in the bottom making it much easier for me to do a water change and get that buildup out. Having things set up this way for me makes it easier to monitor the amount of food and nutrition going into the tank. 


Water Circulation

I have a closed loop run with a Reeflo Dart/Snapper Hybrid Pump. I did not want power heads in the tank and in my personal opinion closed loop gives better flow. I have two holes in the bottom, two holes in the back and two up and over all run with a 6 Outlet Darkroon FWX Digital Flow Diverter.







I change 40 gallons every two weeks, 30 gallons gets drained from the settling tank and 10 gallons gets siphoned from the display tank. I do not run GFO. I clean my glass every two or three days. The skimmer cup is cleaned every two days.

I use a turkey baster at night to blow off my rocks at least three times a week. This puts the detritus up into the water column and also helps feeds my coral at night. I run carbon and change it out every two weeks. I use Coral Life salt and dose ESV two part through two BRS dosers. I also dose kalkwasser at night strictly to keep pH up. The auto-top-off is filled when needed.



Water Parameters: 
  • Specific Gravity: 35ppm
  • pH: 8.07 - 8.31 (Apex)
  • Calcium: 480 ppm (ELOS)
  • Alkalinity: 9.5 dkH (ELOS)
  • Magnesium: 1250 - 1300ppm (ELOS)
  • Nitrate: Not measured
  • Temperature: 77oF




Fish & Coral Feeding

I have about 20 fish and I feed my fish and coral five or six times a day. I know this sounds like a lot, but it is multiple small feedings. My Eheim auto-feeder goes off at 10 AM and the New Life Spectrum at noon. Then I feed my own blended food at 2, 6, 8 , and 10 PM. Sometimes I skip a feeding or two.







First and foremost I would like to thank my three girls; my wife Lisa, and my two daughters (Sydney & Hannah) for putting up with me and my hobby. Also to Marek for building this beautiful tank, the great people who I have met and helped me out with frags in my local club, and of course Reef Central and its members!







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