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Tank of the Month

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Audrey Schnepel's (teach) Reef Aquarium



What an honor and privilege to have my tank nominated and selected as "Tank of the Month".  My name is Audrey Schnepel and I live in Jacksonville, Florida.  Although I have been active in this wonderful hobby for only 7 years, I made a wise commitment to join the Reef Central community from the beginning. I believe this decision has provided me a great educational base in which to be become a successful reef hobbyist.



I have always had a love for water activities and the ocean.  As a young adult, I remember having numerous fresh water tanks.  I had never experienced a salt water system until a friend donated a 64 bow front aquarium to my school’s classroom.  In the beginning, I felt overwhelmed by so much various information, but after countless hours of researching my new found hobby, I learned what would and would not work, etc…

After a year, I began accumulating equipment and making preparation to start a 90 gallon system at home. This was a successful, mixed reef system.  I found myself intrigued by “small stony coral” and in May 2006, started my 180 gallon SPS dominated obsession.   


Concept and Tank Profile

Without having the luxury of a tank room, I knew I had to provide enough room for equipment along with a pleasing look for the family living area.  The stand and canopy was designed by R&J Aquatics.  Book cases were added to each side of the stand to house some of my favorite reef reading material, as well as to hide some of the equipment.

The tank is a standard 180 gallon (72” x 24” x 24”) built by Glass Cages with a “starphire” front.  I believe in high flow and tank volume so a large sump/skimmer area (approximately 110 gallons) was designed and fits in the stand.  

I’ve always liked an “aquascape” that provided separation and eye appeal, thus I went with two islands.  I was fortunate in finding some premier Vanuatu rock which is light and provides excellent hiding places for fish, as well as coral placement.

tank no water

System Profile

• Display tank: 180 gallon / starphire front glass
• Sump:
110 gallon acrylic
• Skimmer:
Bubble King 200 internal
• Controller: Neptune Jr
• Chiller:
Arctica 1/3 hp
• Filters: 2x 100 micron bags attached to overflow
• RO/DI: Aquasafe 6 stage unit
• Fan: Icecap 4" variable
• Reactors:
BRS dual reactor for carbon, GFO or Phosban, Octopus dual calcium reactor with GenX media
• Lighting:three 400W MH fired by Icecap ballasts with lumenarc reflectors, four 39W T5 Tek fixtures
• Bulbs: Radium 20K, two Giesmann true actinic, two Giesmann Blue+
• Water circulation:
Reeflow Dart (return), two 1” sea swirls, four vortech wavemakers with wireless controllers (reef crest mode), two battery back-ups


The filtration consists of approximately 150 lbs of live rock in the display and another 15-20 lbs in the sump. After experimenting with several skimmer designs, I decided to buy a Bubble King 200.  I am quite pleased with my protein skimmer. I run a BRS (Bulk Reef Supply) dual phosban reactor (one chamber filled with Nitrate remover and the other chamber filled with carbon). Two 100 micron filter bags catch most of the large particulates before entering the skimmer area and sump.

bubble king 200



Over the years, I have tried various bulbs and currently burn 400W 20K Radium bulbs. The T5 fixtures provide actinic supplement and are quite appealing in the early/late light cycle.  I am looking into some of the new LED designs for a future upgrade, but love my halides.

Lighting Setup:
  • 3-400w MH 20K Radium on Icecap ballasts with Lumenarc fixtures
  • 2- Giesemann Blue + actnics 39w T5's
  • 2- Giesemann true actnics 39w T5's
Lighting Schedule: 
  • 1100 EST until 2400 EST- 1st set of T5's (true actinic)
  • 1200 EST until 2300 EST -  2nd set of T5's (Blue +)
  • 1300 EST until 2000 EST -  1st MH
  • 1400 EST until 2100 EST -  2nd MH
  • 1500 EST until 2200 EST -  3rd MH
  • 2400 EST until 0730 EST -  moon lights
  • I back off the MH one hour during the summer.


Water Circulation and Flow

As I mentioned above, I am a firm believer in high flow and circulation.  The dart pump feeds four standard ¾” returns, two 1” sea swirls and the calcium reactor. Four vortech wavemakers (I like the reef crest mode) provide most of the side to side flow. The overflows are separated to feed the refugium, skimmer compartment and sump area.

Water Parameters:
  • Specific gravity: 1.026
  • pH: 8.0 - 8.2
  • Calcium: 420 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 9 - 10 dKH
  • Magnesium: 1350 ppm 
  • Temperature: 78 - 80° F
  • Nitrates/Nitrites: undetectable
  • Phospates: < 0.03 ppm

Feeding, Maintenance, & Supplements

I feed once a day using a variety of foods, i.e., Rod's Reef, Mysis, Bloodworms and Julian Sprung's Sea Veggies.  Twice a week I turn off the return and feed heavy with Cyclop-eeze (the acans and other soft corals love it).

Routine Maintenance:
  • inspect system, etc. daily
  • top off daily
  • clean glass as required
  • change filter bags twice a week
  • clean skimmer twice a week
  • 10% (25 gallons) water change weekly (Tropic Marin Pro)
  • change carbon reactor medias monthly

Observations & Philosophy

I am a firm believer that water changes may be the single most important procedure in maintaining a successful reef tank.  When setting up a system, try and create a simple design easily maintained by you or others that may be required to occasionally “baby sit” the system.  Don’t add any supplements unless you can/have tested the necessary parameters.   

Invest money on quality equipment the first time. In the end, it is generally worth it.

Educate yourself on the oceans and reef health and be a conscious consumer/hobbyist, i.e., never attempt to keep any inhabitant you haven't studied or given previous research. Remember, there are many different ways to create and maintain a successful reef environment.   

Take your time and enjoy our wonderful hobby.  Too many of us try and create an “Instant Reef”.  I feel it is most rewarding to grow that one inch “stick” into a beautiful colony.

Fish and Invert


Fish & Inverts:
  • True Percula Clownfish (mated pair)
  • White Cheek Tang
  • Purple Tang
  • Melanarus wrasse
  • Ruby Long fin Flasher Wrasse
  • Tiger Goby
  • Lyretail Anthias
  • Midas Blenny
  • Yellow Watchman Goby
  • Green Chromis
  • Scarlet hermits
  • Assorted snails
  • Pistol Shrimp
  • Cleaner Shrimp
  • Assorted acro crabs





Variety of 75+ different species of acropora, montipora and seriatopora
Variety of 25+ different Acanthastrea lordhowensis, hillae and echinata




carolania 2




pink prostata 2











I would first like to thank my husband for supporting me and growing with me in this hobby.  I would not be successful without his loving support.  I would also like to thank the Reef Central community for providing us with a great environment to communicate and learn from other hobbyists and to expand our knowledge of marine aquarium systems. 

left tank 2


In closing, I would like to thank my local reef club, North Florida Marine Aquarium Society. Without the club and the wonderful friendships, I may not be in the hobby today.
Special thanks to the following reef stores for providing me with a great selection of corals and dry goods:
Bio-Reef, LLC (Jax)
Coral Logic Aquariums (Jax)
Sea in the City (Orlando)
World Wide Corals (Orlando)

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

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