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Tank of the Month

 

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Luc Loyen's (jawsee) Reef Aquarium

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Introduction


My name is Luc Loyen. I share the passion for this hobby together with my wife Anja. We live with our 2 children, Sarah and Kevin, in the small village of Neerharen in Belgium. I have been a fond sea lover for over 10 years and have kept dozens of freshwater tanks. This hobby gives my wife and I both great pleasure as you can witness the beauty of nature first hand in your own living room. We have found many new friends and acquaintances in and out of our country because of it. Naturally, I would like to thank the staff of Reef Central and especially the people who helped to put together this article. I thank you all very much for this great honour.
 

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Background


I am currently on my third aquarium since starting this hobby 10 years ago. My first tank (160x60x60cm or 63x24x24”) was actually a modified freshwater aquarium. Though we felt the bitterness from a devastating infection in our aquarium, we found in the end it was still a great learning experience for us. At the end of 2003 we replaced the old aquarium with a new larger tank (200x70x70). We found that this tank was also very difficult to maintain, even from the beginning. However, it was around this time that I got to know Theo who has a beautiful reef at his home. There is no doubt that it was because of him that we continued to pursue this hobby and found our love for SPS corals.

 

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Over the years, our second aquarium really became an outstanding reef. During this time we discovered the internet which opened a lot of doors. It was at this time that I met a lot of good people from the hobby in which some became true friends. Between 2003 and 2009 I simply couldn't stop surfing the net or reading books to further expand my knowledge. We also travelled a lot to look at other hobbyists’ aquariums and went as far as attending symposiums. These past 5 years, I have been very pleased with this reef tank. The corals are growing at a steady pace, all of the fish were healthy and we also had several fish couples in the tank.

Around the end of 2007, I decided to plan ahead and make renovations in the basement. At the time the basement was only 1 meter in height. To fit my needs I wanted it to be dug out to a height of at least 1,70 meters (5’6”). Digging out that extra height was hard work because the ground was very solid and I had to carry it out myself with nothing more than a plain bucket. Sometimes while I was busy carrying those buckets I found myself wondering if I was crazy! After all that effort the total area that I now have available is 20m² (215sq ft). It was an empty room and I needed to run electrical cables, place floor tiles, and finish the walls. Afterwards I had four aquariums placed in the basement but have since expanded. At the moment, the basement has 6 tanks in total. There is a tank for the skimmer, a sump, two frag tanks, a coral quarantine tank and a new fish quarantine tank. In quarantine each new fish stays here for a minimal of two months to make sure it is healthy when I introduce it to my display tank. While in isolation I always try to convert them to dry food. The sump is easily assessable and allows me too make water changes of 400 liters (106 US gallons) without the need to turn off the system pump. This basement turned out to be such a great addition that I can't even think of doing this hobby without it anymore. Since so much water volume is in the basement it is a real comfort knowing your system can't get too warm during the summer months. The temperature of the aquarium is around 23 - 25oC in the winter and 25 - 27oC in the summer. I spend more time in the basement these days than I spend time watching the display tank. My wife tells me if I had a sofa and a television in the basement I would live down there.

 

 

Current Tank


At the end of 2008, we decided to go bigger! Measurements for the new tank are 320x90x80cm (126x35x31”). These measurements were used as we took into consideration our lighting. We figured that we wanted two 80 watt T5 lamps running across the entire length and a little extra for space. Since each 80W T5 is 1,5 meters, we figured we needed 320cm for the aquarium.

On the aquarium the front and side panels are made out of optic white glass that is 15mm thick. Everything started out well and in 2009 the construction of our new aquarium began. We also decided to decorate the tank with ceramic delivered by a friend of ours. The ceramic is very porous, allowing us too increase bacterial bioload and denitrification once the aquarium is running. During all of this construction we had brought the fish and corals from the second tank downstairs to the basement to distributed them amongst all the tanks. At the end of April the tank was finished and decorated. At this time, I wasn't sure if the aquarium was completely ready for all of my livestock but I decided to start transferring them back upstairs. Some of the corals suffered and eventually died, possibly due to a lack of water circulation. These corals were rather large and I could not get the water current high enough at first.

 

Afterwards, everything seemed stable until I bought two new Butterflyfish in mid May. I didn’t quarantine but instead placed them straight into the display tank. This was the biggest mistake I ever made in 10 years of saltwater! A week later all my fish were covered in white spots and I lost all my fish except my wrasses. All told I lost my 6 big angels and roughly 40 fish of which some were over 6 years already. I admit that during their time in the basement they had not received the same attention as in our display tank and were a little stressed prior to the transfer. This was the most difficult period for me as a sea lover. After this loss, Anja and I spent some time thinking about what to do next. We decided that we still wanted to continue with this tank but it was a close call. If I had lost my wrasses as well then we probably would have quit the hobby.

After some pondering, we decided to give it another go since I still had most of the coral but I never really liked the first setup. So we emptied our display in early to mid July. We made changes to the tank so it was to our liking and we started filling the aquarium up again by the same evening. Now we have bridges formed from our liverock that I always wanted. After the remodelling I had old bits and pieces of unused rock from before. We mixed it in between the ceramic tiles to give it a more natural look. In total around 150 kilograms of liverock (330lb) are in our display. This setup worked out very well and is appealing to both my wife and I. The tank is open allowing the fish room to swim around while also providing room for them in the back of the tank. Since angels and wrasses were my favourite kind of fish I decided to go 100% SPS with this display tank.

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Right now the aquarium is about 16 months old and it is starting to get to the level of my old tank. Most of my corals started out as frags and some have grown very big during this time. The largest Acropora hyacinthus table was about 55cm last time I measured, though I recently had to trim it a bit. It is currently 4 years old. With just wrasses in the tank, I naturally went out searching for more fish. Right now, our fish occupancy is almost complete again with 8 big angels. I prefer to buy these when they are small as possible to minimize the risk that they start eating corals. Preferably, I like to keep the fish in pairs, so I hope this will eventually turn out into 4 couples.

 

System Profile


• Display Tank: 320x90x80cm (126x35x32in)
• Display Lighting:
8x PC 9W, 4x 400W Aquamedic 13000K metal halides, 16x T5 80W ATI80
• Frag Prop Tank:
120x80x30 & 160x80x30
• Frag Prop Tank Lighting:
10x 54W T5 ATI & 6x 80W T5 ATI
• Fish Tank:
80x80x50cm
• Fish Tank Lighting:
4x 39W T5 ATI
• Sump:
140x80x60cm
• Collector Tank:
160x80x30cm
• Collector Tank Lighting:
7x 80W T5 ATI
• Return Pump:
ATK (12000 liter)
• Calcium Reactor:
Dastaco Extreme III, this piece of equipment is fully automated. The only thing you have to do is adjust the controller pump to add more or less dKH or calcium to the tank.
• Skimmer:
ATB custom made with two pumps, having water flow around 10000 liters an hour and pulling around 3500 liters air.
• Dosing Controller:
Grotech III with extension module EP IV.
• Fresh Water:
Fresh water is produced by an ion mix-bed exchanged. The vessel contains 180 liters and is being supplied by an Aquamedic reef dosage pump.
• Water circulation:
All the tanks are part of one massive system and contain about 4400 liters of water of which 1900 liters is in the display tank. The water current in the show tank is controlled by 4x Tunze 6305 and 2x Tunze 8000. In time I plan to add some Vortech MP40s into the system on the back wall.


 

 

Lighting


The lighting period in the display tank is set to turn on at 9:30 am with the 9w lamps with a blue atinic color. I find the tank looks at its best then since the fish are waking up and slowly start swimming around. Also, the corals have a very nice fluorescent color then. Around 11:00 am the T5 lamps start switching on, in 4 steps, which illuminates the tank very well. The metal halide HQIs are switched on last at 3:00 pm and switch off again at 9:00 pm. These are followed by the T5s at 10:00 pm. Finally, at 11:30 pm the last ones switch off (9W lamps with blue atinic color). The lamps in the basement are on during the night. This is because of the lower electrical price and also to keep a more steady ph value in the system. For replacement I change the T5 lamps every 6 months and the metal halides every year.


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Maintenance & Supplements


In the past few years I have used several different kinds of trace elements and other additives. During the initial years, I used trace elements from a local shop, Reefcorner. I found them good, cheap and easy to use. In the last year of my second aquarium I switched and used products from KZ. At the current moment, I am back to using products from the local coral shop. I prefer to not stick on one brand because you never know if the manufacture will stop and then you’ll be in a tight spot until you find a replacement. I’ve found that I am happiest using around a third of the recommended dose by the manufacture.

I find that many people rely on these trace element supplements too often during the first few years of the hobby. I always tell my friends the corals will tell you when they need something. For example, a pink hystrix will always have white tips on the ends. Otherwise your water quality is abnormal and you must figure it out. This method is essential to reefkeeping! Take a step back and look at dKH, Ca, old lighting, or phosphate levels in the system are common problems I’ve seen in the past. You know you have become an experienced reefkeeper when you have learned too read your corals and know how to fix the problems.

 

 

In past years, I always waited too add fish to the tank until the corals speak to me. They become zeo-colored by themselves. I find that I have the choice of buying some expensive bottle of additives or adding some nice fish to my display. I usually choose the latter. Also, I figure that frozen and dry foods for your Fish also contain amino acids and vitamins. Just plan ahead and use the fish to your advantage. There are no miracle bottles. These products do work, don’t get me wrong, but there are some differences between them. I know this because I know my corals very well. I notice small changes in coral health and coloration with each individual manufacturer. You can get some extras here and there with certain corals and those additives but for the most part I believe in 3 fundamental elements. It may seem a bit old fashioned, but the main thing I'm concerned with in this hobby is having good water quality, current and lots of light. Every month I replace one liter of carbon and possibly phosphate remover (which is normally not needed). I do run ozone in in the aquarium and have it set around 80 mg per hour. Water changes are done every two weeks at 180 liters (48 US gallons) and twice a year I try to change around 1000 liters (264 US gallons).


 


Water Parameters:
  • Specific gravity: 35%
  • pH: 7.7 - 7.9 (ISK controller)
  • Calcium: 410 - 430 ppm (Coralshop)
  • Alkalinity: 8 - 9 dKH  (Macherey Nagel)
  • Magnesium: 1300 ppm (Coralshop)
  • Temperature: 23- 25oC winter, 25 - 27oC summer, 73-77oF winter, 77-80oF summer
  • Nitrates: 0 - 2 ppm (Macherey Nagel)
  • Phosphates: undetectable (Deltec)

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Feeding


The fish are fed around five times per day. Frozen foods are given three times per day and dry foods two. I believe in heavy feeding for the angels. Otherwise they may snack on my gorgeous corals! I also think they are less aggressive when they are well fed. I also believe that use a wide variety of foods also benefit the corals. I can even see this on some corals because of their tremendous growth rates, even in the shaded regions of the aquarium.


                            


Livestock


Fish:

  • Acanthurus Achilles
  • Acanthurus Pyroferus
  • Zebrasoma Flavescens 2x
  • Chaetodontoplus  true personifer 2x
  • Apolemichthys xanthopunctatus 2x
  • conspicillatus angels
  • Chaetodontoplus septentrionalis 2x
  • Pygoplites diacanthus 2x
  • Genicanthus bellus 3x
  • Cirrhilabrus jordani 2x
  • Cirrhilabrus lineatus
  • Cirrhilabrus roseofasciatus
  • Cirrhilabrus rubrimarginatus
  • Pseudocheilinus ocellatus
  • Pseudocheinilops ataenia 2x
  • Macropharyngodon bipartitus 3x
  • Macropharyngodon meleagris 2x

 

 

 

 

  • Platyglossus melanurus
  • Hemiulus rubricephala
  • Biochoeres chrysus 2x
  • Anampses femininus
  • Anampses neoguinaicus
  • Anampses meleagrides 2x
  • Labroides dimidiatus 2x
  • Pseudanthias Randalli 10x
  • Pseudanthias evansi 10x
  • Ecsenius stigmatura
  • Ecsenius midas
  • Valenciennea sexgutta 2x
  • Amblyeleotris randalli 2x
  • Pterosynchiropus pictaturus 2x
  • Neocirrhitus armatus
  • Gramma loreto
  • Leopropoma Carmabi
  • Pseudochromis fridmanni 4x
  • Pseudochromis springeri 4x
  • Chelmon rostratus

 

 

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Corals


I love SPS corals! Around 90 % off the tank are SPS. I did have many more corals species including Zoantharia and Acanthastrea in many different colorations but I sold them because the love for my angelfishes was too large. Here are some of the corals and inverts I have in my tank.

Acropora:

  • A. loripes
  • A. humilus
  • A. gemmifera
  • A. millepora
  • A. formosa
  • A. efflorescens
  • A. solitaryensis
  • A. nasuta
  • A. carduuz
  • A. formosa

Montipora:

  • M. digitata
  • M. danae
  • M. stellata
  • M. confusa
  • M. australiensis
  • M. aurientali

Stylophora
Seriatapora
Pocillipora

LPS
Ricordea florida
Duncsonamsia auxifuga
Coulastrea

Inverts
4x tridacna maxima
1x crocea
1x derasa
over 20 sea urchins
10x Lysmata amboinensis


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Acknowledgements


I want to thank my wife, Anja, who I can always count on for her support and her patience when I screw around a bit in the living room. For my son Kevin for who I can always count on to take care of the fish when we are out on holidays.


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Furthermore the shops where I buy the most of my livestock and material:

Theo and May from Reefcorner
Aissa from Desert`s Ocean
Karl from Mare Nostrum
Michael from Angelfish
Karl Heinz from Fressnaph Aachen
Robertus for making the video's


Last but not least, I would like to thank everybody in which I have discussed this great hobby of ours!

 

 

 


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

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