Hambone's Reef Aquarium


I guess I've always had an affinity for one sort of animal or the other. Be it growing up with my three-legged, one-eyed, home-fixed hound dog, Lucky, to my last job glazing puffer fish for gift shops and lighting boutiques, its seems like not a day goes by that I'm not fortunate enough to share it with some of God's most beautiful creatures, alive or dead. Anyway, the fish thing started about five years ago when I went into this LFS mainly to kill some time before The Spy Shoppe next door opened up. Now, I admit back then I didn't know the first thing about fish, corals, or inverts. But once inside I was captivated, stunned at the beauty of the moving, undulating life before me. I'd never seen anything like this. I mean, that stock girl had the absolute cutest little heinie I'd ever seen. Right then, I knew I had to get a job here. So picking up what turned out to be a Mark Weiss pamphlet, I stood nonchalantly in a corner and crammed for all I was worth. By the time the manager came up to ask what I was doing, I casually mentioned that I was lamenting the fact that oxygen depletion in the some the tanks' water molecules was actually causing an opacity that would soon result in all sorts of algal disturbances. Naturally, I was hired on the spot.

I know most of you have similar stories. But I would, however, be remiss if I led you to believe that I didn't learn a thing or two during my tenure there. For instance, I learned that being a black belt in karate could sometimes give women cute little heinies. More importantly, I learned there was more to keeping fish and coral alive than just pouring in some water. And I have no doubt I would've discovered what some of those things were if I hadn't gotten fired. The reasons for the dismissal are unimportant. Just suffice it to say that I was, and am still, determined to show everyone that reefkeeping may be accomplished through simple common sense and without all the namby pamby high tech, no-cigar-smoking-in-the-pump-room, anal retentiveness so prevalent in the hobby today. This honor, being chosen Reef Central's April Reeftank of the Month is a giant first step in realizing that goal. So without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to, not only my tank, but to how it got that way through my personal reefkeeping method: SITSLEEP (Sealife Is Tough So Let 'Em Exist Parentlessly)... copyright pending.

Aquarium Profile

20 gallon plastic aquarium -- 8" x 5" x 5"
.5 gallon sump
no refugium (who needs 'em?)
Counter-top design with equipment to the side of the tank

A key to my success is that I only use state-of-the-art equipment. In this photo you can see my Skilter, which is responsible for removing about one thumbnail of skimmate per month! This sucker can't be beat!

Tank/Equipment/Water Parameters:

My aquarium is a 20 gallon all glass tank manufactured by one of the companies that made all glass 20 gallon aquariums. I say 'made' because the tank itself is very old. In fact, we used to keep it in the back of the shop to store various screws, nuts and plumbing parts. Now before any of you sissy-marys start cranking up your "Heavy Metal" Gregorian Chants, might I again remind you of the SITSLEEP method. Never forget how tough these creatures are. To wit, when a metal ship or plane goes down do we see a vast, sterile, no life zone around it? Do we see anemones with their tentacles over their heads, screaming and running for cover like a Frenchman at a Fourth of July Celebration? No, they colonize and colonize proudly. Heck, we INTENTIONALLY sink metal ships to create artificial reefs! So the next time someone tells you that metal and reeftanks don't mix, you tell them the Reef Central's Tank Of The Month for April guy used good old hex bolts to hold his rockwork together, and aside from a couple minor peculiarities (I never knew some corals were jumpers), there have been absolutely no problems. My substrate, by the way, is a dab (deep algae bed). I like it…looks like my lawn…if my lawn were crawling up the sides of my house…

Anyway, when you're running the SITSLEEP method, it's important to keep equipment to a minimum. Not only does this help to reduce all those bothersome noises that I'm sure annoy the animals as much as they annoy you (except they can't take two week vacations at a time like we can), but it also prevents evaporation which, in the long run, can save you mucho dinero. I do however use some equipment. For instance, I use a Skilter. Actually a slightly modified Skilter…okay, a totally DIY Skilter made from my nieces' old terrarium. Pump? Rio. And, again, before anyone starts howling, I've discovered a little secret of making them last longer. In two words: A timer. Look, the tides don't run 24/7; neither should a Rio or a Skilter. Heat is provided by my nieces' old terrarium hot rock coated with aragacrete and cooling is provided by how rapidly the fish can flap their gills.

When it comes to lighting, I like the look of 400 watt aquaspace lights, augmented with VHO actinics. When it comes to cars, I like the look of a silver Bentley augmented with the chassis of Selma Hyack too. But since I can afford neither, I go with Old Faithful. I use the sun. Yeah, it sometimes gets to be a bother having to move everything from room to room; especially before the idea of putting rollers on the stand hit me. But, heck, as a responsible aquarist, is it asking too much to pay some neighborhood kid a pittance to do a little manual labor a few times a day? You can tell the ones that won't be going to college. Start them 'totin' early, I say. You'll be doing them, your tank, AND your back a favor. 'Nuff said.

Now, contrary to what some of you might believe, I occasionally do test my water. But as I am not made of money like many of your previous TOtM recipients, and I don't feel the need for accuracy within a billionth of a point, I've gone with a less expensive set of test kits: Uzbekistani Labs Saltvatertestinappuratusk. Hey, snicker all you like. But once you get past the directions (and the little radioactivity problem), I'll match these guys up against anyone. In fact, I actually prefer their more 'relaxed' parameters. Shows the confidence they have in the animals' ability to survive without being overly pampered. Sound familiar? You bet it does. Anyway, my water tested as follows:

Water Parameters

Ammonia: Nien
Nitrites: Nien
Nitrates: Da (I think my algae might have gone sexual, as it has covered the front glass so thickly, it must need it's privacy or something).
Calcium: Da
Alkalinity: Da
Specific Gravity: Da
pH: Da

Now I ask you, what the heck else do you REALLY need to know?


I suppose the proof is in the pudding, and to show you how well the SITSLEEP method works for me, here is my fish list as of just last month:

1. (1) Powder Blue tang
2. (1) Yellow tang
3. (1) Sohol tang
4. (2) Mandarins
5. (1) Fu Manchu lionfish
6. (1) Bumblebee grouper ("This guy is the cutest thing")
7. (9) Green Chromis
8. (1) Bicolor goatfish
9. (1) Royal Gramma
10. (1) Stonefish (I actually wanted a frogfish but the kid at the new LFS I go to said these were better. And I know he knows his stuff because the only woman that works at this shop is a millionairess and has a face like a bucket of crabmeat).

Of course, I'd like to give you a more recent update as to my fish count but to tell you the truth, there appears to be such turbulence in the tank, it's hard to see anything (man, those Rios kick a$$). LOL! But then too, I guess it takes awhile for that many fish to acclimate. Especially when you put them all in at the same time.

Corals and Inverts:

I currently only have a few "SPS" corals because quite frankly, I wasn't sure how'd they'd do under my system. But I have to say, now that I've had them awhile, I am simply blown away. I admit I was nervous at first when they seemed to lose their 'zoo' and bleach white. But as Eric B. himself said, if given the proper conditions, they can sometimes come back. And I'll be darned if all mine didn't. Of course, I would've preferred that they not all color up the same shade of green like they did. But I must say, the length of some of these polyps is NOT to be believed. Even the hermits are impressed. They're all over 'em. LOL!

And don't think I've neglected the "LPS" corals either. I currently have a Frogspawn, two Cynaria, several Fungia of different sizes and a little Torch and even a really large Elegance I've managed to keep since I first set the tank up. Some day I look forward to maintaining these species alive and INSIDE my tank as well. I guess the real trick is finding healthy specimens to begin with. Believe me, if you can actually hear a coral scream when you lower it into your tank, that coral ain't healthy!


Once again I'd like to thank the staff at RC for the opportunity to share my tank and methods of reefkeeping with you. While they may appear radical to some (like the PETA members who have chained themselves to my garage), they are simply my way of trusting these creatures to do what's best for them. I don't think it's laziness at all. Or shiftlessness, or cruelty to animals or anything else the neighbors tell the cops. I also don't think it smells really badly in here either. Anyhow, I guess you've got to have a pretty thick skin if you want to be a trailblazer in this hobby. I mean, now I know how Dr. Ron must feel…

Feel free to comment or ask questions about my tank in the forum for the online magazine.

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