Ken Uy's (Salt Creep) Reef Aquarium
Thanks for featuring my tank! I must
admit, after seeing all the awesome tanks featured here
before, I didn't think mine would even be considered for
tank of the month; after all it's not the great big SPS
dominated tanks everybody goes "Ooh" and "Aaah"
over. Those who have seen pictures of my tank are often
surprised when they get to see it in real life, because
the actual size (or lack thereof) isn't apparent in the
The main tank is aquascaped with live
rock from various sources and salvaged from my old tank.
There are a couple of inches of mixed silica and aragonite
sand on the bottom, mostly to give the pistol shrimp something
to dig in. Water circulation is provided by two MaxiJet
1000 powerheads controlled by a Sandpoint wavemaker.
tank: 29 gallon glass aquarium (Lee-Mar),
30"L by 12"W by 18"H.
tray: Plastic sweater box 12" wide by
6" deep by 16" long.
tank: 2½ gallon plastic critter carrier.
10 gallon glass aquarium.
Water exits the main tank through an
Amiracle hang-on overflow. I wish the tank had a built-in
overflow because I have to contend with bubbles occasionally
collecting in the siphon tube, but that only happens when
too many algae grow in the siphon and overflow box, or if
I forget to top off the tank and the water level in the
sump drops too much allowing air to be sucked into the return
pump and blown into the tank. A Stockman standpipe keeps
the overflow from making gurgling noises.
A MicroJet pump in the main tank sends
water to the propagation tray. The propagation tray is connected
to the main tank with a 1 1/4-inch siphon tube, which keeps
the water level in the tray at the same height of the main
tank. Another MicroJet pump provides extra water circulation
in the tray. The tray sits on a wooden stand to raise it
to the level of the main tank's upper rim, allowing it to
receive lighting from the main tank. It also has a hole
drilled in the side with a bulkhead and PVC pipe overflow
that drains into the algal tank. The propagation tray gives
me a nice place to put coral trimmings to sell or give away,
and acts as a refugium of sorts. There is about an inch
of live sand in it, plus a large clump of Chaetomorpha,
which I trim every week or so.
The algal tank is just a plastic "critter
container" minus the lid, with a small bulkhead and
PVC overflow on one side, which drains into the sump. It
holds an inch or so of sugar fine silica sand and a clump
of Caulerpa lentilifera (mini-grape Caulerpa)
which I periodically harvest as a method of nutrient export.
At one time, I kept dwarf seahorses in this tank, but lost
them all to some Aiptasia that were accidentally
introduced with a clump of algae. With the seahorses gone,
the algae tank is now crawling with "pods" and
mysids. There is also a healthy population of small bristleworms
living in the algae, which can literally make it a pain
Water from the tank enters the sump into
a chamber formed by a removable acrylic wall to minimize
the amount of bubbles getting into the return pump. The
water passes through the sides and bottom of the wall into
a second chamber, which holds a Turboflotor 1000 protein
skimmer. From there, water is sent to the skimmer by a MaxiJet
1000 powerhead. The skimmer's output is directed onto a
pile of live rock to reduce the amount of microbubbles that
may be sucked into the return pump. The return pump is a
Mag Drive 7. The sump also contains a VisiTherm heater set
The lights extend beyond the sides of
the main tank since the 40 watt bulbs are 48 inches long
while the tank is only 30 inches long. This allows me to
use the same light source for the propagation tray. I use
polished aluminum reflectors on top of the lights. I currently
do not have a hood. In fact, the whole setup looks very
patched-together, so when I photograph the tank I try not
to show the light fixture or the stand (a sturdy old desk
with bookshelves leaning on it hides the tangle of power
cords underneath). A couple of small fans are used to keep
the light fixture cool, and the lights are on at night between
8 p.m. and 6 a.m. when I'm home to enjoy the tank.
40 watt fluorescent tubes (currently a mix of
Coralife 50/50's and 10,000K's) on a Coralife
electronic ballast, plus one 96 watt 6,700K compact
fluorescent; shared by the main tank and the propagation
18 watt compact fluorescent and one 15 watt regular
fluorescent over the algae tank.
I'm afraid I haven't tested the water
for anything since the first few weeks that I set it up.
I do get occasional patches of Bryopsis algae, so
I imagine the dissolved nutrient levels might be higher
than they should be. I do see quite a bit of sponge growth,
and small to medium-sized feather duster worms are proliferating,
so I feel higher nutrient levels are not such a bad thing.
| Specific Gravity: 1.026
|Temp: 78 - 82 °F
|Calcium, alkalinity, pH, etc: not
I've had my oldest animals, some zoanthids,
since the mid 1980's. I originally started out with a 15
gallon tank, then changed to a 60 gallon after a couple
of years. The 1994 Northridge earthquake caused a rockslide
that cracked the 60 gallon glass tank. I moved the survivors
to a 60 gallon acrylic tank, but I was never happy with
it (especially after that first scratch!), so I ended up
putting everything in the 29 gallon glass tank. Most of
the additional corals and critters were obtained through
trades with friends and from store credits received from
bringing in Red Sea Xenia frags.
Soft corals do very well in this system.
SPS corals grow fairly well as long as I start with tank-raised
frags and keep them in the upper half of the tank. The SPS
corals would probably grow faster if the lights were stronger,
but given the amount of space I have left in the tank, I'm
not sure I want that. At least not yet! Actually, Pocillopora
damicornis seems to do quite well in the tank, and it
has even spread around the tank by releasing asexually produced
planulae that colonize bare areas such as the overflow box.
and you can see that this is a
powerhead overgrown with
maxima clams (2)
Zoanthus sp. (blue morph)
sp. (green star polyps)
clowns, Amphiprion frenatus (1 pair)
gobies, Gobiosoma oceanops (1 pair)
Yellow watchman gobies, Cryptocentrus cinctus (1
gramma, Gramma loreto (1)
Green clown goby, Gobiodon histrio (1)
damsel, Chrysiptera sp. (1)
In most cases I've just attached the
coral frags wherever they fit, and let them grow to fill
the space. The corals now grow quite close to each other
and I have to prune or reposition them every now and then
to keep them from stinging each other.
Symbiotic and commensal relationships
are of particular interest to me. In fact, the main reason
I got into reefkeeping was to watch clownfish playing in
their anemone. I also enjoy observing the paired animals
interact with each other. The Stenopus pair is especially
fun to watch, because the male will collect food and take
it to the female, who then usually confiscates it all. I
haven't seen the clownfish exhibit any real breeding behavior
yet, but the watchman and neon gobies, as well as the shrimp,
apparently spawn on a regular basis.
Feeding & Maintenance:
The tank is topped- off daily with about
half a gallon of RO filtered water mixed with Mrs. Wage's
Pickling Lime (about a tablespoon per gallon) plus around
a teaspoon of distilled white vinegar. The water is dripped
into the sump from a gallon plastic juice jug through a
plastic air valve nozzle with an air hose inserted about
a third from the bottom. Theoretically, this allows the
lime sediments to settle in the bottom of the jug, but I
usually just add the limewater mixture to the sump while
it's still milky. Recently, I've started adding some baking
soda just in case the alkalinity needs boosting.
I feed the tank about twice a day. Usually,
I use frozen Mysis shrimp, in the morning when the
lights are out, to feed the Tubastrea and the shrimp.
When the lights go on in the evening, I feed with Brine
Shrimp Direct brine shrimp flakes or Vibragro pellets. The
Ricordea mushrooms, the LPS corals, and the anemone
are target fed with pieces of shrimp every week or so. Additionally,
I sometimes dose with a bit of algae cryopaste when I feel
The tank's front glass panel has to be
scraped clean every week or so. I also wash the dust and
salt deposits off the glass covers and wipe the lights once
a week. I try to do a partial water change every month or
so but it's not a problem if I skip a few water changes,
at least until I start seeing the Bryopsis patches
getting bigger. Excess algae are removed once a week. Any
corals that are getting too big are also trimmed at this
time. The protein skimmer's cup is emptied and cleaned when
it gets too full or simply too awful to look at. The siphon
tubes for both the overflow and the propagation tray are
cleaned whenever they start collecting too many bubbles.
I usually change about five gallons of
water every few weeks when I notice a lot of detritus collecting
in the sump. I try to judge this by how the corals and fish
are looking; if things look a bit "off" or if
the algae seem to be growing faster than usual, I make sure
the protein skimmer is running properly, then I do a larger
water change than usual.
The tank system has had its share of
problems, ranging from excessive algal growth in the main
tank to a massive flatworm infestation in the propagation
tray. Oddly enough, the flatworms were never able to establish
themselves in the main tank. I've seen the blue damsel and
the watchman gobies eating them on the few occasions when
my curiosity got the better of me and I actually took some
flatworms and put them in the main tank. I suspect this
is why they were never able to survive there. The infestation
in the propagation tray was cured when I added two Chelidonura
varians to eat them.
Oddly enough, when I started with a 15-gallon
tank I had no trouble keeping anemones, and often had to
trade them back to the pet store after they outgrew the
tank. I haven't had much success keeping host anemones when
I moved on to bigger tanks, and after I started this current
tank I only had success with Phymanthus and Condylactis
anemones, which made good hosts for anemone shrimp and crabs.
Recently, I was able to get a healthy captive propagated
rose Entacmaea for my clownfish but, unfortunately,
the female clown didn't like sharing the anemone with the
crustaceans. The anemone crabs eventually disappeared, presumably
eaten by the banded coral shrimp after they lost the protection
of their host.
On occasion, I've added animals that
were unsuited for the tank, like a pair of anemone shrimp
that ate most of my Condylactis before I could get
them out, and I recently found a sundial snail that was
eating my zoanthids. Fortunately, these mistakes were easily
The only other problem with this tank
is lack of space. I've lost some frags when they got overgrown
by other corals, though I usually manage to rescue them.
The Turbinaria colony is now growing against the
front glass, and I don't know what to do about that without
major rearrangement of the rocks. One of these days I'm
moving everything to a bigger tank!
This tank has given me a great deal of
pleasure over the years. I enjoy growing the corals as if
the tank was an indoor garden, and I've met a lot of great
people through local aquarium clubs and online message boards
like Reef Central. I'm grateful to all the people out there
who have shared frags, knowledge, extra equipment, tank-sitting
time, car rides, and great conversation with me. You know
who you are!
To visit Ken's website click on the image
Feel free to comment
or ask questions about my tank in the forum
for the online magazine.