Keith Berkelhamer's (reefbum) Reef Aquarium
Let me begin by thanking the "powers
that be" for this truly amazing honor! When I heard
my tank was being featured, I was overcome with a sense
of excitement I haven't felt since my daughter was born.
I surmised I felt this way because I was either emotionally
"out to lunch" or REALLY, REALLY, REALLY excited
about being selected (my wife would pick option A). Anyway,
to be in the company of prior "Tank of The Month"
honorees is a privilege and a real thrill.
How My Addiction Began:
Isn't it always your parents' fault?
My father indirectly planted the reefkeeping bug inside
me when I was a youngster. He kept a couple of rather large
saltwater tanks when I was a kid, and I fondly remember
accompanying him on many trips to the fish store. It is
ironic now because he sometimes accompanies me to the fish
stores since he stopped keeping tanks years ago. Nonetheless,
I learned a lot by just being around someone with a strong
interest in the hobby.
I actually didn't have a tank to call
my own until after I graduated college and was working in
the "real world". It all began so innocently at
a New York City street fair called the San Genaro Festival,
where I won a goldfish. It was amazing that I even got the
fish home since my future bride and I had celebrated rather
excessively that night. The tiny bowl that came with the
fish made me feel sorry for the critter, so I decided to
go out and buy him (or was it her?) a more suitable home:
a one or two gallon tank. I believe that fish lasted two
weeks or so. Despite the bad experience, I was hooked, and
I guess you could say that it was all downhill from there.
I went from owning a 29 gallon fresh water aquarium with
many fish and live plants, to a 90 gallon acrylic tank.
The 90, which replaced the 29, was my first reef tank. I
have now been a "ReefBum" for approximately 10
The aquarium, which has been up and running
for two years, is a custom-made 120 gallon Starphire glass
tank. I chose Starphire glass since it is clear, not tinted
green, as is in standard glass tanks. What you see is what
you get. The effect is amazing brightness and clarity; similar
to acrylic, in a tank that's not prone to scratches.
The tank is built into a wall and is
accessible from both the front and back. Cabinet doors were
added to the front on top to provide easy access for feeding
and aquascaping. A closet was constructed behind the tank
to house all the necessary plumbing and equipment.
gallon Starphire glass aquarium
48" L x 24" H x 24" W
gallon acrylic sump
x 6" corner over-flow
A 30 gallon sump sits below the tank
in my "fish" closet. One GenX Mak4 external pump
(1,200 gallons per hour) draws water from the sump, passes
the water through a ¼ HP Universal Marine in-line
chiller before ultimately returning it to the tank. An identical
Mak4 pump drives water from the sump to an in sump ETS 750
Reef-Devil Gemini protein skimmer.
I use 250 lbs. of premium Fiji and Marshall
Islands live rock for biofiltraton. Approximately 50 lbs.
of ESV fine grade sand and 15 lbs. of live aragonite reef
sand round out the biological bed. Mechanical filtration
consisting of a pre-filter sponge in the overflow box and
a filter bag in the sump keep the water crystal clear. Two
bags of Chemi-Pure are utilized for chemical filtration.
Flow from the Mak4 return pump is supplemented
by four Maxijet 1200 powerheads. The Maxijets are driven
by a RedSea Wavemaster Pro Wavemaker. Total circulation
in the tank is approximately 2,200 gallons per hour.
In retrospect, I should have done a better
job in designing the tank to avoid using so many unsightly
powerheads. Only one hole in the euro-brace top was drilled
to accommodate a bulkhead for the return line. If I had
to do it again, at least one or two more holes would have
been drilled for a closed-loop circulation system. Of course,
having pumps on the outside creates more room for corals,
Two of the powerheads are secured to
the tank with a pair of algae-cleaning magnets. I came up
with this idea because the suction cups on the powerheads
never held well on the glass.
Calcium & Alkalinity Supplementation:
A dual chamber MyReefCreations
calcium reactor is employed as the main engine for sustaining
calcium and alkalinity levels. The reactor is filled with
CaribSea ARM media and is fed by a line plumbed off of the
main return line. The steady feed from the return really
helps to keep the reactor "dialed in." Having
a second chamber is key since it helps to dissipate excess
CO2 in the reactor before it can
escape into the tank. The net effect is an effluent with
a higher pH than what is normally seen with a single chamber
reactor. The unit is extremely efficient and nearly maintenance-free.
The media is changed after four months, while the 10 lb.
CO2 tank generally lasts five to
An EcoTech Marine kalkwasser reactor
is utilized for additional calcium and alkalinity supplementation.
Presently, ten heaping tablespoons of ESV kalkwasser are
added each week to the two-gallon chamber. Approximately
18 gallons of RO water are fed into the reactor and off
to the tank each week via a LiterMeter dosing pump. The
kalk reactor is a solid compliment to the calcium reactor
since it boosts the tank's pH, besides augmenting calcium
Prior to adding these reactors, I had
been using ESV's two-part calcium and alkalinity system.
I made the switch because it became too costly dosing 180
ml of each component on a daily basis. In the end, it was
my love affair with those calcium "hogging" Acropora
species that necessitated the change.
Lighting consists of three 400-watt
20K Radium bulbs and two 96 watt power compacts (one actinic
& one full spectrum). The halides are run on a PFO dual
HQI ballast while the power compacts are also run on a PFO
reflectors are used for the halides, which are on for 10
hours a day (PCs are on for 11 hours).
A retrofit system is used for the lighting. The canopy was
built out of plywood and other scraps I had around the house.
The inside of the canopy is painted with flat white oil-based
paint. Two four inch Icecap variable speed cooling fans
and one six inch conventional fan over the top of the tank
help keep the canopy cool and promote evaporation. The front
of the canopy is on a hinge and can be lifted up, enabling
me to reach into the bottom-half of the tank.
Noon - Power Compacts On
- Metal Halides On
- Metal Halides Off
- Power Compacts Off
By the time this article is published,
I will be in the midst of a little experiment (isn't this
hobby great for people who like to tinker!). I am going
to try some new reflectors with the hope of achieving a
greater and more even spread of light. A couple of my frags
are "burnt" or bleaching in spots, so it appears
the tank does have a "hot spot" or two.
I have read some very good things about
how well Lumenarc III reflectors spread light, so I have
decided to give them a try. These reflectors are big (19.5"
L x 19.5" W), so I will only be able to run two halides,
not three, since my tank is 48" long. I will also be
cutting back to one power compact (the full spectrum bulb
will remain), due to the new space constraints. The bulbs
will be mounted parallel to the tank's water level, not
perpendicular as they are in the current setup.
My ultimate goal with the new configuration
is to keep coral colors and growth rates close to where
they are now. It will be a big win if I can pull this off,
since the chiller won't be taxed as much with one less halide
emitting heat. There will also be two less bulbs to change
and lower electric bills (saving money is GOOD!). Consequently,
evaporation will probably be lower so I will have to monitor
how this impacts kalkwasser top-off additions.
Ebo-Jager 250 watt heaters
2 stage electronic chiller/heater temperature
Pure 2 stage reverse osmosis unit
Maintenance & Husbandry:
I perform a five-gallon water change
every week using Tropic Marin salt mixed with RO water.
Additionally, each week the sponge in the pre-filter box
is rinsed clean and the sump filter bag is "de-grunged"
in the washing machine (of course, no soap is used). The
skimmer collection cup is also wiped clean weekly and the
waste cup is emptied every two to three weeks. The front
of the tank is cleaned every other day using a pair of algae-cleaning
magnets. Every month I calibrate my pH monitor and empty
out and clean the kalk reactor. As I mentioned before, the
ARM media in the calcium reactor is swapped out every four
months. Biweekly tests are conducted with Salifert Ca and
dKH kits. Salifert Magnesium, Phosphate, and Nitrate kits
are used on rare occasions.
· Calcium: ~430
· Magnesium: ~1350
· Specific Gravity:
· Nitrate: Undetectable
· pH: 7.9 - 8.3
· Phosphate: Undetectable
In regard to feeding, the fish are fed
daily with a chunk of frozen Mysis shrimp, one Brine
Plus cube and a sliver of frozen "green stuff."
No additional supplements for corals are added to the tank.
I am infatuated with Acropora,
so specimens in this genus are featured prominently in the
tank. One of my favorites is a "show size" metallic
green Millepora. This coral was my first SPS coral
in the tank and has grown like a weed.
Another favorite of mine is a purple
Acropora humilis. During the year and a half I've
had this coral it has exhibited moderate growth and retained
its deep purple color. I had previously considered it the
centerpiece of the tank, but now its view is becoming obscured
by other corals
certainly not a bad problem to have!
My bright pink Seriatopora specimens are really cool
and are also personal favorites.
Green Millepora sp.
Millepora spp. (2 varieties)
Red Acropora sp. (Table)
Blue Tortuosa sp.
Rim Green Capricornis sp.
Some LPS corals are located in the bottom-half
of the tank, including a red Lobophyllia, red Blastomussa,
Frogspawn coral, Torch coral, Hammer coral, Cynarina,
and Favites. 'Softies' include Zoanthids, Green Star
Polyps, a bright yellow Leather coral and a beige Feather
Leather. Four Tridacnid clams sit on the bottom in the sand
As for fish, my favorite is a Leopard
Wrasse, which I have kept for three years. Specimens of
this fish species are typically very difficult to keep alive,
but mine has defied the odds by lasting longer than any
fish I've owned. It even survived a tank crash which occurred
two years ago.
Turquoise Tridacna maxima
My wife and daughter deserve all the
credit in the world for putting up with this obsession of
mine. Thank God my wife really doesn't know how much this
hobby of mine costs!!
As I explained earlier, my father is
the reason why I got into reefkeeping. Perhaps some time
soon he will re-enter the hobby, although my mother will
try like heck to prevent this since she fears for her new
I would also like to recognize Chris
Jessen, who is the owner of Reef & Fin in Stamford,
Connecticut. The knowledge I have picked up from Chris over
the years has been invaluable. He was the one who hooked
me on SPS, so I'm not sure if I should thank him or blame
him considering the $$$ I've spent at his store.
Click on the image below to visit Keith's
website for more information on this tank.
Feel free to comment
or ask questions about my tank in the forum
for the online magazine.