Marshal Smethers' (CAReefer) Reef
As everyone else is, I was surprised and
shocked when Skipper contacted me regarding my tank being
Reef Central's - Reefkeeping Magazine's Tank of the
Month. I am honored to have the opportunity to share my hobby/obsession
with all of you. This hobby started for me in the late 1980's,
when information was available only in 10-year-old texts and
one bimonthly magazine. My first tank was a 90-gallon show
tank and my main goal was to keep some soft corals and LPS
alive. It proved to be a difficult task with the available
5500K metal halides and the in-tank counter current skimmers
on the market at that time. Little was in print regarding
calcium, alkalinity and the other trace elements we take for
granted these days with the much-improved salt mixes. My attempt
failed miserably after one year of fighting hair algae, diatoms
and Cyanobacteria. After taking a 10-year break and
finding the vast amount of new information available, both
in print and online, I decided it was time to get back into
the hobby. I re-started my 75-gallon Oceanic reef-ready tank
in 1998 and quickly learned the necessities; that tank ran
successfully for five years prior to upgrading to my current
225-gallon slice of the reef. Before getting into the practical
aspects, I must thank my wife for her understanding, patience
and her ability even to manage a slightly approving nod; especially
when I told her I wanted to take the television out of the
living room and put 250 gallons of saltwater in its place.
My present tank is a 225-gallon LeMar with
dimensions of 72" x 30" x 24". I really like
its 30" width as it allows for numerous aquascaping alternatives.
I set the tank up in January of 2004. This tank uses Eurobracing
and a single corner overflow. Due to a design flaw in the
tank's rear brace, I am currently waiting for a replacement
tank from LeMar. The rear brace does not span the full length
of the tank, so there is an unacceptable amount of deflection
in the rear pane of glass. I am taking this opportunity to
upgrade to Starfire glass on the viewable panes and also am
including an external overflow to avoid a recurrence of the
problem with the existing tank. I feel it is important to
be a responsible hobbyist and with the exception of one or
two of my oldest SPS colonies, all of my corals have been
grown from tank raised aquacultured fragments. In addition,
I have provided numerous fragments to other hobbyists in my
Plumbing and Circulation:
The overflow from the display tank is split into the refugium/propagation
tank and the main sump. Water flows from the refugium into
the main sump and is returned to the display via a Mak 4 1190
gph pump, where it is split into a 1/2" Sea Swirl and
a stationary 3/4" PVC elbow. Internal tank circulation
is provided by two 6100 Tunze Stream pumps on a 1094 multi-controller.
Future plans include adding a separate propagation tank in
the garage directly behind the tank. Most likely, 48"
x 24" x 12" will be its final dimensions.
Tank lighting consists of five 250-watt metal halide lights.
Three of these bulbs are double-ended BLV 10K's mounted in
Reef Optix III pendants and powered by Sunlight Supply magnetic
HQI ballasts. The other two are Hamilton 14K single-ended
bulbs in PFO reflectors driven by the new style IceCap electronic
ballasts. For actinic supplementation, I use two 160-watt
VHO Actinic 03 bulbs driven by an IceCap 660 ballast. All
lighting is controlled by Intermatic timers.
p.m. Actinics on
at 12:00 a.m.
p.m. metal halide #1 on
at 10:00 p.m.
p.m. metal halide #2 on
at 10:15 p.m.
p.m. metal halide #3 on
at 10:30 p.m.
p.m. metal halide #4 on
at 10:45 p.m.
p.m. metal halide #5 on
at 11:00 p.m.
The system loses approximately three gallons per day to evaporation.
Top-off is achieved with a dedicated 75 gallon/day RO/DI unit
housed in the garage; its level is controlled by a Kent float
valve. I am currently re-thinking this setup to reduce TDS
creep through the feed line. Calcium, alkalinity and magnesium
levels are maintained with a MyReef Creations CR-6 dual-chamber
calcium reactor filled with 18 lbs. of CaribSea ARM reactor
media and 4 lbs. of Korrallin Magnesium Pro granules. Nutrient
reduction is accomplished with the Zeovit system.
Left: MRC calcium reactor - Right: Zeovit reactor
and EuroReef skimmer.
A custom-made set of acrylic tanks was constructed to my
specifications. A 30" x 18" x 16" tank comprises
the refugium/propagation area and is lit by a single, double-ended
250 watt Ushio 10K metal halide on an IceCap electronic ballast.
The sump's dimensions are 30" x 24" x 16",
and it contains the skimmer and its pumps as well as two Won
titanium 350-watt heaters.
My protein skimmer of choice is the EuroReef CS12-2. I have
modified it by adding a third pump used only to recirculate
water within the skimmer. I believe this increases the skimmer's
efficiency by about 20%. Although I may be wrong about this,
I believe the third pump was well worth the cost and time
involved. I get approximately one gallon of dark, nasty skimmate
every 48 hours from a tank I consider only moderately stocked.
Minimal heating is required and is
provided by two 350-watt heaters. Cooling is accomplished
by two 4" dryer vents leading into the garage from the
upper canopy area, and additional ventilation is provided
in the cabinetry. A desktop fan blowing across the sump area
keeps the tank's temperature below 82 degrees.
The tank in its infancy.
Water changes of 25 gallons are conducted
weekly, comprising approximately 10% of the system's total
water volume. During these changes, I siphon detritus from
the sump, and any nuisance algae from the display tank. I
feel the frequency of water changes is beneficial more for
trace element replacement than for waste removal. On a bi-monthly
basis during water changes the protein skimmer is disassembled,
completely scrubbed out and its pumps are cleaned by soaking
them in a vinegar solution. During this time, all water is
removed from the sump and the bottom and sides of the tank
are wiped down to remove any residual detritus.
Daily feeding varies between frozen
Mysis cubes, frozen Formula 1 and frozen Prime Reef
as well as a mixture of Spectrum pellets, Formula 1 flakes
and brine shrimp flakes. No supplemental feedings are targeted
to any of the corals.
Left side view.
- 5" Zebrasoma veliferum - Sailfin tang
- 4" Paracanthurus hepatus - Hippo tang
2 - Amphiprion perideraion - Pink Skunk clownfish
- Amphiprion ocellaris - False Percula clownfish
- Acanthurus sp.- Paelini tang
- Centropyge loricula - Flame angel
- Salarias fasciatus - Sailfin blenny
- Pseudochromis fridmani - Orchid dottyback
- Pseudanthias squamipinnis - Lyretail anthias
Tridacna derasa clam
Tridacna maxima clam
blue hermit crabs
top serpent starfish
*Note: all corals are believed
to be these species.
My, how things have changed since I began this quest to keep
a small piece of the coral reef in my home; from minimal,
outdated information to the vast cyberspace of the Internet.
Many thanks must go out to all who post on Reef Central and
freely offer their advice and experiences to encourage the
I truly believe that we are on the cutting edge of research
and preservation of our natural resources. As skills grow
in captive breeding of both fish and the aquaculturing of
corals, demand for inhabitants from the wild reefs will diminish.
Again, I am proud to say that with the exception of two or
three of my oldest corals (6+ years), all are aquacultured
or have come from fellow hobbyists' tanks. Thanks again for
the honor of being chosen as a Tank of the Month.
Feel free to comment or
ask questions about my tank in the Tank of the Month thread
on Reef Central.