Ali "Sunny" Harajly's
(SunnyX) Reef Aquarium
To say the least
I was quite surprised to learn that my tank was selected as
Tank of the Month. Although I have been striving to obtain
a tank worthy of the Tank of the Month honor, it still came
as a pleasant surprise that mine was selected. This hobby
has been quite a journey, and I have learned much. As with
past Tanks of the Month I hope my contribution below can serve
as somewhat of a guideline to creating a marine reef aquarium.
Without many of the previous Tank of the Month articles as
guidelines, my aquarium never would have made it to this point.
As with many aquarists my journey
began with a love of the sea. When I was a child my family
would take trips to the Mediterranean Sea. My older relatives
would dive into the sea and collect clams, sea stars, urchins
and snails - some to eat and some for my little aquarium.
As I became a teenager I ventured first into freshwater aquariums.
I found that they were nice but that they were lacking somehow.
When I was 18, my Biology teacher gave me the task of creating
and maintaining a saltwater reef aquarium. Although that was
six years ago, I still find myself committed to this wonderful
Current Reef Aquarium:
My current 225-gallon aquarium was
set up in May of 2005. Everything was transferred from a 120-gallon
tank that had been running for a little over two years. When
I moved from my old home, I decided that I wanted an in-wall
tank. I had always wanted the extra room that an in-wall system
provides. I now have all the space I need to work, fragment
corals and tinker.
When ordering the tank I looked around for awhile and compared
many different tanks with various designs. I wanted something
a little different from the typical tank. A friend referred
me to Derek at Miracles
Aquariums. I wanted to have lots of depth to add a sense
of dimension to the display so I chose a three feet deep tank.
Euro-bracing was a must because I couldn't stand a center
brace. The tank's front pane is made of Starphire glass, which
is unbelievably clear. After owning a tank with Starphire
I will never go back to standard glass. After many considerations
I decided that the tank's dimensions would be 60" long
x 36" wide x and 24" high.
You really can't overvalue a quality
skimmer. Honestly, I believe my current Deltec AP851 is a
major reason my tank has thrived. This skimmer really kicks
the crap out of the water's dissolved organic matter. I can
see no reason that anyone would run an aquarium without a
skimmer. Carbon, along with efficient skimming and weekly
water changes, is used to keep the water clear.
Water runs down into the 45-gallon sump from the main aquarium
through the overflow, and then onward through two 1.5"
return pipes. At 85 times/hour my sump's turnover
may seem excessive, but I find it is great at keeping
detritus in suspension.
Water changes are performed once a week using 40 gallons
of Reef Crystals salt. I have recently switched over to Seachem
Reef Salt and am impressed with the results so far.
Main circulation is provided by a
Sequence DART pump. I find this pump to be very efficient,
quiet and powerful. The main pump's circulation is supplemented
by a Tunze Stream 6100 along with a SEIO 1500. The Tunze Stream
has been in operation for over two years with no problems.
The wide area of flow this pump produces is outstanding. All
corals receive ample water motion from the current pump array.
There is a fine science to perfecting flow in an aquarium,
especially as it ages and its corals grow. I find achieving
the proper amount of flow to be among the hardest aspects
in all of reefkeeping. Too much flow and you have a sandstorm;
too little and algae will soon take over.
Currently I run two 400-watt XM 20K
bulbs in Lumenarc III reflectors on ARO PRO Series ballasts.
Given the size of the aquarium it may seem that my lighting
is insufficient, but I find it is more than enough light to
stimulate the corals color and growth. Before running
the Lumenarc reflectors I used three Reef Optix III reflectors,
but I still didnt get coverage as good as the Lumenarcs
now provide. Prior to the current setup I was running 250-watt
10K XM bulbs for three months. Half of the pictures you find
here are 10K, and the other half are 20K. It goes without
saying that the difference is obvious to the eye, 10K being
slightly yellow, 20K being blue. See the comparison of the
two lighting schemes below.
For supplemental lighting I run three 140-watt VHO bulbs
(two Super Actinics, one Actinic White). In my opinion the
XM 20K with VHO Actinic/Actinic White combo is unbeatable
for aesthetic appeal. This combo brings out ALL the corals'
colors, unlike lower Kelvin bulbs that tend to dull colors.
When I first placed the XM 20K bulbs over my tank I didn't
really like their look; it seemed too blue. As the weeks went
by my eyes adapted to the bulbs. I noticed the corals began
to change and develop a much broader range of colors. I couldn't
be happier with the corals' color and growth, and I'll be
using this brand of bulbs for a long time. They are tried,
tested and get results.
10:00AM - 11:30PM
MH: 1:00PM - 9:00PM
MH: 2:30PM - 11:00PM
8:30AM - 2:00AM
11:00PM - 8:00AM
But please do not focus only on lighting; many other parameters
need to be kept in check. No matter what lighting system you
have, it all comes down to water quality and clarity. If your
water is full of yellowing agents and Phenol, then no amount
of light will help. If your water is as clear as possible,
then it makes your job a whole lot easier. This is exactly
why my tank can thrive with as little as 2.22 watts/gallon
of lighting. When the water is extremely clear it takes much
less light to maintain and grow a successful reef.
Comparison of the old lighting scheme (top) with the
20K metal halides (bottom).
Calcium and Alkalinity Addition:
Calcium and alkalinity supplementation
is one of the most important aspects of reefkeeping. Both
supplements must be added in a manner such that ionic imbalances
are not created. Too much calcium or alkalinity can spell
disaster in an aquarium. That is why I chose to use a calcium
reactor for Ca and Alk additions. It is basically a "set
it and forget it" proposition. Once it's dialed in, you
should not have to adjust it for close to six months. The
best thing about using a calcium reactor is you no longer
have to use those messy powders as often. Although I occasionally
use the powders, it's typically only about once a month as
The only problem you may run into with a calcium reactor
is a chronically low pH. I tried to remedy this with a simple
refugium on a reverse photoperiod, but it was not enough.
I found the solution to the low pH problem by using kalkwasser.
As many of you may know, kalkwasser has a very high pH, which
is exactly why it was needed. I purchased a Deltec KM500 kalk
stirrer, and it is doing the job quite well. As well as keeping
the pH high, it also converts the extra carbon dioxide that
is injected by the calcium reactor into useable carbon ions.
I also speculate that with the addition of the kalk stirrer,
my skimmer has begun to produce more skimmate. Additionally,
I supplement the tank with 10 drops of Lugol's solution/week.
Husbandry can make or break an aquarium.
If you do not watch the water's parameters or perform regular
maintenance, the aquarium will eventually fail. I feel that
it is very important to have daily, weekly and monthly maintenance
rituals. Maintenance on my aquarium consists of:
changes (40 gallons)
of kalk powder in kalk stirrer
of water parameters
of sand bed
of calcium reactor media
Everyone is always asking me about
the big orange M. capricornis; it seems to be my most
popular coral. I have fragmented it once a week to keep it
from taking over the M. digitatas; it is growing at
an incredible rate. I attribute this to the huge amount of
space it is given. The front of the M. capricornis
is at least 12" from the tank's front glass.
I feel the fast growth rates in my tank are, in part, due
to the extra space each coral is given. Many people make the
mistake of cramming corals together without allowing them
room to grow, and I believe this may stunt some of the corals'
growth. If a coral has space to grow, it will use all of its
energy for growth. If the corals are too close together, they
expend more energy competing with each other.
I try not to get swept up in the "designer corals"
craze. I really don't care if the coral is "famous;"
if it doesn't appeal to me, it is not going into my tank.
When I am out shopping for corals I purchase a coral based
on its looks and health, not on its name. I am by no means
an expert in coral identification, but here is a list of the
animals I currently possess:
and blue Acropora rubosta
and sapphire Acropora kimbesis
purple encrusting Montipora
polyp encrusting Montipora
& orange polyp encrusting
(assorted colonies and colors)
- Naso tang
- Yellow tangs
- Kole tang
- Blue tang
- Foxface rabbitfish
- Copperband butterfly
- Lyretail Anthias (1 male, 3 female)
- Blue Devil damsel
- Peppermint shrimp
- Astraea snails
- Nassarius snails
- Blue-leg hermit crabs
- Serpent stars
- Blue Tridacna maxima clams
- Tridacna derasa clam
- Blue Tridacna crocea clam
- Gold Teardrop Tridacna maxima clam
The fish are fed Spectrum and Formula
2 pellets. They also receive Cyclop-eeze once every
two weeks. No special foods are given to the corals.
If I were to give people words of
advice I would tell them to be patient - good things take
time to develop. Too many people rush into things and fail
to allow their aquariums to reach their full potential. Read
as much as you can; books and forums are great tools. This
hobby has many great people ready and able to answer almost
all questions thrown their way, so if you're unsure about
anything, please ask. Hopefully, as the years pass this hobby
will become more accessible; with new technologies developing
rapidly it's an exciting time to be in this hobby.
I would like to thank my wife for putting up with my obsession,
and God for creating all the wonderful creatures in the sea.
I also would like to thank my 12th grade AP Bio teacher for
sparking my interest in this great hobby. I have met many
great people because of this hobby - to him I am forever grateful.
I have been in the hobby since I was 18 years old; I now am
24 years old. I have become fully confident in my abilities
as a reefkeeper. But let's not kid ourselves here; we never
reach perfection. There is always something yet to learn,
something new to try out.
For more information go to www.thesunnyreef.com.
Feel free to comment
or ask questions about my tank in the Tank of the Month thread
on Reef Central.
If you'd like
to nominate a tank for Tank of the Month, click here
or use the button to the right.