Menard Villaber's (menard) Reef Aquarium


The ocean has always fascinated me. After growing up near the ocean, I have many fond memories that are hard to describe. I believe that one day we will learn to appreciate and love such a fragile world. My journey into reefkeeping started when I installed my first fish-only tank, with colorful marine fish, and has progressed to more challenging organisms such as anemones, soft corals, large-polyped stony corals and macroalgae, and currently has migrated to my existing small-polyped stony coral dominated tank. I enjoy this hobby because it reminds me of my childhood back in the Philippines -- the smell of the water, the long stretches of exposed reef corals during low tides -- this tank is my home away from home.

Aquarium Profile:

My current tank is a 300-gallon aquarium built by Oceanic, Inc., and it measures 8' x 2' x 30.'' The tank has dual overflows with two 1" drains on each side and one 1" return on each side. The stand is solid oak and was custom made by my good friend Doug Lehman, who also is the president of our local marine club. We set up the tank in February of 2000 right after we purchased our house. I remember my wife picking the spot for the tank before we even bought the house. She said "Hey Papa, here's a good spot for your tank!" I smiled and a few days after we purchased the house, I started to measure (thinking big), called Doug and had the tank built and installed. Because the tank was installed on the first floor, and I did not want to keep the filtration on the same floor as the tank, I decided to install all auxiliary equipment in the basement, which had a little storage room right below the tank's location that was perfect for housing all the necessary filtration.


The main tank's circulation consists of a single 1-HP Dolphin pump that distributes the flow to various sides/angles of the tank via four 1" stationary jets. I also use two 6200 Tunze Streams, located in the middle of the tank, that create colliding flow with two 1" Sea Swirls. I would like to add more water flow in the future and have taken steps to add a couple of Wavy Seas wavemaking devices.


The tank's main filtration is provided by a plenum that I built when I originally set up the system. Nowadays I don't see many folks running plenums, but I started using them back in 1996 and have always had positive results, so I did not see the need to change what has worked well for me. I do not run carbon in this system and I use a phosphate reactor only when phosphate readings are higher than normal (.01 to .03 ppm). I use an ETS protein skimmer to help with filtration. All water changes and top-off are done using reverse osmosis water, and I have always used Reef Crystals® salt. I typically perform 20-30-gallon water changes every week. I feel that small, frequent water changes are better than large water changes. I spend a lot of time looking at my tank, but I try not to touch or move anything unless I really need to. I try to keep my hands off the tank as much as possible. I like to just watch it grow!


The tank's lighting is provided by four 400-watt double-ended metal halide 14K PFO bulbs. I run them on electronic ballasts because the bulbs burn bluer compared to their appearance when using standard ballasts. I also supplement the halide lighting with four 160-watt VHO actinic bulbs, which are on for four hours before and after the metal halides turn on and off, respectively. The tank's lighting is linked to a chiller via a Ranco controller on a separate circuit. Based on the tank's temperature, the controller turns the chiller (or lights) on or off to keep the tank from overheating.


Magnesium additions (via dolomite), calcium levels and alkalinity are all controlled via a calcium reactor. Weekly water changes replenish all other needed trace elements that have been consumed by corals. My corals grow fast with no other supplements, and I have found out that if I try to add other elements, my tank ends up with a case of filamentous algae. Additionally, I add Lugol's iodine solution every couple of weeks.


Water Parameters:
Ca: 400 - 450 ppm
Alk: 8 - 9dKH
Mg: 1300 - 1350ppm
SG: ~1.023
Temp: 79 - 80°F
pH: 7.9 - 8.2

My weekly regimen is to do a water change (corals seem to respond better to small and frequent water changes), clean the skimmer, check the proper operation of the calcium reactor and CO2 tank, check all pumps, the controller and wiring and clean any accumulated salt creep from around the tank. I also clean the intake strainers to remove any debris and silt that tend to clog the intakes. Coralline algae is removed from the front glass and overflow boxes as needed and, if necessary, the corals are trimmed.


I feed the tank daily. Food consists of a mixture of brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, Formula One and Two flakes, ocean plankton, nori and Cyclop-Eeze®. This mixture is then soaked in Selcon™ for 15 minutes. I love to see my fish with a round belly and healthy and active.


When installing the tank I had a clear vision of what corals I wanted to host. Back in 1996 I became passionate about small-polyped stony corals, so I wanted this tank to be SPS dominated. As the tank has matured I find it difficult to place new corals due to the existing corals' rapid growth and a shortage of space, so I find myself constantly trimming and trading away fragments.

Here is a list of some of the corals that I have in my tank:

A. formosa
A. lovelli
A. yongei
A. gemmifera
A. abrolhosensis
A. kirstyae
A. grandis
A. hyachinthus
A. tortousa
A. tenuis
A. pulchara
A. cerealis
A. microphthalma
A. samoensis
A. parilis
A. caroliniana
A. granulosa
A. gomezi
A. solitaryensis
A. millipora
A. secale
A. prostata
A. plana
A. desalwii
A. valida
A. efflorensis
A. loripes
A. navini
A. ocellata
A. vermiculata
A. proximalis
A. hoeksemai
A. humilis
A. rosaria
A. lokani
A. elegans
A. echinata
A. horrida
A. florida
A. turaki
A. chesterfieldensis
A. vaughani
A. clatharata
A. exquisita
A. nana
A. divaricata
A. walindii
A. globiceps
A. paniculata
A. anthosersis
M. confusa
M. capricornis
M. aequituberculata
M. digitata
M. foliosa
M. danae
M. spongodes
M. setosa
M. molis
M. venosa
M. vietnamensis
M. undata
M. verrucosa
M. verraculosus
M. palawenesis
M. malampaya
M. samarensis
M. stallata
M. hispida
M. hirsuta
M. peltiformis
M. crassatuberculata
M. porites
M. hodgsoni
Other Corals:
Seriatopora sp.
Stylophora sp.
Pocillopora sp.
Leptoseris sp.
Merulina sp.
Echinophyllia spp.
Echinophora spp.
Favia sp.
Pachyseris sp.
Psammacora sp.
Pavona sp.
Montastrea sp.
M. verrucosa
Cyphastrea sp.
M. palawenesis

1 Powder Blue tang
1 Blue tang-yellow belly
1 Yellow tang
1 Chevron tang
1 pair of Squamipinnis Anthias
3 Possum wrasses
2 Green chromis
2 Bicolor chromis
1 Allen's damsel
1 Starkii damsel
1 Geometric hawkfish
1 pair of true Percula clownfish
1 Fridmani dottyback
1 Asfur angel

1 pair of Coral banded shrimp
1 red serpent starfish
6 Emerald crabs
50 assorted hermit crabs


I would like to thank my wife, who really supports me in this hobby - she loves it as much as I do. I would like to thank my kids - the tank is for them to enjoy and learn from. I would also like to thank Skipper and Reefkeeping Magazine for extending this honor to me. Also, I'd like to extend a big "Thank you!" to my good friend, Carlos, who went out of his way to help a friend in need of assistance. Additionally, to all the fellow hobbyist/friends who have supported me over the years - Thank you!


Photography courtesy of Carlos Chacon.

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