April 2005 - Tank of the Month
Will Spencer


 Check out the PowerPoint presentation on Will's tank by clicking here!

1) Your name, location and occupation. Include how long you have been an aquarist, how long you have been a WMAS member and how you heard of our club.

Name: Will Spencer
Location: West Jordan, UT
Occupation: Tax Accountant
How long have you been in the hobby? 20 Months in SW and nearly 24 years in Aquariums in general
How long have you been a member of the club? 18 Months
How did you hear about the WMAS? After starting my Reef Tank at my office one day I suddenly wondered if there was a club in Utah for Salt Water aquariums. I did a search on Yahoo and found the coolest board on the net. I came to the next meeting and was hooked. That same month I went on the reef tour and found the reef that was meant for my home. Suzy had been taking care of it for me and I didn’t even know it.

2) Describe your tank. Acrylic or glass? Size in dimensions and gallons. How long has it been set up?

Acrylic / Glass: All Glass, Not drilled.
Size in gallons: 180 Gallons with an 80 gallon Rubbermaid sump.
Dimensions: 48x24x25. Standard All Glass tank
Age: (how long has the system been running) I have owned the system for 18 months. Prior to that Suzy had it up about 5 years I believe. Could be more. I moved most of the sand, rock, and coral from her place to mine and essentially set it back up as it was at her home with the same stock except for the fish which she kept. A few months later I tore all the rock and coral out and redesigned the aquascaping from scratch.

3) Describe your lighting system, including your photo-period. Add what you would change if you could.

Currently the aquarium is lit mainly with 3 - 250 watt, 20K, HQI, Metal Halides. One third of the aquarium is supplemented with 2 - 55 watt, actinic, power compact fluorescents and the other 2 thirds of the aquarium is supplemented with 3 - 48” normal output florescent bulbs, one of which is actinic.

The PC and NO lighting is on from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm and the metal halide lighting comes on at around 11:00 am and goes off at 9:00 pm. This gives the tank a dawn and dusk feel to some degree.

In the future I may be changing my MH bulbs to 14K bulbs and changing out all other bulbs for actinics. I have also considered changing the MH bulbs to 10K’s and removing the current supplemental lighting and going with 4 – 6 foot VHO Actinics. Any of this changing would take place this summer when I build a new hood for my tank.

As you can see from some of the pictures of my lighting set-up the Metal Halides are currently mounted to the top of my hood where the reflectors can be seen. This is not very pretty, but it does accomplish several things. First off I did not have the time to build a new hood when I acquired the metal halide lighting and did not want to keep them in the garage until the hood happened. Secondly I have no problems with heat in the current configuration. Nonetheless I will be building them into a hood this summer where they cannot be seen.

4 ) Describe your filtration system. Include: How deep is your sand bed, plenum, your skimmer size and model and how long you run it, your circulation pumps (how many and their size in gallons per hour), your sump/refugium including Reverse Daylight, biowheels and skilters, HOT systems, clean up crew.

Filtration in my tank is kept very simple. I have a 4-6” DSB that is continually changing due to the efforts of my Yellow Headed Sleeper Goby. I also have around 250-300 lbs of live rock, about 75lbs of which consists of LBTR. The LBTR has been in the tank for around 18 months and consists mostly of large pieces of 25 lbs or more that is being used as baserock and cannot be seen.

My tank has a hang on back overflow that flows water down to an 80 gallon Rubbermaid that I use as a sump. The overflow has 2 “U” tubes to handle the large amount of water I need to feed to the sump. One of the overflows flow into a filter sock that catches any detritus, extra food, pods, etc. that flows into it. The 2nd overflows into a refugium that is set in the sump.

My refugium consists of a Styrofoam shipping container that brought fish home from a LFS one day. It has 6 – ½” holes drilled in each end toward the top of the container that lets water flow out and into the sump. When I came upon the idea of using the stryofoam box as a refugium I neglected to think of one detail. While testing the idea in the bathtub it surfaced. Literally! I found that the Styrofoam floated. To fix this problem I have 4” of live sand in the bottom of the box and about 10-15 lbs of Live rock on top of that. I had planned to have both of these in the refugium anyway, but now they serve yet another purpose. Besides providing extra filtration, and a place for “critters” to grow unmolested, it also holds the refugium down in the sump.

I found that the flotation properties of the Styrofoam box does have advantages however. One day when I had topped off the tank a little higher than I should have, the power went out. Needless to say I was worried that I might get water on the carpet. (Again!) I ran to the basement where the tank is located and watched as the water from the tank overflowed into the refugium. As I watched I knew there was no way I had enough room in the sump to hold all the water. To my surprise when the water got high enough the refugium started floating. I figure the floating refugium saved me between 3 and 5 gallons of space in the sump which was just enough to keep it from overflowing onto the floor.

I am growing 4 different kinds of caulerpa in my refugium including Chaetomorpha, Racemosa, and a couple blade type algaes I don’t know the names of. The refugium is lit with a 55 watt Power Compact bulb 24 hours a day 7 days a week to help the Macro Algae growth. Even so I only harvest about 3 cups of Macro every month or so.

The only mechanical filtration in my tank is an ASM protein skimmer that I added about 3 months ago. I believe the skimmer is rated for up to a 250 gallon tank. It does not get the “cup a day” Anthony Calfo thinks we should be getting, but it does skim about a cup every 3 to 4 days. I have been very happy with this skimmer. For about a year before I got this skimmer I had a Berlin Turbo skimmer in the sump. I believe I emptied the collection cup 3 or 4 times during that time. Needless to say I was not impressed with that skimmer at all. I would have pulled it from the tank completely were I not to lazy to do it.

The return pump from my sump to my tank is a Rio 24HF. It returns the water to a spraybar in the top center of the tank. The spraybar sprays the return water toward the front of the tank and gives water movement across the entire surface of the aquarium. I also have 4 Maxi-jet 1200 Powerheads in the display tank to add more motion to the water. 2 of these are set up on a Blue-Line Tsunami wavemaker and switch on and off every 15 minutes or so to create different water motion in the tank.

One day I would like to build a closed loop manifold like the one Anthony Calfo explained to us and remove the extra powerheads from the tank.

4) What are your maintenance techniques? Include water change schedule.

My maintenance is pretty simple. I do a 35 gallon water change approximately once a month. Every 4 to 6 months I up that to a 70 gallon water change. In the past I have used Oceanic Salt, but have recently experimented with a couple different brands. In the future I am going to start using a mixture of Oceanic and Instant Ocean to see how my tank reacts to the two together. I’m hoping for the best of both worlds.

I use a Mag Float magnetic cleaner about once a week to keep the green off the front of the tank and scrape the Coraline off the front glass whenever I feel it is necessary. This is usually about once a month. I had been using a razor blade for this until I bought a Kent Turbo Scraper about a month ago. This is the best piece of maintenance equipment I have purchased. I originally did not buy one because I felt they were too expensive, but when I found one with a 12” handle on sale I bought it. It cut my scraping time by two thirds.

The maintenance in my sump consists of emptying the skimmer cup once or twice a week and harvesting Caulerpa once every month or two, usually the day of a club meeting. I also feed my Tangs some of the Caulerpa on occasion.

5) What additives do you use? Kalkwasser, Strontium, Molybdenum, Iodine, Magnesium, Other

I use very little as far as additives go. Occasionally I dose a little Iodine. By occasionally I mean about once every 6 months or so. I try to keep an eye on my calcium and alkalinity. I have never had my calcium lower than 450 when tested so I hardly ever dose anything for it. At times my alkalinity has been very low, such as when it was at 2 meq/L a couple weeks ago. To remedy this I dose 6 Tablespoons of Baking Soda then test the next day. I continue adding this much baking soda until the alkalinity is in the range I would like it. I have normally been keeping it around 6 meq/L.

I am currently in the research stages as to how to dose Kalkwasser. I’m not really excited to go with the fancy Kalk-reactor, but it looks like I’m heading in that direction. The ease of the dosing with such a reactor seems to make up for the hassle I find in building it and installing it.

6) Describe your feeding philosophy. Include your schedule, and what you prefer to feed your system?

My philosophy when it comes to feeding is that variety is the spice of life. I have tons of different kinds of food that I feed my fish. I typically feed once per day and occasionally let my fish fast for a day. (Usually when I’ve been too lazy to feed that day.)

I have made my own home made frozen fish food consisting of about 2/3 meaty foods such as white fish, raw shrimp, scallops, and octopus, and 1/3 macro algae. For macro I used several different kinds of seaweed I found at the oriental market.

Otherwise I feed my fish many prepared foods. I usually just change up each day and feed something different. I also usually a couple different kinds of food in one feeding. Some of the foods I use are listed below:

-Golden Pearls (I feed 6 different sizes many times mixing them all together.)
-Prime Reef Flakes (I just sprinkle this over the top of the water.)
-Zooplankton Plus Flakes (This I soak in a cup of water for 5 minutes and my fish love it.)
-Garlic Plus Flakes (Same as Zooplankton Plus)
-Freeze dried Krill (My love this after it soaks a little while in a cup of water.)
-Frozen Brine Shrimp (The fish love it even though it is not that nutritional.)
-Cycolpeze (Both the fish and corals love this stuff. I try to use it at least twice a week.)
-Tahitian Blend Algae Paste (I feed this about twice a week for the corals and the pod population.
-My home made frozen food (I feed this about 3 times a week as the fish love it too and the Tangs like the green matter in it.
-Nori Sheets (I buy this from the oriental market and feed about a quarter sheet a day on a clip.)

I also add garlic to just about any of these foods about twice a week or as I think it is needed to control Ick. Besides the fish seem to like it.

7) DIY ie, Calcium reactor, stand / hood, skimmer, sump, ect. Any Do-it-yourself items of interest? Web-sites that you may have referenced?

I haven’t had time yet to do many DIY projects yet. My stand and hood are DIY, but Suzy did them long before I aquired the tank. I did build a spraybar for the tank when I first got it so that was my first DIY project. Since I have added the lighting.

The one project that is pretty much DIY is the sump as I described earlier. I’m still quite happy with the setup and have had no problems with it.

The future holds a few DIY projects. Number one is to build a new hood that will accommodate my lighting and “Pretty-up” the top of the tank. The next project will probably be to build a Kalk-Reactor to drip Kalkwasser into the sump. I would also like to see if I can build a calcium reactor, but this may not be in the immediate future.

8) Stand and Canopy

Wood: Pine adorned with cutouts of Dolphins and Seahorses.
Color: Stained an Oak color.
Special Characteristics: The stand was build lower than most people usually do. This creates a slightly cramped area for the sump, but is perfect for viewing from a sitting position. Since my tank is in my home office I am usually sitting while viewing it so the height works perfect for me. It also makes getting in the tank a little easier. (No not climbing in, getting my arm in.) I can do most work on it without a ladder.

9) Items of interest: Favorite or unusual Fish, coral, or invertebrate

Favorite Fish: My favorite reef fish is the Powder Blue Tang. I have a beautiful one in my tank. Otherwise my favorite fish overall is the Imperator Angel. I don’t think I want to loose my corals to one though.

Favorite Coral: My favorite coral is hard to come up with. I love my Sun Polyps, My beautiful Photosynthetic Gorgonia, my Blastomossa, Frogspawn, and Zoanthids. One coral I just love that I don’t have in my tank is an Elegance Coral.

Favorite Polyps: I have some orange Zoanthids with green frilly edges that I think are just about my favorite polyps.

Favorite Sponge: I have a rock that has black, yellow, orange and red sponge on the bottom of it. Unfortunately every time I turn it a little so it can be seen, the sponge recedes on the exposed edges.

Favorite Crab: I have a Zebra Crab that is pretty cool. My wife named him Herbert. He was getting pretty big and knocking things around a bit, but I put up with that. Unfortunately he developed a thing for my overflow. After finding him lodged in an overflow tube the second time he was relegated to the sump. We still occasionally see him crawling over stuff down there.

Favorite Worm: I have a peanut worm that lives in a rock surrounded by a colony of Zoanthids. Of course I only get to see him late at night when he comes out and after the Zoanthids close up.

Favorite Clam: I love clams but I don’t have one yet. I’d really like to get a Blue Maxima.

10) Can you include a table showing your elemental levels of Ca+, alkalinity, S.G., temperature, pH and other interesting testables?

Current elemental levels:

Ammonia & Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0 (I couldn’t believe this, but 2 tests said so.)
PH: 8.2
Calcium: 450
Alkalinity: 6 meq/L
Specific Gravity: 6.025
Tempurature: 81.5 Degrees F.

11) What experiences and challenges have you had with the tank? Any lessons learned? Is there anything you do differently than others (or differently than previously)? If so, why?

Overall I would have to say I have had a wonderful experience with my tank. I love the corals and the fish. I feel that my tank is quite beautiful, but of course I would say that.

I have had some challenges with it though. My biggest challenge has been keeping the water in the tank and off the floor.

When I first put the new sump in it I needed to make up about 40 gallons more water because the sump was that much bigger than the old one. Since I didn’t have anything in it I figured I would mix the water in the sump. After putting in the salt and filling it with RO water I put a pump in the sump to stir the water a bit. I figured that with a hose on the pump I could pump water to the other side of the sump and get a good current going. This was about dinner time so I left it to stir while I ate. When I came back 40 minutes later I found the hose had come out of the sump and emptied the 40 gallons of water onto the floor.

About 6 months later I had more problems. I had aquired a huge 13 inch diameter Bubble Tipped Anemone. Both my Gold Stripped Maroon Anemone fish and I thought it was super cool. It hung out in the exact spot I put it when I put it in the tank and never moved. Until four months later when I left on vacation that is. It seems that that day he decided to check out my overflow box. The stupid thing plugged up both my U-tubes and emptied the sump onto the floor again. When I came home 3 days later the tank was stagnant and stinky, the Anemone was dead and so were half my fish and shrimp. At least the corals made it through OK. (That was also the day I did the quickest 50% water change of my life.)

As if that was not enough about 2 months later I decided that my tank needed to be topped off late one Friday night. I turned on the top-off water and somehow I forgot about it. My RO unit only stores 3 gallons of water and then drips really slowly after that, but it’s supposed to put out 100 gallons per day. At that rate it might not have been a problem if I had come to check out the tank Saturday morning, but I had a very busy Saturday and never did make downstairs to my office. Then Sunday I spent a lazy day watching the race on TV and made it down to feed the fish about 3:00. Needless to say the entire floor was covered with water. Luckily for me the top off water was dripping into the tank at the top of the sump and so the freshwater was making it over the top before it mixed much. I did have almost 200 gallons of water on the floor, but the salinity in the tank had only dropped to 1.018. I fixed this over the course of the several hours I was sucking water out of the carpet.

The moral of this story is never leave running water unattended. You can bet I never will again.

Thank you for letting me present my tank to you. I hope you enjoy the pictures and I always welcome anyone into my home to see and talk about aquariums.