Reef Tank

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What's New?

11/08/2002 - The Mower
02/14/2002 - Lots of Chromis and a couple of corals
01/13/2002 - Golden Wrasse
11/14/2001 - Canopy finished... MH lighting... 1st Coral!
11/11/2001 - New Canopy
11/04/2001 - New inhabitants...
11/01/2001 - Rock In!


Right then... so in the back of my mind has always been this idea of having a giant fish tank with a couple of gerbil habitrails running through it. I just think it would be entertaining to look at the tank and see fish swimming around the gerbil. Call me silly.

Kris and I pondered actualizing the idea for quite some time. We got some input from others also and thought we kind of understood how to do it... we have this room that we weren't entirely sure how to decorate and use. One day I woke up and suggested putting a fish tank in there because it would look good. Kris was enthusiastic so we swung by the local pet store and started pricing out aquariums. The price was OK but we thought we should comparison shop the local acquarium specialty store and also get some of their advise.

Well... at the aquarium store you look around and fresh water fish are so dull by comparison. And for me the real selling point was the invertabrates (anemones and corals) that you just can't do in fresh water. So... salt water aquarium it was. The next step was deciding on size. Kris and I debated that one for over a week. I was thinking 75 gallon would fit the room quite nicely. Kris thought that bigger would be better (women, go figure) and that we could build a much better reef in 125 gallons. She made some convincing arguments and we went with the bigger tank.

And that was the easy part. Several hours of washing sand and stirring salt and adjusting water levels for the sump pump later... Wow. If you had to wash sand monthly, no one would evern setup a reef tank. Thankfully its a one time task.

The first day we situated the tank, filled it with salt water, assembled all of the plubming, and put a layer of sand across the bottom (OK, actually multiple layers... a layer of coarse crushed coral, a center layer of less coarse coral and shells and then a thick layer of fine agonite sand on top). We let all of this churn for about a day and then made another trip back to the aquarium store for "live" sand and some "live" rocks. "Live" means that it contains a lot of bacteria and "stuff" that is necessary for the Nitrogen cycle that could make things closer to self sustaining. Also on this trip we picked up a couple of the hardier variety of salt water fish in order to get the whole cycle started.

We ended up with a Cinnamon Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus), a pair of Blue Devil Damselfish (Chrysiptera cyanea) and a small school (6) of blue-green chromis (chromis viridis). More rock will be necessary to actually make a reef. We'll intersperse more live rock with some latice rock that should become "live" over time. This has been a good learning experience so far. We better understand what the requirements of the gerbal aquarium now.

Diary and Pictures

Three Days in... (10/01/2001)

Click on picture to enlarge

The Tank, The Sand and The Lighting.

Sand layer and our four "live" rocks.
Damsels and chromis swimming around.

Far left rock and the fish.

From the left side of the tank...
Cinnamon clown

Five days in (10/03/2001)...

We suffered the first fish casualties. Note to future aquarium owners... powerheads should have filters lest smaller fish get sucked into them and die. There were six chromis... now there are four (coincidentally there were two powerheads running... go figure). It actually took us a while to figure out where they went.

At the same time one of the Blue Damsels stopped moving. We fished it out and dragged it, along with a water sample, to the local fish shop. The guy there said it was likely just high amonia content due to the first stage of the nitrogen cycle. Gotta expect some not to make it. Sounded iffy to us but who know. We picked up an ammonia test kit to see for ourselves (ditto for nitrite and nitrate... testing is good).

Also while there we picked up a couple more live rocks since tuesday was delivery day. Here's the latest (more rock, less fish.. and big filters over the powerhead intakes... sheesh).

Lots more to do. Once we have enough rock in place to look sort of reef-ish, then we'll start adding some corals and maybe an anemone to keep the clown happy. (And a shrimp or two to maybe try to keep the algae down... dunno, still learning).

10/07/2001... Algae Bloom?

Rumor has it that somewhere during the nitrogen cycle buildup your supposed to get an impressive algae bloom. This could be it... dunno, haven't seen one before. But its spreading pretty fast and its getting everywhere.

10/14/2001... the hermit crab invasion!

We were out and about today and stopped by Inland Aquatics in Terre Haute, IN. They have a pretty impressive setup. Lots of interesting fish and invertabrates. However the only thing we purchased was 50 blue legged hermit crabs in hopes that they would munch on some of the algae that's grown everywhere. These are active little guys.

11/01/2001... Rock In!

Added in another 90 lbs of rock. 45 hand picked fiji from ffexpress and 45 lbs of their deco pack that has hand picked fiji, deep water tonga and something else. Kris and I have decided we really don't care for branch rock. We like solid pieces better. For now we'll let 'em sit in our tank and maybe move them to a refugium someday. You can also see lots of algae growing on the back of the tank. I've been trying to find some local Turbo snails for weeks!

We've also begun work on a
Do It Yourself Canopy for the top of the tank. It should be about 13" high and will house our Metal Halide and VHO lights. We'll either get rid of the current Power Compact lights or perhaps put them into the (way in the future) refugium.

11/04/2001... New inhabitants

Picked up a couple of starfish and a Sixline Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia)... That wrasse is a very fast swimmer and likes whipping through tight holes in the rocks. The starfish hide, you can see the white one sinking into the sand. Progress on the Canopy continues.

11/11/2001... new canopy

Put on the new canopy that I've been building... Its nearly complete, just need to wire up the Metal Halide lights and tuck the wiring away neatly. However it allos far less light bleed and our house doesn't light up the entire street anymore :). In this picture it just a couple of 10KK VHO bulbs providing the tank lighting. The light is more white than the previous 50/50 actinic PCs but I'm hoping that the MH lights will provide more blue. If not then I'll swap one of the 10KK coralife bulbs for an actinic.


Wired up the new MH today. Pretty bright. Color definately too yellow. Will try swapping out one of the 10KK VHO bulbs with an actinic. If that doesn't work I'll swap 'em both out. Should have new bulbs on the 20th (coralife actinic).

11/14/2001... Finished Canopy.. MH Ligthing... First Coral!

White Sandshifting Star
Kris doesn't like it
so it goes

Our first Coral!
Button Polyp (bluish)

The Cinnamon Clown


Clown's are Funny :)

Lettuce Slug?

11/28/2001... new fish, new pictures and start of basement sump

We added three more blue-green chromis. They look really great under actinic lights. The White sandshifting star went back to the LFS. Swapped one of the 10KK VHO for a Coralife Actinic (looks much bettter).
Blue-Green Chromis &
6-Line Wrasse
Viva Ze Clown!
6-Line Wrasse
Black Serpent Starfish

We've also started to move our Sump to the basement. Right under the tank is a bathroom with a concrete floor and a built in drain. It doesn't get any more tempting than that. We'll also be able to put together a good sized refugium. You can follow that project on the Basement Sump Page. Lastly, turns out the MH lights are too hot. Will be adding a fan to the canopy in the next day or so. If that doesn't do it I'll add another. May add the 2nd anyway since I'm thinking of putting a piece of reflector aluminum over most of the currently open back and that'll reduce airflow (but should increase the useful photons).

01/13/2002... Golden Wrasse

We added a new fish yesterday: a Golden Wrasse (Halichoeres Chrysus), also called a "Canary Wrasse". It spent most of yesterday buried in the sand but this morning it was out to play.

01/18/2002... Just a couple of pictures

Caught a couple of good pictures (good from the sense that the contents are good... the picture itself is a bit questionable).


Added several more blue green chromis to get a little school of them together. About two weeks ago we also added a Torch coral and some yellow star polyps. Pictures Here

02/19/02... skimmer

Put together the DIY skimmer over the weekend. Started it running Sunday afternoon (2/17). Working Great!

03/03/02... stockman overflow silencer

Put together a Stockman overflow silencer today. The Stockman is Ken Stockman's modification of the Durso standpipe silencer. I'm going to have to give it the thumbs up. Much quieter.
The inner pipe is 1 1/4" because it fit onto the lifereef overflow perfectly and the 1" (on Ken's page) would have required an extra adapter... plus I had 1 1/4" pipe laying around. Parts for the standpipe (end cap, 2" coupler, 2" -> 1 1/2" bushing, 1 1/2" -> 1 1/4" bushing (why could I not just find a 2" -> 1 1/4" bushing? Go figure) $1.87 each plus 8" of 1 1/4" PVC pipe. Cheap modification, excellent results. Less than $5, assembly was just a bit of dremeling... didn't bother to glue anything because it all fits snugly.