Aquarium & Tropical Fish Site
October '09

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10_Reef_Aquarium_1.jpg (30kb)

October '09 - Francisco Ribeiro Jr's 160 L Reef Aquarium. (Brazil)

It's been a little while since we've featured a reef tank in this section, so here goes a great example of a freshwater hobbyist who'd always been weary of "salting up his hands" because of everything he heard people say about reefs (sound familiar?), but he eventually gave in to temptation and has some good experiences to share.

Owner:Francisco Ribeiro Jr, 35, from Taubaté (Brazil)
Setup:September 2004.
Dimensions:80x40x50 cm.
Volume: 160 L (nominal).
Sump:60x30x40 cm (35 liters of water being filtered) run by an Otto 2100 pump (1.5 m water column) and 5 liter top-off box.
Filtration:About 30 kg of live rock from Recife and Guarapari; Morato 250 internal skimmer run by a Maxi-Jet 1200.
Circulation:2x Maxi-Jet 900.
Lighting:2x75 W Coralife VHO (10000K) + 1x20 W Arcadia Actinic (9500K) on for 12 hours/day and controlled by two Automatic timers.
Substrate:6 cm of halimeda (bottom) + 6 cm of Aragalife and common SS aragonite on top.
Heating:Visitherm 200 W.
Cooling:1 fan controlled by a Jonhis thermostat + air conditioning in the aquarium room.
Others:Morato 8W UV sterilizer filter (3 hours/day); Seachem ammonia detector.
Water:Density 1023, temp 27°C, pH 8.3, KH 9, GH 420 ppm, ammonia 0, nitrate 5-10 mg/L, phosphate 0,1 mg/L (Tropic Marin tests).
Maintenance:Water changes of 15% every 2 weeks with deionized water + Tropic Marin salt; glass and skimmer cup cleaning as needed.
Fish:1 Percula Clown couple (Amphiprion ocellaris), 1 Bangai Cardinal (Pterapogon kaudernii), 1 Six Line Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia), 1 Flame Hawk (Neocirrhitus armatus), 1 Purple Pseudochromis (Pseudochromis porphyreus) and 1 Long Fin Goby (Valenciennae longipinnis).
Invertebrates:1 Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus), about 30 hermit crabs, 30 turbo snails, "Nishi" snails (that bury in the substrate) and 5 brittle stars.
Corals:Sun Coral; green and red Zoanthus; Giant and Pom-Pom Xenia; Leather Spaghetti; White, Green and Brown Star Polyps; Blue, Marble, Green, Red and Green Hairy Mushrooms; Carpet Brown Coral, Xenia Tree, Yellow Polyps and Cloves.

After having setup and dismantled several freshwater aquariums, I decided to setup a live coral reef tank. I already knew that this type of setup would require a lot more money than any other aquaristic adventure but, despite all the invoicing and simulations, as in almost anything we venture into (home improvement, starting a business, etc.) we end up spending more than we planned. It wasn't different with me. So, after a year and a few months, I'd like to leave a few tips for those who plan to setup a reef tank:

Think about the money you'll be spending, not only when purchasing the equipment and tank setup per se, but also thhe one you'll be spending monthly with electricity, synthetic salt, RO/DI water, tests, etc. It may sound odd, but the money spent with water changes in this type of tank is considerable.

Buy the most powerful and best skimmer that your pocket allows you to buy (preferably twice the nominal power required by your tank), this equipment will save you a lot of headaches with algae and expenses with water changes, in the very near future.

Choose the corals well, since most of them are aggressive among each other and some require specific conditions that your tank may not offer, such as HQI lighting, alkalinity level, etc. Soft corals are the most resistant and easy to keep.

Don't overstock the tank with fish, since beyond generating organic waste, most of them are territorial and need space.

Give preference to HQI lamps, since the cost/benefit is much superior to other types of lighting.

Don't be scared by comments like: "Keeping a healthy reef aquarium is almost impossible", "A reef tank is more trouble than a child", "There's no way you can stabilize a marine tank smaller than 400 liters". These are all generally claimed by those who've never even owned a marine tank, or by those who know very little about fishkeeping. Nowadays, with the implementation of biofiltration by the live rock itself in the aquarium and equipment such as skimmers, the concepts of minimum tank size and maintenance have changed in this type of setup.

All in all, after a few slips and slides, it's all down to enjoying a natural masterpiece right at home. In my opinion, if you want to have a tank as beautiful as a marine tank but without spending as much money, go for an Amano or Dutch style planted tank. I stress: that's my opinion!

If you'd like to submit an aquarium for Tank of the Month, just contact me.

10_Reef_Aquarium_2.jpg (71kb)
Two intermediate steps in the maturing evolution of the tank

10_Reef_Aquarium_3.jpg (67kb)
A few fish, invertebrates and corals

Photos taken by Francisco Ribeiro Jr and displayed here with his permission.

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