Authored by: jjoos99
Pictures by: Lazylivin


I would like to thank everyone for the opportunity to have my tank spotlighted here in the TOTQ thread.  I have been pretty proud of how my tank has grown and appreciate being able to share it with everyone.

Hobby History 

I started into saltwater back in the late 80’s (I know, many of you weren’t even born yet).  I started with two 30 gallon tanks and tried coral with not much success.  My next tank was a full blown 120 gallon reef ready tank with a rotating drip bar for filtration. I was actually quite successful with this tank and kept LPS corals that actually grew.  You have to remember that back then that was early pioneer territory. I even had several photos published in a column that Julian Sprung wrote for Freshwater and Marine magazine of an elegance coral that was a good 10” x14” in size. The tank slowly went to the route of hair algae and lack of interest for years. I got the bug again and was amazed how much the hobby had changed and what was possible in keeping different corals.  So I went into the planning stages and gathering together parts and pieces until I was ready to put together my current tank.

Tank Profile

My current tank is a 180 gallon oceanic tank that I purchased from Tim  (aquavista99) about 3 years ago.  I have since reworked the center bracing to two smaller braces instead of the huge 12” brace that was over the tank.  The huge brace both blocked light and made it very hard to work within the tank.  This tank also had 2 huge overflows which took up a lot of room within the tank.  I removed one of them which made a huge difference in looks and space within the tank  but the trade off was I had to slow down my return pump to keep from overflowing the tank. 


My current lighting is 3 homemade LED lights supplemented with 2 HO t-5’s.  Each of the lights consist of a 14” x 8.5” heat sink with 35 cree LEDs.  I went with a 50/50 mix of whites and blues.  I would guess the color to be close to 15k. The appearance in the tank is a nice blend of color and if you have never seen the shimmer off leds it is really cool.  My corals have never  had the beautiful colors they now have even with metal halide or t-5 lighting.  I use the 2 t-5’s mainly to fill in some of the shadowing effects the leds tend to have. I currently have the lighting schedule controlled by my Neptune Aquacontroller and have the t-5’s coming on about 3:30pm, followed by the leds at 4:00pm and then lights out about 10:15pm. The tank seems to be doing really well with this schedule.


My maintenance chores consist of a 20 gallon water change using Seachem reef salt with ro/di water once a week.  I use a gravel vacuum along with a turkey baster to try and collect as much detris as I can. I will also clean my skimmer cup and throat at the same time.  I don’t use any supplements other then what my calcium reactor puts out.

Reef Salt

Water Chemistry

Next, I will outline the water flow through my system.  The water from the overflow is directly routed to my 8” Euro Skimmer which I modified to use two sicce pumps plumbed as recirculation pumps.  The skimmer is housed in a 35 gallon livestock tub which also has a deep sand bed with mangroves.  From there it overflows into a 55 gallon tank with live rock.  It then is pumped back into the main tank.  I am lucky enough to have a small room behind the tank that I am able to keep all my equipment in.  I maintain my alkalinity and calcium levels with a MRC twin chamber calcium reactor.  I recently added a coil denitrate reactor that I built to hopefully control my nitrates.  The main circulation within the tank is with 3 MP40 pumps which the corals really love.   It was really hard to spend that much money for the pumps but in this case you really do get what you pay for.  I tried the route of diy maxi-jets and several others but in my opinion there are no other pumps as nice as the mp40 line.

Live Stock

I only have 10 fish in my tank and feed them once a day just before the lights go out.  My favorite fish would have to be my purple tang.  I named her after my grandmother, who’s name was Violet.  Actually I don’t know if it is a he or she but what the heck.   She will eat right out of my hand and is so tame I could probably pick her up right out of the water.    My corals consist mostly of SPS coral with a few LPS.  I have about 24 different  SPS corals in the tank.  One of my favorites would probably have to my ORA red planet.  That coral hasn’t been affected one bit by any bad conditions within the tank and just keeps on growing with the wonderful pink and green color.  Corals seem to be like people where everyone is different and is affected differently with the different conditions.


I have made my share of mistakes over the years that have been very frustrating and painful (emotionally and financially).  My current issue has been a fight with nitrates.  I didn’t use my test kit properly and the nitrate levels within the tank crept up to the point the corals have suffered from STN and loss of growth.   The corals have improved since the coil denitrate reactor has broken in and has started working on the nitrate levels.  I look forward to low nitrate levels again with happy growing corals.

I would have to guess that the best way to being successful with sps corals is consistency.  Some of the best items I have gotten for this would have  to be my autotop off water system, and calcium reactor.   The next would have to be a good controller for my temperature.   Also I recommend not making more than one change at a time.  That way you will know what did or didn’t work.     Keep everything consistent with good water quality and lighting and your corals will be happy.  The hard part is to find that fine line.

Click here to comment or ask a question to Jeff about his Reef Tank