Okay, tech-heads, this part’s for you.  But first (yeah, there’s always a ‘but first’, isn’t there?), I just need to reinterate a couple things: Unless I say so, I am recommending nothing.  I’m just telling you what I use and what works for me.  You, in turn, will have to do your own experimentation and find out what works best for you.  Why?  Because each one of our tanks is its own unique ecosystem and therefore its needs will differ.  What works for me simply may not work for you.  That’s why I don’t believe in just handing out blanket advice either.  But I am also very much open to hearing what you use and why it works for you.  I am still in the process of learning here and become aware of some tremendous new (to me) products all the time so please do not hesitate to share any tremendousness you have come across.  If I then discover that they work for me too, I’m gonna use them.  That’s how I roll.

Secondly (yeah, there’s almost always a ‘secondly’ too), and I really want to emphasize this point, is that you can have a very successful reeftank without probably half of this stuff. Even when it comes to a system of this size.  And if you don’t believe it, take a look at some of your favorite reefsite’s Tanks Of The Month.  Odds are you’ll find just as many ‘simple’ systems as those with many of the bells & whistles.  In my case, a lot of these components were things I came across during my years of experimentation, learned to like, and simply stuck with.  I am also a big believer in redundancy, convience, and perhaps I’m a little superstitious as well.  But I’m sure I don’t NEED it all and neither do you?unless you simply want it and your spouse is looking for an explanation.

The following then, is a list of equipment that, as of this writing (2/2010), works best for me.

First, the lighting:

3xSfiligoi Infinity Twin 2 x 4000W Pendants, each containing 2 400W 14K SE Aqua Connect MHs.

Each pendant is hung approximately 10” above the waterline and can be independently raised and lowered with the included pulley system.  Each lamp is powered by its own Sfiligoi ACLS electronic ballast.  These ballasts are highly programmable with features including a sunrise-sunset dimmer function that slowly brings the lights on and off.  You can even set the length of time you’d like your dawn and dusk to last (up to a point) and decrease your maximum output to as low as 60% to avoid light shock when introducing new lamps.  In that setting, the ballasts will automatically ramp up the setting by 2% every day until maximum is reached.  For more information, try the Sfiligoi website or here:


I have my ‘sunrise’ to begin at 7:00am, reach maximum at 9:00, begin ‘sundown’ at 7:30 pm and go dark at 9:30 pm.  There is no particular reason for this timing other than it coincides with my schedule.  Also note that I have not modified the canopies or the ballasts in any way.  This is because another in the long list of things I know just enough about to hurt myself is electricity.  And since I am actually growing acros directly from the tank floor at a distance of 46” from the light source right now, I’d say I’m comfortable with the juice coming from the fixture as is.

As for the Aqua Connects lamps, not only do I like the crisp whitish-blue light they generally provide, but also how this temperature seems to really color up the corals themselves.  Much better than the combination of 10K and 14K I had previously.  My only dislikes are the difficulty of finding these bulbs in the US,  (I’ve been having my best luck here:)

http://www.aquariumspecialty.com/catalog/product_info.php?c Path=28_35_296&products_id=1575

the price of course, and that sometimes I’ll notice a variance in the color temperature of a particular bulb.  By this I mean every once in awhile one of the bulbs is noticeably bluer to my eye although so far, it hasn’t seemed to negatively affect anything.

Cost, by the way, is mitigated somewhat by the fact that you can squeeze a little more life out of any bulb using pendants by simply lowering them closer to the waterline when they begin to decline slightly.  And supposedly, Aqua Connect claims their bulbs have a longer useful life to begin with though I have not done any testing myself to verify this.  In any event, I switch out my halides once a year, usually on New Years so I remember

Speaking of testing, I have one more little lighting toy that I’ve begun to play with recently: An Apogee Quantum Light Meter.  I made this purchase solely for measuring the various PAR (PPFD) levels of my tank.  Since the crash, I tend to take the consistency of my lighting a bit more seriously and figured I could be a little more on top of it if I had a reference point to begin with.  Being brand new to me, I have not yet given it a real workout yet so I’d rather wait until I know what I’m doing before posting any results.  But if you’d like to find out more information regarding this meter in practice, read this:


And if your interests lie more towards the principles and science of light itself, try here.


It’s also a good way to get info about the output of your particular lamps and ballasts should you not want to invest in a meter of your own.

And now for the all important equipment list                  

(As of 2/10)

Salt:  (‘I didn’t know where else to put this’) Reef Crystals

Sump:  Custom built by Barr Aquatic Systems. 45”X40”X30”.  Four filter sock holders. Optional sponge rack.  Five (5) baffles, refugium area.

Skimmer:  H&S 250-2×1260 External.  Feed pump:  Ehiem 1262. Purchased from Fins Reef.  Accessory: Dwyer Air Flow Meter.

Calcium Reactor:  MTC Pro-Cal.  Powered by a Little Giant  Quantum Series Two.  Upgraded solenoid and Co2 regulator.  ARM media.

pH Controller:  Aqua Medic 2001 C.

Chiller(s):  Two (2) 1 hp UMI chillers (One for backup). They are plumbed into each other and are ‘rotated’ twice a year.

Wavemaker:  George Fischer Model EA 20 Electric Actuator Unit.  More on this in the Plumbing & Circulation Section.

Temperature Controller(s): Two (2) Rancos; one for each chiller.

Kalk Reactor:  Aquamedic Kalkwasser Stirrer/Reactor 5000  Dosing is regulated by a SpectraPure LiterMeter III. Kalk Powder of choice is ESV.  From Bulk Reef  Supply.

RO/DI Unit #1:  SpectraPure 5-Stage SpectraPlus 2000.  This unit handles  the water to be used in the preparation of water changes for the main system.  It is a 90gpd unit and also has an  in-line TDS Monitor.  After mixing, the water is then held in a 125g storage tank, under constant circulation, until usage.

RO/DI Unit #2:  SpectraPure Deluxe CSP-DI Three Stage System.  This unit filters the Kalk Dosers’ topoff water.  In-line TDS Monitor

Ozonizer:  Red Sea AquaZone 100 with Air Drier, Probe, and  ORP Controller.  Connected via ‘T’ to intake hose  on skimmer.

UV Sterilizer:  Aqua Ultraviolet 120W.  Pump is an Iwaki 70RLT.

Korallin Sulfur BioDenitrator S4002:  Aqua Lifter Pump for dosing.

Carbon/GFO Reactors: 2 MyReef Creations-CR-L canisters.  Each holds approximately 10 lbs. of  media. Media of choice: Carbon-Bulk Reef Supply’s Premium ROX 0.8. GFO-Bulk Reef Supply’s High Capacity Ferric Oxide.

Temperature Alarm:  SensaPhone 1104 Remote Monitoring System.  Don’t laugh.  This baby has saved my tank from my own stupidity more than a few times already.

Monitoring Station:  Octopus 3000.  It’s pretty much all I use it  for.

Powerheads: Four (4) Tunze Stream 6205s, two (2) Tunze Stream 6105s, and one (1) Tunze Stream 6200 on Three (3) Tunze  Mulitcontrollers 7095 for very random flow. Magnet Holders 6200.50.

Test Kits & Meters:  Salifert, LaMotte, Hanna 93713 Low Range Phosphate Meter, Deltec High Sensitivity Phosphate Test Kit. Oakton Con 10 Conductivity/TDS meter.

Cleaning Magnets:  Magnavore X.

Misc:  Hydrometer, Kent Pro Scrapers (Various Lengths), Kent Feeding Tongs, Turkey Baster, Grabber Claws (Various Lengths), Sump Pump, Hoses, [Air Pumps, Small Powerheads, Buckets, Airline Tubing (for fish and coral acclimation)], Spatula (for scraping Mushrooms off the sides and bare bottom), Algae Pads, Sandpapers in 1200-8000 grit (for interior scratch removal), Novus 1&2 (for exterior scratch removal), Nets, Mortar and Pestel (for grinding medicines such as Interceptor), Scales (for dosage weighing), Danby Mini Washer/Dryer (for washing filter socks), Various Snips and other Fragging Tools,  Blender, Microscope, Spare pH and Temperature Monitors, Gloves, Books & Magazines, Computer for keeping log.

Okay, so by now, I imagine there may be one or two questions.  To briefly touch on the ones I get most often:

Yes, I really do use four filter socks at a time.  Due to the way the tank’s circulatory system is configured (more on that later), I have seperate upper and lower water exits and returns.  Three of the socks service the upper exits while the fourth sock services the skimmer return to help prevent the formation of micro bubbles.  The lower exits are part of a large ‘closed loop’ system and are not serviced by a filter sock.  All four socks are the 32” 100 micron variety with the plastic rings and they are available from Custom Aquatic.

This question comes up a lot because many of you know how much I hated cleaning these things and that would still hold true today if I were still doing it by hand.  But I’m not.  And that’s because a few years back, a friend brought the Danby Mini Washer/Dryer to my attention. Its capacity isn’t much more than 4 filter socks and you need a faucet nearby to manually fill it but, wow, does it do the job!  There is also a dryer side and the whole unit fits perfectly under the tank’s catwalk.  What more could I want?  Well, a lot of stuff but nothing pertaining to the washing of filter socks.

Another frequently asked question is regarding why I have two chillers?  This is because I am a huge believer in redundancy with regards to this hobby and given my track record of things going wrong at the worst possible moment (See Moye’s Law in the Husbandry & Maintenance Section), I try to have back-ups for just about everything that I can store without the wife going completely nuts about it. .  For example, I have back-ups for most of my pumps.  I have back ups for connectors, bulbs, probes, meters?I even have a small gas powered back-up generator in case my huge propane generator, which should run the entire house AND tank for three days, should fail…which has happened.  Now, while I don’t expect everyone to match my level of neuroses, I do think it’s a good idea to get back-ups of whatever you deem important to the welfare of your system because, trust me, that’s exactly the part that’s going to fail first.

Also, and here’s a piece of advice that I DON’T follow as well as I should, try to familiarize yourself with how all of your equipment works so that in the event of a problem, you’re not completely at the mercy of a service technician. Where I live, that’s like  calling John Dillinger to help find your wallet.  The results are pretty similar too, except John most likely get there sooner.

Next comes the so-called Ozonizer/UV debate.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that I use both.  This however is not a redundancy as they perform completely different functions.  In its simplest terms, ozone changes the bonding properties in certain yellowing agents and DOCs (Dissolved Organic Compounds) commonly found in our tank water, and allows them to be more easily removed by protein skimming.  This can make a marked difference in water clarity, which, in turn, means mo’ bettah light penetration for the corals.

UV sterililzers, on the other hand, render the free-floating pathogens that come in contact with its coils sterile, so that they cannot reproduce.  Since some of these pathogens can sicken fish, it is commonly believed that the correct use of UV in our tanks can reduce and perhaps gradually help eliminate several of the diseases that bedevil them, though the key word here is gradually.  And help.  And perhaps.

So whenever someone asks me why I have both an Ozonizer and a UV Sterilizer, I simply tell them that I believe one maintains the health of the corals while the other helps maintain the health of the fish.   And that’s why there’s no debate.

There’s really no debate on the Biodentrator either.  Originally designed for fish tanks in public aquaria, these things really do seem to work and are especially good for tanks with very high bioloads (guilty), tanks that are fed heavily (guilty), and tanks with insufficient turnover (I believe I’m kind of cool in that regard right now) .  But I mention the latter because tanks such as those will quickly build up nutrients and therefore need all the help they can get.  I would like to add however that these units are certainly not cure alls in every case as the proper balance of nutrient import/export can be quite the multifaceted task. If you would like to know more about these units than you’d ever need to know in a hundred million years, I’d like to suggest this Reef Central thread:  http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=626360&highlight=Biodenitrator

Yeah, there’s a lot of the usual puffery but a great deal of first person info that I find pretty useful.

And finally, let me tell you about the Sensaphone Monitoring System.  I live in a pretty large house and with the tank being in the basement and our sleeping quarters being on the second floor,there is absolutely no way I could hear the temperature alarm of a Lifeguard Temp Alert or similar unit. I searched for a real screamer but had no luck.  For awhile, I even gave thought to signing up for one of those medical services? you know, that willcall you if they receive a certain signal that means you’ve ‘fallenand can’t get up”?  But then one day I was perusing the Aquatic Eco-Systems catalogue (it helps to keep these things in the bathroom), and came across the Sensaphone.

Basically, you set the high-low parameters, and put the temperature probe in the sump.  Like a modem, the unit is tied into  its own phone line and, if the tank temperature becomes too high or low, the unit will call you (and up to two other numbers) as many as 16 times to let you know about it!  We have dry run this feature a few times, and it really does work.  It can literally save your entire set-up.  Of course, I realize that installing a separate telephone line may a bit too much for many reefkeepers but if you’ve got as much invested in your system as I do, you can’t afford to be without something like this.  The peace of mind that comes with it is priceless.

Now obviously I haven’t touched on everything regarding my stuff here, but even I’m about to doze off at this point.  So if you have a particular question or would like my opinion (regarding my OWN equipment only, please), just email me and we can do this.  But before we move on to the Plumbing & Circulation section, let me quickly cover any separate Lighting & Equipment for the LPS tank.

Lighting & Equipment


The lighting consists of 1 36”  Nova Extreme Pro T5 6x39W fixture which fits the tank size perfectly.  My bulbs at this time are 3xATI Blue Plus HO, 1xATI True Actinic 03,  1xATI Pro Color HO, and 1x Gieseman 11000K Aquablue Plus HO.  And all were purchased from Reefgeek. http://www.reefgeek.com

The NEP itself, btw, was purchased from Marine Depot. http://www.marinedepot.com/md_homepage.html

Overall, I am very satisfied with the fixture; although I keep mine over an open topped tank, which means it’s imperative to keep the plastic bulb shield free of salt creep or it becomes a real bear to remove for maintenance or lamp changing.

As you may be able to ascertain by my bulb selection, the lighting itself is pretty blue.  I don’t mind this too much because this combination was advised for the type of coral I primarily maintain.  My problem here is that they might be putting out too much light, resulting in both a re-occurent algae and cyanobacteria problem specific to only this tank.  Some of the corals are growing fairly well but the Acanthastrea could be doing better. It’s my plan to reduce the Blue Plus’s by one or maybe two therefore, just to see if it helps.

My lighting period here is from 8:00am to 8:00pm, letting the ambient light from the main tank to account for the ‘sun-up’ and ‘sun-down’ effect.

As this tank is tied into the main display, most of the applicable equipment is the same.  I DO have a set of Vortech MP10s on this tank for water flow, dialed down to nearly their lowest setting and set on long pulse mode.  I do doubt, however, that this low flow setting is the cause of my algae problems.  Much like the big tank, the rockwork is open and there are few dead spots.  Also, the polyps on both the Elegances and the Duncan are probably close to their max in terms of being blown around right now.  They are still fully extended but I fear that any more current will begin to have a detrimental effect on them.  Remember this when stocking even an LPS tank.  These creatures too come from different environments with the accompanying different lighting requirements and different temperatures.  Sometimes, depending on what we’d like to keep, we can’t have it all in a single tank. Or, as it seems in my house unfortunately, a single room.

A Few Words About Generators:

Get one.  Right now.  Then set it up, learn how to use it, and test it at least once a month.   That is all.