* Tsunami AT-1 auto top-off system and pump. Be sure fill hose is always above water level in sump so that a syphon doesn't occur in either direction.
* 18-gallon Rubbermaid tub for RO top-off water, doubles as end table
* Gen-X Mak-4 external fan-cooled return pump, 1190/gph/4' lift. Very quiet, great choice for us.
* We replaced all bulbs, added various Rio powerheads.
* Rio 2500 to run protein skimmer
* Ground probe placed in sump
* Pinpoint Ph Monitor w/probe
* Salifert test kits: Calcium, Phosphates, Alkalinity, Nitrate, Nitrite, Ammonia
* Hydrometer (Aquarium Systems - SeaTest)
* CPR scrub pads - best for cleaning glass in our experience
* Algae clip attached to fish line: The suction cup doesn't last long.
* Ph calibration fluid: Pinpoint 10.000 and 7.000
* 4 x 8 sheet/s of eggcrate ( such as used under flourescent ceiling lights in drop ceilings) for plenum, top of tank
* PVC pipe: 1", 2", and 3" diameter for plumbing, plenum, LR (live rock) base supports, water circulation behind LR
* Miscellaneous measuring cups and spoons, towels, turkey basters, flashlights, powerstrips, surge protectors, red cellophane for lighting "night dives"
* Books! See booklist below
* Circulation: Other than following directions and the usual setup plan, we put a 3-way splitter on the return pipe to the tank. Two returns go to the two back corner holes, up the PVC pipe, and out across the top of the water, about 1/2" below the surface. Water return close to the surface keeps the surface moving well for oxygen exchange and allows less water to syphon back into the sump when the power is off. It would be good to have installed a shut-off valve, and we have done that on the 125-gallon. The 3rd split travels up the back of the tank via PVC pipe, over the top, straight down behind the LR to the top of the sandbed. The end of the PVC is capped. There are holes drilled in the PVC about 1" apart, with the highest hole being real close to the top of the water. The top hole prevents the water from syphoning back into the sump when the power is off. We also have a Rio 800 powerhead hidden in the corner behind the live rock that pumps water straight down PVC to a PVC bar that runs the length of the back of the tank, along the top of the sandbed, with holes drilled on the side of the PVC that faces the front of the tank. The end is capped. This sends water across the sandbed and under the live rock. After a year there is still no detritus back there. We can't, of course, service the pump if it fails. We have about five powerheads of different strengths in the tank. A Rio 90 sends a gentle current across yellow polyps, mushrooms, moon coral, and such while a stronger Rio sends current directly across the SPS (small-polyed stony) corals. Another Rio sends current across the SPS's from a different angle. Drainage noise is addressed elsewhere on this page.
* Cover: The hood covers only the center 13" of the top lengthwise. Steve cut eggcrate to fit the back and front, with two sections in front and two in the back. The tank has a built-in support bar from center front to back with a lip for the eggcrate to rest upon. He used a sabre saw to cut the eggcrate, and he cut out areas for the PVC, etc. to fit. I read on the P.A. message board that the thin side of the eggcrate should face upward for best distribution of light. We didn't know there was a thin side or about this tip when we cut ours to fit. The eggcrate can easily be lifted for feeding, cleaning the glass, and simple rearranging. A folded hand towel is laid upon the eggcrate in the back at both corners to absorb noise. It's amazing how much overflow noise is reduced by these towels! To reduce drainage noise substantially, we performed the following procedures: **coming soon** - sorry -
Cyling the tank: Curing live rock, testing levels, adding substrate and live sand
* First of all, we patiently filled the tank daily with RO water that we make. About 2-3 days into this the comment was made that we could put flounders in the tank! It was full in about a week. We turned on the pump and carefully watched the water level in the sump to make sure the incoming and outgoing were compatible. We checked all plumbing for leaks. NO SALT was added yet in case draining the tank became necessary. Of course we'd save our RO water, but we waited on the salt until everything checked out, including the plenum and substrate.
* We installed the plenum.
* We added the 2-1/2" coarser grain of aragonite.
* Fiberglass screen was placed over first layer of aragonite.
* Second layer (2") of smaller-grain aragonite was placed on top of screen.
* Salt was added. S.G.= 1.023. We've used Reef Crystals, but now use Instant Ocean.
* Tank and plumbing operates for a few days and water clears; we wait for LR and live sand (LS) to arrive. We DID NOT order LR/LS until we knew the tank/pumps/plumbing were working properly.
* Live sand (25#) was added. We only added live sand at this point because we ordered it at the same time we had our uncured live rock shipped. In retrospect, we would have ordered/added live sand after LR was cured.
* We unpacked LR and removed obvious dead stuff from it. Living room smelled like an unpopular beach, and unpacking the boxes of LR was as exciting as opening Christmas presents!
* LR (120#) was placed randomly over the bottom of the tank. The idea was to get as much rock area exposed to current as possible.
* Levels were tested daily: ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate.
** Sudden spike in levels on 4th day, lasting through 8th day.
*** Nitrates: 40 ppm - 4th day, 2 - 8th day, 0 - 12th day
*** Total Ammonia: 4.0 mg/L - 4th day, 0.1 - 8th day, 0 - 12th day
*** Nitrites: 25 mg/L - 4th day, 1 - 8th day, 0 - 12th day
*** Phosphates: 0.3 ppm - 4th day, less than 0.1 - 8th day
* 18-gallon water change after stirring gravel lightly and causing "storm" on LR with powerheads.
* Trace elements added and Kalkwasser added per recommended schedule, some locally purchased live sand added. Calcium is 430 ppm.
* We carefully check each piece of LR for living organisms, corals, etc.
* Tank is aquascaped with LR. Five 3-1/2" x 3" PVC pipes are set down in substrate against screening and serve as supports for LR. This prevents rockslides due to burrowing creatures, and it allows water to circulate under the rock, as well as more caves for creatures.
* On day 10 we transferred pair of Clarkii Clowns and one Blue Damsel from overstocked 30-gallon to this tank. All survived, we still have the clowns, the damsel was eventually placed in another home. We added fish stock to this tank so early only because water conditions were in trouble in the 30-gallon tank, and frequent water changes were barely keeping the bio-load under control.
* Large corals (plate coral, mushroom rock) were transferred from 30-gallon to 120-gallon on day 12. 30-gallon levels fell quickly to normal ranges.
* ESV B-Ionic Calcium Buffer System
* AragaMIGHT (CaribSea)
* CombiSan (Two Little Fishies)
* Instant Ocean Sea Salt (Aquarium Systems)
* Lugol's Solution - Iodine (Warner Marine Research)
Troy's and Shirley's method: Troy takes care of his own tank and Shirley takes care of the rest. Basically, we follow the directions on the labels and are careful not to overdose iodine. We've heard that iodine is essential for Xenias, clams, mushrooms, and others, so we started using Lugol's Solution and it appears that the mushrooms and Xenias in the 10-gallon mini-reef improved. We have a hard time keeping Ph and alkalinity high enough, Ph tends to reach around 7.9-8.1 by evening, so we alternate B-Ionics in the morning and Kalkwasser late at night. We use Aragamight occasionally if the calcium needs a quick boost. When we are diligent about the dosing, the Ph is better! We don't have a gradual drip unit for the Kalkwasser, we just mix up a gallon, let it settle for at least an hour, then slowly pour it into the sump on the return side late at night. Troy adds about 1/2 gallon to his tank once in awhile, and adds it a little more gradually. The 120 gets Kalkwasser at night about 2-3 times/wk and the B-Ionics about 4 mornings/wk. This is not as often as Shirley intends, but sometimes she forgets or runs out of time on the way to work. She'd love to have one sump system in the basement that connects to every tank in the house!
* Temperature: 78F +/-, no heaters are used in any of our tanks, although we have several available.
* Salinity: 1.022 - 1.025
* Calcium: 415 - 450 ppm.
* Ph: 7.8 dawn - 8.2 late afternoon. We have a hard time getting it higher.
* Alkalinity: 6.1 dKH, 2.17 meq/L; we never have been able to get the alkalinity up very high.
* Phosphates: .5 - 1.0 That's higher than they've ever been, so we probably need a water change. We'll so one this week.
* Water changes: Rare. We changed 10-15% every three weeks during the first four months. Now we rarely change water, but when we do we usually change about 12-15 gallons. The water top-off adds about 15 gallons each week.
* RO water: We never add anything but RO water we make. We had our RO water tested for density and conductivity in general, and the test results were 0 for impurities.
* Natural tank cleaners and misc. inverts: various species of hermits, snails, two large Tiger Tail sea cucumbers, Peppermint shrimp, Blood shrimp, Sally Lightfoot crab, bristle worms - they are there by default and don't seem to harm anything, and numerous creatures of the night that crawl around in and under the sand.
* Plenum and 3-1/2" sand bed: The plenum is discribed earlier on this page, and in hindsight we'd use a deeper sand bed. Looking up through the bottom glass, there are trails of substantial activity in the sand-free plenum, though we never see whatever is living there.
* Julian Sprung's Sea Veggies - Our fish prefer Green Seaweed.
* Selcon (American Marine)
* DT's Phytoplankton
* Formula One, Formula Two (Ocean Nutrition)
* Super Shrimp - Frozen Brine (Ocean Nutrition)
* Freeze-dried phytoplankton - Beta Meal (MTI, Inc)
* Graze - Small Pellets for Herbivores (HBH Enterprises)
* Brine Shrimp Eggs (San Francisco Bay) - We hatch them.
* Shrimp - from the grocery and kept frozen
* Feeding: Troy feeds his reef system, and Steve feeds the other systems. Shirley watches, takes pictures, and sometimes gets to help! We feed all the tanks from this food list, but the 120-gallon is fed the most since it has some hungry fish and numerous inverts and corals.
* Steve's method: About three times/week the tank gets a combination of Selcon, Formula I & II, phytoplankton, live brine shrimp that we raise regularly in the kitchen, frozen brine "Super Shrimp", red and green frozen diatoms (it's a powder in a little jar), sometimes called "Beta Meal". All this goes in 2 cups of tank water and then is fed via turkey baster to all the tanks, mainly the 120. The corals and fish are also hand-fed frozen grocery store shrimp. Steve puts it right on the corals' stomach opening and some of the fish, especially the Clowns and Sailfin tang, eat it from his hand. The fish get J. Sprung's Green Seaweed Sea Veggies and "Graze" daily. Shirley gets to help with that! We grow macro-algaes in a 10-gallon and sometimes put some in for the Tangs. We put the Green Seaweed on a clip which is attached to fishline and hangs about 3" below the water line. The suction cups don't last long in saltwater, and it's so much easier anyway to just pull the clip up by the fishline, attach the seaweed or macro-algae, and drop it back in!
* Sun Polyps' recovery: We have yellow and black. The yellow ones were in good shape and the black ones were thrown away in a LR holding tank (not P.A.) so they were free. Steve religiously took them out every other night as the lights shut off and put them in a plastic container filled with tank water, an air stone, and a towel over the top to keep them in the dark. He hand-fed them various concoctions like the one I described above. This was when we first got started with the big tank. They eventually started pushing their tentacles out just a little. We were so excited! This went on for at least 2 months, every other night, for about 90 minutes each time. They always got live brine and then whatever else we were experimenting with at the time. The tentacles came out further and further. Then the time came that he'd take them out and they'd start to send out their tentacles before the food was added! Talk about happy! Friends would never understand, I'm sure. Now we don't worry about them, and they open every night really far. Some of the Yellow Sun Polyp's polyps (!) have died or shrunk, but several new polyps are sprouting. The Black Sun Polyp is doing much better, but he still has bare shell between his polyps.
* Feeding non-photosynthetic corals: It's important to know if your corals are photosynthetic or not. If they aren't, then they must be fed frequently. Our non-photosythetic creatures include the Sun Polyps, some gorgonians (some are photosynthetic, some aren't), sponges, Carnation corals (we've yet to be successful with one), a Chili Pepper, and a Flame scallop. We've had the Chili Pepper and some of the gorgonians since August of '98. The Flame scallop is attached in a cave at the back of the 120-gallon and filter feeds by himself. The Chili Pepper was in the 30-gallon tank, then moved to the 120-gallon. One of Troy's gorgonians has been cut back and propagated several times since July '98. It's necessary to feed photosynthetic corals and clams, too.
Hatching live brine shrimp: We raise our own live brine shrimp continuously. This is done with a fish bowl, air stone, small air pump, a gooseneck lamp, and tank water. We add a capfull of eggs to the sea water, keep the lamp on 24 hrs/day, and add some Selcon and Phytoplankton after 36 hrs. At 48 hrs or so, Steve uses the turkey baster to remove the live brine, leaving the egg casings that have floated to the top and unhatched eggs that have sunk to the bottom behind. Feeding the brine is not necessary if they are removed and fed to the tank upon hatching. If they begin to starve, there isn't much nutritional value left for the tank. Strong aeration is essential, and the light and heat the lamp provides cause the eggs to hatch more quickly. After the brine are fed to the tanks the bowl is washed, filled with tank water, and the process is repeated.
Books: We cannot emphasize enough the critical importance of buying and reading good reef books, written by marine biologists who have years of practical experience in this field. If there was one thing we would have done differently, it would be buying the books first and studying them as we set up, cycled, and maintained our first two systems. Owning the books gives one the necessary advantage of referring to them on short notice. It is also extremely important to read the material again as your reef evolves because the information will begin to make better sense, and application of this information is more likely to take place. Doing all that can be done to prevent problems is one key to successful reefkeeping. If the money isn't spent on the books, it will more likely than not be spent two-fold or more on future problems and mistakes. Internet sources are invaluable, but the books stand in a class of help by themselves.
These are the books we bought. The first four we consider essential. While there are probably many similar books to these listed, our opinion is that the first three provide the best foundation. Unfortunately, the first book we bought is the last book listed. We didn't discover Live Sand Secrets until January 2000.