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Member's Aquarium Series - Michael Buckley

Presented August 5, 1999 on #reefs IRC.

Michael Buckley lives in Bonita Springs, Florida and joined the aquarium hobby at the age of 10 with a 10 gallon freshwater tank. Since then he has had only freshwater tanks and is only a recent addition to the reef keeping part of the hobby. His 75 gallon tank is just on 8 months old and his new 15 gallon is going on 3 weeks old, both of which are reef systems.

Welcome everyone tonight to my talk. I will begin with the 75-gallon reef.

75 Gallon Tank:

One week before Christmas of 1998 I decided to start a marine tank with reef in mind. Added water which took me a week to do with a 18 gpd RO unit. Bought a Sealife wet/dry 13 gallon, Knop skimmer, 2- 40 watt NO fluorescent lights, Quiet One pump, a few Hagen powerheads, DIY stand and I was ready to go- very excited and very confused to say the least.

All my fish where added slowly over a period of time to allow the bio balls to build bacteria. I also added a small amount of rock, maybe 15 lbs, not much. 10 lbs of live sand was added and one bag of Caribasea reef sand 44 lbs. Livestock was all selected with reef in mind, as I thought at the time... Now I know better. My tangs are reef safe- well they don't eat the corals but they sure do frag them for me whether I want them fragged or not. The point is that tangs will grow. I have 4 of them with my SPS. They are problems- they knock them down or break off branches, not intentionally but they do it just the same. Just as much as I hate to say this- I would never have a tang again in a tank under 6' and yes, many are telling themselves "it has never happened to me", maybe not, but to me yes.

Livestock in Tank:

Fish- 1 Hippo Tang, 1 Sailfin Tang, 1 Blonde Naso, 1 Yellow Tang, 1 Flame Angel, 1 Banggai Cardinal, 2 Pearly head Jawfish, 1 Tomato Clown, 3 Green Chromis

Inverts-20 or so hermits, 50 or so Turbo snails, 1 dozen Nassarius snails, 2 tigertail cucs, 2 skunk cleaners, 5 or so pepermint shrimp

Cnidarians- 2 resident Aiptasia, Xenia (well looks like it died, no loss there, must not like the hair algae), Pagoda coral, various star polyps, t-maxima clam, frogspawn, green open brain, 17 sps frags.

Other- 120 lbs of Fla & Fiji live rock, 44 lbs of dead sand and 40 lbs of live sand.

Tank circulation / Filtration:

Main pump- quiet One, spray bar- Rio 2100, skimmer pump- mag 7, calcium reactor circulation loop is an Eheim 1250 and fed with a maxi jet 500, powerheads in tank are one hagen 802, and two 302's. I use 2 J tubes- one will not handle the Quiet One and Rio 2100. No sponges or carbon are used when tank is running correctly.


1 time a day at night which is my photoperiod. Tank is fed daily with Formula 2, and Formula 1 or brine, Seaweed Selects or spirulina pellets and Tetra marine flakes. LPS are fed one time a week silverside.


Photoperiod is 12 hours VHO's and 10 hours MH's. Lighting has been upgraded 2 times, first to 175 MH's 10,000K German bulbs and 2 VHO's, and last time a little over 3 weeks ago to 2-250 watt MH's with Iwasaki 6500K bulbs.

Other Upgrades / Updates:

I have added over the tank's life about 30 lbs of live sand to help in keep nitrates low- seems to be working well. Went from water changes every 2 weeks to once monthly. I do not like my nitrates to go over 20 ppm, with new sand my nitrates where staying low at the end of month. The new skimmer also helps a bit in that department.... Skimmer was changed about 2 or 3 months ago from a Knop to a custom acrylic design skimmer after I felt the Knop simply was not doing what I wanted. Yes, I am happy with the new skimmer- it has worked very well.

A little run down on the tank... Things were doing very well up to the time I added the 250 watt MH's- good tank conditions, algae was gone, corals were happy. I wanted better growth and better color for my SPS so I changed to the 250's- plan was to have the 75 as my primary SPS tank and I would add the 15 gallon for my LPS and true percs. In the history of my tank I have never had such bad tank conditions ever . Hair algae is everywhere and all I can do is water changes and many of them- with an 18 gpd, it's not a easy task. Cleaned powerheads a few days ago and they smelled like uncured live rock, you could smell the die-off from the algae polluting the tank. Added a small Aquaclear and a bag of carbon and have started water changes.

Well things are looking very bleak for me right now... Was going to cancel the talk but I gave my word, and after thinking about it, hell why not? Not all tanks have full blown SPS colonys! All of my SPS came from small 1 or 2" frags- I never bought a colony. At this time the hair algae is doing its best to suffocate my 20 or so frags. I just counted- 17 and will probably lose some of those. I will try to remove the hair algae from the SPS and sandbed.

So why did this Happen? Don't know for sure, but I will take a guess. All of this happened at a record pace. Here is how it all began- Added the 250's about 3 weeks ago and I came here on #reefs and asked about adding new lights. Talked to someone here (no names needed), I did not have to listen to them, but I did. I was told being that I had the 175 MH's already that they felt no light accimalation was needed. So the first night I turned MH's on, (it was late), just finished changing them out and they ran for just a few hours. The next night ran them for 10 hours and my purple coralline all turned to green and things started going down hill from there on. Tank conditions are bad and nitrates are 40 ppm. They were that Sunday when I did water change and they're back up again. Will do another change Saturday of 20 gallons. Alk dropped to 9 dkh, just turned my effluent down a bit, effluent pH is 6.52, salinty is 1.025, CO2 is at 8 cc's and tank pH as been low since adding reactor. With test kits tank says 8.2 pH with probe says 7.84, I changed the drip right over the skimmer pump intake in hopes of letting the skimmer get rid of some excess CO2. Tank temp is 80 to 83, the norm is 80 to 82.

15 Gallon Reef

Yes there is a 7" sand bed and tank is on 3rd week and doing well.


Inverts- 30 or so Nassarius snails, 8 Turbo snails, 5 hermits, 1 tigertail cuke, 1 skunk cleaner shrimp, 1 peppermint shrimp

Cnidarians- 1 frogspawn, 1 bubble coral

Fish- 2 true percs


44 lbs of Caribsea sea reef sand and 20 lbs of live sand


CSL PC's 56 watts- 1 daylight bulb and 1 blue bulb

The Tank:

15 Gallon tall 18" tall, Allglass Aquarium
This tank will be my lps and true perc tank. No skimmer will be used and the only filtration is sand and live rock. Nutrient export will be done with water changes- will try weekly, if not biweekly. Sand is doing good job in keeping nitrates in check.


2 hagen 201's, might change, time will tell.


12 hours blue bulb and 10 hours daylight.

Pics can be seen here.

Well that is the end of my talk, Hope I did not bore you too awful bad.

Do you think a one time a day feeding is enough for that amount of fish- the tangs are grazers and should be eating on and off all day?

Have had the naso for almost 8 months, has grown well and looks very healthy.

Aesthetically, do you like the 250 6.5K or the 175 10K?

Hard question to answer, ask me in about 3 months. Now "no", because of the algae problem... When it clears up, I think I will like the 6500's better.

Any comments on your large bioload and maybe the result the hair algae?

I would say a big "no" to that- system could not even grow hair algae before, put live rock in there that had hair algae and within a few days it would be gone.

Do you think the indications of the tangs knocking the sps over is an sign that maybe they would like more room to swim?

A big "yes" to that. When they where smaller, there was not a problem, now that they are bigger, problem.

Any plans to move the tangs, or some of them, to another larger tank?

No plans yet will see what happens, will do something within a year.

With all the water changes plus filling the 75 gallon on that little 18gpd, have you changed the cartidges?

No i have not, plans are by the end of year buying a new bigger RO unit. Checked alk yesterday from RO water was 0

Have you shortened the light photo period?

No I have not, read that hair algae can adapt to lower lighting conditions. It is a option, but as of now no.

So what are you doing to ensure that SPS frags don't die? Any options of moving to another tank until algae is under control?

No options, no other tank. I am trying to keep nutrients low by keeping skimmer clean and working correctly, alot of water changes, removing the hair algae from sand and rocks that I can.

Why don't you use various macroalgaes to remove nutrients from the 15g instead of frequent water changes?

I would do that if I had a sump. In just one tank, I would prefer not to.

Have you checked your RO for phosphates or nitrates?


And none detectable?

No nitrates. Phosphates are not detectable, but I believe they would be with a better kit like a Lammote.

What additives are you using?

Reactor and nothing else.

> Your comment on "Xenia, well looks like it died, no loss there, must not like the hair algae". Are there any indicators of poor water quality?

"Water quality" is a minor word. There is major die off in tank. If not, I would not be making RO water as we speak.

You speak of this major die off and all you state is that your nitrates are high, what about other parameters?

I had no need to check ammonia or nitrates. I could smell the rot. My salinty is 1.025, alk was 9 dkh. Adjusted effluent to raise alk, cal. I don't need to check alk very much and skimmer tells me when it is off. So yes, there will be small spikes of ammonia and nitrites present and they will turn in to nitrates.

OK, well thank you for the talk on your tanks Mike. Hope you get things under control soon. I will shortly open the room for general discussion, and I am sure people have a few ideas to help you along......

Created by liquid
Last modified 2006-11-24 13:41