Whatcaneyedo's Tank

Congratulations to whatcaneyedo for being selected as Canreef's Featured Tank of the Month for May 2010. Thanks, Russell, for sharing your system details with us! Please click on the thumbnails to view the pictures larger.

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I got into saltwater aquariums in 2004 in my third year of Commerce at UNBC. Up until that point I had only kept freshwater but after watching Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo (at least it wasn’t Finding Nemo!) and seeing the Volitan Lionfish I knew I had to convert. Since I started out as a starving student (I’m still a starving student…) I learned to do things the most cost effective way by shopping around, buying used, purchasing in bulk, and building some items myself. My first tank was a ridiculous looking second hand 20gal with an under-gravel filter, canister filter, hang on filter and regular florescent lighting that I bought already running through the local Bargain Finder. From there I progressively upgraded my tank sizes and equipment to arrive at what I am presently running.

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Current System

My main tank is a standard 4’x2’x2’ 120 gallon glass aquarium drilled for a single 2” overflow that drains into a large 140 gallon stock trough sump. ‘Frankensump’ sits out in plain sight and is also used to filter the water from my 50 gallon 3’x 16”x18” frag tank. For a brief period I was able to contain all of the filtration and other equipment in a smaller sump system that fit neatly confined under the main tank. But after endlessly struggling to cram and access everything underneath I gave up and converted to Frankensump. So now I have an easy to work on system of roughly 270 gallons which gives me great stability and extra storage. At this time I just rent the house that I live in so converting the tank to an in-wall system which would hide all of the messy equipment is not an option. But the girlfriend and I are planning to buy a house within the year which will allow for a cleaner looking setup and eventually another upgrade… I’m thinking of a 250gal 5’x3’x2’ with a proper Herbie overflow but otherwise just a larger scale version of what I have right now.

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My system isn’t cutting edge or very efficient for that matter but it works and it works well. The skimmer is a large Precision Marine Bullet 3 Beckett powered by an Iwaki 70RT pump. Additional mechanical filtration is provided by two filter socks, one on the main display overflow and the other for the skimmers output. Actually, the filter socks are used more for micro bubble control, trapping detritus is just an added bonus. For chemical filtration I employ two Phosban reactors, one for GFO and the other for carbon. Then finally for some biological filtration I have approximately 150 lbs of liverock and a refugium where I grow gracillaria and try to grow chaetomorpha.


Lighting is provided by three 250W Lumenmax 3 DE pendants (two for the main tank and one for the frag tank) with Phoenix 14K bulbs. Two of the pendants are powered by a Blue Wave 7 ballast and the third, a Hamilton HQI. The refugium is lit on a reverse lighting schedule by two simple 16W 6.5K CF bulbs with integrated reflectors.


Flow in the main tank is supplied by a Sequence Dart pump that returns through an Oceans Motions 4-Way and a Mag 12 running a spray bar behind the rocks. Despite the obvious flaws of having all of my flow provided by these two big pumps I had opted to set the system up this way because I cannot stand the look of powerheads in a display tank. Also, I set the tank up a few years ago before I knew of drilling a tank multiple times for a closed loop system. However the frag tank does contain two Hydor Koralia 1’s in addition to a Mag 9.5 return pump.


Most of the systems calcium carbonate demand is matched by a Precision Marine 622 down-flow style calcium reactor with a DIY second chamber. I run course ARM media in the main chamber and fine Caribsea Florida crushed coral sand in the second chamber. All of the evaporation top off water is saturated with calcium hydroxide by means of a DIY Kalkwasser Reactor fed by a Tunze Osmolator. The only other thing I add to the tank is a few drops of Lugol’s Solution Iodine every couple of days. Whether the iodine additions make a difference or not; I do not know. I simply add it because I have it. Of course I’ll also use Calcium Chloride, Sodium Bicarbonate and a Magnesium Sulfate/Magnesium Chloride mix to adjust my Calcium, Alkalinity or Magnesium levels if they begin to drop.


All control for the system is provided by a Neptune AquaController III connected to the internet. Lighting follows the built in seasonal variation table and is on for a maximum of 10.5 hours during the summer to 9.5 hours during the winter. The temperature follows a similar table and reaches a high of 82ºF in the summer and low of 76.5ºF in the winter. The controller turns on a 500W Aquamedic titanium heater if the temperature drops by 0.3ºF and similarly turns on a cooling fan if it rises by 0.3ºF. The controller maintains my aquarium’s pH between 7.8 and 8.5 and my calcium reactor’s pH between 6.5 and 6.6. I also have two water-on-the-floor sensors and an upper water level switch plugged into the controller because I’m fearful of having the tank overflow onto the floor (again). In the event that one of them is triggered the alarm will sound, one or more of the return pumps will shut off and I’ll get an emergency text on my cell phone.

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I’ve tried to automate as much as possible but my tank still requires daily attention. I feed the fish a variety of mysis, silversides, krill, squid, grocery store clam, Ocean Nutrition Formula Two pellets and sushi nori. Occasionally I’ll feed the corals Cyclop-eeze or Coral Frenzy but I’m skeptical as to whether they benefit from this or not. Every two to three days I change out the filter sock and clean the glass. Once a week I do a 10% water change with half Instant Ocean half Seachem Reef salt, clean the skimmer and test some of the water parameters. Once a month I change one cup of fine lignite activated carbon and a cup of Bulk Reef Supply HC GFO plus add some more kalkwasser to the reactor. Every couple of months I service the calcium reactor and recalibrate the pH probes. Yearly I change the MH bulbs and RO/DI pre-filters. Everything else like coral fragging and general fiddling is done as needed. I record all of my maintenance and water chemistry tests in a log book which has become a valuable tool for better understanding my system.


In total I have 7 fish: Fu Manchu Lionfish, Snowflake Moray Eel, Tomato Clownfish, Yellow Coris Wrasse, Copperbanded Butterflyfish, Purple Tang and a Mandarin Dragonet. I got into the hobby of saltwater aquaria because I wanted to keep a Volitan Lionfish but I’ve learnt the hard way that a 120gal just isn’t large enough for one so I’ve settled on a Fu Manchu for now. The eel is just over 2’ long and makes an impressive display when it occasionally ventures out of the rocks. The butterfly, tang, and wrasse were all put into the tank to perform certain jobs with the added bonus of adding more diversity, color and movement. The clownfish is my oldest fish which I got when I bought the ridiculous 20gal back in 2004.

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For a few years I tried to buy up as much coral as I could because I fell in love with everything that I saw. But when they all started growing in I realized that my tank was beginning to look like an overcrowded mess so I’ve tried to pick and choose which ones I keep and then let them grow to large showpiece sizes. Now in the display tank I only have 25 different coral colonies (over half of which were started from frags) rather than 47 like I did at one time. While some are still quite small others have grown a bit too large and will need some major fragging soon. Of course this doesn’t count the additional frags/colonies I’m growing out and maintaining in the frag tank or in the nano… I actually have over 70 coral specimens but that is way too many to list.




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Other Invertebrates

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Like everyone else I’ve dealt with my fair share of pests and problems in the six years that I’ve been in this hobby. Aiptasia I eventually got under control with Copperbanded Butterfly. Unfortunately now the Butterfly has developed a taste for some LPS corals so I’ve had to relocate all of my acans and open brains to my frag tank. I used to have a really high level of phosphate and a bryopsis problem as a result. But now that I’ve upgraded to a larger skimmer, do 10% weekly water changes, stain all frozen food, run GFO and grow macro algae I’ve brought it down to undetectable and sent the bryopsis into remission. At one time my tank was also blanketed with red flatworms but by increasing the flow and keeping a yellow coris wrasse I seem to have pushed them to the brink of extinction. I still battle the occasional cyanobacteria outbreak on the sand-bed but those are becoming less frequent.

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First of all I’d like to thank the people of Canreef for believing that my tank is worthy of TOTM acknowledgement. I’d also like to thank my local support: Chris, Doug, Lonnie, George and Allan for all that they have done. My cousin Rob, if it wasn’t for you I still wouldn’t know how to get to the fish shops in the lower mainland! Finally, my girlfriend Mandy who has been with me since day one (literally, we started going out the same month I bought my first tank) and who has put up with all of my crap like aquarium alarms going off at 2:00am and Frankensump.