In 2009 I was formally introduced to Jason Crockett who had just purchased a 90-gallon tank and stand from a good friend, David Noller. After a brief introduction, Jason and I discussed many of the particulars involved with the hobby and I tried to discourage him from taking on the responsibility of a full blown reef aquarium. I’m glad to say I was unsuccessful and we in the reefing community benefit from his success.
At the time Jason had no experience with reef aquariums, but loved the way soft corals swayed from side to side. His only aquatic experience was maintaining small freshwater aquariums as a child and then later on as a young man. He was convinced that he would keep large polyp stony corals (lps), soft corals and a few small polyp stony (sps) corals, I knew that would change in time as sps corals can become an addiction.
Jason had another motive for keeping a reef aquarium in the house. He wanted to share with his son Corbin all the interesting features a reef aquarium can provide, but most importantly the educational value it has to offer. Jason considers these experiences, which he will share with his son are going to be priceless.
The tank purchased from David was a regular 90-gallon Perfecto glass tank. Life would have been easier if this tank had been Reef Ready, but it wasn’t so the tank required an overflow box and a holed drilled through the glass. Rob Skinner the owner of Oceans Below, assisted with the task of drilling the tank and the fabrication of a black acrylic overflow box. The dimensions of the tank are as follows 48”Lx18”Wx24”H, made of regular glass with upper and lower wood-like plastic moldings.
The overflow box was silicone to the left back corner and the back glass was painted black with Rust-Oleum. A paint roller and four coats later the back glass looked incredible. As the paint dried and the silicone cured, the tank and the stand were placed in their final location, which is a large interior wall in the family room.
A noisy overflow box can be a constant distraction in an active family room. To satisfy the Spouse Factor with regard to the noise issue, a custom design drain pipe was installed. This prevents the noise of crashing water throughout the family room by raising the level of water in the overflow box.
This aquarium’s tall canopy was custom ordered from Dayton Cabinets in Ohio. It was assembled and finished (stained and clear coat to match the stand) by Jason on site.
December of 2009 the tank was filled with saltwater using H2Ocean sea salt and RO water produced by a six stage dual RO system built by the Filter Guys. The saltwater was mixed 48 hours before it was poured into the aquarium. Handpicked Fiji live rock was carefully placed into the aquarium about 100 pounds in all and 40 pounds of CaribSea Live Aragonite creating an inch and a half of bottom substrate.
The initial set-up required all of the equipment except for the lights to be fully fictional. The aquarium was allowed to condition for 90 days before any fish, invertebrate or coral were placed into their new captive environment. Nevertheless, this aquarium did not see any inhabitants till March of 2010. This mythology allows all the macro and micro fauna, as well as the bacteria time to flourish without any interference. Allowing these organisms to prosper will also assist with future nutrient control.
Sump; an acrylic 45-gallon aquarium (36”L x15”Wx 20”H) purchased from an online pet store. Custom designed to the VargasReef specifications, with acrylic baffles and an egg-crate drip tray for 100-micron filter pads.
Return; an Eheim 1262 return pump with 68-inch height to discharge through a ¾-inch soft black washing machine hose. A ¾-inch George Fischer check valve was connected on the return to prevent back flow of returned water during power failures. Another addition to the return is a ¾-inch Sea Swirl positioned at the middle of the rear of the tank to oscillate the returned water 90°.
The internal skimmer (in the sump) of chose is the Kent Marine Nautilus and to create that milky white foam an Eheim 1260 pump does the trick well. The Venturi injector connected to the pump is also connected to a custom built dual chamber CO2 scrubber (filtering out CO2 before it’s injected into the skimmer) for high CO2 issues. Two Little Fishies CDX media will strip the air of CO2 before it’s injected through the skimmer. This is a color indicating media, which starts out a chalky white color and as it becomes exhausted it turns light lavender in color.
To assist with evaporation a Marine Magic – 3 pump doser unit aids in keeping water levels correct at all times. Two pumps are used for kalkwasser and the other pump is used for alkalinity dosing. Replenishing evaporated water on a constant basis keeps salinity from exercising dramatic swings.
To keep PO4 levels to a minimum the Next Reef MR1 GFO reactor is the reactor of choice. This reactor comes equipped with its own adjustable pump – an Eco-Plus eco-132 – moving 132 gallons of water per hour.
Great flow rates are maintained with the assistance of three MP40s; one is positioned on the left hand side of the tank, the other is on the right hand side, and the third is located on the back glass. Each MP40 is approximately 6 to 8 inches below the water surface.
No chiller used, entire house is under AC and an 8-inch clip-on fan is positioned to the back of the canopy, which runs 24/7 to keep bulbs cool and to regulate tank temp. A second fan is clipped in the stand to provide additional ventilation when temperature rises during heat waves in the summer. The second fan is pointed directly at the open top of the sump to cool water if needed.
Keeping this tank illuminated is accomplished by using a hybrid light system. A Sunlight Supply T5 light fixture outfitted with four 48-inch 54-watt tubes. Types of tubes used are two ATI-Blue+, one KZ Fiji Purple / ATI Purple Plus (pink bulb) (alternate bulbs at each change out), and one KZ New Generation 14k. Three 48-inch Reefbrite LED strips; two blues and one 50/50. Front to back arrangement of lights; RB-Blue LED, RB-50/50 LED, KZ Fiji Purple / ATI Purple Plus, ATI Blue+, KZ New Generation 14k, ATI Blue+ and RB-Blue LED.
Typically, 15-gallon water changes are done on a bi-weekly basis using H2Ocean salt and RO water. Back to back large 30-gallon water changes spaced between three to four days apart every three to four months on the off week. New saltwater is allow to mix for a minimum of 48 hours before it is used, to assure its balance.
Filter pads are changed out every three to four days. Approximately 1/3 cup of The Filter Guys Carbon is change out every seven to ten days sandwiched in a 100-micron filter pad placed on drip tray. Skimmer is thoroughly cleaned out once a week. Balk Reef Supply high capacity GFO media is replaced every month – Jason uses only half of the recommended amount.
Kalkwasser additions; Mrs. Wages mixed at full saturating into a 32-gallon Rubbermaid Brute can of RODI water (filled to 28-30gal mark), which last approximately 20 days. Set with a timer the doser is activated every hour with heavier dosing done during non-photo periods. If greater amounts of evaporation occur, plain RODI water can be added to sump manually. Two-part is dosed daily in addition to Kalkwasser. Dosed daily is Randy Holmes Farley two-part recipe, 100ml of dissolved baking soda and 100ml of Balk Reef Supply calcium chloride. Magnesium dosing is done manually as needed, typically 100ml a week. Potassium Iodide additions are done at 5 to10 ml bi-weekly between water changes.
Calcium – 420
Alkalinity – 8.0-9.0 dKH
Magnesium – 1380-1400
Temperature – 77-80°
NO3 – 5-10 ppm
pH – 8.0-8.2 (8.2-8.5 during winter months when windows/doors open)
PO4 – 0.0 (undetectable)
Specific Gravity – 1.026
What does the future hold for this marvelous looking reef aquarium? Well, Jason is in the planning stages of replacing this 90-gallon beauty with a 220-gallon system. But, like most men married to their loved ones, the Spouse Factor plays a panicle role in his decision making. He is diligently working on knocking out a few items off Tami’s (wife) honey do list before commencing his new project. I look forward to documenting this project with great anticipation. Jason’s attention to detail is without a doubt going to make this new system a must see by all.
Watching someone succeed with their reef aquarium and getting a chance to see the whole family enjoy Jason’s hard work is very rewarding. Having a small level of involvement I could not be happier, nice job Jason.
This Reef Builders Magazine Article Brought to you by our friends at Ecoxotic.