The blue thumb behind this beautiful reef, Joe Garza, is a U.S. Navy veteran who spent years traveling the oceans, exploring the globe, and admiring the beauty of the aquatic world. He kept aquariums filled with all sorts of colorful fish for 17 years before deciding it was time for another challenge, which just so happened to be reefkeeping. Perusing forums, books, and videos left him completely confused, so he turned to his good friend Cliff Roberts for some guidance to get started. As goes the story of many an aquarist, he’s had ups and downs, but now successfully maintains this 120-gallon reef as well as a 240-gallon reef. And though life is often hectic, he still makes sure to sit back and enjoy the reefs with his wife and 3 children.
The Reef and Supporting Equipment
This 120-gallon custom, rimless Reef Savvy aquarium has been up and running since June of 2014. Stability is a focus Joe indicates as a major contributor to his success, and here’s a look at the water parameters he strives to keep constant:
- Specific gravity: 1.026 (tested with refractometer)
- pH: 8.1 (monitored via Apex controller)
- Calcium: 440 – 455 ppm (tested with Red Sea)
- Alkalinity: 7.5 – 8.0 dKH (tested with Hanna Checker)
- Magnesium: 1350 – 1400 ppm (tested with Salifert)
- Phosphate: 0 ppm (tested with Hanna Checker)
- Nitrate: 0 ppm (tested with Salifert)
- Temperature: 26 – 27°C / 79 – 81°F (monitored via Apex controller)
The display measures 48x28x22 inches (with an internal overflow box) and sits atop a contemporary stand with access on the front and sides. Speaking of the stand, it houses a 50-gallon sump with a refugium, Warner Marine K-2 cone protein skimmer, Eheim 1262 return pump, 400-watt titanium heater, NextReef MR1 media reactor (carbon), and a Tunze Osmolator 3155 auto top off system.
Calcium supplementation is handled by a My Reef Creations dual chamber calcium reactor which is also at home in the sump. In addition, Joe doses a variety of supplements, such as Korallen-Zucht ZEOvit, Pohl’s Xtra Special, Pohl’s Coral Vitalizer, Sponge Power, and Lugol’s Iodine.
Reef illumination comes courtesy of a 48” ATI 8-bulb T5 fixture (3 – Blue Plus, 2 – Coral Plus, 2 – True Actinic, and 1 – Purple Plus). Flow is handled with two EcoTech Marine VorTech pumps (MP40, MP10). The system’s functions are controlled and monitored by a Neptune Systems Apex and Joe keeps an eye of the goings on when he’s away with a Foscam live feed. Finally, water used for top off and mixing new saltwater is the product of a 5-stage RO/DI filtration system.
As you can imagine, with such a wide variety of species housed in his reef, Joe puts a great deal of emphasis on providing proper nutrition. Fish are fed twice daily and corals are fed twice a week after the lights cycle off. His feeding regimen involves a mix of Julian Sprung’s SeaVeggies (green and purple), New Life Spectrum sinking pellets and AlgaeMax, PE Mysis, Ocean Nutrition Pygmy Angel Formula, Limpit’s Reef Buffet (original and coral food blend), Polyp Lab Reef-Roids, Coral Frenzy, and Rod’s Food Fish Eggs.
- 53 different species of SPS corals (Acropora, Montipora, etc.)
- Zoanthids (several species)
- Ricordea florida mushrooms
- Premium black snowflake clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
- Fancy white clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
- Copperband butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus)
- Black tang (Zebrasoma rostratum)
- Chevron tang (Ctenochaetus hawaiiensis)
- Moorish idol (Zanclus cornutus)
- Randall’s anthias (Pseudanthias randalli)
- Carberryi anthias (Nemanthias carberryi)
- Smalltail pencil wrasse (Pseudojuloides cerasinus)
- Carpenter’s flasher wrasse (Paracheilinus carpenteri)
- Pygmy possum wrasse (Wetmorella triocellata)
- Watermelon bubble-tip anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)
- Blue linckia sea star (Linckia laevigata)
- Sand-sifting sea star (Astropecten polyacanthus)
- Various sponges
- Emerald crabs (Mithraculus sculptus)
- Variety of snails and hermit crabs
Joe’s Advice For Other Hobbyists
The most important thing I have learned to keep these delicate creatures is stability! Keeping excellent water conditions, fish healthy, corals fed can be a balancing act. This hobby is very rewarding when taking it slow and not chasing parameters all over the place. I share my knowledge and keys to success with my local reefers and watch many of them have great success, also.”
Photo credit: Joe Garza